The New Sybaris
Hugh Turner’s meeting with the Prime Minister was short and cordial but the seriousness was clear. Hugh declined to identify his client; he said that his client would come forward at a date of his choosing. The PM wanted a clear message sent to the client. “I have received countless messages from a wide cross section of people opposed to this project.” He wanted Hugh to tell his client that his actions were provocative, would be unpopular with Barbadians and could be bad for the government. He wanted a halt brought to the purchase without disclosure that the government had requested such action. He thought this was the simplest of solutions.
“I’ll see what I can do, Mr. Prime Minister.”
“One more thing,” said the Prime Minister. “Remind him who it is that gives final planning approval for projects of this sort.”
“I will, Mr. Prime Minister. But I will tell you one thing about my client. He enjoys a battle, he is not averse to litigation and he can afford it.”
“That was three things, Hugh. But you can tell him one thing from me.” An index finger tapped loudly on his desk. “This is my island.”
Desmond Lola and Bassman
The crowd in front of the band grew. They applauded after each of the bass-man’s decorative flurries and cheered at the end of every piece. A young man standing right in front of the bandstand turned to the other onlookers and declared, “Him better than Shakespeare.” A few people looked at him with raised eyebrows and he said, “I mean Robbie, man, I mean Robbie.”
An Antiguan accent, belonging to a hugely pregnant lady, asked, “You tink he better than Family Man?” The question was answered with a long, “Chaah.”
A tall, frail, elderly man, wearing a well-preserved old double-breasted suit and smoking a cigarette from a holder, asked Desmond in a rich Jamaican accent if he had ever heard of Lloyd Brevett. Desmond shook his head.
“This bass-man remind me of Brevett. He is the best bass-man I hear since Lloyd Brevett,” said the old man
Desmond looked at the old man and said, “I never heard of Brevett but I hear Mingus, I hear Blanton, particularly Blanton. But tell me something, why isn’t this man famous?” The elderly Jamaican tapped his right temple with his forefinger and then slowly shook his head from side to side and his eyes clouded over. “Very sad, very sad,” he said.
He took her hand and guided her over the well-worn pathway down to the beach. They picked their way through driftwood, washed-up bits
of coral and picnic refuse. Once on clear sand she removed her sandals as they searched for their spot where a seagrape tree used to be. It is what she wanted to do. She had said, “No, don’t pick me up at my uncle’s house; I want to meet you in Bathsheba and I want to take the bus just like I did before. The church excursion to Bathsheba the day before I left was the last time we saw each other.”
They found their place on the sand, stood there looking at each other. He smiled, she giggled. They looked out over the ocean. She had chosen a perfect Bathsheba day. A light breeze coming off the Atlantic took the edge off a big yellow sun staring out of a clear blue sky. White caps bounced and rolled toward them with a gentle roar, splashing and lapping the seashore. She put an arm around his waist and he put an arm around her shoulder.
“Why didn’t you come to the airport?” she asked.
Bert hesitated, thinking how immature he had been. “I couldn’t bear to watch you go. I thought you would be gone forever, that I was losing you to America.”
He didn’t mind sitting on the sand in his working pants but she couldn’t be persuaded. “You should really have brought a towel,” she said.
They left their place on the sand and walked hand in hand, along the beach at first, and then she slipped on her sandals as they moved onto the old train track in the direction of Cattlewash. “Someone just waved at us,” she said. He turned but the car had already sped by.
“Did you get the number?” he asked.
She threw her head back, laughed and said, “I am back in Barbados for sure.”
Oscar was twelve years old when his mother told him, “You big enough to help me with these breadfruits now.” She packed a basket of breadfruits for him and put it on his head. She first put a pad, made of a piece of crocus bag twisted into a circle, on his head to absorb some of the pressure, but his head shook unsteadily with the weight and his neck hurt. He protested but his mother, taking his complaints as unwillingness, shut him up. “You is a big boy now.”
On the way to Cattlewash, a nearby upscale area of beach houses for Bridgetown businessman and old plantocrats, Oscar lagged behind his fast-walking mother, who would occasionally turn and shout, “Come along, boy.” But when she wasn’t looking, Oscar reached into the basket, grabbed a stem and tossed a breadfruit into the bush at the side of the road. He repeated this as often as he could. Only half the number of breadfruits he started out with in his basket made it to Cattlewash that day. When she discovered his trickery, Clotilda picked up a piece of drift wood and started to beat him. He ran away, only to get the rest of his licks when he sneaked into the house that night.
The sale of breadfruits eventually became Oscar’s principal source of income and Bathsheba was the perfect location for this line of work. Breadfruits were bountiful in Bathsheba, more so than anywhere else in Barbados.
The Train Hopper
As I was telling you, I ain’t had nothing to do, so I left home to go down to the sea to see if any of my friends was down there. When I reach by the train station there was people waiting for the train, not just passengers. There was always people waiting for the train, old people, young people, people waiting for people, people waiting for things off the train, people just waiting to see people and people waiting to see the train. There was ladies in their long skirts right down to their ankles, all the men was wearing hats and most people was barefoot. I telling you these things because you young people don’t know bout life back eighty, ninety years ago.
I stand up near to some men by the train track. Some other men was sitting on the rails. Then I see Baldwin walk up and I know the train coming soon because Baldwin like he could feel the train coming.
“You going town today, Baldwin?” a old man ask.
“That is a question, man?” replied Baldwin, and he turn to me and say, “Why you don’t come with me today, young fellow?”