Ohhhhh have mercy, its island lunch time. Somewhere on the island, at this very moment, someone is have salfish souse, provisions and calaloo. Yes man, its a feast for a third world king I tell you.
He was asleep just a short time when he was woken up by Ampah. He got up and followed the boy outside. Several of the villagers carried torches and were screaming a name. Henry walked over to Ampah. He stood next to some of the boys giving them instructions.
“Whats going on?” Henry asked and Ampah turned to him.
“Adwoa is missing,” Ampah said.
“Grab a touch, we are going to look for her,” Ampah said. Henry walked over to one of the huts and got one of the torches that sat in front of it. He walked back to Ampah and lit it with the one that Ampah held.
“Adwao!” they shouted. The jungle was dark except for the torches that seemed to float through the air between the bushes. Rodents rustled in the underbrush, owls hooted in the trees, bats screeched and flew off into the night. They searched for hours, combing the underbrush until someone shouted,
“Over here!” footsteps sped up as they rushed to the voice. Henry got to where the voice came from and looked down into a grove of small trees. The little girl lay under a hibiscus tree motionless. Akosua was on her knees next to her.
“She is gone,” she said as she caressed the child’s face. The jungle was silent except for the cracking of the fire from the torches. They stood, their faces illuminated by with shadows. Akosua picked up the girls lifeless body and carried her back to one of the huts next to her own.
The Villagers stood, some cried, while the older ones tried to console them. Henry and Ampah stood there for a while then walked back to Henry’s hut.
“She looked like all the blood was drawn from her body,” Ampah said, his face a mere shadow in the pale yellow light.
“I did not hear the Ligaroos attack,” Henry said.
“There must be one among us,” Ampah said and they sat in the chairs outside Henry’s hut for a second listening to the jungle.
I can’t wait to get my hands on a Ligaroo,” Henry said. Ampah was silent for a moment looking into the dark jungle.
“So do I, I will spill blood for every person who died at their hands,” he said. The sound of frogs croaking filled the silence, crying could be heard in the hut next door.
“I knew something was up, the other night, while I slept, I felt someone next to me, their breath was awful, but when I woke up, there was no one there,” Ampah said.
“The same thing happened to me,” Henry said. Ampah looked over at him and said nonchalantly.
“You should sleep with one eye open, and your machete near my friend,” and got up and walked away. Henry got up and walked into his hut. He stopped at the doorway and held the torch out in front of him. When he was satisfied that no one else was in there he walked in. He took the unlit torch from its holder and placed the lit one in it. He walked over to the chair where the machete lay, picked it up and went to his bed. A dog howled and he lifted his head and looked around. Whenever the wind blew shadows rushed at him, then retreated when the wind dissipated He rested his head back down and closed his eye. The image of the Adwao imprinted in his mind. He felt himself falling asleep and jerked awake, then felt around in the bed next to him for the machete. He hugged the weapon and soon fell asleep.
Adwoa was buried next to the pond the following day. The drummers played, a slow deliberate beat, as they carried her body from the centre of the village to where she was buried. The village was Salome for a couple of days. Some of the villagers looked at each other suspiciously. No one accused anyone, but it was obvious what they were thinking. Henry had not seen Akosua; she had walked into the jungle after the child was buried.
Akosua sat on a bamboo chair looking out at the pond. There was an empty chair next to her with a calabash bowl of food on it. The scent of the roasted chicken filled the air attracting bugs. They settled on the rice in clusters, buzzing as they fed, Akosua had not touched the food. Frogs jumped in and out of the murky pond, ducks and swans glided across the surface. Akosua was in deep thought when a thick fog appeared over the pond. At first, she ignored the change, but then a figure walked towards her. She sat up and looked. It was a woman. She was light skinned and beautiful, and she glided across the pond like a princess gliding down the aisle on her wedding day. The woman stepped onto the ground. The fog dissipated, and Akosua saw the face of Yemaya. The girl smiled as the Loa walked up the bank of the pond and stopped in front of her.
“Hello my child,” Yemaya said. Akosua reached out her hand and Yemaya took it. Akosua thought the palm of her hand was unusually coarse, after all, Yemaya was a gentile. Akosua picked up the calabash bowl of food and Yemaya sat down next to her. Her white dress brushed the top of the blades of grass as she sat gracefully. She looked at Akosua.
