General

Newman Thompson – Short story; adopted from the book The ORIGINAL JAMAICAN Patois

Written by Laxleyval Sagasta

In the Jamaican country side that Newman lived, he was known as the village lawyer. Many of the folks in the area affectionately called him Barrister. Some even thought that Barrister was his real name. The judicial court days were always on Wednesdays, and Newman would be in the court room whether he had a trial or not. He was well versed with the British court system in England. He had many run-ins with the law there, and because of his oratory skills and fast talking he had managed to stay a step or two ahead of the authorities.

He was the ring-leader of a scam organization that Scotland Yard was tracking when he boarded a ship for Australia, but disembarked at Casablanca, took another ship to Panama before flying to Jamaica. Newman was forty seven years of age in nineteen-fifty-seven when he landed in Jamaica. He had been away from the island since he was fifteen. His parents were both English, but lived in Jamaica when he was born. They were both Caucasian, and so was Newman. The only ties he had in Jamaica, other than it is the land of his birth was a half-sister, which was his father’s child, and three years his senior.

He was as broke; as the locals say; as a cote bird, when he landed at the Kingston International Airport. His sister had to pay the taxi that transported him to her house from the airport. He brought with him from England a sizeable trunk of his own clothes. Many were suits of mohair, wool, tweed and silk fabrics, and over the first few months of his return, he sold some for just enough cash for his pocket money. He was always well dressed, although some folks laughed at him for wearing woolen suits in July, the hottest summer month, but he never seemed to sweat.

His sister Gretel was a widow. She wasn’t really poor, but neither was she wealthy. She had Real Estate, and earned her living from the annual crops of Allspice grown on her property. She made it clear to him that he would have to get a job to support himself, but he did not tell her that he had no marketable skills, at least none that was legal. It did not take long for Newman to find a lucrative way of earning money. Whenever someone in the vicinity had a court case, he would offer himself to them as a witness, and demanded that the payments should be a percentage of the awards. He guaranteed his clients that if they lose their case, they wouldn’t have to pay. No matter what the cases were, Newman would convince the court that he was present at the occurrences, and he would be able to produce documents if necessary, to support his client’s claims.

After only three years of his illegal law practice Newman Thompson became the owner of Real Estate, live-stock, jewelry and other valuables. He had a huge house custom built on the top of a small hill near the main road, and he would spare no expenses in throwing lavish parties.

Whenever he went to the downtown area, he would walk into a rum bar and ordered drinks for everyone present. When he had them tipsy, he would call for them to gather and listen to his world travel stories. At times he demanded that they pay him to tell his tales, and the more he was paid, the taller were his tales.

It was a rainy September day, and Newman was in a crowded rum bar, with dozens of men around him. They had already listened intently to two of his stories, and they decided to put money in a hat for him to tell more. Because of the rain, no one was in any hurry to go anywhere, so he felt compelled to entertain them.

“I was a British soldier for two full years, and hadn’t been further than the base where I had done my training”, he stared off. “Of course my troop had been on field trips and ‘Exercise Exchanges’ all over England, but none lasted for more than a fortnight. I was always fascinated by the stories told by soldiers returning from abroad. I was on one of those Exchanges when I made acquaintance with a soldier who was deployed to Australia for a year. He told me about an area in the interior of the country to the Northeast where gold nuggets lay on the bottom of a river just waiting to be picked up. He showed me some nuggets that he brought back, and had already sold the biggest of the lot.

Well, I got the necessary information for a voluntary deployment to Australia, and I signed up behind two thousand soldiers who may or may not have heard about the gold nuggets. I was very surprised when within two months the order came in for me to join troops being dispatched to the country. On the very day I entered the base in Queensland, I discreetly enquired for any soldier with like intentions. It took about three weeks to find Rupert Spence. He was on his second tour of duty there. I told him that I had heard about the river of nuggets, and he replied that he too had heard about it only weeks before the end of his last tour, and volunteered to return only because of his intention to go there. I felt comfortable with him as I was two ranks below his sergeant status.

