Living in a Tenement Yard -Part 4

Obeah deh bout.

As crowing roosters seemingly take turns to welcome the new day, a mild morning breeze sway the crotons and hibiscus flowers in Thelma’s garden. The sounds and motions of the branches cause some feeding pigeons, hens and guinea-chicks to scatter. In an instance, they were back, filling their craws, pecking rice grains and coconut trash off the earth’s crust.

Birds of different species are chirping from the mango and ackee trees in the yard. Gallow wasps, bees, needle-cases and butterflies are swirling about under the rising sun, buzzing, feeding, pollinating. In the distance, cows are mooing amid the constant braying of a jackass as next-door neighbor cackling fowls add to the commotion. It is indeed a ‘pleasant Jamaican mawnin.’

Its 9: am and Biggs ‘boom box’ is already playing at full blast. The lyrics of Buju Banton ride the rhythm. ‘Things change now y’u see seh life hard, why y’u never send y’u money come a yard?… Y’u wretch y’u!…Y’u spen the whole a it abroad, squander y’u money now y’u living like dog.’

Thelma sings along, intermittingly bursting into laughter as she sweeps the dust onto the wooden rickety rackety steps of her verandah. She and Biggs don’t get along, ‘dem noh tek tea’ and so the song is ever so fitting.

Penniless and clothes-less, Biggs was deported from England and without shame, shares a single room with his aging, ailing grandmother. The poor old woman never ‘hear gun fire bout him all those donkey years he was abroad.’ Moreover, according to Thelma, never did he once even sent an empty postcard yet now ‘ha cum tek up residency.’ (She can’t stand him). “Worthless ole fart,” she would often utter beneath her breath.

By 10:30, under the cool shade of the loaded black-mango tree some tenants congregate. They are about to start a bingo game. This is almost an everyday thing, except for Sundays when ‘pus, dog, rat and even peel head drank-crow and all’ goes to church.

Tessa, a teenage mother is among the assembly. Seated on a rusty old paint pan, she breast-feeds her infant; rumor has it she doesn’t know who the baby father is, nonetheless, the child bears a striking resemblance to Biggs.

By midday, the air is breathtaking. The atmosphere is ripe with the aroma of roast breadfruit and red herring. “Ha mus Miss Hilda cooking dat-deh,” Thelma soliloquized as she inhales the scent and hangs the wash clothes on the line.

She is hurrying to complete her chores with the intent of taking Biggs’ granny some lunch. She is bosom friend with Miss Tatty from ‘whackle and daub a build house’ and has always extended her cares; lunch and dinner is by far no exception.

The ‘Drapan man‘ will be coming soon. Lately Thelma has been lucky, catching the winning number two days in a row. She is on a roll. Sure enough, the other tenants are going to want to know what number she is going to buy, but knowing Thelma, she is not going to tell them….hell, no! ‘She noh really inna dem.’

Often times, Thelma keeps to herself. She doesn’t want her name get mix up into no ‘seh seh’ or ‘man’ thing. Miss Tatty is her only friend and companion.

Chance, her ‘one pickney’ had already left for prep school. His father ‘deh ha Merica’ on farm-work. He is schedule to return four month’s time. Like one happy little family, they live together, saving every ‘hay penny.’ They are working towards a better life, dreaming of a brighter future, desirous to ‘step up inna life,’ move out, lease a piece of land and erect a two-bedroom structure.

Pinning the last piece of clothing on the line, Thelma then empties the rinse water in the yard to help keep the dust down. The wash-pan is place on the stone heap next to the enamel ‘chimmy’ and then she makes her way to the apartment back door. There, she notice a powdery white substance sprinkled all over the bottom step.

“But see yah Lard! A wa-ra dis?”She rhetorically asked with deep suspicions. “Dem noh waan see people praspah?” she continued, “Ha so ole naiga tan…ole dutty iniquity workas them.”

Her outburst drew the attention of the bingo players. “Haw waah?” a concerned Biggs inquired in his ‘speaky spokey’ British Jamaican accent. He walked over to Thelma with sparkling agility.

Everyone pauses to know what the matter is, but at the same time, are equally amused and fascinated by Biggs linguistic skills. His tone of voice is ever so luring and caress with tenderness. His tongue, lace with fluency and sentences decorated with eloquence. He can be a real charmer (Yea! like the fox and the crow) and they all just love to hear and see him in action.

Daulin Thlema, what may I ask irritates you shugah plum?”

After mi never see this roune yah yestideh!” remarked Thelma, “Eh Biggs?”

Watch y’u foot, mine y’u tep in deh,” she cautioned.

No Ma Dear, cant say I ever did. You are much worried about it I can clearly tell and rightfully so, but rest assured, perhaps its nothing of consequence. My love, while it has attracted my curiosity, I am reasonable sure that there is a logical explanation beyond your thinking.”

“Mi noh hab noh time fe y’u sweet talk, dis yah a serious sinting Biggs! Mi deh yah mi naw fus nar fass wid noh baddy, so mi noh know why the hell dem fe cum a try bring mi dung.”

No sooner, the entire gamblers came to see for themselves, there were droplets of blood on the ground in front Thelma’s back door with white powdery substance sprinkled all over. “Ha bad mine them bad mine an’ grudge-full” suggested Icilda, and with that everyone started to utter their condemnation and advice.

Cut three green lime and squeeze it in na a pan a blue water, read out the 27th psalm and wash weh y’u door way” informed Hyacinth… “Then buy a flask a rum and sprinkle it in front you door,” said she,“Dat wi cut weh the ole crass-sis.”

That statement caused an old man to chuckle as his shiny eyes beamed with delight. “It better you gie me the blasted drink a rum yah ma, cause unnu a chat foolishnis. Y’u noh see it look lakka a two dog did a fight over a plastic bag wid flour in deh han one get injured. Unnu young generation noh hab a crap a sense.”

Despite what sounded like a good explanation ,Thelma, nonetheless, was not so sure and for safety over regret, she conceded and followed Hyacinth’s advice.

About the author

Kharl Daley