Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou?
or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
You are not the father! The words reverberated
through the mid-November 2009 Alabama air like the sound of a
thin sheet of tin after being struck by a heavy metal object.
Twenty-seven-year-old Paris Elizabeth Simmons-Holyfield couldnt
hold back her feelings and immediately jumped to her feet. Yes!
Yes! I knew it! I knew it! she said as she danced her five
foot eleven inch self around in a small circle. Now what
are you going to do? Huh? Huh? Oh, yeah, youre looking
real stupid now, arent you? Oh, no. Dont you dare
fall on the floor crying now. You knew good and well he wasnt
the father of your baby! What is this, the fourth guy youve
said you were one thousand percent sure was the father?
And now youre looking crazy, wanting somebody to feel sorry
for you? Well, youre getting exactly what you deserve!
What on Gods green earth is your problem?
fifty-year-old Lawrence Rudolph Simmons said, his deep voice
booming as he looked on with a clear scowl of disapproval on
Paris had spun around as soon as shed heard the first
word come out of his mouth. The six foot one inch tall, one-hundredeighty-
pound man always had that effect on her.
Thirty-three-year-old Andrew Holyfield shook his head as he
smiled, showing off deep dimples that, since he was a little
boy, had garnered attention. Thats your daughter
Hi, Daddy. Paris grinned as she scurried over
to her father and softly planted a kiss on his cheek. What
wind brought you here this time of the day? She then pivoted
to her husband and gave him a peck on his lips. Hi, honey.
I didnt even hear you two come in.
Of course, you didnt, Andrew said. You
were too deep and hooked on your favorite little show.
Its not my favorite show. Paris walked over
to the black Italian leather sofa, picked up the remote control,
and clicked the television off. I only watch that show
for educational purposes. She tossed the remote control
back onto the sofa.
Andrew chuckled. Yeah, educational purposes, all right.
You are the father. You are not the father.
The lie detector says you were not telling the truth.
The lie detector says . . . she was telling the truth.
Andrew shook his head. Educational purposes indeed.
Well, some of these women are a trip and a half. Airing
their personal business like that, and all of it on TV to boot.
Bringing some man on the show, claiming hes the father
of their baby when they know who they slept with and when. Although
I will admit that some of these women have slept with quite a
number of men in the same month, a few of them on the same day.
Paris shook her head. Its crazy. Then there are the
guys who know they were with them, talking about that child cant
possibly be his because the baby doesnt look anything like
him. Like children have to look exactly like the father to be
fathered by them. Calling the poor innocent child ugly, only
to learn that the child really is his. Paris chuckled.
And you can make fun of me all you want, she said.
But I like to study people. I can pick out the ones that
are the fathers and the ones that are lying about it, just like
that. She snapped her fingers. You know I also took
a semester of psychology in college. I love trying to figure
out what people are really thinking and doing, and their reason
If I recall correctly, Lawrence said, tilting
his head slightly, didnt you fail that course and
ended up dropping it altogether instead of retaking it?
Paris tilted her head in the opposite direction from his as
she smirked. Daddy, I told you what an awful professor
Ms. Booth was. That woman just didnt like me. Paris
widened her light brown eyes as she spoke. If you want
the real truth: Ms. Booth didnt care much for you, so she
ended up taking her dislike for you out on me.
Lawrence shook his head. Always an excuse. When it comes
to you and trouble, its always someone elses fault.
Its never anything that you may have done.
Well, that was not an excuse. She also didnt care
for me because I was the third runner-up beauty queen at the
college pageant and she was merely this homely old maid of fifty
who was likely never going to find a man whod ever want
Andrew laughed. Both of you are something, if you ask
me. Youre like two peas in a pod. You two are so much alike
that you never seem to get along or openly agree. Three
inches taller than his wife, he rubbed his perfectly trimmed
goatee as he grinned lovingly at her.