Two weeks later we were granted three days of leave off-base. Rupert had the Army’s Land Rover Jeep all fuelled up, and we left with a change of clothes each, some trinkets that he said were presents for the Aborigines we may encounter, and both of our service revolvers. We followed the map, and the first day we drove on winding paved roads. We had travelled more than three hundred miles that we figured by our map, we only had another hundred or so to get to the river of nuggets. That night we slept at a Bed-and-Breakfast operated by the last Caucasian Australian I would ever see for the next fifteen years.

At day break we set off, and within minutes came to the end of the paved road. We continued on in the same direction on a dry sunbaked clay road. That lasted for a few miles, and then we were driving through bumpy open fields with sparsely grown trees as well as shrubs and cactus. We had refueled at the last petrol station before the end of the paved road, plus we had two five gallon jugs filled, so we were not worried about the fuel to get there and back. It was my suggestion that we bought biscuits and some confectioneries to disperse to the natives, and Rupert agreed.

It was a very cloudy morning, and the sunrise glow was hidden, but we followed our compass and drove in a northerly direction. All was going fairly well until it started to rain, and the clay soil which allows slow drainage became slippery. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the rain water formed puddles, and we couldn’t tell which was deep, or which was shallow, and getting stuck was not an option.

We pondered whether to continue, or to turn around. ‘It can’t be far from here’, Rupert said.’ I can smell the gold. Let’s get to those hills on the East of us to bypass the puddles’. Well, it was one hill after another, and in our minds we sang the praises of the Land Rover Jeep four-wheel-drive. It went over tree stumps and boulders as if they were marbles in a child’s play pen. By midday we were on the top of a hill with a river in sight through our binoculars. We hoped it was the nugget river, but in the distance, and close to the river was a village. On the way the day before, Rupert told me some dreadful stories about a tribe of Aborigines who lived near the river, but nothing to worry about he said, because he spoke their language, and we had presents for them. Little did I know at that time that there were more than five hundred tribal languages in Australia.

As we drew close to the village, we saw a pathway through the shrubs, and we followed it. Unknown to us, we were headed straight into a trap. The villagers had set spikes in the ground that flattened all four of the tires of our Jeep at the same time. We dismounted the vehicle to inspect the damage. As I pondered what to do, I heard Rupert hollering, ’Run for your life’. I barely had time to grab my bag and my revolver. We ran toward the North away from a mob of villagers chasing us with spears and machetes. Rupert fired his revolver, while running, and was lucky enough to hit a pack of dogs that were fast gaining on us, but that did not deter the mob, they kept on chasing us.

We reached the river at a bend where it narrowed. Rupert was ahead of me, and he jumped in. The poor fellow didn’t stand a chance. Alligators came from everywhere and tore him to pieces in a matter of seconds. On seeing that, I turned around, saying to myself that it is better to face the mob than be killed by the alligators, but remembering the stories of torture that Rupert had told me, I made an abrupt turn, and headed up stream. I ran full speed and jumped and skipped on what I thought were two floating logs that turned out to be the backs of two large alligators.

About two hundred feet from the river’s edge, I stopped and stared at the mob standing on the other side. I was bewildered, being more than three hundred miles from base, with no vehicle, and no companion. My wrist-watch showed a quarter to two. I began to walk in a Southerly direction, and after an hour or so, thirst and exhaustion begun to set in. I felt glad that I had my bag with the trinkets, biscuits and confectioneries, and best of all; I had my revolver fully loaded, so I lay in an open field, and went to sleep.

One hour later, as I was on my back asleep, I felt the strap of my bag being removed from under my shoulder. I slowly opened my eyes and gazed at about ten male Aborigines standing over me with wooden spears, stone axes and two torches. I reached for my revolver, but immediately I noticed that they had no idea what that was. None of them had even moved a muscle. They made talking sounds at me, but I couldn’t understand anything they said, so I began to make signs with my hands. They asked me where I came from, and I made signs and told them that I came from the river. They shook their heads and told me with signs that no man can cross the river. I asked them why, and they showed me the signs of the alligators. They were not convinced that I had come by way of the river, and beckoned one to another that I had fallen from the sky.

