Aunt Eileen sat on the floor with her back pressing against the mahogany arm chair uncle Fitzroy got from his grandmother’s house the day after her funeral. It didn’t go with anything else in the house – it was too fancy, too antique, too regal next to the cheap, plastic castaways we called furniture. She was loosing out her hair corn-rowed two weeks ago. The jar of Dax was on the floor next to her knee and a small, old towel sat in her lap waiting to receive the offering of shed hairs and dandruff her head would give. It was Saturday morning so she wore house cleaning clothes – old, cut-off jeans, pum-pum shorts style, and a loose, faded t-shirt that barely still gave its message (something about Antigua’s carnival being great in ’88). She didn’t wear a bra, hardly ever did at home, so her bubbies jingled like a mango tree laden with not-ripe-yet mangoes on a windy day.
Radio Lighthouse was on and some preacher from Tuscaloosa Christ-is-the-Way Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama was shouting at us about giving praise to God for the bountiful peach harvest this year. Nevermind I never saw a peach a day in my life yet, and I bet neither aunt Eileen nor uncle Fitz ever did either. Yet there was Pastor Boatwright screaming himself hoarse over it. I rolled my eyes and tried hard to suppress a chups when he shouted that, even though we don’t deserve no peaches Jeeeeeesus loved us enough to give us all the peaches we can stand, and then some. Then he started rattling off all the things Jeeeeesus’ peach harvest would allow us to have – pickled peaches, peach pie, peach ice cream, peach jam and peach cobbler. Pastor Boatwright must have touched his own nerve with the peach cobbler bit because, when he said it, one ton ah gibberish started flowing out his mouth – ah shanana labba shanaaanan nan!
I wonder why his Jesus didn’t give us any peach harvest? I guess is only some people he check for like that. Fine with me. I’ll take our sweeter-than-sweet julie, kidney and grafted mangoes over his peach cobbler-ahshanana ding dong any day. If aunt Eileen only heard my thoughts right then she would hit me with the black rat-tail comb working overtime trying to undo a stubborn knot in her hair. But she didn’t hear; instead she sent me to the bathroom for the regular comb so she could scratch the itchy, dandruffy parts when the rat-tail’s battle with the knot was over.
Suddenly a car pulled up fast to the house, screeching to a halt. Uncle Fitzroy bolted from the bedroom shouting “who the rass is that making all this noise…”. He rushed passed us just as aunt Eileen’s “oh lord Jesus, FITZ!” blurted out. His “chups” was the last thing she heard before all the commotion started.
Outside, uncle Fitz was quarrelling with a man, the one who pulled up in the screeching car, about it being a good Saturday morning and what business he have disturbing the peace of good people. The man, who was sitting in his car when uncle Fitz came out, was coming out of his car now, a fancy white BMW that said “look at me, I’m a VIP”. He was a butter-skinned man, about uncle Fitz’s age, I guess, and kinda slim; by that I mean all of him was slim except for his gut. You could tell in his younger days, before he had wife and children to think about, he probably had washboard abs but now those abs were nowhere to be seen. Maybe his wife’s cooking run them away. Anyway Mr. Butterskin-with-a-gut was shorter than uncle Fitz (who was a strapping 6’ 3” himself) and probably never smelled the air from 6’ a day in his life but their height difference didn’t subdue him at all.
He was hot and he bolted out of his car and up to the gate separating him and uncle Fitzroy in a temper! And oh the cussing! He tell uncle Fitz that he’s no fool and he warning him for the first and last time… or else! He tell uncle Fitz that he’s nothing but a black, dutty, gutter-water piece ah shit that feel he in something because a woman notice him. He tell uncle Fitz that he (uncle Fitz) don’t know who he (Mr Butters) is, and that better man than him (uncle Fitz) disappear for less.
Eh, eh, well if he thought the argument was going to be one sided, he lie! Uncle Fitzroy is a nice enough man but he has a temper on him and if its one thing uncle Fitz hate is for people to try to make him feel small. “Ah big man me be!” is always what he says whenever he feels his manhood threatened. So today, on this good Saturday morning, when decent people trying to enjoy a little peace and time off work, this hoity-toighty money-man coming down here to disrupt that peace wasn’t well received. And, on top of that, he trying to make uncle Fitz feel like he beneath him because of where he come from and how black he is?! Well is then uncle Fitz get on his back foot! Uncle Fitz tell him all about his “fucking rasshole”. Uncle Fitz ask him if he (uncle Fitz) is so important that his “little red scunt” had to leave clean outta Crosbies to come and see him. Uncle Fitz tell him if his wife can’t get satisfaction from her husband and she get it from somewhere else he should just be grateful she getting it and decent enough to keep it to herself.
Well is then Butters get nasty-hot and his face turn redder than a coca-cola bottle cap. He tell uncle Fitz he have something for him. Uncle Fitz grab the metal gate and in one swing drag it across the rail so hard it hit the end with a loud clang and vibrated for a full minute before settling. Uncle Fitz say “come nuh, come nuh! Eef yuh feel yuh bad jus come nuh! Mek arwe see which man ah di real bad john!”