“I see that you have had a hard time lately. How have you been doing?” she asked Akosua fought back tears.
“Its o k dear go ahead and let it out,” Yemaya said. Akosua rested her head on Yemaya’s head and sobbed.
“This is hard, I don’t know if I am the one to do this.” Akosua said between tears. Yemaya ran her fingers through Akosua’s hair.
“Maybe you are not my dear,” she said. Akosua lifted her head and looked at the Loa. Yemaya looked into her eyes,
“Maybe you are not the chosen one,” she insisted. Akosua wiped the tears.
“But you said….,” Akosua began to say.
“Never mind what I said child, even us Loas can be wrong.” Yemaya said, Akosua stood up and looked down at the woman.
“I am sorry, but maybe you are too weak to lead your village into a battle with the Ligaroo King.” Akosua walked to the edge of the pond, the fog partially engulfed her. Akosua looked back at Yemaya, she sat stoic, no expression on her face. Maybe she was right; maybe she was not strong enough to take on the responsibility of leading her people to freedom. Out of the fog, a swan floated towards her on the water. Akosua turned to Yemaya.
“If not me then who?” She asked, The Loa smiled at her.
“Don’t worry us good spirits will find someone else. We have the power to choose,” Yemaya said. Akosua looked down at the woman; the Loa was looking at the ground. Akosua looked at the Loas fingers, the three wedding bands that she usually wore were missing. Akosua sat down.
“It is good to have you help me work through these hard times.” She said. Yemaya smiled. Akosua looked around, and then looked down at the calabash of food she had laid down on the grass. She reached down and picked it up.
“You look hungry here have a bite to eat.” She said. Yemaya looked at the food and seemed like she was going to throw up. She took the calabash bowl and set it on her lap, picked up a piece of chicken, and raised it to her mouth. She looked at the food like it was laced with poison, then looked up at Akosua without moving her head, the blacks of her eyes pointed straight up. Suddenly she growled and grinded her teeth. She looked up to the sky and screamed.
“You know I can’t eat food that the cooks have touched.” She screamed and threw the calabash bowl to the ground. Slowly her physical features changed as she screamed and growled. The frogs jumped into the pond, the ducks and swans flapped their wings, as they retreated into the fog that suddenly thickened. The woman looked up at Akosua. Half of her body was Marinette-Bwa-Check, the other half Yemaya. Her eyes were ablaze with anger, her face twisted with contempt and hate. She got up and rushed at Akosua, the girl backed up until she stood at the edge of the pond, her heels touching the water.
“You little witch, I will cut you up and cook you into a stew and have you for dinner.” She screamed. Saliva shot out of her mouth and landed in the pond. The water bubbled, and steam rose with every drop of saliva. Dead frogs floated to the surface. Akosua stepped to her and reached her hand out. The Loa had completely transformed into Marrinette-Bwa-Check, she jerked away from Akosua, as if afraid to be touched.
“Fire go burn you,” she screamed, Akosua tried to touch her again,
“You don’t have to be evil. You can be the way you used to be in our homeland.” Akosua said. Marrinette-Bwa-Check threw her head back and screamed a loud scream that turned into a laugh, a laugh that turned into a growl. The Loa disappeared across the pond. Birds flew out of the trees and retreated into the jungle. Akosua stood; her hand was still outstretched, her eyes closed.
“You, a mere girl you think you can change me. I have ripped men’s hearts out and fed them to the animals. What do you think I will do to you child?” she screamed. Akosua opened her eyes and looked at the Evil Loa. Marrinette_Bwa_Check trembled then backed away from Akosua.
“You will be destroyed, you will be destroyed!” she screamed, as she ran to the pond and disappeared into the fog leaving ripples on the water. The jungle was silent, as if every animal was hiding from the wrath of the evil Loa. Slowly, the fog went away. The dragon flies came back and buzzed around the pond, frogs croaked and hopped from Lilly to Lilly. The bodies of the dead frogs had disappeared with the evil Loa, and the pond was back to its serene peace. Akosua turned away from the pond and slowly walked back to the village.
They walked all night and arrived at the village early in the morning. The sun had risen just above the trees. The air had that early morning smell of fresh earth and blooming flowers. Butterflies were beginning to fly around the flowerbeds in front of the huts. The sun bounced off the dew drenched green leaves.