Well, you didnt answer my question, Paris
said to her father, ignoring her husbands comment. She
began to run her fingers through her freshly permed, mid-length,
wavy-styled, dark brown, medium-auburn-highlighted hair, tossing
it a few times as she did. Catching her fathers disapproving
stare, she quickly stopped.
Her father had made it abundantly clear, countless times in
fact, just how much he hated when women did things like that.
Hed said they were more than aware of what they were doing
(most of them merely being flirtatious instead of nervous as
Paris often used as her defense to him), and that it was unladylike
and unbecoming of a decent Christian woman.
Lawrence nodded, as though he was thanking her for saving
him the trouble of having to correct her yet again. My
son-inlaw and I came here to discuss a few of my legal woes.
You know there are people who dont want to see me reelected
to the Alabama State House of Representatives, so theyre
coming up with anything they can find to try and take me down
this time around. Thats what good opponents do.
Paris strolled back over to her husband and threaded her arm
through his. Well, you cant find a better lawyer
than my dear husband here, thats for sure.
Well, your dear husband doesnt seem interested
in handling my most recent possible problem. So maybe you can
help me convince him. Lawrence trained his eyes hard on
I told you, Pops, Andrew said. Theres
not much I can help you with. Our firm would be facing a huge
conflict of interest if I were to take you on. The other man
Is a liar and a cheat, among other things Ill
not say in the company of a lady. Lawrence eased down onto
Hes talking about Rev. Walker, Andrew said
to Paris. Thats the other guy someone in our firm
is already representing on the opposite side.
Marshall Walker, the pastor of that church so many flock
to, or at least they used to flock to before that other preacher,
George Landris, arrived in town. The authorities are trying to
say that me and William Threadgill are involved in some kind
of bribery scheme or something with Walker. Lawrence waved
the thought away. They picked him up and charged him last
Friday or Saturday. This is just something the Democrats are
trying to cook up, trying to tie me in to his misdoings to derail
me and my candidacy. Theyre just upset, and likely desperate
right about now.
Can you blame them for being upset? Paris said.
Everybody I know whos heard you switched parties
is boiling mad. Ive never voted for a Republican before
in my life. But now that youve switched, in midstream I
might add, Ill either have to vote Republican this time
around, vote against you, or not vote at all.
Im still the same person I was before I decided
to switch parties, Lawrence said, looking up at his daughter.
But you, of all people, know the district I represent has
become much whiter now and, despite our racial advancementsperceived
or otherwisethis is still Alabama, the heart of Dixie.
A lot of folks that moved out of the area years ago are moving
back, in droves now
And theyre driving the prices up so high that
the black folks cant afford to stay or move in, Andrew
said with a few nods.
Please dont get Andrew started, Paris said,
grinning slightly. You know at heart my husband is the
poor mans lawyer. He loves to fight for the downtrodden
and the broken who, most times, are so broke they cant
even afford to pay his fee. So he gives of himself, pro bono
if he has to, to represent them. Too many of them, if you ask
me, which is the exact reason were not more well-off than
Were doing just fine. I make enough to take care
of my family, Andrew said. I just see how unfair
the system can be. Lady Justice may be blind, but her hearing
lately has been overcompensating for her loss of sight. Enough
so, when certain defendants speak and sound black or have a hint
of a foreign accent or are just plain poor, she somehow knows
who they are without having to see their faces.
Andrew uncoupled Pariss arm from his and took a step
away from her. Do you know how many innocent folks are
behind bars because they couldnt afford a high-powered
or, heck, merely a decent lawyer who could have gotten them at
least a fairer trial? While some rich person gets off by saying
they didnt steal the thing . . . that they were merely
borrowing it or forgot to give it back to the salesperson
after trying it on. You find one who goes to rehab for the drugs
he was caught using, while another goes to jail, getting ten
years for the same or for having a small amount of another type
in his possession.