They formed a tight circle and whispered among themselves, and then one by one they touched my face, and looked into my mouth the way a horse trader would look at a horse, and surprisingly they uttered one word that I understood. “The word god”.

As it turned out, those men were hunters from another tribe. They had a thing like a gurney, made with two six foot pieces of wood, about two and a half inch in diameter and held together by a large piece of animal skin. They put me on their contraption, and four of them carried the ends of the two staves on their shoulders. Their village was no less than five miles away, and they ran the entire distance.

On reaching the village, I was in for more surprises. The population was about fifty; men, women and children of different ages. They were as primitive as one could imagine. Each wore only loin cloth made from animal skins, and their tools were limited to what they made from stones, wood and animal bones. Their houses were small; only big enough for a hammock. I was placed in a sitting position on a crude wooden table in an open area among the houses, and each person came and touched me at different parts of my exposed skin, and then they formed a circle and shouted “God”,” God”, while they danced. This went on for about two hours. I desperately tried to tell them that I was not God, only a son of God. However, they refused to think otherwise, so I decided to play along with them.

I took out my revolver and fired one shot into a goat they had tied up on a nearby tree, killing the animal on the impact of the bullet. One by one they rushed to the goat in total disbelief, wondering what they had just experienced. They tried propping the goat in a standing position; however, the lifeless animal fell from their arms, as they gathered around with puzzled looks on their faces. Some of the men from the group, with their hand signs, asked me if they can eat the meat. I nodded my head to the affirmative. Within an hour I smelt the meat roasting on an open fire. I was salivating at the scent.

While the meat was being roasted, I took the opportunity to learn as much of their language in the shortest possible time. With the aid of my notebook and pencil, I drew common objects like tree, and the alligator, and so on, and asked them what they were. By the time the roast was ready my vocabulary of their language was probably fifty of the words I thought were most important to communicate with them.

They were as anxious to learn about me as I was about them. They thought that they were the only one of their kind in the entire world, and none of them knew how old they were. I asked about the children’s age, and they counted their fingers and toes and pointed to each one. It puzzled me that they pointed only to the babies, and then I realized that each digit they counted represented a new moon, one month, and after they counted fingers and toes a few times, they stopped counting. Two hands with a narrow gap represent a young person, and arms stretched from side to side represent an old person. They all knew who the eldest one was. They pointed him out to me, maybe because he might have outlived all his companions, or his shriveled skin, or his missing teeth.

My next surprises came not long after. Every one of the fifty who could chew and swallow had a piece of the roasted meat. I was not given any, and I thought to myself that maybe they were of the opinion that god does not eat. Night was falling fast, and I wondered if I was going to spend the night sitting on that crude wooden table. I could tell that so far, they trusted me to do them no harm, and I appreciated that. They were a loving set of people, but as far as what they expected of me going forward, was my puzzle. I had biscuits and nuts and honey in my bag, and I was hungry, but I wanted to be alone to eat, or as I imagined, it would all be gone the moment I took it out. They lit torches, and they sang and danced until I called one of the men and told him by hand sings that I wanted to sleep. He relayed the information to his people, and they dispersed to their tents.

Moments later the same man beckoned me to follow him, which I did. We stopped at a newly erected tent in the middle of their housing cluster. It was a simple construction of seven pieces of wood; each about eight feet long by three inch diameter. The shape was triangular, with three pieces of wood on each side and one piece at the apex; held together by vines. The long sides were covered with animal skins from top to bottom, and the short sides were open. Close to, and all around the base of the tent was a one foot wide and deep trench, filled with leafless tree branches.

The man pointed, and gingerly, I entered, and lit a match. In the dim light I saw a hammock hanging from the top of the tent. I felt glad that at least I would not have to sleep on the dirt floor. Just as I was about to climb into the hammock, I heard someone cleared their throat immediately behind me. I lit another match, and saw a naked woman smiling at me. I showed her out, and she reluctantly walked out, while trying her best to explain to me why she was there.

