After that lunch, well a red blooded tropical boy needs a snack, so I make me way to the back yard. Man all them choices, plumbs, red and China, golden apples, paw paw, chenttes, oh lord, how to make up me mind. Then I turned to the mango trees, them things were ripe for so. Ok mangos it is, time to climb that tree and do some serious picking. Yes boy this going be some juicey eating.
If only we can all wake up int the morning, step out into our backyard, walk bare feet on the cold grass, maneuver our way through the flowerbed and stand amount the bloom that sparkles in the early morning sun, feeling like a yet discovered planet, surrounded by your many suns.
That reminds me of a neighbor back home who used to let her children use our yard as their personal toilet. Can you say similarities? We used to call the kids the serial poopers. I mean nothing was worse than baby poop that sat in the hot tropical sun for hours on end. There is nothing more refreshing than waking up in the morning, shining your shoes until the sun glittered off of them, walking out your door and stepping in some steaming crap. One morning, I woke up, opened my door, and there was one of the little heathens. He was squatting down in the middle of my walkway, his face twisted. Soft grunts escaped from his food-filled mouth. When I told the mother what he had done. She would pick the biggest leaf she could find to scoop up the mess, and as I watched in amazement, she tossed it into my rose bushes. That was fine except they were my bloody rose bushes. I had to smell baby poop every time I walked out my door
The week came and went and there was no sign of the woman in white I mean I did not venture to sit at the window, if that woman wanted to get me she would have to come into the house. Jane kept a watchful eye on me, man, it felt kind of good having someone fuss over me like that. I did not know if she believed that I saw anything but she knew something had happened, I mean she even call the school a couple of times just to make sure I was all right. I tried to keep me cool so as not to not worry she, but I was not getting any sleep and the fact that the island was changing so fast round me was not helping any. Still I tried to maintain some kind of normalcy, I got more and more involved with the revolution just so I could keep from thinking bout the woman in white and it worked because I started to sleep better and the days went by a lot smoother.
A few weeks went by and one Friday night after a hard day at the school I found meself sitting at me desk at home looking at a stack of test papers, I could not bring meself to grading them so I got up and walked over to the window, it was the first time I looked out there since the last time the woman in white appeared. The moon was out making leaves glitter silver against the dark night. Jane was staying the night at she dorm she had a majour exam the next day and decided to study with some of the other students. Ken’s brother was sitting at they window I waved at him and he saluted me as if I was he damn commander or something, I wondered where he had went the days he was missing, some of the people and them in the village said he had gone to Cuba for military training but no one really knew, he moved away from the window waving at me then disappeared into the house. I stayed at me window watching the yauths go by they dark bodies casting shadows on the ocean the red lights on they masks looked like moving lighthouses. I walked away from the window and went to the bed leaving the window opened so the cool sea breeze could flow into the room. I dove onto me bed and was soon fast asleep.
Round three o’clock or so in the morning I was awaken by the sound of someone crying in the yard, I sat up in bed and listened for a while hoping that whoever it was they were just passing through. When the crying did not stop I got up and stumbled to the window and I looked round the yard, but saw no one, I called Ken’s name because sometimes he mother would lock the doors if he stayed out too late, damn woman had a strange way of disciplining she son. I got no response but the crying became more intense as if someone was experiencing some deep emotional pain or something. I leaned out as far as I could squinting me eyes to see better in the silver light when suddenly the crying stopped and a deafening silence followed. I was real puzzled, I mean, did I just imagine the whole damn thing? I was still half asleep and the cold breeze bit into me skin making it numb for a second. I began to close the window feeling a little silly, I mean, whoever it was must have left the yard.
I had almost got the window shut when I heard the propeller of a fishing boat going by its small engine labouring to carry its load of fish. I wiped a bead of sweat that trickled down me face and rubbed me fingers together puzzled, I mean it was a cool night, I did not feel hot why was I sweating? Then Like an electric jolt it hit me a hot flash that felt like someone had injected the sun’s rays directly into me veins, me stomach seemed to twist into knots and I inhaled hard trying to get air to me lungs. I looked down and saw the woman in white standing at the bottom of the window she arms outstretched she eyes twinkling in the moonlight. Before I could not stop meself I had one leg out the window and I was falling backwards the window disappear as the night seemed to turn to day for a second and then there was complete darkness.
Ahhh yes, lazy Sunday afternoon, sitting on a plum tree in my uncles yard. A mild breeze sweeping through the yard, the winds whistling through the leaves, the tall grass laying down with the surg. Oh the sweet taste of these Plums, I eat and eat and eat until I felt like was drunk. Until the wind blew no more, and the sun is not blasting down, until confused roosters started crowing, until the crickets started chirping, until the first firefly blinked. Oh to be a boy again, sitting on that tree, watching the day changes and sadly it was time to climb down from that tree and leave the sweet, sweet memories of those plums.
