“When Eddie Levert Comes”. A Short Story
by Deesha Philyaw - from her debut collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies -2020
Recommended by Rion Amilcar Scott on Electric Literature -December 2020
You may read the story here
I have seen The Secret Life of Church Ladies on several lists of highly recommended debut short story collections. I am thankful to Electric Literature for featuring one of the stories from the collection on their website.
The story is narrated by a woman, we never learn her name, who is the primary care giver for her mother who suffers from dementia. It seems long ago the mother had a one night stand with Eddie Levert,the lead singer in a Philadelphia soul group. Now she insists that this very day he is coming back for her. Now the mother is a “church lady” but she had children by three different men, brought strangers home to have sex with while are kids are home and drank to excess. Then, she “got religion” and quit her old ways. Then overtime, we don’t know how long ago, lost her grasp on reality.
We learn a lot about her life, she favors her two sons over her daughter even though they don’t do much to help her. She seems to most favor her lightest skinned son, whose father was Puerto Rican. Her daughter was much darker.
The daughter is doing well as a real estate agent and investor. She has a long time boyfriend who seems decent.
Philyaw takes us deeply into the psyche of the mother and daughter. We see how the church, which does not much interest the daughter, is of paramount importance. We don’t learn anything about the childhood of the mother, what drove her to multiple partners, to seeing it as
ok to have loud sex at home, and to judge other African Americans by their skin tones. We know nothing of the daughter’s father, her mother never married.
Throughout the story the mother insists she must have on make up and be dressed to meet Eddie Levert when he returns. Her children live with this.
In one very sad scene her light skinned son comes to visit, first time in months. The mother seems to think her daughter is a paid nurse but she is overjoyed to see “her baby” whom she praises to the sky for taking such good care of her.
There are two other stories you can read online and I hope to read them next year.
I am very glad to have discovered Deesha Philyaw.
“When Eddie Levert Comes” is a great Short Story.
About the Author
Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church. Deesha is also the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Her work has been listed as Notable in the Best American Essays series, and her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Brevity, dead housekeeping, Apogee Journal, Catapult, Harvard Review, ESPN’s The Undefeated, The Baltimore Review, TueNight, Ebony and Bitch magazines, and various anthologies. Deesha is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing in Full Grown People. From the Author’s website.