My mother would drag me along with her to the country since I was the “wash-belly” (youngest sibling) and to gain the exposure needed with country life. It was always an exciting time to visit country areas for the site seeing just as long as I returned home before dark. So we took a bus to Kingston to board an old jolly bus aka country bus to journey to country. The seats were cushioned with a thick sponge wrapped under blue leather. The black smoke that trailed behind on our way to Portland reminded the community that a jolly bus had just left town. The produce was loaded up on the top of each bus and rope tied. Market baskets, women shouting good-byes to their selling partners, the voom-voom sound of the bus taking its flight down the road and over the flat bridge, were reminders that I was on my way to the countryside.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by Mass Bruce and his wife Miss Evelyn with a tall glass of iced water. Around the back, they already began the preparation for the goat head soup as I could smell the ingredients all the way from the front verandah. Yes, there was a back verandah and a front verandah. As a child I wondered why only for Miss Evelyn to tell me, “mi love siddung back a de back verandah you know, and see mi mada and mi fada grave.”
Eyes wide open and a big glump of spit swallowed, I caught –a-fear. Suddenly, Manish water –goat head soup- and country did not seem so appealing. I gazed side eyed at the swaying mango tree with its ripened mangoes hanging over the graves. I could not believe I was going to sleep over night in the same yard surrounded by 2 dead bodies. I quickly wished my time in the country would end.
So Mass Bruce and Miss Evelyn showed my mother and me where we were going to sleep. As luck would have it, it was the back room that not only overlooked the back verandah, but was within 15 feet of the graves under the mango trees. Suddenly, my toes became red from the red concrete floor underneath my sweaty feet, and the full sized bed under the double windows seems tiny. Lawd how I wish this terrible visit would end. I wanted to excuse myself from such nightmare so I asked Miss Evelyn to show me where the bathroom was.
First of all, it was already near sundown when we arrived at country and by the time we drank the soup and bleech off couple gas bubbles, it was way dark. How come Mom never informed me that there were not much street lights lining the dirt but rocky hill we took, about 3 miles down, and surely, no light but the little peenie wallies and God’s gracious moon shun our way. Secondly, Miss Evelyn had the audacity to take me to what resembled a small matches box room lined in the four corners of the earth with zinc, and ladies and gentlemen, to pee in a pit toilet. Thirdly, the pit toilet bathroom as Miss Evelyn called it was located under the swaying mango trees BESIDE DE GRAVES! I wanted to just curl up and pass out. Miss Evelyn sensing my fears said she would stand up while I went in to handle business. She held the lantern in the door way of the zinc door while I tried my blue best to resolve my bladder issues all the while thinking of the rolling calves that would come out to box over the toilet, and bury mi alive beside Miss Evelyn parents. At this point, I could not excuse myself. I guess out of fear, my body held back. I came out of the bathroom 30 seconds early and Miss Evelyn said to me, “Chile, you dung already? Mek sure yu lock dung de toilet seat so that de animals dem no crawl in a night and dead.”
But who Miss Evelyn thought was going to turn back into that dark hole fi lock dung seat weh mi can drop dung inna? Yu mussi mad, afta mi no waan no duppy come lick mi dung. I pretended I was not afraid and scurred back to the house as quickly as possible walking doubling time ahead of old lady Miss Evelyn. “Is fraid yu fraid?” She asked.
“No Mam.” But I had already reached at the front door.
Sweat filled my arms and then I started to illucinate. I thought I saw duppy walking inside the house you know. Shadows of clothes hung behind the room door like a man in full black with no head kept staring at me as I tried to sleep at night. Huddled up beside my mother and in the corner to the wall, it was my safety net. Yet, I kept thinking that Miss Evelyn’s grandparents would come haunt me at the window. Then it happened, I wanted to pee again. Miss Evelyn made sure she moved the chimmy to her bedroom. So now I was subjected to walking outside TO THE PIT TOILET, to release. What a wicked situation?!
I devised a plan of action to quickly take off, do my thing, and run come back. But gazing at the hanging mangoes over the grave, accompanied by the leaves, it looked like an army of duppies out there waiting for me to just come down. I started to do the little dance and wiggly trying to hold it all in thinking I could last another 4 hours till dawn. But I couldn’t. I made a dash for it with the lantern, ran in, did my thing, and right before I could fully embark from the toilet area, I heard a “whoooo whooo sound.”
“Woiiiii woiiiiiii!!!!!!” I screamed, dropping the lantern and scantering off to the house. “DUPPY DUPPY!!!” I continued. I cried living eye water when I reached in. Mother and Miss Evelyn came out in their nightgowns wondering what the commotion was about. I ran into mom’s loving and protective arms explaining how I heard the sound and thought the duppy or the rolling calf was coming to get me.
By this time, mass Bruce was up and laughing away with Miss Evelyn; my mom tried to hide her laughter.
“Chile, no such thing as rolling calf and duppy yu hear. Is Ole Farmer Ray pattoo (owl) you hear sitting up every night in dem mango trees. Gwaan back to bed chile, yu no see duppy know who fi frighten.” The laughter ensued.
I was overly grateful when morning arrived to see broad day light and to know that today we would be headed back home to town back where toilets were inside and grave yards were hosted at May Pen cemetery. Mom thanked Mass Bruce and Miss Evelyn for the stay and handed me the most delicious mangoes I have ever had. It sweet so till I kissed the mango seed when done.
“Is off dem same trees by the graves these come from eh no?”
And suddenly the mango tasted like bitter gall.