Good Saturday Morning

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

 

I Used To Think…

I used to think a of of things that now seem absurd to me. One of those things was actually an unconscious thought; a thought I didn’t realise I had until the mirror of introspection was angled just right for me to see myself in it. And when I did I saw that I thought it ok to suppress me.

 

When I say “suppress” I mean it in every sense of the word – to keep in or repress; to put an end to the activities of; to do away with – every sense of the word.  I not only thought it was ok to suppress me, I consciously and unconsciously engaged in self-suppression. Now you might be wondering how on earth could someone suppress their own self? Doesn’t the self just “BE”? I would argue that it doesn’t. The self tries to just “BE” and, if left alone, it does a masterful job of it. But it is possible (and a lot easier than one may realise) for the self to be guided (or misguided rather), scolded and forced to BE something/someone else.

 

Like in my case – I was raised to be seen and not heard. Matter of fact my grandmother would have me recite that before we left the house for an outing – “children should be seen and not heard”. Of course she wasn’t trying to suppress my self, not consciously anyway; she wanted to ensure that her grandchild would be “well behaved” in front of other people and so she did with me what in all probability was done with her. But imagine the message the self receives when the mouth says “you should be seen and not heard”, especially the child self that has neither filter nor experienced reasoning to know what should be taken seriously and what should be ignored. My child self got the message that me – my ideas and thoughts and just anything within me that I might think to share – should be quiet, silenced. I got the message that it wasn’t ok to just talk… that the sound of my own voice even was only acceptable in soft tones. To this day I usually speak with a low tone and almost always hear “huh?”, “what did you say?”, “can you speak up please?”. I believe that’s, in part, due to the self-suppression that started in childhood and grew, unchecked, into adulthood.

 

And when I say it grew I don’t mean in just the “don’t speak” manifestation. It grew a sense of boundless freedom to waft into every other area of my Me-ness and settled in until self-suppression was everywhere; I suppressed my creativity; I suppressed my interests; I suppressed, ultimately, the awareness of my ME so that when needing to make a decision that presented itself as “what do you think…” or “what do you want…?” the most honest answer I could give was “I don’t know”. ME totally hidden and shadowed to the point where I was merely a mirror for others around me who hadn’t engaged in similar self suppression (or at least not to the extent I had).

 

And the major take-away of this for me has been the innerstanding that suppression births two people every time. Suppression’s first born is LIAR and her sibling is THIEF and, once born, they become your closest companions. Now I’m not saying you will outright lie to your friends or steal from your family with suppression ruling your head but you will, in the process of suppressing, lie to you (first) about who you are and why you are and then, inevitably, your suppressed, liar self, will steal the joy, blessing, unique only-you-could-bring-this-piece-of-the-puzzle-ness from your life and the lives you’ve been divinely positioned to touch.

 

Imagine folks being in your life 10, 20, 30 years knowing only the suppressed you and needing, yearning (consciously or unconsciously) for something – a word, a touch, a kick in the ass, any number of somethings, that only totally-free-to-be-you could give… and just existing, stuck or stagnant in some small or not small way because YOU haven’t shown up yet. What a theft! What a loss!

 

Now I could go on for a minute and a mile on the impact this has had on my life and how long it took for me to see the destruction of self-suppression and do something about it but I’m more inspired today to wiggle my toes in that soft, fluffy space of ME untethered. The unhinging was a process, is a process, that is as painful as it is exhilarating and every encounter of confirmation, every reminder of its ultimate blessing swells my gratitude to the inner ones guiding my BEcoming.

 

So if you do nothing more in life, as much as possible, as often as you can BE YOU, authentically so.

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Bring me the sunset in a cup

 

600-st-johns-sunset

Bring me the sunset in a cup

Fill it just to the brim

Blow a mild breeze from soft lips

To stir the close of day within.

Hold it to me

Don’t let me take it yet

Hold it just far enough to ache my melancholy

And close enough my swelling peace to set.

Let my fingers circle the cup’s zero

As sunset seeps through my stance

And shifts, grows and ignores the confines

Of my presumptuous arrogance.

