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On a slightly swaying branch at the top of the guinep tree overshadowing the house perch a cooing ground-dove. Its long low pitch melancholy chirpings is much to Tamazinena’s dismay. She thinks it’s a bad omen. No one dare even attempt to convince Granny of her superstition. She believes the bird is a messenger warning of an impendent death; perceivable hers, should death be associated with age, but then again, who can be so sure it isn’t?

Granny is preparing breakfast. The kitchen is few steps away from the house. It is made of slab boards with old rusty zincs for its roofing. Several concrete blocks and pieces of thick heavy lumber keep those zincs anchored. The fixtures inside are neatly arranged, there are shelves, two large barrels filled with drinking water, a bench and a table, a two burner kerosene oil stove and a small coal oven. Nails drilled in the walls serve as hangers for strainers, frying pans and a cutter. Below the outer beams of the roof are three small wasp-nests and about half a dozen spider-webs.

The ground-dove was still cooing, “Cook coo –cook-coo.” In retaliation and with a saucy fiery tongue Granny yells back from the kitchen window, “Salt and pepper to you mumma, pepper and salt to you daddy!” Seemingly taunting her, the ground-dove kept on and so did Granny in her onslaught of verbal rage. God alone only knows which one is going to stop first.

It’s about 10 am and there I sat, nestled on an old paint pan, polishing and shining my shoes for the afternoon school shift at Horizon Park All Age. The smell of fry dumplings, plantain and cook-up tin mackerel escaping the kitchen mingled with the morning’s fresh air. The aroma stirred and wet my appetite and causes my belly to growl as I anxiously awaited the call, moments later it would come.

“Pic-a-ninny, hurry up and come have you breakfast.” In a jiffy I was up heading straight into the kitchen but just as quickly had to beat a hasty retreat. Without uttering a word, Granny gave me a mean stare-down, slowly her eyes wondered off on the broom stick. I knew in an instant what was to come and with lightening speed I left for the pipe and avoided the chastisement of my would be improper hygiene.

By the time I was about to finish my breakfast Granny was at the pipe-side scurrying the dutch-pot. I couldn’t resist the temptation of not committing the forbidden. Sneeringly, I swiped my tongue across the plate several times, licking clean the residues of tomato sauce and coconut oil then gently sliding it into the basin full to the brim with suds. It made no mess of the table. Next, I was on my way to relieve myself.

The latrine is several meters to the back of the kitchen. It too is made of slab boards with concrete flooring and a latch door. Unlike the kitchen it is topless, exposing users to the elements of nature and at times putrefying the atmosphere. As with all other things Granny had a remedy and she would pour ashes or white-lime to stifle the stench, evicting cockroaches in the process. Between the creases are always pages of newspaper, they aren’t left there only for reading.

Around the base of the latrine are a number of neatly sieve funnel shape holes. Little crawling creatures called nanny-goats lives within. It was always fun to blow them out of their dwellings and have them creeping in the palm of my hands… oh how what tickling sensation they’d give.

On my departure I ripped a splinter of wood from the wall about as slender as a match stick. Stripping it clean with my fingernails I then thrust it into my mouth, flossing remnants of my breakfast from betwixt my teeth.

Granny had already left the pipe. It was almost 11 o’clock and time to bathe for school. Classes started at 12:30 but I’m suppose to be there for devotion at noon, standing with fellow students in front the Nation’s Flag singing the National Anthem and reciting the School’s Pledge.

Picking up the wash-pan from the stone-heap I then place it under the pipe. The water was running so slow that I had to inform Granny of it. “Granny, the water look like it going to lock off.” “Yes Garnet, every day is that happen, yet water-bill still coming as if we have cane-piece watering.”

I lifted the wash-pan and make my way to the zinc enclosed bathroom, spilling small portions to the ground with every step taken. Fully undress, I realize there is no soap. Peeping through the off shut door and seeing no one insight I make a mad dash for the bar of carbolic soap on the stone heap. Like a pendulum my “pride and joy” swung in front of me as my wind-speed creates a chilly breeze between my legs.

Suddenly Granny alighted from the house and saw me in full view. She had just finished pressing my khaki uniform. An astonish Granny stood still as the coal iron fell from her grip. Embarrassed and frightened I spurted off. I could hear her hollering, “Kiss mi neck back! Is what that you have boy? Any body see mi dying trial, Garnet ton man pon me.”

About the author

Kharl Daley