A single mother lived in Kingston with three pre-teen children. A boy named Cole twelve, and two girls, one ten and the other eight years old. She became single when her husband of fourteen years left for America on a farm work contract. For the first two months of his absence he sent her money by Western Union. He did not write or telephoned, and she had no way of contacting him.
The money he sent was barely enough to pay the rent and buy the necessary things for the family, so at the end of those two months the mother had to seek assistance from relatives and friends. She managed to get a part-time job as a domestic helper, but the wages was far from being enough, so she moved into a smaller place in order to pay less rent. This new place was not convenient for the three children and herself, so she arranged to send the boy to live with grandparents out in the countryside.
The grandparents themselves were poor and could not afford to send the boy to school. Although the boy was very big and tall for his age, he was not used to hard work and none of the farmers in the area would hire him even part-time. He made friends with some street boys, some of whom were run-aways. They all had the grunge look, because they had no one to care for them, and their tattered clothes were all that they could afford. They earned money mainly on market days when they helped the women to carry their baskets from the market to the bus station. Whatever money Cole earned, he would take a part of it to his grandparents, and they were always thankful. At the Christmas season, his mother sent him new clothes and shoes which he sometimes sold and secretly sent the money to his young sisters.
Because of his Kingston accent and his size and height, he unwittingly became the leader of the boys that he hung out with. They were a gang, but they did not do bad things other than being truant. They helped people on the streets whenever their assistance was needed and they never asked for payment.
After a couple years, Cole and his buddies managed to save enough money to have a fleet of custom push-carts made. The carts were rigged to look like sleighs. The boys formed teams and operated the carts to do short-distance transportation of everything that could fit in them and needed to be moved within the town. They made most of their money on rainy days when the streets were flooded and people needed to go from block to block without getting their shoes wet. These passengers were completely satisfied to pay them less than what the taxi-cabs would have charged. It was a blessing in disguise!
As time went on, people loved the Grunge Boys, as they were called. Their biggest fans were the teenage school girls who were often the recipients of lavish presents from them. But the Grunge Boys also spent money on themselves. On Sunday evenings and on holidays they could hardly be recognized as they were all dressed in the latest fashions and looked as sharp, if not sharper, than the so-called privileged boys around town.
A full three years after Cole went to live with his grandparents he turned fifteen, but he looked every bit eighteen or nineteen. He received a letter from his mother stating that; ‘I will be paying your fare on the country-bus for you to come and visit me and your sisters for the Christmas season. We do not want for you to grow out of sight and become unrecognizable to us’.
He replied in a return letter:
“I will pay the fares for all three of you to come and spend the Christmas season with my grandparents and myself. I would here emphasize that it had been many years since you had seen my grandparents, and you certainly would not want for them to die and not to see you and especially the girls. Mom, I am the lead-man on my job, and it’s our busiest time of year. It would be extremely difficult for me to leave at this time”.
Enclosed in the letter was a postal money order that was more than enough for the round trip for all three. The mother felt guilty and compelled. She had for three years wanted to go and visit, but especially since her husband left, she could not afford the fare for herself and the two girls, and she could not trust leaving them alone, so her thoughts were that it would have cost less for Cole to visit.
She read the letter several times and wondered what kind of work her fifteen year old boy could be employed in. She assumed that whatever of a job it was, it had to be part-time, because he had to be in school, but, what kind of work could he do to pay him so much? She had never had a report that Cole was not in school, and she remembered that her parents were very strict with her when she was growing up and going to school, so she didn’t expect anything to change.
Two days before Christmas and Cole had no assurance that his mother and sisters would visit. The buses were full of people coming into town from the cities for the holidays. All day and into the night Cole took jobs that kept him near to the bus station, so that he could see the arriving passengers, but his mother and sisters never came.
The next morning, Christmas Eve, he told his grandparents that he would be hanging out with his friends that night, and not to expect him. That day, business was very good. Cole had taken his mind off seeing his relatives, so whatever job came along, far or near, he was on it.
At about two in the afternoon one of his buddies tracked him down.
“Come now bwoy,” his friend said. “Is yu mama an sistas. Dey jus de way yu desdcribe dem.Wei all refuse fe tek dem bag. Wei tell dem dat a special transpout coming fe dem.”
“Come boy, its’ your mama and your sisters. They are just the way you described them to us. We all refused to take their bags. We told them that a special transport is coming for them.”
Cole raced to the bus station. His sisters were well aware of his occupation. Whenever he sent them money he made sure to remind them not to tell their mother anything. As he rushed to where they were standing, the girls had their backs turned and did not see him. Hurriedly, he started to put the bags on his cart.
“Young man!” his mother said, not recognizing him. “Don’t you touch those bags. I have a special transport coming for us.”
Just then the girls turned around and saw Cole. They rushed and hugged him.
“Cole! Is that you?” asked his mother. “And why are you dressed like that in those, those grungie clothes. Are you not afraid the police might mistake you for a criminal and shoot you? What happen to all the nice clothes I sent you?”
“But mom,” answered Cole. “First of all, if I am dressed up, I would be broke. Secondly, if I am dressed up the criminals may mistake me to be a police and shoot me.”
Note: damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
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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