Thursday, March 31, 2016
Caribbean Short Story: Jumbie Come To School
Yolan Mo Jumbie Come To School ( A #Caribbean Story)
copyright K. Omodele 2016
Twilight had just done finished stretching and yawning over Watooka Day Primary, the morning Yolan Mo jumbie* did rise up from where so ever she had lain and fly sheself high-high over the school compound, a dozen or so minutes before the bell was to ring. For weeks now, people all about town had been talking.
"Is such a tragic thing, how a little, young girl like dat dead so before she time."
"It mek you wonder if is obeah** somebody obeah de family."
Some people even claimed they saw her jumbie at night- walking up the New Road by the bauxite plant; under the calabash tree in the old Cummings' haunted-house backyard; sitting still in darkness down by the market in front Crescent Cinema; even over the river wandering 'bout The Valley of Tears in Wismar- always at night time. But this morning the schoolyard was so busy screeching like flocks of parakeets, nobody ain't even notice Yolan Mo jumbie fluttering overhead, discombobulated in the young-morning sunlight.
Nearly everybody was buzzing-hyped over the upcoming school track and field games*** - boys dashing sprints, some of them trotting long-distance runs 'round the compound, way back behind Grades One and Two, come up back under the mango tree around KG (kindergarten) and then back up to the main gate. Although some of the girls were Chinese skipping and some handled netball, many of them trained, running races among themselves just like the boys.
And even though from up above the jumbie could detect their constant movements and patter-pattering of Bata**** canvasses and rubber soles slapping the pavement, none of the children saw Yolan Mo float over the second tier banister, sail sheself down the said tier over book bags and lunch boxes that had been lined up behind each other to hold spots in line, then dart right through Grade Six's open door, circle the classroom twice, then promptly settle her weary bones plumb 'pon top her old desk.
"The Hundred" was a concrete stretch from the school's rusty front gate, darting straight past tropical-pastel-pink Grade Three, then brakesing up under rickety Grade Four. The children raced in waves of six or seven and as one race 'crossed the finish line, the next set of runners lined up at the starting mark by the gate.
As they dropped on their knees to their marks, Rabbit said to Magga Gavin. "You really think I gon let no fine-foot boy like you win me?"
Magga Gavin played like he didn't hear, but down on his next side Milo stuck up for him.
"Ey Rabbit, your buck teeth riding out yuh mouth like Jolen Joseph***** racing cycle." Milo rounded his shoulders and shifted his body like he was pedaling hard. "Go Jolen, Go! Go Jolen, Go!"
The boys and girls gathered at the starting line joined in. "Go Jolen, Go!" And then broke out in bare laughs.
Even Rabbit start grinning; but, his eyes searched Milo and Gavin furtively, then squinting he shot back.
"And you, big head Milo, forehead so big is a five-head, six-head." From his one-knee mark, he pointed at the two boys. "Must be some drunken obeah man****** work obeah 'pon two a you. He fuck up and give your head elephantitis and shrink your foot."
The children burst out again, getting giddy now, with more laughs.
On the line, Pickie got back down to business. "Make we run if we running, nuh man. B-House gon win everything this year. B-House is Boss House."
"Boss House, wha'? Win everything like wha'?" Milo wrenched up his face. "Pickie boy, you is eleven years old with a mouthstash like a big man. You shouldn even be running against young cock like we, you old fowl, yuh. How much time you flunk Grade Five? A-House is All-Star House."
Rabbit rolled his eyes. "A-House is one big antiman House. And B-House is bu'n house-it burn down like Yolan Mo house."
Soon as he said her name, everybody got dread and serious. Vexed faces screwed up like it was Rabbit self who nailed Christ up to the Cross. Shocked, eyes grew wide; frightened, eyes fell to the ground.
Pickie jooked his finger in Rabbit's face.
"Mind how you putting yuh mouth 'pon the dead, Fool!"
At that moment, Mr. Otto plodded out Grade Five door like some big, box-head bull cow with the school bell in hand. Lifted it and pounded like a hammer.
Like marabuntas******* to nests, the children found their spots in lines outside their classes, boys quickly tucking shirts in pants, girls hurriedly smoothing down their uniform skirts. They hoisted book bags and lunch boxes then got in wild-cane******** strict lines- no talking, no fidgeting, no nonsense, waiting for class Prefects or teachers to usher them into class.
Grades Four, Five and Six were on the second floor of the main building, so these students climbed the stairs to get to class. Pickie was third-to-last in the Grade Six line as his classmates filed through the door behind Miss, who flicked the light switch on as they all streamed in. By the time Pickie entered, everybody had stopped dead in their tracks beside Miss' desk at the head of the class. Even Miss froze, her eyes wide behind cat-eyed spectacles, jaw unlocked, flashing gold fillings.
Pickie scanned the room, then saw it for himself. Right there on top of Yolan Mo's desk, where none of his classmates ever sat. At that point somebody said:
"Is Yolan Mo come back!"
Then came a scream, chased by more screams. The jumbie sheself squealed then flapped and zipped up to the ceiling, flying 'round and 'round.
One of the girls, Pickie thought it might be Nikki, seemed like she was running scared in place before she found traction and shot top-speed out the door. By then half the class was hauling tail down the tier towards the stairs, screaming and bawling, frightened and 'fraid. Pickie was stuck running behind slow pokes, so he just climbed over the railing and jumped. Landed, rolled, then sprang up with a sharp pain shooting in his left ankle. He limped to the back gate ahead of the others.
Mr. Otto had heard the big commotion from over in his Grade Five class and rolled over to Grade Six. The flying object nearly bucked into him, so he grabbed a broom and swatted the air, until finally, it found the doorway and flapped her wings into the morning sky.
He half- laughed, shouting. "Is only a bat!"
Pickie watched from outside the back school gate, wondering why in the world Yolan Mo jumbie woulda want come in form of a bat.
* also jumby. Duppy. Ghost; spirit
**obeah is the name for vodou in the English-speaking West Indies
***Intramural games. Students are divided into Houses that compete against each other
****A brand of cheap/affordable athletic and dress shoes
*****a national racing cyclist
******vodou man; a so-called witch doctor <-- don="" i="" like="" p="" t="" term="" this="">
*******a type of wasp********wild cane is used for caning, in-school discipline-->
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