Mama ruby, p.1

Mama Ruby, page 1


Mama Ruby

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Mama Ruby

  Also by Mary Monroe

  God Ain’t Through Yet

  God Ain’t Blind

  The Company We Keep

  She Had It Coming

  Deliver Me From Evil

  God Don’t Play

  In Sheep’s Clothing

  Red Light Wives

  God Still Don’t Like Ugly

  Gonna Lay Down My Burdens

  God Don’t Like Ugly

  The Upper Room

  “Nightmare in Paradise” in Borrow Trouble

  Published by Kensington Publishing Corp.




  All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

  Table of Contents

  Also by Mary Monroe

  Title Page



  Dear Readers,




























































  Discussion Questions

  A Chat with Mary Monroe

  Copyright Page

  This book is dedicated to Mama Ruby. Yes, Mama Ruby—the real one. The character in this story is a composite of three females in my family, but at least a dozen other “she-devils” in my family claim that I based the character on them. The “real” Mama Ruby crossed over several years ago, but is still a major force in my life and writing career—and always will be.


  Lots of love and thanks to Bernard Henderson of Alexander Books in San Francisco, California, for making my book signing events so enjoyable, and for encouraging me to write Mama Ruby. You are one of a kind.

  Thanks and lots of love to Blanche Richardson of Marcus Books in Oakland, California, for being such a beautiful person, for promoting my books, and for making me feel so special before, during, and after my book signing events at Marcus Books. I wish you all the best.

  Thanks to the book clubs, the reviewers, the bookstores, the folks in the sales department at Kensington Publishing, the rest of my Kensington family, my agent, Andrew Stuart, and most of all, my wonderful fans.

  A very special thank you to the wonderful folks at Open Road Media for filming that incredible video of me, and for promoting my books with so much vigor.

  Please continue to share your thoughts, comments, suggestions, and opinions by e-mailing me at [email protected] or by visiting my Web site,, as often as possible. You can also communicate with me on Facebook and Twitter.

  Dear Readers,

  For years, a lot of you asked me when I was going to write another story with the characters from The Upper Room. I repeatedly told you all that I’d “get to it” someday. Well, I finally got to it and here it is!

  First of all, I would like to make it clear that Mama Ruby is NOT the sequel to The Upper Room; it is the prequel (the sequel is in the works). This is the part of the story that takes place during the immediate years before Mama Ruby enters the upper room. In this book, I will reveal the answer to the big question: why was Mama Ruby so desperate for a daughter of her own that she kidnapped one from her best friend?

  I write to entertain, enlighten, and even provoke you wonderful readers. Most of all, I write books because it’s what I like to do. And to the small group of readers whom I’ve offended over the years because one of my characters said or did something crazy (duh, that’s what characters do in Mary Monroe books!), my books are based on my own experiences and my characters are composites of people I know, but my books are fictional.

  If you enjoy this story enough to send me some comments, good or bad, that’s enough for me. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, your support and interest are sincerely appreciated. As long as you keep reading my books, I will keep writing.

  Just wait until you see what I have up my sleeve next....

  Peace and blessings,

  Mary Monroe

  June 2011


  Shreveport, Louisiana, 1934

  NOBODY EVER HAD TO TELL RUBY JEAN UPSHAW THAT SHE was special, but she heard it from every member of her family, her father’s congregation, her classmates, and even the people in her neighborhood almost every day. She was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. To some black folks, that was a very high position on the food chain. It meant that she had mystical abilities usually associated with biblical icons. But as a child, Ruby didn’t care one way or the other about being “special” like that.

  She balked when people insisted that she’d eventually have “healing hands” and the ability to “predict the future” like other seventh daughters of seventh daughters. Ruby didn’t care about healing anybody; that was God’s job, and those snake oil salesmen who rolled through town from time to time. And she certainly didn’t want to be telling anybody what the future held for them. Because if it was something bad, they didn’t need to know, and she didn’t want to know. The bottom line was—and she told a lot of people this when they brought it up—she didn’t want those responsibilities. The last thing she needed cluttering up her life was a bunch of superstitious people taking up her time and drawing unwanted attention to her. Just being the daughter of a preacher was enough of a burden.

  And since Ruby was the youngest member of the Upshaw family, her parents watched her like a hawk and tried to monitor and control most of her activities.

  “Why do I have to go to church every Sunday?” she asked her mother one Sunday morning when she was just eight. “I want to have some fun!”

