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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Abeng Tribute: Gregory Number One

Gregory Number One
Copyright 2010 K. Omodele

6:45 A.M. and sunrise is pecking, struggling to hatch through the Manhattan skyline. Two dozen laborers with Malone Construction hardhats are milling around a group of tool chests, sipping steaming coffee, chatting in cliques, each silently dreading the impending workday. Their muscles ache; breathing is highlighted by streams of condensation.
“Yow!” A bamboo-limbed youth shouts before lighting a cigarette. Drags smoke deeply into his lungs then feverishly sands his calloused hands together. “One minute ah silence for the Cool Ruler, nuh man.” Rudeboy demands heavily.
Dreadie crams his locks into one extra-large hardhat ‘til it sticks cocked-up on his head Velcro tight. Shakes his head and pounces on him. “Yuh don’t hear lung cancer tek him way? Drop the Oldport them Rudie!” Gesturing to box the cigarette out his bredren’s hand.
They take shield from the late-autumn wind behind a mortar-laced, cinder-block wall.
A tree-stump man with ringed, saucer eyes joins them, skinning his teeth. “Yuh hear wha duh man say? Drop the cancer stick!”
Rudeboy pulls his coat collar up and leans a shoulder ‘gainst the wall. “Ay Trevor; yuh favor Guyanese patoo.*”
They all buss out a laugh.
Trevor continues. “Man all the great singers dying off: Dee Brown, Sugar Minott- when di foundation gone, wha’ left?”
“Ah rate Gregory over all them, still,” Rudeboy interjects. Pulls on the cigarette.
Trevor adds. “Me tuh.”
Dreadie whips his forefinger against his middle and thumb. “Gregory was the definition of artist. Art-is-try!”
Bajie marches up to them like some corporal in the B.D.F.**, drinking from a Thermos cup. Grinning out the corner of his eye, he snaps. “According to who?”
“According to I- Dreadie’s Sidewalk Knowledge Collegiate Dictionary, yuh mad rass yuh.” He licks back. “Anyhow, the definition of an artist is someone who creative expression inspire or who leave some kind ah impression on people; a great artist move the masses.”
Bajie sips with his pinkie out as if its tea time somewhere in Christ Church. “And? You want rate Gregory Issacs over Dennis Brown? Wunna mad or what?”
“Or whot? All up in yuh nose.” Trevor mimics, laughing. “Yeah man. Gregory ragamuffin.”
Bajie doesn’t let go. “Dennis Brown voice sweeter than a nightingale.”
Rudeboy bounces off the wall and outs out his cigarette. “Yuh never hear Gregory siddung pon a riddim yet?*** Listen Tune In! ‘I said I like it like dat.’” He sings, head and shoulders dippinging to a rhythm in his memory bank.
“Yeah?” Bajan challenges. “So wha bout Should I? Yuh talking bout a singer riding a riddim? ‘How can I go on feeling this waaay?/Acting like a child so young and gaaaay?/ YOU DON’T KNOW-”
Dreadie and Trevor chime in, grinning. “-WHAT IT MEANS TO BE LOVED.”
“Oh-Oh, Rudeyouth.” Dreadie says, eye brow arching. “Bajie want go tune fi tune.”
“Bajan a idiot. When I need fi pick myself up off di ground, I just play ‘One man against the world/” Rudeboy croons, gyrating his wiry frame, gun fingers cocked and poised.
The others rise gun fingers in the air, saluting. “BOOM! BOOM!BOOM!”
Still half-asleep, other workers gaze curiously over at the West Indians.
Bajie bend up his mouth like he not the least impressed. Raises one hand in the air, bounces and chants:
“Do you know what it means to-“
The rest of them sing along. “-HAVE A RE-VO-LU-TION?”
The whole clique is now wide awake, laughing and touching fists.
The lead plumber, Mike LaTronica, waddles over to them. “Trevor! You working or you gonna sing Calypso there all day, Harry Belafonte?”
Trevor straightens his face. “Nah. I gon stand over here wid you and sing Figaro, Pavorotti.”
More laughter.
Trevor goes off to flux and prep joints with the plumber.
With emptiness plowing in their hearts, the others trudge over to their respective work crews. 

* Owl                                                                More Construction Crew Stories on The Abeng...
** Barbados Defense Force                                                Reasoning: Conspiracy Osama
*** Sit down on the rhythm                                                        Cupful Reasoning

Copyright 2010 K. Omodele

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  1. Ah...the construction crew back again. Love the banter between them....genious! Great message also; smoking kills! ;)
    Gregory would be proud!


  2. I loved it! This brought a particular vibe that made me picture myself there in the middle of the conversation. Beautifully written! Keep 'em coming!

  3. Greetings,

    loved the dialogue and your descriptions. I love how careful and strategic you are with your words. I too felt apart of the conversation and there were moments that stoked a smile. One thing though, this sentence tripped me up for a few minutes -"Gesturing to box the cigarette out his bredren's hand". I couldn't understand if you were referring to the box of cigarettes or if you were referring to "slapping" the cigarette out of the bamboo-limbed youth's hand.

    Overall, I enjoyed reading and hope you write more frequently.

    Di Empress Divine

  4. oh, one more thing:

    wish you included more Greg tunes and less D.Brown (since this is a tribute to Greg)....


  5. @ Nik Thanks for your support. Yes, the construction crew again. You noticed. (Smile)

    @ Ma'at Glad I could draw you into the story. Keep reading. Promise to keep it coming.

    @ Meisha, Yuh done know. Its hard to find balance in the Caribbean dialect and a more universal tone and style. I want to reach a broad audience but I want keep mi style.
    I was referring to a slapping action (He was gesturing to box the cigarette out his hand; as we say down so, box it out yuh hand)
    And, I had to curry it up with the sound clash-like back and forth.

  6. I'd love to read more about these characters. And, no women on the site???

    - Equal Opportunity for Characters


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