Flip Lady



Ray Ray hears the sound of laughter. He puts down his book and looks out the window.

Here they come now, children of the ancient ones, the hewers of wood, the cutters of cane barreling down the sidewalk on their Huffys and Schwinns. Little legs pumping over fat rubber tires, brakes squealing as they pull into the drive, standing on tip-toes as they straddle their bikes and stare up at the house with their mouths hanging open. 

Just like before. Some of them he still remembers: he made out with that girl’s sister in the seventh grade, played basketball with that boy’s uncle in high school. This one was all right until his brother joined the army, that one was okay until her daddy went to jail. And you see that girl in the back? The chubby girl standing by the curb, next to the brand new Schwinn? She hasn’t been the same since the Invasion of Grenada three years ago, in 1983. 

The spice island. When the Marines landed she was living in St. George near the medical center with her mother the doctor and Aunt Ruby the nurse. The power went off, hospital plunging into a blue tide pool of sirens while machine gun fire cackled in the distance like a bag of Jiffy Pop bubbling up on a stove. Oh no, Aunt Ruby said. Just like before.  

It’s all there, in his book: colonizer fanning out across the Atlantic like a hurricane, not exactly hungry but looking for spice. They cultivated cane, they built the mills, they filled the islands up with slaves. Sugar kept the workers happy, it distracted them from grief. And 400 years later you had your military invasions and McDonald’s happy meals, your ho-hos and pre-emptive strikes. Your Oreos and Reaganomics, your Cap’n Crunch.

And Kool-Aid. They can’t get enough of it. They sit in the driveway, they shift in their seats, they grip the plastic streamers affixed to their handlebars. One of them kicks the kickstand and steps forward, fingers curled into a small tight fist as he raps on the kitchen door. 

“Flip Lady? You in there?” 

Just like before. They roamed the entire earth in search of spice so why not here, why not now? 

“Flip Lady? You home? It’s me, Willis…” 

For the past few weeks they’ve been coming almost every day.

Ray Ray closes the curtain. He shakes his head and turns towards the darkness of the back bedroom. “Mama? It’s those fucking kids again.”

– Excerpt from Flip Lady (1986) by Ladee Hubbard