By Sharon Flake
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Thirteen-year-old Raspberry Hill is starved for money. She will do just about anything legal to get her hands on the almighty dollar — wash cars, sell rotten candy, skip lunch, clean houses. She is obsessed. She is driven. She is afraid. Memories of being homeless, sleeping in the streets, and eating handouts keep Raspberry's eye on the only prize that matters to her: cold, hard cash. When the green stuff greases her palm, she gets comfort from feeling its crinkly paper power. And, when money is your best friend, there's more to do than hold it. Raspberry kisses her cash. She smells it. She loves it. But even money can't answer the questions that keep Raspberry awake at night. Will she and Momma ever move out of the projects? What did Ja'nae do with the two hundred bucks Raspberry loaned her? And what's really going on with Momma and that rich doctor? A haunting story of greed and forgiveness by the award-winning author of The Skin I'm In, this unforgettable novel will keep you glued to every page. Bank on it.
Copyright © 2001 by Sharon G. Flake
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion Books for Children,
114 Fifth Avenue,
New York, NY 10011-5690.
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
This book is set in 12-point Palatino.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Flake, Sharon G..
Money hungry / Sharon G. Flake.—1st ed.
Summary: All thirteen-year-old Raspberry can think of is making
money so that she and her mother never have to worry about
living on the streets again.
ISBN 0-7868-0548-X (trade) — ISBN 0-7868-2476-X (lib.)
[1. Money—Fiction. 2. Mothers and daughters—Fiction.
3. Single-parent family—Fiction. 4. Inner city—Fiction.
5. Afro-Americans—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.F59816 Mo 2001
To Judy Suh and Richard who stood in the gap,
to Robin, Carla, and Sandra,
my writing buddies; my friends
to my Harold Street Neighbors
who are always in my heart
and to the students, teachers, and librarians
around the country who have embraced my work
and treated me with such warmth and kindness
thank you, thank you, thank you!
Some people think I would do anything for money. They’re wrong. I wouldn’t do nothing bad. Nothing that would hurt people, like selling dope, or shoplifting. But when you always trying to think of ways to make a dollar, like I do, folks bound to think the worst.
Weird, huh? A thirteen-year-old girl who loves money. Who got bunches of it— nickels, quarters, dollars—stashed under her bed, shoved in socks, piled in drawers.
Some nights, when I can’t sleep, I grab me a fistful and count it till I drop off snoring. Don’t take me too long to nod off then. No wonder everybody thinks that my money-hungry ways will get me into more trouble than I can handle. Shoot, even my girls think that. My momma, too.
Momma. She and me is usually tight. But this morning, I ain’t even speaking to her. Yesterday, I seen her getting out of that Lexus, kissing Dr. Mitchell, my girlfriend’s divorced dad, on the cheek. Laughing, like he was soooo funny.
I don’t ever remember Momma dating nobody. Not since she and Daddy got divorced a few years back. It ain’t so bad she’s dating somebody, but she could at least be straight up with me about it, especially since it’s Zora’s dad she’s hanging with.
“Time for school, Raspberry,” she says, marching from room to room, slamming drawers shut, and turning off our dripping faucets.
I’m in the bathroom rubbing pimple cream on my face. Hoping it will make this zit family sitting right on my chin go away before school starts this morning.
When I get to the kitchen, bacon’s popping around in the pan. It’s Valentine’s Day, and Momma’s got heart-shaped cinnamon pancakes lying on a pretty red-and-white plate on the table.
I tell Momma to hurry up. I got to make me some money today. She shakes her head. All this money talk gets on her nerves, she always saying. But I don’t care. I’m gonna have me some big-time cash someday. I ain’t gonna be stuck up here in the projects, trying to get by like everybody else.
Momma turns her head my way, and smiles. “Sit,” she says, patting the kitchen chair.
I grab a paper towel to rub that zit cream off my face before it dries. Don’t want it chipping off like plaster from a wall and falling in my food like it did last time.
“Eat,” Momma says, putting five pieces of bacon on my plate and setting down a bowl of warm syrup. She’s on another diet, so all she’s eating is dry toast.
Momma don’t even realize I ain’t speaking to her. She’s going on and on about the table. How pretty it looks. It’s got a white plastic tablecloth on it, with pink candy hearts—sprinkled from end to end. There’s also a homemade card sitting there waiting for me to read.