Well, Im not concerned about anybody except me
right now. Lawrence scooted back against the sofa. And
having this new legal thing possibly hanging over my head is
no joke, either. The Tea Party movement appears to be picking
up some steam, especially in some areas and especially now that
we have a president of color. I figured by switching from the
Democratic Party to the Republican Party and co-opting some of
the Tea Partys rhetoric about being taxed enough already
and the need for smaller government, I can more easily get reelected.
Selling out, Andrew said as he sat down in the
wingback chair across from Lawrence.
No. Its called doing what you need to do to survive,
Lawrence said. Thats the problem with folks: They
dont know how to adapt, how to be nimble and change when
the situation calls for it. People get set in concrete and dont
know how to move. Sure, I could stand on past principles and
talking points that have worked beautifully for me in the past,
but that may not get me reelected this cycle. And if I dont
get reelected, then I wont be able to help anybody.
So youre saying youre just faking it,
Paris sat on the arm of the chair where Andrew sat. I
think Daddy is just saying that if he doesnt change his
tactics, he wont be in a position to help anyone at all.
Daddys been in politics for ten years
Eleven, Lawrence corrected her.
Okay, eleven years. Paris nodded. He knows
the system, knows how to get at least some things done.
So you really think black folks are going to vote for
you as a Republican? Andrews look was serious and
stern. You honestly think that?
Yeah. Lawrence crossed his legs and leaned back
with a grin. Many of them feel they know me and my record
regardless of whether theres a D or an R behind my name.
Some will vote for me just because my name is familiar to themthats
the power of name recognition. Folks will vote for a name theyve
heard of when their choice is between that name and an unknown
one. Then there are those who will vote for me just because Im
black and theyd rather see a black man win regardless of
which team hes on. And last, there are the Republicans
who loyally vote strictly for the Rs and, most likely, wont
have a clue what color I am. And it wont hurt when I play
up my beliefs on social issues, emphasizing how much Im
pro-life, absolutely against abortion, and that Im willing
to fight for the principles they care most about.
Paris began to rub the wavy hair on top of Andrews head.
She couldnt help but think about their children and how
beautiful they were going to be when they had them. How could
they turn out to be anything but beautiful if they inherited
their fathers good hair and looks combined with hers?
Thats if she could just manage to get pregnant and have
Would dinner happen to be ready yet? Lawrence
Then why dont you go cook us something,
Lawrence said. And make enough for William Threadgill.
He should be arriving any minute now. We three have business
to discuss, and since I missed eating lunch today, Im really
You mean cook as in use the stove?
Andrew, who had snickered a little when Lawrence asked if
dinner was ready, was full-out laughing now, although he was
trying his best to hold it down as much as possible.
Whats so funny? Paris said to Andrewher
hand off his head now.
Your daddy started it, Andrew said, trying to
smother his laughs that were still managing to escape as giggles.
Im sorry; I couldnt help myself.
What? Lawrence asked, looking from one to the
other. Whats the problem?
Andrew shook his head as he tried to keep his laughter from
starting up again.
Hes laughing because I rarely ever cook. We generally
go out for dinner or we call in for something to be picked up
or delivered, Paris said. I wasnt planning
on cooking anything today.
So exactly what do you do at home all day? Lawrence
Paris stood up. I have my own things to do. I have various
interests that require my attention, just like you two.
She watches television pretty much all day, Andrew
said, then grinned.
I do not. Paris gave him a disapproving look to
emphasize her words. Youre not here so you dont
know what I do all day. And I assure you, I do a lot more than
Yeah, thats right. She divides her time between
the computer and her precious little CrackBerry, oh Im
sorry; I meant to say BlackBerry. No, no, wrong again. She has
an iPhone now, her new play-toy. And whats that hot new
thing on the Internet this cycle? Facebook! Yeah, thats
right... Facebook. Her big thing used to be MySpace, but its
been replaced by another lover. And lets not forget about
her have-to-have, much- needed therapy, Andrew said.
Therapy? There was clear alarm in Lawrences
voice. What therapy? Whats wrong? Now, Paris, you
know if the media gets wind of this
Retail therapy, Andrew said. Im talking
about her retail therapy. Isnt that what you call it?
