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Chapter 4 from my upcoming book “David and I”
“Stop it, leave the person’s child alone,” Mr. Lazare shouted with all the strength he could muster up from his feeble, rum-drained body. I could smell the alcohol from across the street.
“Old man, check you seen eh,” one of the boys screamed out at him.
“Ten to one is murder but twelve to one and a half; with me being the half and an old man perched up by a cane the one, was equal to genocide,” I thought.
I started to prepare myself for the pain of kicks and punches to my face and body. The odds were clearly not in my favour as Mr. Lazare crept across the dirt road. Even the small gravel in the middle of the street seemed to knock him off his path.
“What chance we have ner?” I thought. “We need a miracle wii.”
“Leave the boy before I take my cane out and beat each and every one of you,” he shrieked.
I was sure he would topple over as he said that. How he managed to get across the street is still a blur to me. All I can remember is Dwight, the leader of the bunch, running away holding his head, and the bunch of lemmings chasing after him. He had collected a solid stroke of the cane, right in the centre of his back, the finishing touches from what was left over from Teacher Roach.
“Boy, how did you find yourself in another mess?” questioned Mr. Lazare, his slight English accent even more evident than before. I could now clearly see his eyes; hazel coloured beads encircled by white, yellow and a deep red. The red, bloody stare seemed to suggest that he had been thru so much, surely had a lot to say, a lot more to his life than the rum-drenched days that I had come to know him for.
“Answer me boy, before I report this to your mother,” he continued to yell.
“I report him to Teacher Roach for cheating on de exam,” I sheepishly replied.
“You did the right thing boy, but nobody likes a tattle tale. It’s a good thing I came along when I did because you would have ended up with a few broken bones.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Thank you, Sir?” he mocked at me, “boy get my bags, you have to earn my security services.”
“Where he get all dem groceries?” I thought. I had never seen him with anything else but bottles of rum. Those bags strained me for the thirty or so minutes that I carried them. Mr. Lazare walked as slow as a snail and he insisted that I walk at his pace.
“You don’t rush an old veteran” he would yell out if I happen to get five paces ahead of him.
Finally, we had gotten in front of his gate. I placed the bags down and started to jet across the street to my home
“And where do you think you are running off to, young man?
“I going home; my moda waiting on me.”
“Nonsense, your job isn’t done until my bags are inside on the kitchen counter. As a matter of fact, you need to place them in the cupboard as well.”
Suddenly I had wished for the broken bones from earlier. An instant feeling as I realized that I now had to venture inside the rat infested sty that I had imagined Mr. Lazare’s house to be.
“Why me ner?” I thought as I tiptoed my way through the gates and stopped at the front door.
“Just push the door, it isn’t locked.”
“Me?” I questioned.
“Who else could I be speaking to? We are the only ones here.”
“Dat I afraid of wii,” I whispered under my breath.
The door creaked open and I got blinded by the light, well actually by the shimmering items all over the cabinet, table, and chairs. There was no place to move, it was like manoeuvring through the crowd at Carnival. I surely didn’t want to break anything, I didn’t want the wrath of Mr. Lazare to come down on me. I barely had a chance to survey the entire living room, with so much to look at, before I heard him behind me.
“Young man, the kitchen is that way,” he said pointing the way.
“Yes,” I replied.
Yes? Yes? Is that how your mother taught you to speak with an elder statesman like myself?” he scolded.
“Yes, Sir,” I quickly replied not wanting to anger him any further. “What is a elder statesman?
“You will find out one day, when I am ready to tell you,” he assured me.
His drunken assertiveness surprised me; I almost thought that he was pretending to be under the influence, maybe just to observe me closely. I finally made my way to the kitchen, squeezed in his groceries in what were already filled cupboards. You would have never imagined the fancy foods that I found in there, things that I had never eaten or even seen or couldn’t remember ever eating or seeing graced the shelves of his cupboards.
“My friends doh never going to believe me when I tell dem, never.” I thought as I finished up.
Almost on cue, like he had a surveillance camera hovering over me, Mr. Lazare called out to me.
“Young man, make haste… and please bring me the green bottle,”
“Yes sir,” I replied, as though practising my newly found love for courtesy.
Upon arriving into the living room, he motioned to me to get a glass in the cabinet.
“Not one, two, surely you would like a little refreshment after working so hard,” he laughed out.
I don’t know what was funny to him; that he got me to spend the past two hours with him or that I seemed to be exhausted and had no idea what was going to happen next. I still wonder if he had seen my frightened expression and only wanted to calm my fears.