  “You go to church because you are supposed to, gal. How would it look to the rest of your papa’s congregation if his own daughter don’t come to church?” Ida Mae replied, giving Ruby a stern look. “Don’t you want to be saved?”

  “Saved from what, Mama?” Ruby questioned, looking out the living room window at the kids across the street building a tent in their front yard.

  “Saved from the world, worldly ways. This planet is full of all kinds of pitfalls out there waitin’ on a girl like you. Drinkin’. Men with more lust in their heads than brain matter. Violence. Loud music and sleazy outfits that would shock a harlot,” Ida Mae answered.

  Ruby already knew all of that. From what she’d been able to
determine, it was a lot more fun to be “worldly” than it was to be the way her parents wanted her to be.

  “I want to have some fun like the rest of the kids!” she said with a pout, knowing that she faced a no-win situation. Her parents’ minds were as nimble as concrete. Once they laid down the rules for Ruby, there were no exceptions.

  “You can still have fun and keep yourself virtuous,” her father insisted. “Me and Mother ain’t makin’ you do nothin’ we didn’t make your sisters do, and look how well they all turned out.”

  Ruby pressed her lips together to keep from laughing. Before they got married, all six of her older sisters snuck out of the house at night, drank alcohol, slept with men, and wore clothes that would “shock a harlot.” That was the life that Ruby thought she wanted, and she had already started on the journey that would lead her to a life of fun and frivolity. And as far as violence, she wondered what her overbearing but naive parents would say if they knew that she was already carrying a switchblade in her sock.

  Ruby made good grades in school and she had a lot of friends, but it was hard for her to maintain both. She didn’t like to study, and she didn’t like having to attend that run-down school four blocks from her house. Those activities took up too much of her time. She appreciated the fact that her classmates and playmates were at her beck and call, not because they liked her, but because they feared her. They all knew about that switchblade she carried in her sock, and they all knew that she was not afraid to use it. She was the most feared eight-year-old in the state.

  Beulah, Ruby’s favorite older sister, had started Ruby down the wrong path that same year. Beulah was fifteen and so hot to trot that most of the time she didn’t even wear panties. Like her mother, as well as Ruby and the rest of the sisters, Beulah was dark, stout, and had the same plain features. She also had the same short knotty hair that she paid a lot of money to the local beauticians to keep pressed and curled. But her being stout and plain didn’t stop the men from paying a lot of attention to her.

  Several nights a week, Beulah eased into Ruby’s bedroom after their parents had turned in for the night. “Baby sister, get up and come with me,” she instructed, beckoning Ruby with her finger. “Lickety-split, sugar.”

  “Are we goin’ back to that bootlegger’s house that we went to the other night?” Ruby asked, leaping out of bed, already dressed except for her shoes.

  “Yep! And I need for you to watch my back in case we run into a blabbermouth, or somebody that want to start trouble with us,” Beulah told her. “If I get in trouble, you can run get help for me.”

  “Then I better bring my blade, huh?” young Ruby asked eagerly. Even though she had never had to use her weapon, having it made her feel powerful and bold. She hoped that she never had to use it. Having her peers think that she was “big and bad” was enough for her. Ruby was confused about life. And it was no wonder, with her parents telling her to do one thing, and her sisters influencing her to do another. But one thing she was not confused about was the fact that she didn’t want to hurt anybody, physically, or in any other way. However, she had promised herself that no matter what life dealt her, she would do whatever it took for her to survive, and be happy.

  Ruby had as much fun as Beulah did that night. There had been an abundance of beer and loud music for them to enjoy at a nearby bootlegger’s house.

  By the time Ruby was twelve, she knew more about sex than her mother. Beulah was engaged to a truck driver, but she was also involved with a married man. When she wanted to spend time with him, she usually dragged Ruby along to act as a lookout while she rolled around with the married man in the bed that he shared with his wife. When the man’s wife and three young children were in the home, Beulah and her lover spread a blanket on the backseat of his old car, and did their business there. Ruby sat in the front seat. Her job was to make sure no one walked up on the lovers. But every few minutes, Ruby glanced in the rearview mirror. She was amused and fascinated by what was taking place in the backseat. Beulah and her lover rewarded Ruby with peanut brittle and comic books, which she read in the car with a flashlight.

  When Ruby visited her other sisters, who were all married by this time, she liked to peep through their bedroom door keyholes and watch as they made love with their husbands. What she couldn’t figure out was what all of the hollering, screaming, and moaning and groaning was about. If she hadn’t seen what was going on, she would have thought that somebody was stepping on somebody’s toe for them to be making so much noise. That was what piqued her interest the most. Even before she had sex, she knew it had to be good. Married people risked losing everything because of sex. Girls risked getting pregnant, catching some nasty disease, and God knew what else, but that didn’t stop them from having sex. Something that powerful had to feel damn good.

