Like I said before, I never dated when I was growing up on the island. My mother saw to that. Her favorite way of stopping any carnal urges was by telling us if we ever got a girl pregnant she would kill us. I was never allowed to talk about sex. Looking at women was a cardinal sin. Nasty thoughts, as she called them, were the devil’s playground. I remember the first time I saw condoms; it was the one and only time I saw a Playboy magazine too. My brother knew this nurse. I am not sure if he was dating her but she had given him the magazine and a large brown paper bag of condoms. He brought it home and I remember flipping through the pages, my heart racing and my eyes popping out of my head. There was this one woman, Katsika the African princess. She was my favorite. For weeks we were able to keep it hidden from our mother, changing hiding spots frequently. We soon ran out of places to hide it, so my brother placed it under his mattress. One day we came home from playing football and as we entered the yard, I thought I smelled rubber burning. We walked to the back of the house and sitting on a bonfire was the brown bag and the Playboy magazine, engulfed in flame. I did not turn around but I felt my mother’s eyes piercing through the back of my head. We did not go into the house; we just stood there and watched Katsika burn. My mother did not talk to us for days after that, but her reaction was worse than getting a whipping.
Hey, Joe, Joe, I man talking to you. You going ignore me eh? boy you lazy for so you know. Well I go talk anyway. You remember when we used to steal old man Johnson’s boat and go fishing in the middle of the night. Yes man, we used to have a lot of fun. Oh remember when i caught that shark, ohhh yes, right on the bloody line too. I was the champion fisherman then eh? You listening to me Joe, Bunjayyy, you not listening. You remember the morning that old man Johnson caught us. Ohhh that was a riot I tell you. yes man, we did not even see them, here we come, you in the water pulling the boat behind you. Here I was, standing on the stern of this little boat like I was some big time captain, me hand over me eye like some explorer looking for new land. Boy I tell you, old man Johnson and you mother was waiting for we. Your mother had a belt in she hand already. Boy, I never seen you run so fast ever, but boy you mother was even faster, That woman took off after you like a cat running from water. I eh never seen a old woman move so fast. I tell you, before you got to the road she was already there waiting on you. that woman is an expert at swinging a belt. To this day people still talking about the scandal, I mean they even call the police on we. I thought we were going to jail you know. Did you ever take that boat again eh? Joe, Joe I is talking to you man. Damn that Boy lazy for so you know.
The sun was blasting down, so hot when you walk in the sunshine you skin would tingle. Here i was, eight years old on summer break. Mommy Charles had stayed home from work that day and it was just me and she in the house. I don’t quit remember why our nice quiet day deteriorated into a battle of wills, I mean it could have been because i had stolen the freshly baked bread and hid it in the dresser draw, or, i could have said a word I should not have said, or even I may have stupes (suck my teeth) or looked at her crossed eyed when she tried to discipline me, but here I was, bolting out the back door, Mommy Charles in hot pursuit. I burst out the back door, down the flight of stairs and onto the cobble stoned alleyway. Mommy Charles stood at the doorway looking down at me.
“Wey you tink you go go? She asked, that wait till i get hold of you look on her face. I realized she would not come out after me, she did not have her shoes on. So feeling confident i was safe, i wagged my tongue at her and did a little dance, my skinny legs pumping and twisting like James Brown, I mean it was footwork that even he could not duplicate.
“Ohhh so you mocking me now eh? You just wait.” she said, shook her head and sat down. thus began the staring battle, Mommy Charles on the top of the stairs and me standing in the alley. People walked by, some saying hello others looking at us real strange. Mommy Charles got up and was about to go inside and me and without thinking I committed the most heinous crime an eight year old could. I turned my back to Mommy Charles, bent over, pulled my pants down and skinned my bam bam at she (mooned). I felt the warm tropical sun brush off my bare bam bam sending chill bumps all over my body. I heard Mommy Charles growl, i swear, i say smoke come out she mouth. I pulled my pants up real fast as if afraid to be scotched by she fuming breath.