In the darkness of the night I watched her frame disappear between the cluster of tents, and again I attempted to climb into the hammock. I had only gotten one foot up when the woman was back, a man was with her. He explained to me with hand signs and whatever little of the language that I understood, that she was one of his mates, and that they both wanted me to have sex with her, so that they could have a god-child. I told him that I did not want to, but he insisted, and iterated that he was my friend. He pushed her inside my tent and left.

As I stood and wondered how to position my seven foot, two hundred and forty pound body to have sex with a woman in a hammock, she probably was reading my mind, because without hesitation, she loosened the hammock, and spread it on the floor. As soon as I obliged her, she hastily got up and walked away. Again I watched her frame disappear between the tents, and I stood in the opening with my revolver in hand, not knowing what to expect next. I did not have to wait long. Within minutes the man returned. He had both hands in the air, assuring me that he was unarmed. There was another woman with him. He hugged and kissed me, and beckoned for me to have sex with her also.

Considering, that by my count, there were about thirty-five women and young girls in the group; it would be an arduous task for me to impregnate them in a hurry, not to mention all the other implications, so I told him to call a meeting. I went and sat on the crude wooden table and, within minutes they and their torches were gathered around me. I explained to them that there were people just like them on the other side of the river who were savages and cannibals, but they have no god-babies, so if they have some god-babies, the savages would be afraid of them. They clapped and cheered. ‘But’, I said, ‘for you to have god-babies, I will need to have sex with the same woman for three moons to make sure she has baby god in her. And one more thing, I will choose the woman’.

They were satisfied with my explanation, and they all retired to their tents, and then finally, I had a chance to enjoy a can of beans, some biscuits and some honey. The next morning I was awakened by the crowing of roosters. I decided to go for a walk, only to find out that two of the men with their spears and stone axes had kept watch at my tent. I took my bag to make sure that no one could rummage through it while I was away, and with note book and pencil in hand to write my observations, I toured my new community. The two men followed closely behind.

The observations were many, first; their entire village was only the size of two adjoining soccer fields, and the clay earth was dry and cracked. It was fenced by a three feet wide by three feet deep trench filled with leafless tree branches that had prickles like porcupines. Between the trench and the living quarters was a bank of the clay soil, dug out of the trench, and on the other side of the trench were wooden spikes, the kind that flattened the tires on the Jeep. Secondly; the only vegetation in the village was cactuses, and mint bushes. All the vegetation was heavily mulched with pieces of cactuses. There was also a pen with chickens, and another with some female goats with young ones.

As the population rose from their slumber and moved about in the bright morning sunlight, I was able to see them on an individual basis, and noticed that all the men were about the same five foot five inch height, muscular, and about a hundred and fifty pounds. They all looked alike; dark complexion, broad nose, and straight black hair tied in one at the back of their heads. It was difficult, if not impossible to tell one from the other, except for their voices. Both, men and women wore the same type of animal skins as loin cloth. The women are discernible by their protruding uncovered breasts, and their hair style which was noticeably parted in two, and tied over their ears. All the children; boys and girls stayed naked.

The thing that amazed me the most was that there was no water supply. They had a container made from animal skins in which they stored some water, but it was only used for special occasions, such as child-birth, and for certain ceremonies. The only liquid in their diet was from the cactuses, and from the goats’ milk. The gel of the cactus was used for bathing, for hair shampoo, as beverage, and for anything that water would normally be used for, except cooking. All their foods were consumed either raw, or roasted.

After a meal of roasted eggs, goats’ milk and cactus gel, the hunters told me that they wished to have my company on their hunting trip. Again, they ate without offering any to me. We were heading in the direction which they found me the day before, and I suggested that we go the opposite way towards some hills that seemed to be in the clouds. They told me that the hills are evil, and that they only go there to leave their dead. I insisted that we go there and reminded them that I was god and would guard them. They told me that the wild animals in the hills ate their companions when they took their dead there. That was when I learned that the torches were their most formidable weapon against attacking animals.