“Sit down, it’s time that big men relax and have a drink after a long hard day at work” he chuckled.
I sat there as he wiped the glasses with this barely white cloth and filled the glasses. His glass was filled to the brim; mine just had enough to call it a sip.
“When you get to my age then you can fill your own glass,” he said laughingly as though he read my every thought.
“I wonder what your age be? Because you look like ninety five,” I thought.
He pushed the glass towards me as he breathed in the aroma from his own glass; a smile coming over his face showing how pleased he was.
“It’s been a while since I shared a bottle with anybody,” he said. “You’re not having your drink”
“I doh think my mother want me to drink rum”
“Nonsense, your mother would appreciate you stepping into manhood. The transition from boy to man is a delicate one, and it can only be helped with the right guidance. She would be thankful if she knew I was helping you along the right path,” he uttered as his English accent made a brief return.
“You sure?” I asked.
“Yes son, that’s the only thing I’m sure about, that and my age, I think” he laughed.
It did smell invitingly good; I could smell one of the herbs my mother used in her food.
“Dat must be good, Mr. Lazare doh have reason to lie,” I thought as I gulped down the mouthful that was in my glass.
“Ughh” I coughed up.
Slowly young man, slowly; leave the throw back for the grown men” he laughed.
“It burning my chest wii,” I squealed.
“It is suppose to burn the thirst time”
“Why you doh say dat before?”
“I can’t tell you everything about life, some things you have to experience and find out for yourself.”
I was sure he did that to me on purpose.
“Would you like some more, this time sip it slowly”
“No thanks ner, I going home now”
“Sit down and have a second, then you can go home, he shouted, grow some hair on my chest”
“Hair on my chest,” I said as I looked in my shirt.
“Yes, hair on your chest,” he confirmed as he poured me a second glass, this time a little more than the first.
“What I doing ner?” I wondered as I slowly sipped the second glass. It didn’t burn, just like he said; in fact, I liked it and I wanted more. I pushed my glass towards him.
“Can I have more? I need some more hair on my chest wii!” I laughed.
“Are you sure, young man?” he asked.
“YES SIR!” I confirmed with a firm slam to the table, which set the bottle and glasses jumping in the air.
“Careful now, young man, we don’t want to spill our drinks,” he laughed loudly.
“Our drinks,” I thought, “yes wii, our drinks.”
A lot of time had passed, in fact night was upon us now and I had to be getting home but I could barely move. My head was spinning, the ceiling seemed to be caving in on us, the tables and chairs seemed to be moving, I couldn’t stand up.
“I need to go home wii, Sir!” I said
“After you drank my entire bottle of rum, you just want to run off without as much as a thank you,” Mr. Lazare lashed back at me.
“Thank you, thank you sir,” I said embarrassed even in my drunken state.
“Get out, Get out,” he shouted. “Make sure the next time you bring your own damn bottle,” he shrieked.
I tripped and fell almost three times from his doorstep before I stumbled into my back door. My mother was in the kitchen.
“Delroy, where you come out at dis hour?” she said sternly.
“Mammie, I was by Mr.,” as I fell down.
“Mr. Who? Who dat Delroy, who? And wat is dat smell?”
“Lazare,” I said embarrassingly.
“You was drinking? You smell like a damn rum shop!”
“Yeeesssss, Mammie, jus a sip,” I murmured from my spot on the floor.
“A sip, jus a sip!!!” she shouted out.
By now all my brothers and sisters were standing in the kitchen door mumbling to each other, shocked at my drunken state.
“Joe, help your brother, put him on de bed, lemmie go and deal with Mr. Lazare, I go deal with Delroy when I come back,” she yelled as she stormed out of the kitchen door.
That was the last I remembered of that day. I wasn’t even sure if Joe had actually carried me to the bedroom. I woke up the next morning to find my face sunken in a pool of green, smelly vomit.
“Mammie my head hurting me wii, put off de lights,” I bawled, “my eyes hurting me.”
“Serve you right, get up from de damn bed,” my mother screamed at me.
“What I do ner? I questioned myself.
“You’re just lucky you fall asleep before I come back eh, you just lucky, Getting drunk with Mr. Lazare, you doh have good head boy? You better clean up de bed eh and wash de sheet before I knock you down this morning,’ my mother said still screaming out at me.
It all came back to me as soon as she finished. I remembered it all. I looked at my chest but there was no hair, not a strand.
“He lie to me wii, Mr. Lazare lie,” I thought.