Susan Phillips

If Mama Had'a Raised Eminem

"This is what I think'a that," Mama said, and she threw my Curtain Call album out the Buick window. I watched it skid across the black asphalt of Sixth Street. "We on our way home from the choir, girl. You got a solo tomorrow, singin' 'How Sweet the Name'a Jesus,' and you listenin' to that? If I'd'a raised that sorry Eminem, he wouldn'a made no album like that."

I sunk so low that the seatbelt strap about strangled me. "If you'd'a raised Eminem, he wouldn'a had no music career."


"Damn, your skin's soft," Brian said the night before Mama threw Eminem out the window. Mama had said "yes" he could eat with us — probably just so she could spy — but now, only 7:30, she told us to say goodbye and for Brian to "git." We leaned against the side of my house beside his bike, his hands under my shirt. "I wrote a poem for you. Wanna hear?"

I pulled my bra straps back over my shoulders and nodded. Mosquitoes were biting my ankles; my calves; my thighs. We stood by the groaning AC unit, and he spoke over it, saying:

"Your breasts–"

But the AC had ended its cycle in a huff, and he had yelled "breasts" into the night.

"Mama," I breathed, glancing up at the yellow square of light a couple feet higher than our heads. I looked into Brian's shiny black eyes, and we both remembered: Mama had burned the chicken. She'd wrestled the kitchen window open a crack so that the smoke would squeeze its way through the mesh screen and into the air that I sucked now in shallow gasps of fear and lust.

"Better go," he said, but he handed me the CD and showed me where he'd scribbled To Keisha, Love, Brian, with a heart around the words. "I'll be back tomorrow night," he whispered in my ear.


"If I'd'a raised that sorry boy, Eminem," Mama continued, swerving left onto Lamar, "he'd think twice before actin' the way he do–disrespectin' women in them songs; wearin' them clothes and cussin'." But Mama's a liar, and who she was really talking about was Brian, because I'd seen her frown at the way he sagged, showing his boxers, and she'd probably heard him yelling "breast."


"Take off your shirt," Brian pleaded that night in the alley.

I'd told Mama I was taking out the trash.

"Shhhh," I whispered. Weeds tickled my ankles and calves, and I wanted to reach down and scratch but instead pulled his hands, one at a time, out from under my shirt and clasped my fingers through his. "Let's jus' kiss." I leaned into his lips.

But he wasn't interested.

"Hey–" he said. "You mind if I get that CD back? I thought I had a copy, but it's scratched."

I frowned and tightened my fingers around his knuckles. "I can't get it now. Mama would know you were here. I'll try and bring it to school, okay?"

"Sure," he said, and he wrestled his fingers out of mine and slid them up my shirt again, pressing his lips against the spot on my neck where my heartbeat pulsed in anger.

I took a step back. "I better be going."

"Why?" he asked, one hand still up my shirt.

I sighed. "Because I got to get to bed. I got church in the morning. I'm singing a solo."

But he wasn't listening. He was hopping on his bike, already.

"Don't forget the CD." As he wheeled over the weeds and onto the concrete, I heard him rapping a bunch of cusswords from one of the songs on the album.


I'm a liar like Mama, because that CD was smashed somewhere on Sixth Street, and I wouldn'a given it back to Brian, anyway. Later in bed, I heard the sink water running down the hall in the kitchen and Mama humming — or was it just the dinner plates clinking? — a hymn.

And when finally I switched off my lamp and pulled the covers high over the bumps of my breasts, that's when I realized:

If Mama had'a raised Eminem, he'd'a sung in the choir.

Susan Sides Phillips is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, where she received the Margaret Terry Crooks Award for Most Outstanding Creative Writing Student. She teaches middle school English and has recently finished her first YA novel. Susan lives in Dallas with her husband, their son, and their two Shetland Sheepdogs.