The Canyon

Scenes from the Scott Homes -- the mamas, the kids, the babies, the fight for dignity, the pall of despair

"The police came last night to get Scooter," Ruby said. "They said they had another warrant out on him. But he wasn't there."

A hundred yards away, she could see her nephews tussling and her niece, Angel, flirting with some older boys, moving to the hip-hop. "They all mad at me for lettin' those children walk away," Ruby grumbled. "But it wasn't nothing but a few hundred feet away, that canal. A hundred feet."

Ruby stamped out her Kool and sent Julius off to light another. "They ain't gonna fire me anyway," she said. "'Cause I talked to the man in charge myself. And if I's made president of the Tenant Council, which I might run, then we see what happens."

She drew hard on her cigarette but something in her seemed to deflate. "I'm gettin' tired again, that's the truth. Maybe I ain't gonna do that job no more. 'Cause I might end up back in the hospital."

Ruby could remember the time before she went to the hospital, and it seemed to her sometimes like a different life. Jacqui was around then, and Tammy and Doris and the rest treated her with respect. She ran her household, and there wasn't any question about it.

"I picked up those kids for camp every day, even with my foot all swole up," Ruby said. "Hell, I walked them over this morning."

Out on the green grass, the party was winding down and Ruby was ready to walk her kids home. She picked herself up and called out to the ones she could find. "We goin' home," she said, kneeling, and Onarius clambered onto her chest. Together they walked through the park and across the avenue.

Scott was empty, a ghost town, and as she limped back to her unit, past the unmovable tree in her front yard -- a tree the county would soon hack down -- Ruby was crying again, still stunned that two children might drown so close to home.

Except when both first and last names are given, the names in this story have been changed in order to protect the identities of those involved.

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