Someone blew a conch shell and all the villagers came out to greet them. Some of the younger children sang and danced, as the tired travelers slowly made their way through the village. Akosua walked to the centre of the village and raised her arm. The crowd became silent.
“Our journey was a successful one. We will tell you more later. Prepare a feast; we will celebrate our union with the Bokors. Now go prepare, we will rest.” Akosua said the crowd erupted in cheers, then chants. Henry was tired; he stood barely able to keep his eyes opened. The crowd began to disperse and Henry stumbled back to his hut. Some of the villagers patted him on his back as he went.
It was midafternoon when he was woken up by the sound of conch shells being blown. He got up, walked to the door and looked out. His vision was blurred, so he rubbed his eyes and looked again. The village was alive with villagers bustling around. It was like Christmas Eve in the Old Country. He went back into the hut and began to get ready. There was a fresh suit of white clothes laid on one of the chairs. A calabash bowl of water sat at the foot of the bed. He dipped his hands into the bowl of water and splashed some on his face. He yelped as the cold water hit his skin. The drummers began to play and some of the villagers began singing. Henry hurried up and got dressed.
Henry walked out of the hut, the sunlight hit him and he squinted to see where he was going.
“Hey Henry,” a small boy said as he ran by, his white outfit blurry in the bright sunlight, Henry walked to the centre of the village, Kwao and two warriors were carrying a table from the dining hut. Kwao looked over at Henry,
“Hey Kindoki how about a little help here?” he said and smiled. Henry was taken aback by his cheerfulness; he had never seen the boy smile except at the expense of someone else.
“Come on,” Kwao insisted. Henry walked over and grabbed the end of the table. They sat the table down next to some other tables. Kwao walked past him bumping him as he did. As suddenly as he was nice he was back to his old self. Henry shook his head and looked around. Chickens ran around in yards, pigs squealed, goats bleated, and smaller children laughed.
Henry walked over to where some of the children were cooking. Pots of food in bubbled over fires sending steam bellowing into the air. Ampah stood over the caucus of a goat rubbing leaves into it. He smiled when Henry walked up.
Hey warrior how are you doing today?” he asked.
“Am well rested, ready to eat some of this food,” he replied. Ampah reached out and tapped him on the shoulder leaving leaves on his clean shirt.
“Why don’t you come over here and help the master cook create a meal fit for a Loa.” He said, a girl next to him laughed.
“Master cook, just do the job we gave you and do less talking,” she said and the young women erupted into laughter. Henry laughed and looked at Ampah.
“She is just jealous because I am a better cook than she is” he said. The girl splashed him with water from a bowl on the table. Ampah looked over at her,
“Don’t start a war you can’t win Pickiny,” he said, the girl splashed him again and Ampah laughed and continued with what he was doing. Henry grabbed some leaves and began rubbing it into its flesh. Adofo walked up.
“Doing a good job there Henry, put some muscle into it,” he said.
“Join us,” Henry said, Adofo twisted his mouth,
“Not me, you could not pay me to put my hands in that,” he said, then laughed and walked away.
“I slaughter the animals I don’t cook them,” he said in between laughter. A flock of robins flew out of the jungle and came to rest on a small tree next to the table. They chirped, as if having a conversation with each other.
Henry turned to look at the village. Akosua walked into the centre of the village. She wore a laced white dress that came to just above her knees; her dreadlocks were tied behind her head with a white band. A white hibiscus flower was stuck on the right side of her hair; Henry was amazed that she went form fierce warrior one day, to delicate beauty the next. Small children ran up to her and she stopped and hugged them one at a time, she was the closest thing they had to a mother figure. She walked over to the tables and helped some of the girls spread white table clothes over them. Adofo walked up to her, they embraced for a second. Kwao stopped what he was doing and glanced over at them, he always seemed to be near whenever they had an intimate moment.