“Wey yuh tink you go run to eh? Wah you go do, swim to de nex’ island?” That was when all the bravado drained out of me. i thought, lord, where am i going to go to get away from Mommy Charles. She shook her head and walked back into the house. I sat there , on the hot cobble stone alley, my heart pounding as i tried to figure out where i can go. Back then, running away was not an option, I mean where would I go, not to my father’s, hell no. Maybe i can go live on the beach, but damn it the police would catch me and take me home. I can go to the other side of the island, but Mommy Charles had family there. They would not just take me back home, they most likely would have spanked me and then take me home. Either way i was going to take a good licking. I looked around, like an animal caged and about to get spaded. I decided to try and make it to the bedroom that my brother and i shared. i started walking up the stairs but stopped, surely she would be somewhere up there waiting. I went around the house to the front door. I listened pressing my ear against the wood. i heard nothing so i gingerly placed my hand on the door knob and turned it. The bloody door squeaked as I pushed it in. I poked my head in and looked left and right. A shiver of joy rushed through me. Mommy Charles was nowhere in sight. I moved across the living room floor on my toes trying not to step on any loose floor boards. i was really excited as i reached the bed room door. I was whispering to myself,
“Oh yes, she tink she smarter dan me, well I go show she.” I was so relieved I was giggling uncontrollably by the time i had the bedroom door opened. I was not going to escape the spanking, but i sure was going to put it off as long as I can. I pushed the door open, leaned in and looked inside, she was not going to trick me by waiting in there. I stood there for a second trying to decide if this was the best hiding place when suddenly i felt a stinging sensation on my bum. I hesitated to look back knowing what i would see. I slowly looked around just in time to see the belt above mommy Charles’s head then closed my eyes and clenched my teeth anticipating the next lash. That damn belt, I had hidden it a few days ago, but here it was, reappearing like voodoo magic, gracefully swinging through the air. I rushed into the bedroom, Mommy Charles stood there for a second as i danced and jumped rubbing my bum with my hands. I tell you what, I learned my lesson, i never back talked or skinned my bam bam at mommy Charles ever again.
All I am came from this soul
I learned to be happy from this spirit
How to overcome struggles
I learned from this great mind
I did not grow up just to become a man
She taught me to be human
She is my mother, my father
Always the alpha human
Akosua twisted and turned as she slid down on the salt. She came to a stop looking up at Adofo and Donkor. They took her arms and pulled her up. Henry and the others slid down after her, stood up and looked around. The ceiling of the cave was about twenty feet high. The roof of it was a layer of salt and the sun shined through it, creating a rainbow of colours on the white walls. The cave was salt, just like the white field they had just walked on. On the far side, large rocks of salt stood like steps that went about fifteen feet up. At the top, above the last steps of salt was the only natural rock visible.
“Right there,” Donkor said. Akosua looked up at the rock, its beige colour pronounced against the rocks of salt that surrounded it. She lay her gear down and was about to walk over to the steps when laughter filled the cave. Some of the salt rocks cracked and pieces fell, bounced off the salt floor, rolled towards Henry and stopped at his feet.
“Welcome girl witch,” the voice boomed. It echoed through the cave and Akosua looked around to see where it had come from. A man stepped out from behind a salt rock that was shaped like a headstone. It was six feet tall, and as Akosua and her friends watched, a black cross appeared on the front of it. Above the cross were the letters R.I.P, underneath was Akosua’s mother’s name written in red. There were smaller salt rocks surrounding it, they too were shaped like tombstones with the names of each child’s parent on it.
The man wore a black suit, and a black top hat, and dark sunglasses with the right lens knocked out of it. His exposed red eye rolled as he spoke. He used the smaller tombstones as steps to climb onto the bigger one and sat on top of it like a king on his throne.
“This is the perfect spot to sit and watch this momentous occasion. Little witch retrieves Spear of Salt so that she can save her people,” Guede said then threw his head back and laughed. Akosua stood calm and smiled, her eyes never moving away from the evil Loa,
“You don’t intimidate me, you are just a Lackey for Baron Samedi,” she responded. Guede’s laughter disappeared immediately. He puffed on his cigar then leaned forward.
“Go ahead little lady, go get your spear,” he said, and smiled a devilish smile. Akosua looked back at her friends. Adofo stepped forward.
“I will go with you,” he said, but Akosua waived him off.
“I have to do this alone,” She said and took a step.
“Ohhh brave little Obeah Woman,” Guede said and laughed. The salt crunched as Akosua stepped on it, it was the loudest sound she had ever heard, it echoed in her head as she took another step. She stepped lightly, but her left foot sank to her ankle in the salt and was slowly sinking more.
