By Delroy Nesta Williams
I've become the very thing I hate!
A slave to your acceptance
I've had enough of it all
I'm no longer seeking your approval
I'm raging against the machine that you've become...
Or maybe I'm flying the white flag
Yup, that's it, I give up
Been chasing shadows for much too long
You hide in the dark of the night
And still so elusive in the light
Cutting my losses while I can
I'm tired of wishing in the wind
This could very well be a blessing in disguise
So no more compromise
Or turning the other cheek
Sometimes you just gotta accept defeat
Life isn't always what you wish it
Especially if you're always forced to swim upstream
Every day a battle to belong
Takes a toll on the soul
In the long run,
That can break the will of a man
Life has a funny way of teaching you a lesson
But from dust I came, so to dust I shall return!
Monday, December 23, 2013
by Delroy Nesta Williams
by Delroy Nesta Williams
Home was never really a happy place. I was the first of three children, all girls raised by a single mom and all of us by different fathers. She, my mother, was a victim of men’s promises, each one filling her with empty words of taking care of her and her children but each wanting and leaving her after they had their own. She learned the lesson quickly though and although it stressed her to take care of all of us by her lonesome self, my mother seldom complained. My mother worked any and every job she could find to provide for us and that really meant that raising the children and running the house was left to the eldest among us, which just so happened to be me!
Some days were good but lately I felt like the world was on my frail, tiny shoulders and I needed a break. I tried to remain strong because I, as the oldest, maybe understood what my mother was going through the best. I never heard or saw my mother cry, well actually, I did, but only once. She was having a phone conversation late one night and I just happened to be awake. Words that may be hidden by the noise of the day ring loud in the still of the night. She was speaking about my father and from what I could understand from the muttered, tear-filled words, he was not helping her to pay for my CXC exams and the deadline for payment was coming up soon. I promised myself then and there that I would approach him as soon as I could, I had no idea what I would tell him though but I was sure that he would look at me in a different light after our encounter.
I never told my mother about it and it had been almost two weeks since I overheard her conversation but I was yet to see my father. I had tried to block out the late night images from my thoughts but any little issue would bring back her words and tears, even if I only envisioned them from across the walls of our small house. My mother was already out of the house by the time I got up from my mattress, which I had placed in the corner of the room so she wouldn’t disturb me when she was leaving for work. It was like that almost every morning and although it was only 6:30 a.m., she had already taken two buses to make her way to work in Mero, which meant that she usually left the house before my younger sisters were even awake.
I was busy frying eggs and sausage when my sisters, Lisha and Kerdisha, came into our small outdoor kitchen moving like they were sleepwalking.
“We hungry!” they cried out in unison.
“Allu just get up wii, go an’ take a bath, when allu come back allu will get breakfast,” I replied as sternly as I could. I reminded myself of my mother, she was beginning to rub off on me so much that it frightened me at times.
“And hurry up eh, we walking to school today cause mammy doh leave bus money for us,”
Ten minutes later and they had both returned to the kitchen, half dressed but with a famish in their eyes that softened my heart.
“Eat! Eat before allu fall down dere on my account eh. I cyah answer to mammy much less for de government,” again borrowing my mother’s phrases. I never understood what she meant about answering to the Government but it always seemed to instill fear in me so I used it with my sisters. They looked up to me so much that I couldn’t be too hard on them though, not all the time.
By the time they had eaten and gotten fully dressed, it was already 7:30 and we rushed out of the house. From where we lived in Newtown the school was a quick walk but with two troublesome sisters, even that could be a challenge. Lisha had a question about everything she saw and Kerdisha would always find something to play with just to annoy me. But still, I loved my sisters, more than anyone in my life.
School was a different world though; it was my sanctuary from the troubles and challenges of home. For about five hours I didn’t have to think about anything else but classes and assignments. Oh and off course, my girls! We had developed our little clique from first form, five years ago and we had still remained friends from that time. There were fallouts, major ones too but we always found a way to come back together. The Gorgeous Girls: Kisha, Lorry, Crystal, Natasha and I. I had known Natasha longer than the rest, since our days in primary school so we were closest among the five of us. Still, lately Natasha had become a little distant from the rest of us. There were times when she wouldn’t eat with us at break time, and now she was always late for our library “meetings” and had become very secretive.
That was unlike her because she used to be the bubbly one that always cracked the jokes or picked on each of us. She was the glue that kept us together. She had mended the fallout between Lorry and Kisha over Craig. It seemed that Lorry had liked Craig but Craig was only interested in Kisha so that put a rift between the girls but Natasha stepped in and Craig stepped out of the picture soon after that. I can still remember the look on his face when she told him to “get to stepping” - her favorite phrase at that time.
