Well, well, well, what would have been for Sunday lunch when I was a kid. I heard Mommy Charles in the kitchen, she was humming again. I wanted to get up and go see what she was doing but instead, I stayed in my room and sniffed the air. Wait a second, wait a bloody second, is that seasoned chicken, hmmm, I do believe so. Looks like there is more hot pepper in it than usual. Hmmm, smells like there is a little curry in there too. Man this is going to be great as usually. I wonder what next she doing. I heard the pot clanking, the spoon hitting the kitchen counter. Then I heard a cracking sound, I thought, hmm what could that be? After the second crack, I knew exactly what it was, corn. Man, I was intrigued now, what was Mommy Charles up to. I heard the crumple of a brown paper bag opening, the quiet thud of flour falling into a pan. Ohhh could that be the beginnings of dumpling. A few seconds later I know I was right as I heard the pan scrape across the counter as she kneaded the flour. Then I heard the chopping of tomatoes and the bubbling of water in the pot. Still I tried to figure out what she was cooking. The scent floated from the kitchen throughout the house and into my room. The quiet Sunday was interrupted by my stomach rumbling. I got up walked through the drawing room and peeped into the kitchen, Mommy Charles was not in there. I looked at the pot, steam and aroma bellowed out of it. I looked around making sure I was alone, after all I was too young to mess with a hot pot. I tip toed into the kitchen, stood looking down at the pot on the coal pot. Without thinking I picked up the cover, ohhh what I saw was so enticing, it was a chicken soup, one of my favorite meals. Ohhh yes, there was corn, dumplings, chicken, dashin, and some tanyas floating in there, and of course I could smell the butter. And the smell was so intoxication I almost fell over like the village drunk. I was so engrossed with the food I did not pay attention to my burning finger. I screamed and dropped the pot cover. Immediately Mommy Charles said. “Andy, you not interfering with the pot of food are you?” “No mamie.” I said dancing around and waving my hand in the air. I found a kitchen towel, picked up the hot cover and recovered the pot. That scent made me forget my burning fingers. I walked back towards my room, stopped to snag a banana from the dining room table, after all, that damn cooking made me hungry. Thus was the magic of Mommy Charles cooking.
Sometimes in the early Morning
I can hear you moving around in my kitchen
On a quiet Sunday afternoon
I can hear you singing your hymns
And when I think I may be doing something wrong
I hear you say “Anderson”
And in a moment of weakness
When I think I want to be a lady’s man
You let me know I should respect women
When I am walking in fear and my soul is lost
Somehow you let me know you are near
my protector, my teacher, my friend
So tonight I will look to the heavens
See your shadow in that bright light
As you look down on this tumultuous earth
To make sure your love ones are safe
You protected us in life, as you still do in afterlife
Mother of all mothers
Queen of all queens
So here I was, way back at the fence in the back yard, hidden from the back door by five feet tall corn trees, sitting with my back against the Paw Paw tree, the biggest joint you will ever see in me hand. I took a big drag, blue the smoke out and watch it float up looking like a raincloud against the blue sky, right before a slight breeze whip it away. I was feeling good, real good. I thought I heard Mommy Charles in the kitchen so I was going to put out the joint, but noooo, I was too greedy, so I took one more hit. I heard a pop, then I feel a burn on me leg. I almost scream out. A seed still smoking a little rolled down me leg and settled on the ground. Damn thing left a small burn mark on me skin. I stubbed out the joint and went into the house.
