Facing North – Tales from Bathsheba

“If you keep facing north, you’ll never see the sun rise.” These are the words of the character, Three Schools, in the story Facing North. It is the story that gives the collection its name, Facing North – Tales from Bathsheba. It is Three Schools’ way of saying that you won’t find the right answer, if you are not looking in the right place. This applies to many of the characters in the book of short stories by Barbadian author Edison T. Williams. The ten intriguing stories span almost a century of Barbadian life starting in the 1930s. The stories are told with humour and the insight of someone who understands the nuances of this small Caribbean society. These stories are about the drama of life in a small community. They also deal with the way in which villagers’ lives can from time to time be impacted by its transient residents. But the Bathsheba in these stories is more than a small seaside village; it is a microcosm of Barbados.

Witness

Extract from a story published by the London School of Liberal Arts.

 

Red replaced amber and the queue of traffic crept to a stop. Gloria looked around at the bustle outside her car. People streamed over the bridge in both directions past vendors, some still organising their displays. Below, pedestrians going to and from the van stand seemed to match the casual tempo of the rippling Constitution River. Papers on the seat to Gloria’s left caught her attention and blotted out the soft melody coming from the radio. She picked up the papers and started reading from where she had stopped when the last traffic light changed to green.

A scream pierced her air-conditioned bubble. Her head jerked upward. A middle-aged woman struggled with a young man, her hands gripped around his closed fist. Gloria rolled down the window. “Hey! You!” she yelled.

The young man swung his free hand and propelled the woman to the ground. She let go of his fist from which a glint of gold dangled in the morning sunlight. He took off down the ramp leading to the pathway next to the river and ran toward the van stand, heels of running shoes with flying laces almost striking red underpants. Heads turned, eyes followed the fleeing figure, but feet kept walking. One older man chased but couldn’t keep pace. The woman remained on the ground. The light turned to green. A horn honked.

Gloria felt her pressure rise as she hit the accelerator. She tossed the papers onto the passenger seat and glanced at her rear-view mirror. A man put out a helping hand to the woman, others skirted her. People streamed over the bridge in both directions as if the rhythm of the Bridgetown morning had not been disturbed.