There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the
days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee:
I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Joshua 1:5
Rayna Ma Ray Towers had fallen asleep on the couch
in the den. Shed called herself staying up to watch The
Tonight Show, but in the end, it appeared some other show
mutedwas watching her. Still, at age seventy-five, Ma Rays
senses were keen. Thats why she heard sounds of someone
breaking in. A few folks she personally knew had had their homes
broken into just this year alone. Her granddaughters, Sahara
and Crystal Nichols, were staying with her for the summer. Ma
Ray quickly got up and went to the hall closet where she kept
a twelve-gauge, double-barrel shotgun. She quietly loaded it.
A man who appeared to be around eighteen years old, dressed
in washed-out blue jeans and a black Sean John shirt, started
up the stairs. She pointed the gun, then pulled back the hammer,
causing it to make a metallic clicking sound. Freeze,
she said. Dont take another step. Put your hands
up, or I promise Ill blow you away!
Six steps up, the young man stopped and raised his hands.
Lady, please dont shoot. He glanced back, looking
like a deer caught in headlights. Please put that down.
Ma Ray glanced out of the side of her eyes toward the table
with the telephone on it. She needed to call the police at this
point while making sure he didnt somehow manage to escape.
Turn around . . . slowly, she said, repeating what
most associate with a good law-and-order-type show.
Standing at five foot five in her stocking feet, a blue flowered
cotton nightgown, and a baby blue satin scarf wrapped around
her roller-filled head, Ma Ray raised the twelve-gauge shotgun
even higher, aiming it squarely at the young mans scrawny
chest. A woman who had shot her share of snakes, Ma Ray wanted
to be sure that, should she have a need to pull the trigger,
she wouldnt miss this target, either.
The young man raised his trembling hands higher. Lady,
are you crazy? he said. Look, he said, sweating
so hard Ma Ray could now see clear beads forming on his forehead
before a few drops began to slowly make their way down his face.
If youll just put that thing downhe nodded
toward the gun Im sure we can straighten all
of this out in no time. I know we can.
Ma Ray, dont hurt him, seventeen-year-old
Sahara said as she ran and stood at the top of the stairs dressed
in light blue skinny jeans and a see-through, black-laced shirt.
Please, dont hurt him.
See, lady, the young man said. Im
not here to hurt nobody. Listen to Sahara. Listen to your granddaughterhe
began to stuttersh-sh-shell vouch for me.
He glanced up at Sahara as though he were now mentally pleading
for her to fully back him up. Sahara was the one who told
me to come here like this. Tell her, Sahara.
Ma Ray, please . . . just put the gun down. Sahara
walked toward the intruder.
Yeah, Ma Ray. Please put the gun down. The young
man pleaded with his hands still high in the air. This
is all just one big misunderstanding. Youll see.
Ma Ray motioned with the barrel of the gun for him to step
down to the floor; he obeyed. Lowering the barrel of the gun,
she pointed it at the floor. Cautiously, he lowered his hands.
Sahara made her way to the bottom step, looked at Ma Ray, and
Whats your name? Ma Ray asked him.
His voice squeaked when he spoke. B-Man. Then
again, but stronger. B-Man.
Ma Ray lifted the gun back up slightly, pointing it at his
Bradley, he said hastily, his eyes fixed on the
long, steel barrel of the shotgun. But everybody calls
Ma Ray lowered the gun again. Bradley, huh? And did
you happen to come with a last name?
Its Crenshaw.... Bradley Crenshaw.
I take it youre not from around these parts,
Ma Ray said.
No? she said, clearly indicating she had a problem
with his answer.
No, maam, Sahara hurriedly added, looking
at her friend to clearly let him know he didnt need to
do anything more at this point to provoke her grandmother.
Im talking to him, Ma Ray said, nodding
No, maam, he said. I live more in
You say that like you have a problem with the country
or something. Ma Ray tapped the gun several times with
her trigger finger.
No. I mean, no, maam. I was just saying that I
live more in the city, thats all, maam. Thats
all I was saying. His voice sounded like he was on the
verge of tears.
So why are you so far from home this time of night?
Ma Ray asked him.
I-I-I was bringing something to Sahara.
Is that right?
Something that couldnt wait for a decent hour?
It must be good, then. So you can give me what you came to give
Sahara. Ma Ray took a step toward him.
His eyes widened. Maam?
I said you can give me what you came here to give Sahara.
She glanced down, peering over her wire-rimmed glasses. And
will you please pull your pants up! Walking around with your
pants hanging down like that. I tell you that just dont
make no sense, no sense at all, Ma Ray said.
He quickly grabbed his pants by the waistband and pulled them
Ma Ray nodded as she watched him hold up his pants to keep
them from falling down again. You need on a belt. Or maybe
you should buy pants the right size to begin with. Okay, Mister
Man . . . now give me what you came to give my granddaughter.
But-but nothing. She raised the shotgun once again,
pointing its barrel at the hardwood floor in front of him instead
of directly at him.
He quickly looked down at the gun, then back into her face.
Maam, Im sorry for having come up in your house
like this. I promise you I am.
The correct terminology is breaking and entering. And
honestly, by right, were I to have felt me or my familys
life were in danger whatsoever, I would have been well within
my legal rights to have shot you on sight, no questions asked,
with my actions most certainly to be ruled as justified.
Yes, maam. And I really am sorry, Ms. . . . Ma
Ray . . . maam. Now, if you dont mind, may I go?
I really need to be getting on home. All of a sudden, I dont
feel so well. The look on his face said it all.
It dependsMa Ray lowered the gun and softly
put the hammer back in place, taking it off readyon
whether you intend to do anything like this again.
Ms. Ray . . . Ma Ray, maam, I promise you: after
I leave here, you wont ever have to worry about seeing
my face in your house without your permission again. Ever.
Ma Ray nodded. Then I suppose you can go. She
went to the front door, opened it, and escorted him out. Young
man, let me give you some good advice. You need to do something
more constructive with your life. You got off this time. But
the next time, you may not be so lucky. And Im not talking
about with just me. Bradley, folks dont play now and days.
And ending up dead is nothing to play with. Its not like
in the movies or those video games yall play, where you
press a replay button and start all over as though nothing has
happened. Now, you chew on what almost happened and on what I
Yes, maam. And thank you, maam. Bradley
stumbled off the wraparound wooden porch, stopping and throwing
up in Ma Rays beautiful flower garden. Holding up his pants,
he jogged down the road where hed left his car, not once
Ma Ray walked into the house, unloaded the shells from the
shotgun, and safely put it back in the closet. Fifteen-year-old
Crystal now stood in the den next to her sister.
Ma Ray Sahara said as she stood as still
as a framed scene on pause.
You and I will talk in the morning, Ma Ray said
as she started to her bedroom.
But, Ma Ray
Ma Ray stopped without turning around. I said, well
talk in the daylight.
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Excerpts also available at Google