To think I actually thought me capable

Of stuffing sunset in a space

Of corralling, of confining, of controlling

The uncontrollable in my lame embrace.

But one can dream, can she not?

And, if dreaming, why not dream grand?

Create, carve, mold and colour a world

That gifts sunsets in one’s hands.

© March 2017

 

 

WOMAN… Love!

WOMAN…

LOVE…

more

often

completely

without hesitation

without reserve

to a fault

over and over

despite flaws

in the face of mistakes

seventy times seven

again and again

without condition

no matter the challenge

always and forever

more than a mother

more than a lover

without space or distance

up close

with commitment

with your all

at the lowest drop

through soaring highs

in the face of disappointment

in the presence of betrayal

without ceasing

always

ALL ways

LOVE…

you!

just-let-go

Home

when are you ever not with me? i feel of you always in an open space on the left side of my heart. i walk through concrete jungles longing to feel your sand in my toes. i spy structures called homes that glare at me like a stranger daring me to be at home; and i long to feel your share of the trade-winds tickle the back of my legs as sweat glides down my arms. in a space consumed with excess and death, speed and shiny trash, your simplicity quickens the beat of my heart; and i yearn for the little things, like the taste of your salt in the air.16831154_10154178990322120_8696904057219067037_n

 

#357 Back Street (excerpt)

 

She lived at #357 Back Street when I first moved to Gurnon’s Estate. I was in #352, a few houses down the road on the opposite side of hers. Never did get her full name. Funny how you can live on the same street as someone, yet never know them, not really. We’d spoken a few times, twice at the bus stop and once when I helped carry her bags to her home. She was a small woman, short, couldn’t have been more than 5’ 4” on her best day and, even though the years bent her and shrunk her you could tell she had flesh on that wiry frame at some point.

I remember getting a glimpse of the pictures on the piano in her living room – that one time I was in her house before she left. It was covered in pictures, of family presumably, but none of them new, none recent. Her pictures looked weather beaten and aged, like her, and told tales from a time that no longer existed. The one my eyes wouldn’t let go of was of a man and a woman, standing, posing, on block steps. He was a giant, towering over her, long and lean; looked like he was more legs than anything else. He wore dark colored pants, perfectly fitted, a shirt that could have been white on the day it was worn but was more comfortable being tan on the day I saw it. The shirt’s sleeves stopped half way between his shoulder and elbow and every hole was buttoned. His hair, cut low with a part off center, completed the look. He was clean. Smooth. And his lean, with left arm on the stone handrail made him look debonair.

The woman was petite and stood as close to him as possible without touching him. She wore a patterned sun-dress but it’s vibrant colors were silenced in the black and white of the image. The dress stayed close to her frame tastefully; the sleeves were short and the white collar rested comfortably on her collarbone. The dress’ skirt fell from her hips in soft pleats that neatly hid her knees. She stood, with right hand propped on her slender hip looking directly at the camera. Her eyes, full and bright, her lips curled into a slight smirk (her version of a smile). She didn’t seem the type given to wild abandon, deep throat laughter and carefree living. She was sensible, reliable, the one who was shown her place in the world and stayed there unquestioningly. I saw a bit of my reflection in those unsuspecting eyes and felt a little sad.

There were words scribbled in neat cursive on the picture but I could only make out the words “Seaview Methodist Church”, “East Street”, and “1935”.

“I see you like Mr. Henry” she said as she turned in her chair to look at me squarely.

“Oh… um… no, ma’am. I mean… um… I was just looking… well the entire picture really. Not just the man…um… I’m sorry”, I mumbled.

“Oh never mind an old lady’s teasing, child. I’m much accustomed to young women stealing glances at my husband. In 34 years of marriage there wasn’t a year that went by where Mr. Henry’s charm didn’t reel in a new, young, pretty face”. She smiled politely as she paused, showing sad wrinkles at the corner of her eyes.

“He was my one and only love”, she said wistfully, “and we were married for 34 years, 5 months and 14 days… before he was killed. I never remarried, of course. I just couldn’t bring myself to it, even though I had my share of suitors, mind you. Just look at me there…”, she said pointing to the picture. “You can tell I was sight for sore eyes in my day, can’t you?”