Ohhh what oh what could Mommy Charles be planning for lunch. This island boi was real hungry. I heard her in the kitchen, the pots clanging, the knives, pot spoon and bowls hitting the kitchen counter as she prepare. Oh man the excitement. You would think as much as I love to eat I would a least have some meat on my bones, but noooo, I was a real skinny kid who would be swept away in a strong wind. Yes man, food was my addiction, especially when Mommy Charles cooked. Sitting in my room, listening to her every move was just as exciting as sitting at the table wolfing down whatever she cooked. What was more exciting is when she called me to the kitchen to help, here I was only eight years old helping mommy Charles create a culinary masterpiece. I see rice, seasoned chicken, cucumbers, Lettuce, tomatoes, I know, I know exactly what was brewing. A good old Pelau, oh yes, rice cooked with chicken and browned to a golden colour. Pepper, all kinds of seasoning and the vegetable as a side dish. Oh man, the best Saturday eating.
Some Sundays, Mommie Charles just kept the feast simple. Ahhh yes, simple but still a delight to the taste buds. Something easy like this plate of stew chicken, yes, all the season in there, pepper, chives, thyme, onions, garlic, a dash of salt, tomatoes added, green peppers. Yes I tell you. Boiled green figs (bananas) and plantains. Ahhhh yes, then all that was left to do is fix a plate, take it to the veranda, go back into the living room and turn on the radio, find some nice soft music, head back outside. Now the trick to give the provisions a final zesty taste is to sprinkle the gravy from the chicken on it. Ohhhh the party that is going on in your mouth. Only Mommy Charles can make the simplest meal fit for a boy.
Ahhh yes, some Jamaican eating, yes man, plenty ah good eating can be had in Jam Rock. Ohhhh lets try up the national dish. We could go up in country, oh dally down to Kingston town, but you must try some of that Ackee and Salfish. Tonight, maybe you can have some rice and fried plantain with it too. Ohhh yes some sweet, sweet Jamdung eating in the place.
Jerk Chicken Pizza, ohhhh I will have to try this. I am not a pizza eater but with a littler island flare like this I may partake of this.
Morning have broken, the skies are slowly turning from gray to tropical blue. The rooster was perched in the plumb tree crowing its head off. The yard dog stood under the tree barking at it. A gray white cloud lazily floated across the sky. Island boy stretched and yarned, ahhh yes, it was the beginning of summer holidays. A whole summer to go simmer down on the beach, go diving, wind surfing, sailing, and lets not forget the cook ups on the beach. Ahhh some fried fish, fish cakes, lobster, crab and calaloo. Man, all this day dreaming about food was making him hungry. He looked around the kitchen, what will he have for breakfast this morning. Ahhh yes, some saltfish souse sounds real good this morning, fry it down with some onions, garlic, tomatoes and yes a little pepper. And I do believe Mommy Charles had made some bakes last night, that will go real good with the saltfish souse. Oh and yes, I can make a hot cup of coacoa tea to drink with that.
Yes, this was a hearty breakfast for a busy island boy.
Ohhh what can an island boy have for lunch. Hmmm, Maybe some stewed chicken with rice and peas, or maybe some fried fish with provisions, noooo, hmmmm, what will he ever eat. Wait a second, wait just one second, I have an idea, how about some curried shrimp. Ohhh yes, with all kinds of vegetable added, some pepper, ohhh man, that would just hit the spot. Hmmm, I know, I know, he can go to the back yard, pick some passion fruit,
and make a pitcher of Passion fruit juice. Yes man, this boy really know how to eat.
Ahhhhh a quiet Monday, well quiet Monday morning. I can smell the food cooking, hear the calypso music coming from the old fashion radio in the drawing room. We had just gotten back from the Poppy Day parade, oh the pageantry, police in their white tunics, black pants with the red strip down the sides. They 303 riffles perched on their shoulders. The white helmet with the shiny silver points, their black boots had sparkles like stars in the moonlight. Cadets from the secondary schools, scouts, veterans, all marching through the city to the police band. Now here we were, Me and Mommy Charles in the kitchen, cooking up a storm. I was not old enough to do most of the cooking, so here I was mimicking all I had seen her done over the years and by the scent coming from the pot, it is sure that I learned from the best. Man, you should see all the food as I packed it into containers to take to the beach. Avocados, yams, plantains, green figs, (green bananas) dashin, and to go with that some saltfish souse. Ohhh yes, this meal is fit for a royal family. Now the decision on what to drink, hmmmm, oh I know, how about some homemade Mango juice ohhhh yes, that will hit the spot on the beach.
Ohhhh yes, I did a little dance cause if I did not stop myself I would have drank it all right there. Now its off to the beach for the picnic.