The man went to the trunk of his car and emerged with a piece of wooden plank about 3’ long (smart move considering the height, weight, and strength differential between them). Uncle Fitz was never one to back away from a fight and honour and pride insisted that he “be a man” now. He continued to taunt the man, telling him to come if he feel he bad and telling him that’s why his woman tekking another man because the one she have at home is nothing but a punk.
Well by this time aunt Eileen come outside to see what the commotion was all about. Shame is what really motivated her because she knew the longer the men were out there carrying on the more sister Millicent in the adjacent house would have to gossip to the New Bethel Women’s League and the rest of the village about. Sis Millicent always pretended to be concerned and want to help but all she ever want is story to carry news on people. Plenty times aunt Eileen pray to the peach-cobbler Jesus asking him to move the “nuff and edge up” Millicent far from her or, failing that, cleanse her of her “dangerous and badminded ways” so good, God-fearing people can live in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Well Jesus did neither and just as aunt Eileen set foot off the veranda and onto the driveway out came sis Millicent in her pink and blue house duster and red Bata slippers, her pink sponge curlers still in her hair. She was just peering at first but when she saw aunt Eileen she said “mawnin sis Ei, all is well?”. Aunt Eileen breathed a “shit” under her breath and gave a half-baked smile and waved her off. She ran up to uncle Fitz and grabbed his arm telling him to come inside and leave the crazy man to himself. She tell him God don’t like ugly and if he don’t see the man have a weapon? She pleaded with him to leave the matter alone.
Uncle Fitz pushed her off him and grabbed the Lee Wind Paints bucket by the flowers garden that he sometimes uses as a stool when he and his friends play dominoes at night. The bucket had dirt and weeds in it from the weeding aunt Eileen and I did yesterday but uncle Fitz was too hot to notice.
As Little-man-with-the-red-face-and-cheating-wife rushed up to him, emboldened by the presumed advantage his stick gave him, uncle Fitz hauled back his bucketed hand and pelt it hard on the right side of Little-man’s head. The man staggered back a few steps blinking his astonishment and losing his nerve but tightening his grip on the stick. He shouted now about assault and battery and adultery and police. Aunt Eileen band-she-belly with her free hand and started bawling “Murda! Murda! He go kill me man! Lawd poopa Jesus, help me!”
Meanwhile uncle Fitz shouting that any police that come to his yard going to see what they get and he draw back and pelt another bucket blow and hit the left side of Little- man’s head. Covered in dirt and weeds and realizing that no amount of stick could even out this fight the VIP was backing up now, still cussing uncle Fitz and telling him he wutless and a vagabond; and uncle Fitz, seeing that there’s no need to continue a physical fight but not wanting to back down, allowed aunt Eileen to pull him back a step or two while he shouted to the man something about his limp dick and telling him that’s why his wife have to tek a pitch black man from the ghetto because ah dem know how fu breed good and he bet none of Little-Man’s children belong to him.
By now Mr. Walter came from up the road (sis Millicent had gone to get him) and Jabo and Mozi, two youths playing on the basketball court on the corner, came and were begging the man in the white car to calm down and let sleeping dogs lie and telling uncle Fitz to “jus cool nuh man”. The man kept on about the injustice he was subjected to. Uncle Fitz retorted with a shameful “breed yuh woman an lef big man alone!” Aunt Eileen still begged “poopa Jesus” to help and the scene continued to attract nosey onlookers who were too greedy for melee to pretend to be just passing by.
Eventually Mr. Walter, probably the oldest and most respected man in the village, managed to get Little-man into his car and calm enough to talk “man to man” so he could explain what happened. We tried to get uncle Fitz back in the house but couldn’t. He said it was his damn house and his land and his blasted driveway and his yard and nobody go run him from his property and so long as Mr. Red-face was still out there he wasn’t moving. But he was a little calmer now and aunt Eileen made me get him a glass of cold tamarind juice from the fridge to quench him.
Sis Millicent meanwhile was asking if there is anything she can do. Uncle Fitz shot her a look as if to say “yuh can tek yuh dangerous backside back inside yuh house is what yuh can do!” but sis Millicent acted like she didn’t notice. Mr. Walter finished talking to the man who, with wounded pride and head drove off shouting threats of still going to the police; Mr. Walter chuckled as he sped off.
When the car was out of sight Mr. Walter’s chuckle became a full force laugh that pulled us all away from our respective thoughts into a state of bewilderment. Uncle Fitzroy asked the old man what was so funny and Mr. Walter doubled over in uproarious laughter. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he asked uncle Fitz what relationship he had with that man’s wife. Uncle Fitz, much calmer than before now, swore he had no relationship with any wife but his own and, while he knew the man (who didn’t? some people were just known by everyone on the island whether they knew them personally or not) he never had any business (or pleasure) with his wife. Is the man, uncle Fitz continued, that pass his damn place and come and interfere with him. Mr. Walter listened, shaking his head “yes”, still smiling. After a space he said “well Fitz, my boy, come mek we down to Charlie’s and I buy you a rum. Nuh worry ‘bout the man and police, me done mek he know is he at fault. Is the wrong house he stop at anyway ‘cause the man his wife dealing with right there under me roof; is me son Fitzmore he want, not you. In fact, she just not too long left me yard to go home!”
© May 2017