“Watch it now; you already stuck your foot in your mouth by challenging me. Be careful you don’t step into a salty grave.” Guede said and roared with laughter. She struggled to free her foot. Adofo started walking towards her, but once again she raised her hand and he stopped. She was finally able to pull her foot out, small chunks of wet salt rolled off her feet as she shook them one at a time. She steadied herself and took a step. Guede’s smile disappeared again; he had an impatient expression on his face. He looked over at Adofo and the others and then back to Akosua.
“You think you can save lives by getting this spear? Don’t you know that life and death is the biggest joke played on man. That’s why I can use the dead to do my evil works, and I can use the living to do my bidding also.” He boasted then laughed as Amelia took another tentative step. Guede continued talking,
“Ask yourself, are the Jab Jabs dead, or are you and your friends the dead ones. Did I order them to attack you, or is this all one big illusion, and you are actually in the afterlife, and I am in control, and you are doing exactly what I want you to do. Is there a spear over there, or is this just one of my games that I so love to play?” Akosua stopped and looked at him.
“As sure as I am standing here that spear exists, Yemaya says so,” she said and Guede rolled his exposed eye.
“Yemaya, Yemaya. She is no real Loa. She is loose and she is a trickster. Why would you believe her?” He asked staring at Akosua. She took another step then looked over at Guede,
“My mother brought it here Donkor can attest to that.” She said and took another step. Guede looked over at Donkor.
“Who him, the Bokor,” Guede clapped his hand and laughed, a red teardrop rolled out of his eyes,
“Hi old friend, been to any sacrifices lately. What, are you all of a sudden a good little Hougan. I seem to remember wanting my help. Remember the services, the food, and the human offerings. Thank you I was hungry for food, or hungry for souls, and you were quite willing to satisfy me.” he winked at Donkor, the man shifted from one leg to the next nervously.
“Look how nervous he is, do you think you can trust him?” Guede said,. Akosua looked over at Donkor and gave him a reassuring smile. She took another step, her legs shook a little. Guede sucked his teeth, shook his head, and then sneezed. The ground moved violently and Henry and his friends fell. Akosua braced herself, her hand stretched out at her sides for balance. The salt floor began to crack as the cave rumbled.
Mama is real love, sing dat me bredrin
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
Andre’s mother did not say one word the whole subway ride home. He sat looking down, too afraid to see the disappointment in her eyes. They got to the house and still she said nothing. He went into his room and sat down staring at the walls,
“Boi, yuh mudder mad for so,” the shadow said. Andre did not respond. The shadow giggled.
“Cheer up me liccle brodda, what yuh want me to sing yuh ah lullaby, put yuh chin up,” Andre got up and walked over to his boom box and put on a Bob Marley song,
“Boi, you better turn off dat Tampi smoking music before she come in here, yuh know.” The shadow said, Andre turned the music up and went back to the bed. His bedroom door creaked and his mother peeped in. For a second they stared at each other, then Andre slowly got up and walked over to the boom box and turned it off. His mother looked at him for a few more seconds then closed the door,
“I did tell yuh,” the shadow said laughing.
“Shut up yuh evil Jab Jab,” Andre said,
“Wah yuh vex at me for, I din do notton atal atal,” The shadow said,
“Is your fault I hit dat bouy, is yuh who tell me do it,” Andre said throwing a pillow at the shadow,
‘Yeah is me wey tell yuh, but it felt real good din it?” Andre did not reply. A slight wind rustled the trees outside the window,
“Look at me eh, I is dancing,” the shadow said,
“Go to hell,” Andre said,
“Come on, me and yuh is friends don be mad at me.”
“I said leave me alone,” Andre shouted and got up and closed the curtains. The room plunged into darkness and the shadow was silent. He lay down and was soon fast asleep.
Andre woke up to voices in the living room. He got up and opened the door. His mother was talking to a man,
“Fada, I don know wah I go do wid him, is like de child possessed or sumting,” she said in between sobs.
“I thought bringing him here woulda change he, but he is still bad, fada, I don know wha to do. I tek him to church, I give him good licks, I sent him to stay wid he aunt, but notten works. Sumtimes he acting jus like he fada you know”
“Sister Monica, God works in mysterious ways, I am sure your son will be fine,” the man said, Andre creped down the hall and peeped into the living room. A priest sat on the couch, his silver hair combed like a bridge over his bald spot. His mother paced in front of the priest a mere shadow in the light from the window.
“Bring him to confession on Sunday, there is nothing pray can’t fix.” He said. Andre turned and walked back to his room and flopped onto his bed. He heard the front door close and he got up and went to the window and opened the curtain. The priest walked across Rochester Avenue and got into a small car and drove off. Andre went back to the bed and sat down.