Natasha, Crystal and I were in the same class which also meant we spent more time together whereas Lorry and Kisha were in another class across the school yard. Crystal was being forced to remain in the class during break time because she stood up to the teacher during our history class. Unfortunately for Crystal, her mouth was always her biggest problem. She took offence at the teacher saying that Christopher Columbus discovered Dominica. She had the balls to put Miss Seaman on blast and ended up by calling her “brainwashed and stupid” and accused her of “perpetuating stereotypes” in front of the entire class. Off course, a class of hyped up teenage girls took the opportunity to laugh at Miss Seaman which wasn’t at all too pleasing to her so she made an example of Crystal. Crystal didn’t worry about the punishment though because in her mind she had won, Miss Seaman wouldn’t be discounting the contributions of her Kalinago people anymore. There was no greater victory since Crystal was actually of Kalinago heritage, at least from her mother’s side of the family. But please don’t tell Crystal that she was only half-Kalinago, unless you wanted to face the wrath of her death stare!
Lorry and Kisha, the sports junkies had a netball team meeting during the break as well, which meant that I had Natasha all to myself, so we could talk about her strange behavior lately. We went to our section of the school yard, underneath the flambouyant tree. It was our regular meeting point, so much so that the other girls in the school didn’t even venture near it. That spot would remain empty even if we didn’t use it during break; so much was the respect and fear we had garnered from the rest of the school. Nobody questioned our right to the spot and we loved that.
As we sat on the bench, I pulled out my snack from my paper bag but I noticed that Natasha didn’t have anything in her hands.
“Where your snack ner?” I asked.
“I waiting for it,” she responded.
“Waiting for it, what you mean you waiting for it?”
“Somebody bringing it for me jus now,” she said coyly.
“Okay den,” I sounded as I stared into her big brown eyes.
She tried to watch away but I saw the glimmer in her eyes which meant that there was more to the story than what she was telling me. Natasha could never keep a secret and if there was one, I was surprised that she had kept it from me for so long. As I searched her eyes I realized that my friend seemed a lot different. She was changing right before my very eyes and I had barely even noticed until now. She had relaxed her hair a few weeks ago but that didn’t raise any alarms. Upon closer inspection though, I now saw that Natasha was evolving into a fine young woman. Her eyebrows were shaped, her earrings were different, shimmering in the early morning sunlight and even her uniform seemed new.
“What’s going on ner?” I asked.
“You seem different,”
“No corn, yes you!” I scolded her.
“Girl you behaving too much like your moda eh,” she laughed in her attempt to change the topic but that wasn’t working. I wanted to know why my best friend was slowly changing and I hadn’t even noticed it until now. But worst, why she hadn’t confided in me at all. It was unlike her, we spoke about everything, she knew all of my secrets and I thought I knew all of hers, until now.
“Talk, I want to know,”
“I can’t tell you!”
“You can tell me anything eh!”
“Not that one ner!”
“I made a promise wii,”
“Wat about our promise? Wat about our friendship den?”
“Dat different eh,”
Just then Natasha pushed her hands into the pocket of her uniform and pulled out a cell phone which was vibrating in her hand. I was surprised. She hastily read and responded to the text message then turned to me.
“You have a cell phone?” I shrieked.
“Yes, I do!” she responded defiantly.
“Since when?” I questioned.
“Since he…,” she paused, “since I bought one.”
“Who is he? Doh think I doh hear de he eh,”
“It not important and I cyah tell you anyways,”
“If it not important den I can know,” I said as I cornered her.
“My boyfriend dat buy me de phone, okay!”
“You have boyfriend? Since when? How I doh know dat?” I yelled.
“Well tell de whole school ner!” she responded, sucking her teeth at me.
“Sorry, sorry… but you have boyfriend wii, your mother know that?”
“How my mother can know that ner?”
“So she doh see de phone den?”
“It always on silent!”
“Since when you have boyfriend?”
“About two months now,”
“TWO whole months,” I screamed out at first then but lowering my voice as I realized I was embarrassing my friend.
“So when you was going to tell me? And who is he?”
“But look I jus tell you wii and you might see him cuz he bringing snack for me just now. He dat jus text me der,”
“But you cyah make him see you, so you will have to hide,”
“Why I have to hide?”
“Cuz is our secret. He doh want people to know for now,”
“Who is he?”
“You will see when he come in de ride!”
“He have a ride den? Big tings man?”
“Yes, he does!”