Andrew looked at Paris, who didnt respond, before turning
back to his father-in-law. She has to go shopping to take
her mind off all the depressing things she sees and hears on
television and that comes across on the Internet. You know, all
of those devastating, distressing things that are happening
all around the world, like poverty, all of those poor and
starving folks in the world, the daily reported civil unrest
around the globe, and lets not forget those poor animals
they show on TV in need of a good home. According to my dear
wife, the only way she can feel better about all of these things
after witnessing them is to go shopping.
Im sure this cant be true, Lawrence
said. I certainly hope its not. Pariss mother
and I raised her to be a productive member of society...to serve
others. Paris, you could be spending time at a church or shelter,
helping to feed the hungry, showing just how much our family
truly cares about others.
Daddy, Im twenty-seven years old, twenty-eight
in another eight months. Im not a child anymore that you
can mold into what you want me to be. I have a husband; we have
our own home. I get to decide whats best and right for
In other words: I cant tell you what to do anymore?
Lawrence said with a slight frown.
Now, Daddy, I respect you. You just need to learn to
respect me. Im all grown up now. Im not your little
girl anymore. Paris bit down on her bottom lip.
Oh, now, youll always be my little girl.
Lawrence grinned. And Ill always be your daddy. And
speaking of family and little girls, exactly when do the two
of you plan on having children?
Your mother is ready to be a grandmother. And being a grandfather
would certainly look good on my political brochures. Theres
nothing that says to the voters how much you care than letting
them know youre not only a parent but a grandparent. And
a child or two would definitely give you more than enough to
do to keep you busy around the house, Paris.
Daddy, is that all you ever care about? How something
might benefit your political aspirations? Paris asked.
For now it is. Thats why its important for
your mother to put on the right face for the public. Lawrence
leaned forward. Thats why you, your brother, Malachi,
and little sister, Courtney, must be on your ps and qs
at all times, representing our family with the highest level
of degree. Proverbs 22:1 tells us that a good name is rather
to be chosen than great riches. Our name is a brand now.
And we have to protect it. So I dont need any of you doing
anything that could embarrass or derail me, and especially not
during this campaign cycle. I plan on winning my upcoming reelection.
And I dont need any problems popping up. Thats why
I made sure I got that large ballroom last week for that campaign
rally I had.
We know, Daddy. Stay on our ps and qs. Youve
drilled that point home to each of us enough. Oh, yeah, and I
heard all about that underhanded ballroom acquisition,
Paris said. That was so wrong of you on so many levels.
Says who? Lawrence pulled his body back as though
he was shocked by her words.
Mom, for one.
Lawrence waved her words off. Your mother is such a
softie. Shed give away everything if Id let her.
Well, to be fair, Andrew said, chiming in. From
what I heard, you did manage to somehow finagle that ballroom
away from an elderly mans one hundredth birthday celebration
after his family clearly had it reserved months before you ever
thought about having anything there. Thats the way I heard
Lawrence stared hard at Andrew, then released a quick smile.
Alls fair in love and politics. If you can do it
and get away with it, and it doesnt physically hurt anybody,
whats the harm in the end? I happen to know folks who can
make things happen. What is it the young ballers say? Dont
hate the player; hate the game.
Lawrence then looked at Paris. And your mother talks
too much, as do you. Some things arent meant to be repeated.
With that being said, now get on in the kitchen and fix me and
your husband something to eat. As I said, we have some business
we need to attend to, and I am starving.
Paris smiled slightly, the way she did when she was completely
under his rule and didnt care for what he was saying but
knew it was best to just go along with him to get along, until
the right opportunity presented itself. Sure, Daddy. Whatever
She went into the kitchen, opened the drawer where she kept
a stack of various restaurant menus, pulled out the menu to the
Italian place she used whenever she wanted Italian food, and
called in an order.
She hung up the phone and grinned. Sure, Daddy. Whatever