from “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes
It was about eleven o'clock at night, and she was walking alone, when a boy ran up behind her and tried to snatch her purse. The strap broke with the single tug the boy gave it from behind. But the boy's weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance so, instead of taking off full blast as he had hoped, the boy fell on his back on the sidewalk, and his legs flew up. The large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.
She held him. Then she said, "Now ain't you ashamed of yourself?" . . . "You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face." . . . "When I get through with you, sir, you're going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones." Mrs. Jones. . . jerked him around in front of her. . .and continued to drag him up the street. When she got to her door, she dragged the boy inside, down a hall, and into a large furnished room at the rear of the house. . . She said, "What's your name?"
"Roger," answered the boy.
"Then, Roger, you go to that sink and wash your face," said the woman, whereupon she turned him loose-at last. Roger looked at the door-looked at the woman-looked at the door-and went to the sink. "You might run that comb through your hair so you will look presentable.". . He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now. . .When they were finished eating she got up and said, "Now, take this ten dollars and buy yourself some blue suede shoes. And next time, do not make the mistake of latching onto my pocketbook nor nobody else's.
She led him down the hall to the front door and opened it. "Goodnight! Behave yourself, boy!" she said, looking out into the street.The boy wanted to say something other than "Thank You, Ma'am," . ..but he couldn't as he turned at the barren stoop and looked back at the woman alone in the door. He barely managed to say "Thank you" before she shut the door.