“Yes ma’am”, I agreed and took a bite of the coconut bread she had offered me after I helped her unpack her groceries. The bread was hard and dry and the Maraschino cherry topping it was shriveled and depressed looking.

She exhaled forcefully from her nose as if trying to blow out a wayward mosquito that got lost up there and continued. “That picture was taken on our 5 year marriage anniversary. Are you married, young lady? You look like you should be married but I don’t see a ring on your finger. I know how you young people today are… independent and want to work instead of stay at home to mind your family, so I have to ask, you see.” The word independent slithered out of her mouth like something foreign, alien, and therefore needing extra energy just to come out.

I smiled, not offended in the least at her grandmotherly presumptuousness and gave enough of my life story to balance the scales of sharing. In the end she knew I wasn’t married, was orphaned at 11, and had recently started teaching at Sunnydale Primary School on Jonas Road.

“Ahhhh a teacher! I knew you had to be an upstanding woman! From the first I saw you, I knew it!” she exclaimed as her eyes, those pools of secrets hiding under a veil of listlessness, became alive and sparkled. “I was a teacher myself! Yeeeess, I taught for fifteen years, nine before Freddie and I got married and six after. Hyacinth, our first, was born in ’37 you see, August 1937. So I had to stop teaching and be a mother.” She paused as if observing a moment of silence in memory of the time, then said,

“Oh that’s so lovely! A teacher!”

She seemed so genuinely pleased at my proof of being an “upstanding woman” that I smiled. She may have had a mild heart attack to know the scandal that brought me to Gurnon’s estate to begin with; or, more accurately, the scandal that pushed me out of Briggins.

The rest of our time together that day was passed in pleasant-enough conversation and it occurred to me that ma’am simply wanted, or needed, the monotony of her loneliness shaken, just a bit. She needed to talk and smile and offer coconut bread and brebrice and hear “yes ma’am”; and I needed to forget, even if only for a few minutes.

And so there we were – me, the “upstanding” teacher with disgrace in her belly, hair high in a picked out afro looking like a thousand black-power fist in defiant salute, green polyester bell bottoms and yellow, off-the-shoulder smock top, loose enough to be considered respectable; the elder impeccable and charming, carefully ironed hair neatly controlled in a head-mistress bun, motherly warmth with chilled undertones of colonial aloofness, in a house of mahogany furniture, worn and covered in homemade doilies and embroidery stitch-work of “God Bless This Home”. She told me something of her dutiful marriage to Freddie and her pride at once being a woman who worked, as a teacher no less. And when she spoke of her children and losing them, all three of them, before they became adults, before they had a chance to “smell themselves” as she put it, it was brief, clipped. I felt a rising sorrow in her words and looked away politely as she sighed that she was “all alone now, you see, waiting for the Lord to send for me”.

 

 

 

© November 2016

Sometimes

 

Sometimes you just have to…

Let it go

Walk away

Release it all

Forego turning the other cheek

Refuse to sacrifice yourself on the alter of someone else’s ego

Not be “the one”… who is always there, always reliable, always waiting to fulfill the need

Follow the voice in your heart

Not give a shit about the outcome

Say “no” with a full-stop after and not a comma

Take a sick day if your boss makes your sick

Hug up your loves a little longer, a little more

Be the recluse who prioritizes recharging her internal energy source over the cackle of the latest “news”

Hear the behind-the-back whispers without a care in the world

Jump in feet first

Step out on faith, on instinct, on that never-wrong gut

Allow relationships to die of natural causes

Smile the light radiating within even in the darkness of sour, mash-up faces

Not answer the phone

Not make excuses for why you didn’t do as someone wanted/expected/commanded/demanded

Free yourself to “do you”

Let the sun sear sweetest kisses on parts of your body rarely shown

Feel no need for sorrys for speaking the truth in your soul or mind

Share the overflow of your heart with the one whose heart is empty

Love up on yourself more than usual

Say “I love you!” if that’ truly how you feel

Be honest… with you

Purge the negative from your being

Touch the elements and give thanks

Float on the sea or ocean

Gaze at the stars instead of the TV

Talk to a ladybug

Sleep longer

Say “yes” to your dreams

Remember your childhood

Fear less

Raise a glass in toast to the lessons learned

Step aside to allow fair-weather friends to find the exit door of your life

Challenge the beliefs you’ve always had but never understood

Unpack that nagging feeling that won’t go away

Clean your house

Clear your heart

Allow your dreams to wake with you

Embrace

Open

Expand.