We walked briskly through the dry shrubs. One man used a six foot stick to brush the path in front, and snakes slithered from us. It took just over two hours to travel the five mile distance, and we were facing the first hill. They pointed to me where they leave their dead, and we avoided that area. I had to cajole them to climb the hill, and promise each of them that their mates would be next in line to carry the god-baby.

All the animals we encountered on the hill scattered as we approached, except a tiger which I had to shoot in the head. They stopped long enough to remove most of the skin. At the top of the hill, the view ahead was the clouds lifting off the most beautiful meadowland that could be imagined, and as we descended towards it we found many edible fruits fallen from the trees grown there. I ate some of the fruits to show them that they could eat them too. That was the first time they saw me eat. They had no idea that such a place and those fruits exist. Prior to that day, all that they could see were the top of the hill and the clouds. The men gathered as much of the fruits as they could in their hunting bags. They also found a variety of eggs and young chicks of the kiwi, of ducks and other birds, but the most valuable thing that I insisted we collect were seeds.

When it was time to leave, they all refused to return the way we came, saying that it was bad omen. All my inducements meant nothing. Finally I relented, and started walking in a direction that would take us around the hill. Within a half an hour, we came upon a narrow river. At first they were very afraid, thinking that we would have to go across it, and that it too might be infested with alligators, but on close examination they were satisfied that there was no gators, and much to their delight they saw fish. They referred to the fish as baby alligators. I showed them how to spear a few, and how to descale and clean them. They wanted to eat them raw, but I told them to wait and roast them at the village.

As we were about to leave the river, a shaft of rain came down. It was so hard and fast that in a matter of minutes I who was the only one fully clothed, was soaking wet. It was then that I knew that those Aborigines were afraid of the rain. They explained to me that some of their elders had been struck by lightning during rainstorms.

Their lack of water lifestyle was a result of them being afraid of the rainfall, which only occur for one or two days in a whole year, and when it does, it moistens the clay, which sticks to their feet, and that disgusted them. The lightning that usually accompanies the rains had more than once claimed lives. Collecting water from the alligator infested river invariably was in exchange for a life or two. Their main source of water was mainly a catchment of dew, stored in a leather pouch.

The heavy rain had put out their torches, and they were worried about being attacked by wild animals. The sun was out and was as bright as it was before the rain. I retrieved a small mirror that I had among the trinkets in my bag, and with a leaf from my notebook, reflected a sun beam unto the paper until it blazed. They lit the torches, and chanted ‘god, god. It was night when we got back to the village, and was grateful that the old men we left had the intelligence to light a torch and hoist it on a pole to guide us. That same night they roasted the fish, and for the first time and ever since, their diet includes fish and fruits. I looked at my wrist-watch and noticed that the time was exactly nine o’clock, the time that I was due back at the base. I took the watch off my wrist, and was about to throw it away, but changed my mind and gave it to one of the villagers instead. I was god where I was, and had no need for time.

Over the next fifteen years, other than fathering a child every three months, I taught the villagers how to protect themselves from each other and from the invading tribes, how to hunt and fish, even from the alligator river, how to make bricks from the clay soil, and thereby build proper houses, how to live and trade with other tribes, I even taught them drama, and had them performing stage shows for other villages. Now my children can read and write, they wear proper clothing, and maybe best of all they knew that the world is much bigger than where they live”. “Wha mek yu lef”, asked one man. “What made you leave?”

“Well my first child, a girl was fourteen, and I was afraid of starting the cycle again. Besides I needed new clothes”, Newman replied. The rain subsided and one by one his listeners left.

There will be other days to tell other stories

 

About the Author
Laxleyval Sagasta is a freelance mixed genre writer from Jamaica. His books are on sale at leading booksellers; online and in stores. Like him on fb. Laxleyval Sagasta or Laxleyval LLC. Visit his page SAGASTABOOKS.COM. Join his book club and receive free books. Contact by Email [email protected]

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About the author

Laxleyval Sagasta