The sun glared at the group of village women conferring around the standpipe, their faces covered with beads of sweat and evidence of interest. The breeze refused to grant the coolness they beckoned with their fanning hands, so they hiked up their voluminous skirts with crude knots for some relief. The dry season brought heat, water shortages and consequently such gatherings. While the gossip flowed effortlessly, the water trickled pitifully into waiting buckets.
“But you eh hear dat? Is like you doh live here. Everybody know dat aready.”
The options for occupation were limited in a rural community, while most men were out tending to the gardens, and there was no water to keep their idle hands busy with the washing, cleaning and cooking. The older children were off at school and the younger ones delighted in their own games a short distance from the women.
“But she look for dat.”
Mon Citron was a close knit community but Marcie, the topic of their conversation, always seemed to be on the fringes. After ten years she was still from the ‘uder village’ and never truly part of them. Marcie was only sixteen. A shabin. A strikingly beautiful girl with a round face, wide innocent eyes and a constellation of freckles on her nose. Her brownish hair and petite frame set her further apart from the village women. Orphaned at age six, when her mother succumbed to a strange ailment, Ma Paul took her in, since her own village people had shunned her.
“Ah doh know how Ma Paul handling dis pressure again. Imagine you take a chile from young and dats the tanks you get in return.”
Marcie was with child for the second time. No physical signs yet betrayed her condition, but nothing escaped the village women. Her first born, Jimmy, was two years old; his image dared anyone to question his paternity.
Marcie was quiet; whether it was by nature or circumstance, no one knew—no one seemed to care. Furtive lustful glances from the men, disdain from the women and trepidation from the children — that was the extent of her communication with the villagers. She lived in the shadow of the legacy of prostitutes, under the oppressive miasma of a village holding her accountable for the sins of those before her.
“But wif dat kine of backgroung, wha you expec? She from dat line of people.”
“True. But Ma Paul shoulda keep her eyes open knowing wha she know.”
“But Mr. Paul takin real chances dere. What if dis gyal have what she mudder die from?”
“Is really not his fault eh. Dis ting in de gyal. She have a kinda hold on man.”
It was common knowledge that Mr. Paul, Ma Paul’s husband, had fathered Marcie’s first born and they were sure, the second as well. As the young Marcie blossomed, the old man convinced himself and others that she had seduced him. Every time he’d forced himself on her, Mr.Paul had cited this inexplicable pull, against which he had been powerless.
“Who runnin’ up de road dere?”
“It look like Betty. But wha she runnin’ so for?
“Betty doh ever run wit dem big totots she have dere—“
“Ey…Ey..Someting mus be wrong.”
The women anxiously started walking towards Betty. Her pendulous breasts made the run very taxing and her gait began to teeter. They picked up their pace towards her.
“Betty, wha wrong gyal?”
Betty was short of breathe but forced the news out between gulps of air.
“Wha about Marcie?”
“She stab de ole man.”
“Doh make joke!”
“ True ting. She stab him den she kill sheself. Marcie dead! Mr. Paul dead!”
The women crossed themselves. Some looked up to the heavens and one genuflected.
“Bon dieu! Dat gyal will see de fires of hell for takin de life of a good man.”
Chile at Play
“Play is children wok. Let de chile play na.” I tell him as I watch our girl chile playing hopscotch by sheself in de dusty yard. I din say it in no rough way, but I still regret de words as soon as they leave my mout.
“I sure she have homework and plenty oder tings she cud be doin’. You spoiling she ent? Rel bad too. When she come home toting a big belly is you to blame eh. Remember that.” He say, and I cud see that he wasn’t pleased. De big vein on his forehead dan pop up like a monster, and that tell me straightway he not pleased. De way his jawbone moving up and down tell me bad tings goin’ on in his head. Any lil ting cud trip him off at dis point. So I dress-back.
I doh answer he ‘cause I doh want dis to turn into a big ting. Another big ting. I jus want my lil girl to get a lil chance to be a lil girl. I doh want he to start to get on bad, call she inside and create dis big unnecessary scene. I doh want he to lock both of we in dis two by four place we call a house and rush down de road to de nearest rum shop, to drink out his pay packet wit his good-for-nutten frens , for us to end up having nutten to eat for de whole of next week. I doh want dat. So I doh say nutten.
But my brain still woking. How a pregnant belly supposed to come out of a six-year ole chile playing hopscotch by sheself on a Friday evening? Lawd de tings dis man does come up wit to play wit me brains. Is not true that I spoil she. I just want she to experience what a normal chilhood feel like just in case she turn woman, and she find sheself in de same mess I in, at least she will have a lil bit of normal to look back on. ‘Cause I doh even have dat.
Chile – child
Cud – could
Dan – already
Dat – that
Din – did not
Dis – this
Dress-back – relax
Nutten – nothing
Oder – other
Sheself – herself
Wok – work