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© October 9, 2016

LIVE!

LIVE! out loud and on purpose

LIVE! bold and sure of foot

LIVE! the secret loves you tremble to speak

LIVE! open and embracing the wholeness of experience

LIVE! to stumble and fall and get back up again on your path to divine

LIVE! to feel the full range and realize growth in the passing

LIVE! to show yourself worthy of the honour of remembrance when you call other realms “home”

LIVE! radiating the uniqueness of the package your’re in

LIVE! real and honest and fearless and without apology or explanation and complete and authentic

In everything and at all times just…

LIVE!

meme-live

 

 

 

© October 2016

Mary-Jane

Mary-Jane was already out of the yard and three houses down the gap when Mother called her back, shouting to her from the gate. She was annoyed at the additional delay. Mother knew she was late for practice, what could be so important now?! But she knew better than to question Mother. Obediently, she returned to the yard, almost jogging to minimize her tardiness. When she got to Mother no words were spoken; the elder simply held out the younger’s shawl, the younger took it, understanding, gave an almost imperceptible curtsey in thanks and resumed her journey, jog-walking to regain lost time.

On a good day it would have easily taken her fifteen minutes to walk to church if she cut across the back part of Sir William Mosley’s backyard, the unfenced portion the good sir was less strict about keeping well landscaped so that, from time to time, it looked more like a mini-jungle than the unconfined continuation of the Mosley property. When the land was cut low, Mary-Jane made easy work of the walk to church, cutting the journey in half. Failing that, she’d have to walk out of the village, on to Wiggins Main Road, cut across St. Barnabas Anglican church yard and cemetery, through the alley connecting Church and Bennett Streets, walk along Bennett Street until just after the Police Station and then onto the no-name, almost-road that would take her to Cedar Street and New Pond Site Moravian Church.

Today wasn’t a good day. She knew from uncle Joe that the short-cut was much too mucky from the heavy rains last Wednesday to make it worthwhile trying to beat time. She had to go the long way. If she pushed herself she could make it in time to have, maybe, a good 10 minutes of practice at the organ before the Senior Choir members started arriving. Thankfully the day wasn’t too hot, the worst of the April heat seemed to have already come and settled down. The trade-winds blew a comfortable breeze that eased the sun’s intensity. Even so she scolded herself for not thinking to bring the umbrella with her to give a little added shade. She hated walking into the Lord’s house sweaty and hot and even though she had her ‘kerchief to dab the beads of sweat on her forehead, cheeks and neck, she knew a ladies’ hanky could only do so much.

As she walked along Wiggins Main Road the sun’s strength insisted on her attention. With no houses or trees in sight and the trade-winds suddenly still there was nothing to shelter her from its resilience and, halfway down the road, she gave up on her hanky and held the books in her hand, the hymnal, bible and her music notebook, up over her head to give a few inches of shade. By the time she reached the churchyard cemetery her right arm protested its “beast of burden” role too loudly for her to ignore. Mary-Jane eased its load, shifting the books to her comparatively pampered left arm, which had been swinging freely, mindful only of the bag hanging on its shoulder.

The churchyard cemetery was full of sprawling trees with sturdy trunks not even trying to hide their age and branches rising, spreading, graceful and defiant, wherever they will. So expansive were the branches that the sun’s blaze could hardly be felt. Humph, Mr. Sun, you meet you match now, eh?, Mary-Jane thought to herself as her legs, instinctively slowed their pace, just a little, so the rest of her could appreciate the noticeable coolness. She breathed deeply and slowly as she approached the churchyard’s west gate, the small alley and a sun refusing defeat. She thought to use her shawl for shade this time but quickly set that thought aside. The shawl would only flatten her hair, neatly curled and styled just as she licked it, with a two inch part on the left and her cottony soft hair forming a ripple of Os in the appointed direction. The only thing worse than a lady going to the Lord’s house sweaty and hot was a lady going into the Lord’s house unkempt. No, she’d brave the heat, soak her hanky through if it came to that, and at least walk into church looking well put together.

