Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Caribbean Short Story: Mother To Son (of Comrades and Thieves)

              Caribbean Short Story: Mother To Son (Comrades and Thieves)
                                    copyright 2015 K. Omodele
The evening before he was to march in the Cooperative Republic's Youth Mass Games, a mother ironed her son's newer, khaki school pants as the boy buttered his supper bread. They lived in a 'big yard' with three other board houses, each divided into apartments. While the sun ducked below the tropical skyline of zinc* roofs, coconut and mango trees, the mother lowered her voice and told her ten-year-old son:
"This whole Mass Games business is some play-play, Mao Zedong - Red Brigade type a thing." She squared her eyes sternly on the ironing board; shook her head. "Only thing, our youth have black and brown faces and West Indian lingo.**"
Giving his lemongrass tea time to cool, the boy gobbled a mouthful of butter bread, half-listening to his mother. His shoulders ached and his wrists were a 'lil bit sore from lashing sixes and hooking fours during recess earlier that day.
"Oh, an' the Prime Minister, Comrade Leader, preachin' socialism an' robbin' the country blind, same time." She ironed with smooth but forceful strokes like Clive Lloyd defending the wicket.

Wrapping her words with hushed tones, she reminded him. "You see how they lock up yuh Uncle and your Auntie?" Knotted her speech with short strings of grumbling. "And for what? Eh? Talkin' his mind and tellin' de truth?"
Life in the yard was like mackerel in a tin; always bent her up whenever neighbors got loud and made their quarrels everybody-in-the-yard's business. She'd shrill out in her little, fine voice. "Man, why yuh big an' brawlin' so? You don't have no broughtupcy*** or what?"
But this evening her whispering didn't wear no gown of decency, no; it was fashioned in the fact that subversive talk might drift through spaces between shanty wall-boards and be carried off as conspiracies, way-far beyond the tenement yard.
Her son sipped his tea and she held her breath- it might burn him. When it didn't, she carried on.
"I have a good mind keep you home tomorrow, yuh hear? No Mass Games. No marchin'. No nothin'"

He sipped the tea. It wanted more sugar but she had done stirred in two spoons already- she might flip. He stole a glance. She wasn't looking, just set the iron upright.
"But if you don't march, they goin' kick you out the school? They wouldn't do that, would they? Before you take Common Entrance?"**** She turned her back and draped his school pants neatly over the wobbly-legged Berbice chair.
Quicker than a wharf-rat, he snuck another heaping spoonful from the sugar tin, dumped and swirled.

She threaded a needle. Knotted the thread and took up is clothes-line dried school shirt. "People at the plant done sayin' how the Opposition too damn ungrateful." She placed a new-bought school crest over the shirt pocket, where she'd removed the worn-out one, and began stitching. "'Bout how, if it wasn't for Comrade Leader we might still be using Pound an' Shilling. And how if the government lock up all a we Alliance backside up, it would a serve we Rodney-rass right."
She bored and pulled as she spoke- face tense. Gored and pulled.
"You finish?" She asked, getting up. She came over to her son calmly.
He nodded. Pushed back his chair, plate empty.
She shot him a stinging box***** across his shoulder. "Think I didn't see you thief more sugar behind me back?"

*corrugated tin sheets
** Caribbean dialect
*** good behavior; wasn't brought up (raised) with good ways
**** a placement exam to leave primary school and enter high school; taken by students throughout the former British West Indies

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