I had a Valentine’s card for Momma, too, until last night, when I seen her with Dr. Mitchell. After that, I ripped that thing into a thousand tiny pieces. Tossed it out my bedroom window, even though Momma’s the head of the tenant cleanup committee, and she don’t play stuff like that.
Momma’s putting on her coat, saying she’s gonna go heat up the car so we don’t freeze our butts off on the way to school. I put the last of the bacon in my mouth, and go check myself out in the mirror to make sure there ain’t no gunk stuck between my teeth. Then I’m out the door, coat and all. Soon as I step into the hallway of our building, I hold my nose with my fingers. I can tell that Shoe and his brother Check been peeing up the place again. In the summer, they say they do it to kill off the ants. Wintertime they claim they killing roaches and spiders. I think they just trying to see who can pee the farthest. I don’t know why they even bother. Before the weekend comes, Momma gonna have ’em down here scrubbing up. Then their grandma’s gonna go upside their heads for being so nasty in the first place. It happens like this all the time.
I’m trying hard not to breathe in this funky stuff. But it’s hard holding your breath and locking up fast when you got three locks to work with.
By the time I get to the street, Momma’s giving Shoe an earful, yelling out the car window at him for doing something he shouldn’t. That boy got a lot of nerve for an eleven-year-old. He’s standing on the curb next to the car, loud-talking Momma. Saying he didn’t pee in the hallway. But everybody round here knows peeing in the hallways is Shoe and Check’s trademark, kinda like Zorro with his Z, or Spiderman with his web.
I’m on the sidewalk sitting in a busted-up chair, watching Momma and Shoe go at each other. Momma tells Shoe he better not make her get out her car and get next to him. He’s got his eyes fixed on her good. Then he does what he shoulda done in the first place. He backs down, and mumbles some lame apology. That’s when Momma gives the car a little gas, and pulls out of her parking space.
I get up out the chair, and sit it in Momma’s empty parking space so nobody takes it while she’s gone. Momma don’t see, but Shoe kicks over the chair soon as our car pulls off.
Usually, when Momma drives me to school, I’m talking her ears off. Since she works nights, we use our mornings to catch up on things. But today, I ignore her. I turn the radio on, and start jammin’ to the beat. I act like Momma ain’t even here.
By the time we get to the bottom of the hill, Momma says, “We need to talk.” Good, I’m thinking. She gonna tell me what’s up with her and Zora’s dad. But no, Momma turns down the radio and starts talking about hormones, and how thirteen-year-old girls like me get moody because we’re turning into women.
I want to let her know that my hormones is fine. That it’s her that’s making me act this way. But before I can say anything, she’s rolling down the window, minding somebody else’s business.
“Maleek Johnson,” Momma shouts. “If you don’t get off that girl, I’ll tell your mother soon as I get home.”
Maleek stops kissing Sissy. Then he tells his boys to shut up when they start laughing at him. Me, I slump down in the seat of the car. Way down, hoping no one sees me.
“Dag, Momma,” I say. “Why you have to go and do that?”
Our car is stopped at the light at Jackson and Thorp. Kids waiting to cross the street stare right in my face, like it was me busting up Maleek’s good time.
Maleek’s face is all red now. Only he ain’t the only one embarrassed. I am, too. Bad enough we ride around in the oldest car on the planet. Why do Momma have to make it worse by always drawing attention to us? Always minding other folks’ business.
When Momma finishes with Maleek, she rolls up the car window, and steps on the gas. I turn the radio up and close my eyes. I’m gonna make me some big-time cash today, so I concentrate on that, not Momma.
After six blocks of me not saying nothing, Momma asks me, “What’s wrong?”
I don’t want to say nothing. But the words come out before I can stop ’em. I look dead in her eyes and ask, “What’s up with you and Zora’s dad?”
Momma’s body jerks back a little, like you do when somebody steps out from behind a door when you ain’t expecting it. Then she tries to act like she’s cool. “Don’t look at me like that,” she says, making sure her eyes don’t meet mine.
For a long while, she don’t even look where she’s driving. She’s messing around with the rearview mirror. Dusting crumbs off the seat. Stuff like that.
After a while, Momma tries to answer my question about her and Zora’s dad. “Dr. Mitchell and I can do as we please. We grown. We are grown,” she says, correcting her English. It makes me so mad, her doing that all day long. But since she started college last year, she’s been trying to improve the way she speaks. I tell Momma to just leave me be. I like how I talk just fine.