And that was the end of that as she left to go to the washroom. We now had our plan though and I would stay behind the wall, walking out just about the time where he was handing her the snack so I could sneak a peek at him. He had a car which meant he had to be a lot older than her but she didn’t take me on when I raised my objection.
“I going to have a boyfriend one day eh, so why it cyah be today?” she asked.
“So allu sexing? Your moda know?”
“Yes, we fuck a few times... my moda can never know, she still think I a virgin wii,”
“Agatha go break your bones”
“And your moda doh break yours?”
I had no response to so I dropped the issue and changed the topic. My friend seemed happy and so I would be happy for her even if it troubled me that he was a lot older than her. We would soon be out of school though, graduating in a few months so I guess in her mind she was ready to be an adult. I couldn’t see myself with a boyfriend. Not because I didn’t want one but because my mother would kill me. She had already embarrassed me enough for Jason the last time. She had given me a beating in the school yard when she found out about it, an experience I don’t want to ever relive. Her daily scolding was now enough to keep me without a boyfriend for the next ten years.
We continued to talk for about two minutes, enough time for her to tell me about how she met her new boyfriend. She had gone by All Nations Bar in Newtown to buy fish and fries for her mother on a Friday night and he was there with his girlfriend, where they were having a public break up. Then he met her there a few weeks later and started up a conversation. He had even paid for her meal that night and that started things off. They didn’t meet too often because he worked a lot but when he could he would take her out, even at nights and at weekends. She would tell her mother that she was going over to my house, even without my knowledge. He bought her the cell phone for her birthday, a Samsung Galaxy S3. I had never owned a cell phone, my mother couldn’t afford it. My mother would have broken my bones too if I had ever brought one home. She didn’t want me accepting gifts from anybody. Her words always rang in my ears, “men don’t give you anything without expecting something in return.” I always sensed bitterness in her words when she said that, like she was speaking from a dark experience, like she had lived out the mistake herself.
Just when my thoughts were transitioning to images of my mother and that fateful phone conversation, Natasha jumped up from our spot and rushed towards the school gate. I was well hidden behind the wall and ready to follow through with our plan. I could see her big broad smile in the reflection of the car’s glass. It was well tinted; I couldn’t see a thing through the glass. She seemed more than happy with her boyfriend as she waited for him to bring down the window. It came down slowly to reveal an older man, his eyes hidden by a pair of sunglasses. As he himself lifted the glasses, I saw his very own smile as well. He donned a wide spaced tooth, strong cheek bones that rose up with his smile. But I still couldn’t make him out properly as he turned his head towards her and he reached into a bag to pull out her snack. It was then that I stepped forward to have a closer look at the mystery man. His smile froze on his face as my mouth opened wide too.
Mr. Charles was her boyfriend. Mr. Damian Charles, her boyfriend. My best friend’s boyfriend was my very own father! The man who wouldn’t pay my CXC fees was wining and dining my best friend.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
By Delroy Nesta Williams
I never had a boyfriend before, how was I going to explain that to my mother. Surely she wouldn’t approve but we never kept any secrets from one another. I was her only child and she being so young when she had me, she felt more like my bigger sister than my mother. That was the lovely bond that I had with her - a motherly comfort but sisterly support.
But she hadn’t known about Michael, I couldn’t find a way to tell her especially since she had drilled me about the importance of school and waiting until I graduated from Convent to have a relationship. But Michael wasn’t planned, he just happened. A chance meeting at the Public Library while I was doing some research for a Geography S.B.A was the beginning of our saga. He had knocked down my books in passing and when I confronted him, although he had been difficult about it, he somehow left an impression on me. That night I couldn’t stop thinking about him, although at the time it was more out of anger than admiration. But I kept seeing him at the library and for some reason we always got caught staring at each other. I had told myself that I would never approach him and if he ever dared come speak to me that I would have shamed him. That didn’t work out as I had thought, far from that. I didn’t expect him to bring me an apple and leave poems in my book. That sort of thing had never happened to me before; no boys had ever paid me any attention. So before I actually knew what was going on we started to spend more time with each other, just as friends at first but then I got this unexplainable feeling in my tummy, Michael was starting to have a strong effect on me.
Michael was different though, well different from what I had expected. He was thoughtful, underneath the rough coat that he put on for his friends. He was at the State College as well, a little older than the other boys that I had known and lived in Roseau which meant that I would see him on my way home most of the times. On days when he could, he would wait after class until he saw me and on some days walked me to the Bath Estate Bridge before heading back home. He would carry my bag or the extra books that I had in my hands. One time he even sang for me, it was a Michael Bolton song. He wanted to be a doctor but had a love for singing. He had asked me to go into the Botanic Gardens a few times but my mother had put the fear of God in me about that place. I wasn’t going in there with a boy, not ever. So we mostly hung out at the library or in the school yard. A few times he even came over to my home but I would go to the library almost every day to spend time with him. My mother never complained because she worked long hours and wouldn’t be home until 7 or 8 most nights and I would already be home either watching television or reading a book.
But deep down I knew I shouldn’t keep him a secret from my mother much longer especially since the kiss. Michael had just snuck up on me with that kiss but I wanted it as much as he did. It was in the back of my mind for weeks. He was a good kisser, although this was my first experience so I really couldn’t be a good judge. But he had some soft lips and was a good teacher. We probably spent 20 minutes locked in each other’s arms, just kissing, caressing each other. My eyes were closed most of the time but when I opened them I found Michael with that look in his eyes. He wanted me as much as I wanted him and from that moment I decided that I would have to get my mother’s blessings.
Truth is, we had done much more than just kissing but I wouldn’t tell my mother that, not yet. I would tell her on a need to know basis and right now she didn’t need to know that. Besides, by the time she would find out the rest I would have safely graduated from high school. Everything was going down as I had planned it in my head, except for the telling her part, for now.
I would sit her down and explain to her that this wouldn’t affect my school work. In fact, it even gave me more determination to study because I wanted to be smart and accomplished like Michael. I had all these dreams about us getting married, having children and going on trips all over the world – Paris, New York and even as far as Tokyo. For most parts, I had only seen these cities on television and read about them in books and on the internet but I knew these were places where lovers visited, so it was only right that we would venture to these parts of the globe.
I had spoken to Michael about my plan to tell my mother and although he was quite hesitant at first, he agreed. He surprised me though when he said that he wanted to be there when I told my mother or rather when I asked her permission. It just didn’t feel like something a guy his age would do.
“Mom, I have something I need to tell… err, I mean ask you?” I said
“I am tired child, can it wait?” she responded, “I had a long day at work.”
“No, uhmm, yes it can,”
“Yes or no? Is it about school? Is it about church?”
“No, not really, it isn’t about those things,”
“Is it a life or death thing? Are you sick sweetie?”
“No mammy, it isn’t and no, I am not sick,”
“So it can wait then?”
“Yes it can, I wasn’t really going to ask you now, I just wanted to let you know that I have something important to tell you,”
“So when are you going to tell me this thing then?”
“When is your next day off?”
“Saturday, but I want to go to town?”
“I can tell you before we go to town,”
“We go? You’re just inviting yourself?”
“So I can’t come?
“Yes, yes you can come. You will tell me on Saturday morning then.”
“Thank you, mammy!”
“Now leave me alone let me rest my weary bones,” she responded laughingly.
She then sat down in front of the television and put her foot up to watch the Young and the Restless. Ten minutes later she was snoring away. The typical scenario whenever she was too tired to do anything after work. Being a ward aid at the hospital meant long, strange hours but she never complained. When I recognized that the snoring had gotten very loud, which meant that she was deep in sleep, I snuck into the backroom, picked up my mom’s cell phone and called Michael. It had become our regular routine. He would wait by the phone for me, until I called. We would only spend 5 or so minutes on the phone but that time was like heaven to me. It was one thing to hear his voice in person but a more serene experience over the phone. He sounded so calm and thoughtful, like every word was well calculated. On days when I was anxious and afraid, he managed to calm my fears. Those, including our times at the library, were my most cherished moments.
“She said Saturday morning,”
“Yes, who else?”
“Just confirming, so what time should I come over?”
“Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Yes I do!”
“Around nine then!”
“So early? I’ve got football practice,”
“So you can’t come?” I asked sadly.
“I will come, I won’t go,”
“Okay,” I blotted out surprisingly.
“So you’re okay baby?” he asked in this smooth tone.
“Yes I am,” I blushed.
“Will I see you tomorrow?”
“After school, I can’t go to the library; I’ve got to babysit,”
“Okay, well good night baby,”
“Thanks my love,” I responded as I ended the call but not before I kissed the screen.
Saturday took its merry time to get here and I woke up feeling so sick that morning. Michael was already on his way and by the time I made it to the kitchen, mom was busy washing clothes in the backyard. I put on the television and started having breakfast. I heard a knock on the door before I could even have a sip of my cocoa tea. It was Michael. I gave him a quick hug and kiss after he entered the living room, careful that nobody saw us.
“So where’s your mom?” he asked, almost too eagerly.