Six weeks later, I was in the back yard weeding the corn and decided to smoke a little ganja, I went to me usual spot and was about to sit down when I notice a new plant growing there. I almost sat down but stopped, looked at the plant closer, nooo, it could not be, no, I am not that lucky, I dropped to me knees to get a close look, me heart raced up as realized, it was a ganja plant. I was real excited, hell me own plant. Right after the jubilation, fear set in. How was I going t keep this from Mommy Charles, hell you could not hide a needle in a haystack from that woman. I almost pull it out of the ground, but foolish seventeen year old logic took over. I thought about all the weed I would have from that one plant, I would not have to depend on the fellas to get m weed, hell the fellas will have to depend on me. So for weeks I nursed me plant, it was growing real good, leaves all green and healthy, stem strong, I was real proud of it. I even collected cow poop to use as manure for it, oh yes, I hated doing that to put on Mommy Charles Lilies, but damn it, this was way more important than some stupid lilies.
Weeks went by and now me ganja plant was two feet tall. I was boasting to all the fellas and them about it. Telling them that it will be the best they ever smoked, how I had the best green thumb in the whole village. Then one day I came home, walked into the house, “Mommy Charles, am home!” I shouted, no response, I checked the bed rooms, the living room, nobody, the house was empty so I went to the kitchen to pour a glass of Sea Moss and went to stand at the back door. There was Mommy Charles, standing on the lawn just in front of the corn patch. I walked out to her, “Hey Mommy, wey you doing?” She turned around and by the look in her eyes I knew, I knew that the possibility of me getting good licks was a foregone conclusion. “Who Tampi is dis?” she asked, bending over and picking up the marijuana tree. Me heart sunk, at that moment I did not care about getting licks. My tree, my beautiful tree was in her hand, its roots dangling, mud still dripping off of them. “Boi, I ask yuh a question, who Tampi is dis?” I snapped out of me sad trance, “Ah don know,” I stuttered, “Boi, I know yuh know, don lie to me,” I had to think fast because I knew this would be the greatest bust ass the village had ever seen, “Its Raphie’s.” I blurted out, oh yes, I threw me brother under the bus and I don’t mean a minibus either. Mommy Charles looked at me, looked at the plant. You is lying boi, I know yuh is,” I looked down not wanting her to detect my lying eyes. Then with fire in her eyes, she began to rip the plant apart leaf by leaf and with every torn leaf it felt like she was ripping a limp off me. There goes a finger, there goes an arm, there foes an ear. It was painful to watch, me first ganja plant mutilated by the angry Mommy Charles. After the vicious murder of my plant was over, she shook her head and gave me the dreaded disappointed look and then stormed off into the house. I dropped to my knees, like a hysterical spouse at a voodoo funeral. When the fellas and them ask me about me plant, I could not tell them Mommy Charles destroyed it, so I made up this story about the neighbour’s goat eating and how the goat was so high it head butted the Paw Paw tree knocking it down.
Just around the corner, there is a place that Mommy charles worked. Small, dark, loads of material on the walls, jewelry in counters you can tell is older that the yellow coloured old man that owned the store, it was the seventies and this old man is on his last decade. He would stand at the back of the store, strategic, he wanted to see everybody who walked by on the sidewalk, the thing is you never could see him until you enter the store, then there he was, his gold rimmed glasses perched on his nose. The thing I remembered most about the store is the overpowering scent of perfumes, it lingered in the air so strong you can taste it. On a shelf at the front of the store sat a small counter filled with little fancy bottles, all with different scents, all fighting the be the dominant taste. To this day, when I daydream, I can still taste the air of that shop.
I love roses, I love them because when I was a boy and we lived in our two bedroom concrete house, off the True Blue Highway in a cluster of houses called the Grand Anse Housing Scheme. My mother and I planted rose bushes in the front yard of the house. Red, yellow, white roses greeted you as you walked into the yard. Don’t get me wrong, I hated tending to the vegetable garden and trimming those infernal hedges, but those rose bushes, I did not have a complaint about them. We would toil in the hot tropical sun, treating the roses like they were our children. At nights, when they were in bloom, and the moon hung over the ocean, we would sit in the verandah, the frogs were croaking, the crickets did their thing as Mommy charles told me stories of her childhood, all the while, the scent of the roses filled the air. Ahhhhh those days live on in my dreams.