  Ruby couldn’t wait to find out. Right after she had watched Beulah and her married lover buck and rear like two horses at a rodeo three nights in a row, she decided that it was time for her to find out for herself what all the fuss was about. She knew enough about boys and men to know that none of them would say no to a piece of tail—her tail especially. Even though she was no raving beauty, she had the kind of body that black southern men worshipped. She was thick from top to bottom—especially her top and her bottom. Her butt was so plump and high and tight that you could bounce a quarter off it. One of the Donaldson boys had proved that during a break from Sunday school studies one Easter morning. But the most impressive part of Ruby’s body was her bosom. She had large melonlike breasts that were so firm and perky, she didn’t even need the support of a brassiere. She balked when her mother made her wear one anyway.

  “Why do I have to wear a brassiere if I don’t need one?” she asked her mother the day she steamrolled into Ruby’s bedroom with a bag full of those damn things.

  “Well, if you don’t wear a brassiere because you don’t need one, you will sure enough need one eventually. The bigger the titties, the farther they fall, sooner or later.” Ruby’s mother glanced at her own bosom, which now resembled two deflated footballs. “Don’t be stupid like I was.” Ruby’s mother sniffed. “Had I known what I know now when I was your age, I would have worn two strong brassieres at the same time. Maybe I wouldn’t be walkin’ around with such a slope of a valley now ...”

  Ruby’s face burned. The condition of her mother’s bosom was one thing that she did not care to hear about. “Yessum.”

  “You started your monthly last week. You’re a woman now, Ruby Jean,” her mother said, obviously embarrassed and even a little uneasy.

  When her mother sat her down for that “birds and bees” talk last week, she didn’t tell Ruby anything that she didn’t already know. She had learned everything she needed to know, and some things that she didn’t need to know, from her sisters and from other worldly kids.

  “Dang, Mama. Why you buy up this many brassieres? I only got two titties!” Ruby complained with amusement. She fished one of the plain new white bras out of the bag. She couldn’t understand why her mother had purchased so many this time. The bag contained at least ten bras. “I guess this means I can court with boys now?” Ruby asked hopefully.

  “Naw it don’t! You still a child. You’ll have plenty of time for courtin’ boys in a few years.”

  A few years? Like hell, Ruby thought.

  She was not about to wait a few more years to have some real fun. All she had to do was find the right boy.


  RUBY HAD NEVER BEEN OUTSIDE THE STATE OF LOUISIANA. Her two oldest sisters, Flodell and Bessie, who had married twin brothers, lived in Texas. The rest of her married sisters lived in various parts of Louisiana.

  Shreveport was a fairly large city, but segregation and racial violence were rampant. It seemed like every other week Ruby heard her parents whispering about somebody getting lynched. And it was usually for the stupidest reasons. One seventeen-year-old black boy had been beaten beyond recognition and then lynched for brushing up against a white wo
man’s butt when he tried to pass her on the sidewalk. That had all happened right in his grandfather’s front yard in front of thirty to forty black people attending a block party. And none of those thirty to forty people had been able to do a thing to help that boy. What the lynch mob didn’t know was that the boy was severely retarded and cross-eyed. He was so clumsy and uncoordinated that he couldn’t even ride a bicycle. He used to fall on his face just walking down the street. He brushed against people all of the time, the same way he had brushed against that white woman.

  That happened a week after Ruby’s mother had given her that bag of brassieres.

  “I don’t care what nobody say, I ain’t goin’ to put up with that mess from white folks, or nobody else,” Ruby said later that day during dinner.

  “Hush up,” her father snapped. “You need to learn now that you can’t beat them white folks. As long as you stay in your place, you’ll be all right. Look what them white folks done to that retarded boy—and ain’t nobody been arrested for it!”

  “White folks don’t scare me,” Ruby announced. “Nothin’ scares me.”

  That same night, Ruby snuck out of the house and went with Beulah to visit another married man that she was involved with. “He’s right handsome, and he wants me because I’m a virgin,” Beulah bragged.

  Ruby gasped. She was dumbfounded, and she didn’t hesitate to let her sister know. “What? No you ain’t! I ain’t tryin’ to hurt your feelin’s, but you must be one of the biggest whores in town, girl.” Ruby guffawed and gave her sister a hard look of disbelief.

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