“She’s in the backyard washing,”
“So are you ready?”
“Yes, as ready as I was ever be,” I said, trying to sound brave but with my voice breaking up.
Michael caught on too and at that moment he spun me around lightly and gave me a tight hug, kissing me on my forehead. That was just what I needed in that moment. Suddenly, I felt brave and ready to take on the world, well at least to face my mother. I could hear her singing from the backyard. She loved country and western music. Saturday morning and sometimes Sundays were dedicated to the sounds of Kenny Rogers, Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton and Willy Nelson. Sometimes I even sang along, those songs were always catchy and although I denied it every time, I had become a fan as well. As we walked towards the backyard, I started to hum to “islands in the stream” which made Michael chuckle.
“Baby, when I met you… there was peace unknown… I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb… I was soft inside… there was something going on.”
“You know Kenny Rogers?” he asked laughingly.
“Yes I do!” I affirmed, “My mother listens to him all the time.”
“Okay cool, good music,”
Michael was clearly an old soul trapped in this young man’s body and that just got me so excited. I hope my mom can see what a catch he is and understands why I am breaking my pledge to her. We exited the kitchen into the backyard to find my mom fixing the clothes line. It seemed to have fallen down, maybe overnight because it was fine yesterday. As we approached her, she turned around and gave me this funny, surprising look. It was a mixture of being startled and worried and that was the first time I had seen this expression upon her face in forever.
“Who is this young man?” she asked, in a tone that suggested that she already knew what I was about to respond.
“Who? Him?” I said, almost taken aback by her tone. I wasn’t ready to do this but it was too late now.
“Yes, him,” she said pointing, “he’s the only one here with us,”
“That’s what; I mean that’s who I wanted to talk to you about,”
“Well, talk to me!” she shrieked, her voicing growing with every word.
Michael for the cool, assured person that he had been before hadn’t moved a muscle. I turned to look at him and he was sweating profusely, even shaking a bit. I grabbed his hand but he pulled away slightly, almost leaving me to be devoured by my mother. I looked up at him and for the first time I saw fear in his eyes. But if anything, I should be the one to be afraid but instead I felt a certain poise like the situation needed me to show my maturity.
“Mammy, this is Michael and he’s my friend!”
“Nice to meet you Michael,” as she stretched her hands towards him. For the first time he moved a bit.
“Michael and I got to know each other a few months ago”
“Okay,” she said awaiting some more details.
“We met at the library while I was doing homework. He goes to the State College. We’ve been talking for a while now and…”
“Baby, stop, stop, I have something to tell you,” she interrupted.
“No mammy, I have something to tell you first,”
“No, what I have to say is more important and I think it’s time you know,”
“But mammy, I want to tell you,”
“Let me explain first,” she said with tears filling up her eyes.
I didn’t understand why she was getting more emotional than me over this. I was the one who was about to spill my guts to her. She sat down on a stool and put her face in her hands, leaning over into her lap. My mother seemed an emotional wreck as I stood there bewildered with Michael to my side. I looked at him but he was being no help to me either, with this blank steer in his eyes. I couldn’t blame him, this was much more than we had prepared for. In our discussion, we had only looked at one side of the outcome, this was new territory.
“Kelian,” she said, “do you remember what I told you about your father?”
“Yes, he is in the States!”
“Not quite in the States. Your father has been in Dominica for quite a while now. In fact, I should have brought you to meet him years ago. I had you when I was just a young girl, just about your age, seventeen and at that time things were rough with my mother.”
“Yes mammy, I remember the story”
“There’s more to the story, that I need you to know now. Your father’s parents had paid my parents off to have an abortion but instead my mother took the money and posted me to Vieille Case to live with my aunt. So I gave birth to you there. I actually name after him; well your middle name so there would always be a link.”
“My middle name is Michelle”
“Yes Michelle” she confirmed. “I came back to town to live so you could attend high school but I’ve always kept a close eye on your father although he is unaware.”
“So who’s my father? Where’s my father?”
“your father is Michael Shillingford!” she cried out from among the tears that were streaming down her face. Her eyes were red with fear and shame. She didn’t even look at me but was staring at my boyfriend.
“But, but my father is Michael Shillingford!” Michael revealed.
“Yes, I know,” she said continuing to cry, “Kelian is your sister. Isn’t that what you came here to tell me? That you somehow found out?”
“No!” was all that Michael could muster and for the first time it hit me straight in my chest. A deep pain overtook me.
“No, mom… I wanted to introduce Michael as my, my, my,” I hesitated.
“Your, your what?”