“Ohhh Ohhh, yuh in real trouble now.” The shadow said, “Is you fraid?” Andre sat up,
“I not fraid of notten,” He shot back,
“Ohhh, liccle man ha some balls all of a sudden eh? The shadow said snickering.
“Don laugh at me you know, cause I go…”
“You go do what eh?” the shadow said. “Is me who teaching you to be a man and don forget it,” The shadow said. Andre’s mother opened the door.
“Who is yuh talking to boi, who in dey wid yuh?” His mother asked walking into his room, her long straight black hair swayed as she moved.
“Nobody,” he replied,
“Boi, why you always talking to yuhself eh?’
“I don know,”
“I is real disappointed in yuh yuh know, why yuh always misbehaving for eh?” she asked. Andre hung his head,
“I don know,”
“Every ting is I don know I don know. Boi you is getting to be a big man you know, time you start acting like one,” She said reaching out to rub his head. Andre smiled,
“I know mamie, I promise I go try me best,”
“Sunday we go go to church and you going to confession, the fada say he go talk to you,” she said,
“O K mamie,” Andre said.
Sunday morning Andre got up, got ready and went to church with his mother. They arrived at the church and as soon they walked through the doors his mother turned to him,
“O K, now go to confession, may be the fada could help you,” Andre hesitated, but his mother put her hand on his back and gentle pushed him towards the confessional. Andre walked into the box and sat down,
“Boi you sweating for so,” The Shadow said.
“Don you have no respect, dis ah church,” Andre said as he parted the curtains to the confessional and peeped inside,
“Me, I ein fraid of man or God,” The Shadow responded.
‘Don say a damn word in here, yuh hear me,”
‘Who yuh tink yuh is talking to eh?” The Shadow said. The priest walked into the other side of the confessional and sat down, then gave the sign of the cross,
“Forgive me fada for ah may have sinned, it have been six months since ah gave me last confession” Andre said as he did the sign of the cross. The priest was silent for a second,
“Well son, what is your sins?”
“I don have no sin fada,”
“Everybody have sins son, now tell me what are yours.”
“I don have no sin fada.” Andre repeated. The priest sighed.
“Then what is it your mother told me about you fighting in school?”
“He started it fada, he beat me up,”
“Son, one should always turn the other cheek,” the priest said.
“But fada, de bible also say an eye for an eye,” the priest was silent.
“Boy, are you being smart, now go ahead and confess your sins this instant.
“Ohh de man in de dress is getting vex for so,” The Shadow said.
“I told yuh to shut up,” Andre hissed,
“What was that you said young man?” the priest asked
“She want it, give it to she,” The Shadow started singing a dirty calypso song,
“Shut yuh mouth,” Andre said,
“Young man, remember you are in the house of the lord. Be respectful or I will have your mother punish you,”
“Now tell me your sins,”
“I kissed Mr. Jones daughter, put me hand down she pants den smell me fingers,” the shadow said snickering, Andre could not help it, he giggled.
“Young man what is so funny?”
“Now go ahead, tell me your sins and you will be forgiven,”
“I don have no sin fada,”
“Yuh go let dat ole white man talk to yuh like dat?” The Shadow said,
“Fada I said I don have no sin, wah yuh want me to say?”
“Son you know that fighting is wrong, you hurt someone, and that is a sin, you have to confess to receive forgiveness.”
“Fada, he hit me first,”
“It does not matter; confess your sins now,”
“Bonjay, de ole white man getting real vex now, yuh go get it,” The Shadow said
“Keep you trap shut!” Andre yelled,
“Young man that is no way to talk now confess,”
“Ohhh, don let him talk to yuh like dat, give him a piece of yuh mind,” the shadow said. Andre hesitated for a second,
“Wey the fuck fada, I say I din sin, why de fuck you trying to make me say I did?” There was silence as the stunned priest tried to collect himself,
“Oh he real vex now,” The Sadow said,” the priest came out of his side, pulled the curtain on Andre’s side and yanked him out,
“Filthy mouth, come I will take you to your mother.” The priest took Andre by the ear and dragged him over to his mother.
“We need to talk,” he said.
“Go wait over dey,” His mother said pointing to the door. Andre walked away hanging his head. He saw his mother’s mouth drop open with shock, then she stormed over to him, her hazel eyes twinkled with anger.
“Ohhh yuh in deep doo doo now,” The shadow said,