She turned onto Bennett Street, now less focused on the sun and more on the difficult hymn she needed to practice before the choir arrived. She had been trying to learn it for the last three weeks and had made good progress but that descant kept tripping her up. She was determined to master it! She had to. The Easter programme was in two weeks and the choir would sing the hymn, descant and all, whether she was ready or not. She walked along Bennett Street with the hymn playing in her head as she imagined the dance between her fingers, feet, the organ’s pedals and keys that would create the heady melody. “Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty trium…”. Her feet halted as if on cue from her eyes, which rested, frozen, on their subject.

There he was! Further along the street and completely focused, it seemed, on his task (sweeping the Police Station steps). She didn’t know why her feet stopped. Fooly feet! Or why she even noticed this arrogant man. Stupid girl! She wasn’t the least bit concerned about him – what did he say his name was? Last week when she walked pass the station on her way to church he was there, pretending to be cleaning the windows… he always found an excuse to be outside whenever she walked past, and always had something to say. For months now! At first it was just a “good morning” or “good afternoon”, which she politely returned (she was a well brought up young lady after all) but then he became altogether too fresh, taking liberties and asking questions no well brought up young lady should be asked – “what’s your name, darling?”, “nice day for a walk at St. Barnabas, care to join me?”, “I don’t see any ring on your finger so I hope I can get a chance”. The nerve of him! Mother had already warned her about his type and she had no intention of saying a word more than “good day” to him. If his supposed interest was sincere, she reasoned, he would do the respectable thing and call at the house to meet papa first. What did he say his name was again?… oh never mind!

Her legs continued to walk and she allowed Up from the Grave to pick up where she left off. Her eyes, narrow and looking downwards a little because her head (now raised higher than before) required their position to allow her to see what was in front of her clearly, fixed on him as the gap between them shrank.

Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes, “what was his name again though?” her thought interrupted. Mary-Jane didn’t like not being able to recall information she knew her mind had received. He arose the victor from the dark domain.., “Archer?… no, that wasn’t it. Something with an “A” though”. And he lives forever with the saints to reign…”. “Alfred?” No, no, not Alfred either. She would have remembered an Alfred for that was papa’s name.

A good 20 feet from the station, as if sensing her nearness, he slowed the left-right motion of the broomstick and raised his head to connect their eyes, a broad smile spreading across his face. “ALBERT! That’s it! The old fool is called Albert!” Mary-Jane almost smiled at her victory over forgetfulness but restrained herself, aware of his brazen gaze on her.

“Well hello again my dear” he said with a semi dramatic bow. She ignored him and continued walking.

“You know you’re lucky! I almost went inside and we wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting today”, his gaze grew naughty. She ignored him and continued walking.

“You know what Captain Smith said today? He said ‘Albert, do you know every available maiden in St Chris would give anything to be on your arm?’ I said, ‘is true, Cap?’ You can believe that sweetheart? EVERY maiden in St Chris? Want my arm?” His face wore a smirk that told her he was enjoying this. By now he had amassed a small audience of fellow police officers whose presence pumped his confidence and gave his ego a boost it did not earn.

Abruptly Mary-Jane stopped walking, turned her head towards her apparent suitor, now grinning at perceived victory (in front of his boys, no less), tilted her head ever so slightly to the right, eyes still narrow and downcast in direct proportion to the uptilt of her chin, giving her an air of complete aloofness, and with a face void of humour or warmth said “not THIS maiden! Good-day Mr…. Albert, is it?” Not waiting for his response she turned her head and briskly turned off Bennett Street to the no-name, almost-road that would take her to her destination, the descant for Up from the Grave resounding from her internal radio.

young-granny-iris

 

 

 

 

 

© September 9, 2016