“Boyfriend, mammy… he’s my boyfriend!” as I staggered with my speech.
“No, no, no... He can’t be your boyfriend, he’s your brother,” she screamed out, “he’s your brother, Kelian.”
“Ma’am, I love her!”
Those were the last words that I made out from the conversation before I crumbled to the ground. Michael stretched over to help me but my mom pushed him away as she dashed to pick me up. He just stood there, in shock after that, with a look of shame as to what had just transpired. I crashed into my mother’s lap crying my guts out as he hovered over us. As I peeked through my mother’s dress, I could see the indecision in his face, not knowing whether to leave or to stay to comfort me. My mother was still crying out, screaming to the top of her voice although she rocked me in her lap while embellishing me to keep quiet. All the crying and screaming had caused my eyes to swell but the real pain was in my chest and stomach, I could hardly gather the strength to stand.
“Rest my child,” my mother chided as I pushed off from her to take my feet.
“No mommy, I need to tell you something else,”
I turned to Michael, and then I looked at my mother. I looked down at my palms and for the first time in my life, I felt completely alone. All that I had known had come crashing down; nothing was what it seemed at all. Suddenly all the things that I thought I knew made no sense. Both of them gave me this concerned look but before I had the wherewithal to think through my statement I mumbled out a few words to them.
“What!!!!!!!” they both screamed out in unison.
“I’m pregnant,” I retorted.
Monday, November 4, 2013
I won the 2013 Independence celebrations' short story competition (2nd year in a row)... this is my 2013 submission:
by Delroy Nesta Williams
“What is the capital of Jamaica?’ I thought to myself. I knew the answer; it was either Kingston or Kingstown. I always mixed up these two but it wasn’t the time to be unsure. I needed that answer to get an A on my final exam. I had already calculated my score in my head. My mother had promised me a trip to Roseau during the summer if I had gotten all A’s. I couldn’t wait to run along the city streets and go to the market with her. I had never been to Roseau, I heard a lot of things about it though; my mother would go there ever so often and always returned with lots of groceries and fine things.
I had imagined Roseau as a very big city, with very tall buildings, wide streets not like the wooden houses and dirt roads of Gros Michel, far from that too. There was no way the capital could be anything like my village. Besides with street names like King George V Street and Great George Street, I couldn’t help but think that Roseau was a majestic city full of business men driving their fancy cars, looking really important in their suits and ties. At least that’s what I read in books about the cities of Europe, I would expect the same of Roseau.
“Daryl, Daryl... wat is de answer for 12 an 15 ner?” whispered someone behind me, disturbing my thoughts.
“I doh know ner,” I responded without even turning around for fear that Teacher Roach would see me. She heard and saw everything; I was scared to death of that lady. She was so stern and meticulous, that nothing escaped her.
“Tell me ner before Teacher come back in de class,”
“No boy, I fraid,” I continued.
“Boy jus say de ting quick before she come back, hurry ner!”
“No boy, I cyah do that.”
“Hear de man, boy I doh want to fail dat test ner, I doh want to repeat mamzelle class!”
At that very moment, a cold breeze filled the room, everything got quiet and even the mosquitoes that were buzzing around my arms and legs seemed to stand still. The hands on the old class clock, which only worked during exams, seemed to stop too.
“Daryl and Dwight, what have I said about talking during tests?” Teacher Roach asked sternly.
I stayed quiet; I wasn’t going to utter a word, not me, never.
“Daryl! Dwight! Who is going to answer me?” Teacher Roach scolded in her slow, deliberate speech that felt like she was actually counting the words before sounding them.
“I cyah remember ner Teacher,” Dwight responded defiantly.
“You cyah remember ner Teacher?” she said mockingly, “We will see who remembers when I take out Lucifer from the cupboard.”
Lucifer was a giant rod that was kept locked up in the class cupboard and only used for “special” occasions. I had overhead the other teachers referring to it as the rod of correction. Teacher Roach used it to perfection, scaring the life out of all its victims. I had only received two strokes from Lucifer before and I didn’t want anymore. I had trouble sitting down on my chair for weeks after that. Rumour had it that the rod was made from a carefully handcrafted guava branch that was soaked for months in oil to preserve it.
“Who remembers what I have said about talking during tests?’ Teacher Roach asked the class.
“Teacher, you say we shouldn’t talk with anybody or cheat,” responded Mary. I hated Mary, she was always quick to respond and yearned to be the teacher’s favourite. To say she annoyed me and the rest of the class was the biggest understatement.
“And who can tell me what Daryl and Dwight were doing?”
“Miss they were talking wii,” Mary responded again without any hesitation.
“Is that against the rules?”
“Yes Teacher,” the class responded in complete unison.
“What do we do to students who break the rules?”
“We show dem to Lucifer!” Tony, a boy in the back row shouted out.
“How many strokes do you recommend Mary?”
“Me, Teacher,” she quirked, “I would gi dem five each wii,” she continued with a huge grin.
“Daryl, take the keys from the desk and take Lucifer from the cupboard.”
“No Teacher, no,” I cried out, “is not my fault ner.”
“So whose fault was it?”
At that point I looked over to Dwight and I could see the anger building up inside him. I was caught between a rock and a hard place, but I could always escape Dwight; Lucifer on the other hand was a sure thing.
“So whose fault was it Daryl?” Teacher Roach asked again.
“Teacher, Dwight dat ask me for answers to questions 12 an 15 wii,”
“Dwight is that true?”
Dwight didn’t budge, he didn’t say a word but I could tell that if he could have killed me at that time that he would have done it so swiftly that not even the hand of God could have prevented my death. The vein in the middle of his forehead was about ready to pop open; the blood would have splashed all over the walls of the classroom.
“Daryl, get me the rod, now!”
“Me, miss?” I asked.
“Yes you Daryl, who else?”
“Yes Miss,” I responded. It was already bad that I had ratted out Dwight but now I had to retrieve his method of punishment. I held unto the rod and could smell its odour. It was so pungent, almost a similar smell like that of rotting onions. The cane felt so strange between my fingers and so heavy but the way Teacher Roach swung it through air to dispense “judgment” would have made you think that it was a feather. She had some strong shoulders and arms for a woman.
As I returned to my seat I put my head on my desk. I had just sent Dwight to the slaughterhouse but the sad thing about it is that he would survive and come back for his revenge. Dwight didn’t utter a sound during his five strokes, soaking up the lashes like they were just a slap on the wrist; he was too busy thinking about paying me back for my treachery.
We still had two more exams to complete before the end of the day. I was sure he or his friends wouldn’t attack me before the bell had rung. I was quickly devising an escape strategy. I needed a plan since my house was on the other side of the village and I had to cross the guava field and pass directly in front of Dwight’s house before reaching Lime Street. I had the perfect idea, if only I could implement it.
The next few hours strolled along, almost causing me as much pain as I had envisioned receiving from Dwight. Every time I turned around I would see him staring at me with this painful but evil expression on his face, his eyes almost ready to pop out of his head. The vein running down the middle of his forehead was still bulging as well, although soaked by sweat because of the immense heat in the classroom. A slight touch would have caused it to rupture and spill out unto the blackboard at the front of the class.
I was a nervous mess; I couldn’t concentrate on my tests. I kept thinking of what happened before and how I would escape. I only had one good chance of getting away, but that would only succeed in delaying the inevitable. Dwight wasn’t someone who anybody should bring to anger, especially the way it happened in front of the entire class. He looked like he was ready to breathe fire any minute.
It was nearing 3:00 now, half an hour before we were officially dismissed and it was time that I make my move.
“Teacher Roach, I doh feeling too good ner, my stomach hurting me wii!” I belched out.
“What’s wrong with you Daryl?” Teacher asked.
“I think de food I eat for lunch hurt me wii Teacher,”
“What did you eat?”
“Food from yesterday wii.”
“You want to go to the Principal for medicine?”
“Yes Teacher, yes!”
“Anybody want to accompany Daryl to the principal’s office?” she asked.
“Yesssssssssss!” shouted a voice from the back of the classroom. An almost deafening sound that made my knees tremble with fear, so much it was said with raging fury.
“Dwight, go with Daryl,” she demanded, “stay with him until the Principal send you back to the classroom.”
Those words sunk my spirit. Teacher Roach had just dug my grave and she didn’t even realize it. I would haunt her for the rest of her life for what she did to me. Dwight stood up with a sly smile on his face almost too eager to help. He had seen through my trick.
“You tink is you alone that smart eh,” he murmured under his breath. “I have it for you later enno.”
The next thirty (30) minutes were a blur, passing by so quickly; from entering the Principal’s office, getting sent to an empty room to wait out the time and having a teacher prepare bush tea for me. I couldn’t see or hear Dwight but I knew he was lingering around the school yard, just waiting on me to make my way home.
I had escaped, but for how long? The bell had rung now but I had decided to wait a while before leaving the room in the hope that I would fool Dwight and his friends who would surely be waiting for me. Maybe they would have thought that I had left already or that one of the teachers would have already taken me from the sickroom.
