General

Many rivers to cross

Lynval! Lynval! His mother called, “A wey da dyam walk bout pickney gone now? Cho, not fe nutten him woulda tan in a de blasted yard han tek him book.” “Boy, noh yu me hear Mama a call dey?” inquired Thelma of Lynval as she place another grain of corn on the bingo card in front of her. “Gwaan to har, me we finish mark de card fe yu.” Before Lynval could leave, another seed is drawn. Wings, the housemaster and the one calling the bag blurted in his usual sluggardly idiosyncrasies, “Un-ladylike sum-bady, numbah, numbah twenty-one.” “Bingo!” squealed Lynval way before the other players even have a chance to scan their cards. He then breathes a sigh of relief. “Yes! Y’u think a now me a sweat?” he soliloquizes while clenching both fist upward to the sides of his chess.

Lynval toss the card to Wings uttering the numbers 16, 49, 67 and 21. Wings audit the card and give a lack-lustre nod to authenticate Lynval’s claim. Immediately the less is withdrawn and the remainder of the “pot” is pushed across the table top to the out stretch palm of Lynval. Couple coins roll off from the pile of paper money to the ground. “Lef dat mek it grow, me we watah it,” mumbles a toothless elderly man in a now delightful mood with a piece of cigar between his lips. The lit portion is turned inwards and as he speaks a puff of smoke billows from the corners of his mouth. In eagerness this destitute with trembling hands was on his feeble frame reaching for the coins on the ground. “Yow, lef me a set,” demanded Thelma of Lynval her brother. Five bucks is thrown at her, in a flash he then makes his way to his mom’s calling, scaling the barbwire fencing into his yard and counting his gain as he goes along.

This little form of gambling is very prevalent and is financially expedient to the countless people of indigence throughout Jamaica. Some will buy drapan and (or) throw dice, play cards, ludi and dominoes in a bid to win and amass a few dollars to assist with their children’s schooling as well as daily living. Most citizens are against it from a moral, ethical or religious view and while gambling of this nature is illegal, let alone with a minor participation, no one seems to make of it a big deal, (no pun intended), except of course for the parent(s) of the participatory child, and so, it has become increasingly cultural and socially acceptable.

“Yes Mama, see me here,” said Lynval as he enters her room. “A where you was from the time I’ve been calling you boy?” is the response from his mother . “Yu not getting ready for school?” she continued. He approaches her and handed her the money. “Wey dis fah, where you get this from now? A bet you was next door gambling… gambling noh good sinting eno, two twos oonu start fuss and fight.” Lynval kept silent during her chastisement but when she asked how much it was to that he calmly replied, sixty-five dollars. He wanted her to have it all. He’d tried is luck yet again and it has paid off.

Lynette needed money badly and though silently thankful, she would never support his doings. Life in Jamaica is often like that; Lynval goes to school every day. He is studious and mannerly and is an above average student. His life’s ambition is to become an engineer but with not enough income from his mom’s daily job laundering for people, things look rather bleak. His father had passed away three years earlier when he was only ten, and his sister Thelma, who was once a promising young girl and eleven years his senior was already out of grace. A victim of teenage pregnancy, a school dropout whom had loss all her dreams, all her quest to succeed and never recovered from that dilemma.

Thelma didn’t want any forms of failure to beset her brother nor did Lynette; she wanted him to be successful. After all, he was the pride and “Moses” of the family, the one who could lead them into a meaningful future, lifting their social and financial status from a struggling to a survival level. And so, often times she would encourage him, scold him and in-still in him the vigor,strength and courage needed to survive and succeed. (Oh how ironical.)

Despite poverty, high cost of living, crimes and violence, many Jamaicans are experiencing tremendous successes against the evils and hardships of their communal society. The parents, teachers and children do understands the need for education and while the government may not be able to assist everyone or every school that does not deters by any stretch of imagination the people’s determination. The people’s will like Lynval is steadfast and strong, reflected in the recent announcement that Jamaica has cleared its debt from the (IMF) International Monetary Fund. Jamaicans at home are inspired and prodded by their own musical icon Jimmy Cliff’s world renowned song, “Many rivers to cross.” This song and phrase has served as the benchmark of their continuous struggles to make things better. Along the way, some falters and yet among those that fell are the greatest voices of encouragement , unity and love ensuring others move ahead. Like Thelma they continually help to build and fortify the bridges needed for others to cross.

About the author

Kharl Daley