Authors: Anthony C. Winkler
Tags: #General Fiction
“I fall of de hassock,” I said gruffly.
“Beg you a cup o’ morning tea.”
She flopped away in her loose-fitting slippers.
When she returned I was standing by the window breathing the dawn breeze of my second life and planning my first day back on earth. She put the tea on a table and was leaving when I called out to her, “Mabel, remember de little pum-pum I was begging you?”
She stood warily in the doorway, her face set in the cautious expression of a pedestrian approaching a snarling dog in the street. “Yes, sah.”
“Well, I want you to know dat I don’t want it again.”
“No. And it won’t affect you job, either. You have a job wid me as long as you do de work. I change me ways.”
She shuffl ed hesitantly in the doorway and peered at her-feet.
“I was goin’ give you tonight, Missah Baps,” she finally said in a downhearted voice.
“Well, you don’t have to.”
“But I was goin’ give you, sah.”
“Mabel, I say you don’t have to!”
“But I still was goin’ give you anyway, sah.”
I saw at once that she was upset, confused, and afraid that I was playing a malicious trick on her. I said to myself, “Baps, you should take de pum-pum, you know, under dese circumstances. Dis is not heaven, where pum-pum plentiful and abundant and no man walks without. Dis is mangy, dirty-minded earth where pum-pum is scarce, under biblical curse, and tough to find. You should take it, man, and make de poor chile feel better ’bout her prospects in life. You should take it, for while you were dead, she paid herself deceitful leap year bonus, thiefed you house, and captured you shops. She use you head as her footstool. She grind policeman on you bed. She file bully beef next to herring.”
But in the next breath I thought, yes, she is a wicked woman, but I am not a
whose brain is ruled by empty-headed
. My duppy hath abided in heaven and has known truth. Verily, Baps, renounce all pum-pum tendered under compulsion and pressure.
So I saith unto her, “Mabel, talk de truth. If I say no, I don’t want it, would you feel worthless and good-for-nothing, like life not worth living?”
She hung her head and muttered in a small voice, “Yes, sah.”
But I could tell from the quiver in her lip that she spake a lie. So I said to her, “Well, Mabel, I’m sorry to make you feel bad, but I have changed me ways. I don’t want it.”
She brightened visibly, as if she’d suddenly seen that the snarling dog was chained up.
“Well, if you change you mind, Missah Baps, come to me room ’bout 8 o’clock,” she sniffed, bounding through the door and hurrying away from the dog.
And I must admit that it burned my rass to see her leave.
It burneth my rass bad, bad.
And when 8 o’clock came, it burneth my rass something wicked.
But I got thick rope, lashed myself to the bedpost, and remained steadfastly in my room until the invited hour had passed.
I had just returned from heaven.
And verily Baps had forever changed his ways.
I have tried, since my return to earthly Jamaica, to live in such a way that God will never ever feel a pinprick of pain from my any word or deed. I have tried to explain truth to various shortsighted people around me like Hector, my old gardener, who I knew was not long for this world.
One morning I attempted to instruct him in the higher road by asking him what he would do if he suddenly journeyed to a land where he could get a new hood or a new brain or both.
He gaped at me as if I’d gone mad. “New hood or brain, sah?”
“Me would take de new brain, sah,” he lied.
“Do dat, Hector! Or take both! Don’t just take new hood.”
Later, as I walked past the kitchen, I overheard him whispering to Mabel, “Missah Baps going off him head.”
A year later he fell out of the mango tree in the backyard and broke his neck, and while Mabel was shrieking her head off at the sight of his dead body twisted at the root of the tree, I stooped down and whispered to Hector to look around for Hopeton, to go with him on the minibus and into the culvert, and when he got to heaven to choose not only hood, but also brain.
I can well imagine how confused and afraid he must have been to float out of his broken body, hear Mabel’s frantic screaming, and listen to me telling him about Hopeton and choosing while he gazed around the backyard wondering what in the world was happening.
“Go peacefully into de culvert, Hector,” I urged him, as Mabel’s hysterical wailing pealed through the backyard and deafened my ears. “You have more to fear from man than from God. And where you are going, neither God nor man will hurt-you.”
More Jamaican fiction from AKASHIC BOOKS
DOG WAR by Anthony C. Winkler
194 pages, trade paperback original, $14.95
“Winkler has a fine ear for patois and dialogue, and a love of language that makes bawdy jokes crackle.”
THE LUNATIC by Anthony C. Winkler
244 pages, trade paperback, $14.95
“The author never relaxes his hilarious examination of the island’s taboos … By far the funniest book I’ve read in a decade, although its ribald atmosphere is sprayed with the pepper-gas of aggressive social satire.”
—Washington Post Book World
THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN SHOES
By Colin Channer, afterword by Russell Banks
172 pages, trade paperback original, $13.95
“The Girl with the Golden Shoes is a nearly perfect moral fable.”
—Russell Banks, author of Continental Drift
“[M]oving, beautifully constructed, and morally complex.”
—Chris Abani, author of Song for Night
SHE’S GONE by Kwame Dawes
340 pages, trade paperback original, $15.95
“Dawes offers vibrant characters and locales in this diaspora of black culture and strong emotions, bordering the fine line between love and madness between two troubled people.”
JOHN CROW’S DEVIL by Marlon James
*A finalist for the
Los Angeles Times
Book Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize
232 pages, hardcover original, $19.95
“A powerful first novel … Writing with assurance and control, James uses his small-town drama to suggest the larger anguish of a postcolonial Jamaican society struggling for its own identity.”
New York Times (Editors’ Choice)
IRON BALLOONS: HIT FICTION FROM JAMAICA’S CALABASH WRITER’S WORKSHOP
Edited by Colin Channer
282 pages, trade paperback original, $14.95
New stories by: Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, Elizabeth Nunez, Marlon James, and more.
“Channer’s story comes at you with hurricane force … a big breath of a piece, spoken in various registers of Jamaican English.”
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