I waited for about fifteen (15) minutes before vacating the room, carefully opening the door so as to not arouse any suspicion or make any unnecessary noise that would inform any bystander or onlooker. The door creaked open just slightly before I squeezed my way through. I didn’t risk opening it up fully at all. I could take no chances. I had decided to leave my school bag behind so that I would have been able to run more freely. I turned the corner just after leaving the sickroom, the coast was clear. Not a student or teacher in sight as I continued tip-toeing through the school hall. I quickened my pace and what started off as timid steps soon became full blown strides. As I was about to jet through the school gate, it came swinging in my direction, knocking me across my arms as I had raised them to protect my face.
“Iye, yah yiiiiiiiiiye,” I cried out.
“Where you tink you going, you think you wudda escape easy so den?” I heard Dwight scream out.
“Leave me alone boy,”
“You doh think I would wait for you?”
“I doh want no trouble,”
“You doh think of that before you make Teacher Roach beat me in front de class?”
“Is your fault wii,” I responded in a loud voice; growing in confidence as I stood up.
“Well dat is your fault now,” Dwight said, now exposing Lucifer that he had kept at his back.
“Where you get Lucifer?” I cried out.
“So you think I doh know how to go in de cupboard?”
“How much strokes I get?” he asked.
“I doh know, I doh remember!”
“Mickey, Larry, how much strokes I get?” he asked as his friends emerged from their hiding places. They grabbed my arms and held me steady as Dwight prepared to lash me with the cane.
“Five you get wii Dwight!” Larry sounded with a sly grin, wishing that he could be the one to whip me instead.
“Is three of us eh, so three times five is how much?”
“Fifteen wii, fifteen,” Mickey said although his tone sounded uncertain.
“So fifteen strokes for you wii Daryl, I sorry but is fifteen you going to get eh,” Dwight said menacingly as I tried to wriggle my way from the hold of Mickey and Larry. They were just too strong for me. It was pointless. I would have to take all my fifteen lashes as I couldn’t see any way to escape from my predicament.
Larry and Mickey pulled me against the column that held the gate, each one stretching my arm in opposite direction as Dwight measured Lucifer. I closed my eyes hoping that it would make the situation go away, or at least I could concentrate on something else. The pungent oniony-smell of Lucifer filled my nostrils again and forced a tear from my eyes even before I felt one blow from the cane. I could hear the shuffling of Dwight’s feet as he prepared himself. Larry and Mickey pulled at my arms even harder and for a moment I thought about my mother, how she would still beat me if she ever found out what was going on in the school yard, doubling my pain and anguish. I would have to take my blows in silence and not tell a soul.
Dwight swung away as Lucifer whistled through the still afternoon air striking me on my buttocks as I cringed against the column, almost climbing it up from the shock of the stroke. I stuck my teeth together to prevent myself from screaming as the pain shot through my body, every nerve ending now awake. The second stroke, even more ferocious than the first tore through my pants and exposed my underwear bringing Larry, Mickey and Dwight to an uncontrollable laugh. After they had composed their selves, Dwight recommenced with his assault. I was counting every blow, hoping and wishing that fifteen would get there soon. He was on number four and I was wishing that somehow he would have miscounted to my benefit. He swung again, this time so hard that Lucifer dropped from his grip and rolled a few metres away.
I heard as he walked to retrieve the cane but I didn’t dare open my eyes. I didn’t want the pool of tears to escape from them and for Dwight to see me cry. I wouldn’t let them see me cry. Dwight was now making his way back towards me, kicking a few pebbles from under his feet in my direction. One of them hit my ankle too but that wasn’t as painful as anything that I had so far endured. I stuck my teeth together again and closed my eyes tightly preparing for another lash from Lucifer. Mickey and Larry again pulled at my arms; their grips still very tight as Dwight urged them on to pull at me. He was going to make me endure ever lingering moment, he was just so menacing. Again he shuffled his feet, preparing to strike me with Lucifer.
“Stop it, leave de person’s child alone,” a voice screamed from outside the gates and within seconds Dwight and his friends had vanished from around me. As I realized what had just happened, I too dashed outside the school gate, not even looking to see who rescued me from my captors. I hoped that the person hadn’t recognised me because the last thing I wanted was for my mother to receive the news of my beating at the hands of Dwight and company. That would have equalled double punishment.
When I had reached a safe distance, I stopped and turned around, still panting though. There was no one in sight, not Dwight or his friends and surely not the person who saved me from my turmoil.
“Thank God,” I thought, “thank God... but where was Lucifer?”