It was early morning, around seven thirty or so. I was washing the breakfast dishes looking out the window at the rose bushes and flowers yard. I looked away to sort the dishes in the drying tray when I heard water splashing in the neighbor’s yard. I looked and low and behold there was the neighbor’s daughter using a small pan to pour water on herself, My fifteen year old hormones erupted and I almost fainted. I walked away from the window to the kitchen doorway and looked around like a chicken thief in Mr. Jones backyard. I walked back to the window, she was rubbing sweet soap (Palmolive) on herself, for a fourteen year old, that girl sure looked like a grown woman. She was humming a hymn, a bloody hymn, can you believe that. I wanted to call Rayfie so he could come see, but Mommy Charles was in her bedroom getting ready for work, instead, I stood there with an excited voice giggle in my head. My whole body was hot, my knees were weak and slowly one of the dirty calypso my farther liked so much was playing in my head. “Not a woman ever complain yet wid me, I eh boasting but I know I have durability, and if a woman ever tell you that I ever left her dissatisfied, she lie, she lie, she lie!” I felt dirty just having that song in my head, but at the time, I just could not get it out of m head. Suddenly, I heard a crack, followed by a crash, that sounded like dishes breaking. Before I could figure out what happened I heard, “You nasty little heathen, Macoing (peeping at) on de little girl, Jesus help you,” I looked down, a place was smashed in the sink, my should was stinging from the blow. I turned around, that look in Mommy Charles eyes, I immediately looked down at my feet, oh the shame, the shame the shame. “What I go do wid you, eh boy, what I go do,” she said, she was looking me up and down with disappointment, I turned around, trying to hide my fifteen year old excitement. The neighbor’s had a shirt on, she was looking directly at me with a damn smile on her face. “Go to your room and get ready for school,” Mommy Charles say. As I walked away I heard her say, “Dis child go drive me to the crazy house you know,” It took me two weeks to look Mommy Charles in the eye again. But that neighbor girl, she told all her friends because every time they saw me they would start giggling and looking at me.
Ahhhh boiled green figs, or bananas as you know it, plantains, and stew chicken, pour on the gravy from the chicken and a tll glass of freshly sqeezed lime juice and you have a perfect Grenadian lunch. Me Auntie used to cook dat de best yuh know. She never used de gas stove. In she kitchen, she had a build in concrete section, flat on top like a table. On it she had three rocks and she would cut campesh wood put them in de middle of the stones and light dem up. “Ah go never use dat gas stove, de best tasting food is dun under real fire.” I would sit in de living, listening to de pot boiling and de fire wood cracking as the sent ah the food filled de house and spilled out into the back yard. Dem children in de village would gravitate to de house, sitting round de mango tree, dey mounts watering. Me Auntie always feed dem too you know. After lunch we would sit under de tree telling stupid jokes, some ah we even fall asleep right day on the ground.
Streaks of red, orange and yellow exploded from dark clouds that formed round the late afternoon sun, the sea was calm except for the ripples made by a cruise ship lazily gliding by, small round holes lined its body from bow to stern, yellow glows escaped the holes like fading fireflies on a half moon night. I looked over to me left at the old French fort that stood overlooking the habour the eighteenth century building a constant reminder of the island’s colonial history, I heard the faint sound of music as the police band practiced they calypso tunes, tropical music flooded the air with plenty of rhythm. A seagull flew by and I followed its graceful motion until it settled on the roof of the house on the other side of me yard The yard was three acres of dirt that turned into a sticky mass of mud when the heavy tropical rainstorms drench the island. There was no garden of vegetables like the other houses, deep in me, me arrogance as a self-proclaimed intellectual would not let me work the soil. The only plant life that prospered back there was the large mango tree just to the right of some rocks, its big green leaves swayed in the gentle gusts that whipped through the yard, the sweet fruit, some green, some yellow hung from thin branches occasionally falling to the ground tossing up dirt as they landed. At the back of the yard a thick clump of bushes marked the boundary between me yard and the neighbour’s yard, prickled trees covered with vine leaned over as if protecting the ground from mechanical weathering. I peered into the bushes; it always seemed like a black hole even when the sun is in the middle of the sky. Me thoughts were interrupted when I heard a loud pop, it sounded like fireworks at Christmas, all the bloody dogs in the village started barking, I mean; you would have thought it was the second coming or something. Anyway back to me thoughts, I always wanted to walk through those bushes to see which part of the neighbour’s yard I would come onto but I never wanted to trespass, Mr. Alexander lived there and that man was a grim old fool who would kill any animal that ventured into he yard, bloody old man had a mean disposition, I swear, he had to be the devils prodigal son. There were other houses around, some concrete some wood, but mostly wooden, man I tell you what, some of them houses was so colourful when the sun shined directly on them it could blind god.
I was distracted from me thoughts by the thud of a mango hitting the ground, it rolled a short distance and settled at the feet of little Dexter who was sitting under the tree, he reached out and picked up the large fruit, wiped it on his shirt and sank his teeth into it, yellow juice escaped through he fingers and down his arm. A small bug hovered over him for a second then came to rest on he head and he swatted at the pest getting some of the yellow juice in he hair. He blue shirt was dirty from playing in the dusty roads all day in fact that child was always covered with dirt, mud was caked between he
toes as he swiveled he shoeless feet in the dirt. He finished eating the fruit and surveyed the rest of them lying round him. Then, as if a light bulb went off in his head, he gathered
the fruit into one pile took off his shirt and placed them in it, threw the laddened shirt over he shoulder and walked out the yard with a triumphant grin on he face.
He climbed over the wall and into the yard of the small house to the right of me yard, yelping as he jumped, he mother came to the window and yelled at him to come inside. She started to go back inside but stopped and leaned out the window, the large black wig she wore tilted precariously forward, I chuckled, pondering the idea of the wig falling off she head and into the pool of muddy water under the window. Just as it was bout to slip completely off she head she grabbed it, straightened it, looked round and went inside the white laced curtains closing slowly.
I heard she talking to Dexter from behind the wooden walls of the house she voice carried with the wind out to sea. That woman was usually the topic of discussion when the village gossips got together, some say she did not have a strand of hair on she head not to mention the fact that a local obeah man was the one who put a curse on she. I would always laugh when I heard that story because the whole idea of Obeah and Voodoo seemed real counter productive to me.
I turned me attention back to the sunset, the yellow globe was half way down as if hiding its complete beauty from the world, the sounds of steeldrums playing in the distance them pansmen and them were already practicing, preparing for carnival in August, I tell you what, they sure could play a sweet tune. I closed me eyes took a deep
breath and inhaled, the salty air bit at me nostrils causing me nose to sting a little but boy I loved that smell for so.
Before darkness devoured the daylight and the wonderful sounds that came with it. I pulled meself inside bumping me head on the window frame, this was one of the disadvantages of being seven feet tall me head was marked with bumps and bruises from all the doors and ceilings I bumped me head on. I was grossly under weight for me height, one hundred and forty pounds to be exact, as a child I was the target of every bully in the damn village, I mean, them little bastards would follow me home after school.
“Tall tin an terrible, bamboo in pants,” they shouted they laughter echoing down the narrow streets, bloody ingrates, it was they constant teasing that contributed to the present-day arrogance and disdain I had for the traditions of the island, I mean, I was likened to every bloody folktale character ever though of.
I left the window and walked across the room, a small maple coloured desk sat in a corner covered with papers, I stood over the desk surveying the mess, damn it, sometimes I hated being a teacher all those bloody papers to grade could spoil a man’s eyesight, but I sat down and started filing through them anyway.
It was one o’clock in the morning before I was done with the last bloody paper, I yawned stretching me arms to the ceiling, the rough surface jabbed into the soft flesh of me middle class palms. I yawned again and stretched me legs out me knees popping as I
did then I got up and walked over to the window. The full moon hovered over the sea its crystal light shimmering across the ocean causing the water to look like the sky with twinkling stars, the cool Trade Winds bushed against me face and I inhaled then turned and walked away from the window, I tell you what, the site of me bed was enough to send a wave of relaxation through me. I dove into the air and landed on the bed me body sinking into the soft mattress. I lay there thinking bout the next day, I was a teacher at a small Methodist school in the city. I had good pupils most of them loved telling stories and that is why I loved teaching writing classes. I fell into a light but restful sleep with the images of the day flashing before me.
Sunday afternoon, I am sitting on the steps in the back yard. A pot of water sat on a table. I pealed the skin off the green bananas, chop them up and drop them in the pot. Then the breadfruit, and the Tanias, the yams, the Dashins, the I went into the kitchen and got a bowl and poured two cups of flour and salt into it and kneaded the flour, just like I would when making bread. I heard Raphie yelled a curse word, he was grating coconut and the Sharpe edges of the homemade grater nicked his thumb. I laughed and he glared at me, a green lizard jumped out of the grass landing on my foot. I jumped and screamed, Raphie burst out laughing, “Dats wah you get.” He said, pouring water into the grated coconuts. Raphie got some dry wood and put in on he coal in the coal pot then pour kerosene onto the twigs, woooossssshh, a blaze of fire shot up into the air. Raphie jumped back avoiding the flame that floated orange past his face. He got out a clay pot, dumped the vegetables in it, poured the coconut milk in then placed the pot on he fire. After a few minutes of boiling he went into the kitchen and came out with a bowl of chicken the we had seasoned over night with chives, thyme, celery, nutmeg, onions, garlic and other bushes that Mommy Charles taught us to use. The coconut milk was boiling over into the coals sending smoke into the air. He poured the chicken into the pot and then rolled up the dumplings and dropped them in. We sat quietly, the sent of the food filled the backyard. A rabbit hopped around in the bushes on the other side of the yard, A goat stood chewing on some leaves. Mt stomach rumbled, Raphie looked at me knowingly, his stomach responded to my, we did not need to talk, our stomachs were already having a conversation. I got up lifted the lid from the pot and the full blast of scent almost knocked me over. I looked at Raphie, soon, real soon we will be sitting on the steps, a plate overflowing with food. Oh yes, its Oil Down Sunday.