“Dr. Mitchell and me are friends, Raspberry. That’s all,” she says, putting on the brakes soon as we get to school.
I get the hint. Momma don’t want to talk. I know something’s up with them two. I put my hand out for lunch money, and jump out Momma’s side of the car soon as she gives me the cash. I try not to do what I always do when dollars grease my palm— smell the money like it’s chocolate-chip cookies straight out the oven.
Before I walk away, I turn around and say something I know is gonna hurt Momma bad. “He a doctor, Momma. What you think somebody like him wants with somebody like you, who lives in the projects with gang-bangers and junkies?”
It’s still early. First period class ain’t even started yet. Kids is hanging out in front of school.
“Raspberry Hill! You better get in here and straighten this mess up, girl!” Zora says, standing at the front door, with her arms folded tight.
I don’t even say bye to Momma. I run Zora’s way. She’s selling a few things for me today, so if something’s wrong, that means I ain’t gonna get my money. And I ain’t having that.
Zora’s eyes is pumpkin-seed green today. Last week, they was the color of honey. Three weeks back, they was gray, blue, and black, all in one week. That’s what happens when your parents is rolling in dough and can hook you up with contact lenses. But all that cash don’t mean Zora got a dime to her name, especially since her parents’ divorce. Since then, her life has changed big-time. Her dad pulled her out of a private school and put her in this-here magnet school. He cut off her allowance— $150 a month—and moved her back into the city with him. Now Zora’s broke half the time. That’s why she’s trying to make a little dough with me today. She’s hoping she can earn enough money to get those new sneakers she wants. They cost $120, and her dad says she’s gotta pay half the cost if she wants ’em.
When I get inside, Seneca Mason pushes past Zora and shoves half a chocolate candy heart my way. “Zora selling these for you?” Seneca asks. Sato and Ja’nae are standing there not saying nothing. They just checking us out.
“Yeah,” I say.
“So?” Zora says, giving her some attitude, like she can fight if things get tight.
“I should’ve known,” Seneca says, getting loud.
“What you want, Seneca?” I say to her.
Seneca waves the candy bar in the air, making her voice get louder with every word she says. “I don’t want this mess. Give me my money back.”
“No refunds,” Zora says, loud and slow, like she’s talking to someone who don’t understand English. “You ate half the candy. Now what do you want us to do?”
Seneca looks at Zora. Then she takes her fat, crooked middle finger and shoves it deep inside her mouth. She drags her finger across her gums, around her teeth. Then out comes her finger, covered with mashed-up chocolate chunks and shiny spit bubbles.
“Dag. That look like it came out your butt,” Sato says, frowning up his face at Ja’nae.
“Shut up, Sato,” Zora, me, and Seneca all say together.
“Here’s the rest,” Seneca says, holding up her finger. “You want it?”
Zora and me back off. Seneca reaches in her pocketbook and grabs a balled-up piece of paper and wipes off her finger.
She puts her hand on her hip, then sticks her other hand way out like she got a million dollars coming her way. “Now give me my money.”
“No-class girls like you are the reason my mother wants me to transfer out of this school,” Zora says, rubbing her white cashmere sweater.
“Good. When you leaving, zipper mouth?” Seneca says, talking about Zora’s braces.
Zora acts like she didn’t hear Seneca crack on her. But I saw her cheek jump when Seneca’s words came out. Before Seneca says anything else, I shove my hand in my pocket and give her fifty cents of the lunch money Momma gave me in the car.
“You better be ready to give all that money back,” Seneca says, “’cause nobody’s gonna eat that mess you’re selling.”
Seneca’s right. Before homeroom period is up, eight more people want their money back. The last four kids are out of luck, though. I ain’t walking out of school today with nothing. I mean, I gotta show something for all me and Zora’s hard work. But a few minutes later here comes Zenna Greene walking up to me. “I don’t feel so good,” she says, rubbing her stomach. “That candy is making me sick.”
- "Flake (The Skin I’m In, 1998) gives a rock-solid portrayal of an inner-city life where money colors everything....There’s a satisfying fairy-tale ending, but Flake successfully conveys a situation where life is precarious. Kids who live like Raspberry will find validation in seeing themselves sympathetically portrayed, and more pampered readers will find their eyes opened wide."—Kirkus Reviews
- "The author of The Skin I'm In offers another provocative slice of city life, vibrantly evoking its sights, sounds and smells."—Publishers Weekly
- On Sale
- Nov 1, 2009
- Page Count
- 208 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers