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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Caribbean Short Story: Mother To Son (Comrades and Thieves II- Mass Games)

In the third row behind his school banner, the Son marched wearing crisp, clean school khakis his mother had ironed the previous night, with her own bare-ring-fingered hand; right before she had hauled back that said hand and slapped all the thiefingness out of him. The mother had scolded her son:
"If you too 'fraid to do something in front somebody face, then yuh coward if you hide and do it behind they back."
In truth, he rathered licks from her hands, any day; licks, after all, would burn and cool. But them words out her mouth always lingered, haunting him like jumbie.*
By this time, the Third-World sun had climbed nearly midday high and was pelting rays upon rays down on wave after wave of marching, perspiring school pickney.** From all over this Cooperative Republic, children like plenty-thousand ants, but in line-tight rows.
Left, Right. Left, Right. So they marched in synch, second nature after months of training drills.
'Just don't miss a beat,' the Son told himself.

Earlier that morning, these primary and secondary school students' numbers swelled under Cuffy's shadow*** as they gathered in Revolution Square. With a late start they flowed like a river up Vlissingen Road, swirled left by Camp Ayangana, then surged down towards the National Park. Marching soaking wet - but with frozen faces straight in-front; left feet forward, right arms up; right foot forward, left arm up - in perfect timing.
In the section ahead, the older National Service teens marched in military gear, lean and green like bamboo shoots in spit-shine boots.
The whole time, the Son thinking, 'Try, don't bother stand out.' The entire school seemed like government supporters- from the Head Mistress straight down to the Prefects. So each morning he just went through the motions with the rest of his classmates, pledging allegiance while a photo of Comrade Prime Minister sat high up on the classroom wall, staring down on them like a god. The son kept his family's Alliance business to himself. Like his mother said, you never know who is who.

The marching river veered right and streamed through the National Park gate. Splashes of applause from the not-far-distance dribbled through to the Son as schools, sections ahead of them, flowed and disappeared into a bowl-like canyon of stands.
Left, Right...Left...
He wondered how his cousins and them were making out marching with their own schools.
His mother's tinny voice pinged in his head. "Must remember in all the Mass Games marchin' and all yuh salutin' that is them same ones lockin' up your uncles and yuh aunties them lef' an' right."
She ain't have to keep telling him; he'd been there playing chinkie with his cousins the day when the Land Rovers rolled up. Brandishing weapons of destruction and wrong-and-strong mentalities, the babylon**** rushed in his Uncle's yard.
"Where the printin' press deh?"
"Yuh slandering' Comrade Leader with your subversive paper, eh? He should hang the whole set of all you for treason." They rounded up every adult present and carried them straight to Eve Leary.*****

Left, Right. Left, Right...Under the flogging sun the youths marched in a steady, mind-bleached rhythm. His school curved 'round a slight bend and finally entered the already crowded canyon of stands. People everywhere; the all-'bout energy slammed him like the Atlantic crashing against the sea wall.
Ahead, the rows of National Service teens rolled by the Grand Stand. As the bamboo-green uniforms passed the Prime Minister's box, they stiffened their backs all together, turned their heads right to face him, and saluted while in midstride. They held the salute 'til  they cleared the Grand Stand, then faced front with perfect tempo, marching on. Left, Right...

The Son's school now approached the Grand Stand. Just a few more yards to go.
"The government boots is not your own, y'hear me Boy?" He could hear his mother say.
At the Prime Ministers' box, one of the banner-bearers commanded:
As one, they all stiffened their backs, turned their heads right and, with a snap of their right hands over their right brows, saluted in stride.
The Prime Minister and his henchmen saluted back, sharply.
As he marched by, the Son squinted into Comrade Leader's box. There, one of the bodyguards, the one with a head bigger than a lorry and a snout like a bush cow; it was Mr. Hang-All-Yuh-For-Treason, himself.
The command was shouted from up front. "FAAAACE FRONT!"
Smirking, the Son swung his head to front a full second before the rest. Chest swelled and he could hear his mother say, "Ow, de boy,"****** with she rebel self.

* jumbie- ghost, spirit
** pickney -child or children
*** referring to the monument of the Revolution of 1763 - a statue of slave revolt leader Cuffy (Kofi,Cuffie, Cuffe)
**** oppressors; an oppressive, corrupt system; or, as in this case, police forces of a corrupt system
***** Eve Leary was the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Georgetown
****** atta boy; like a pat on the back; subtle praise or congratulations

Mother to Son I
©2015 K. Omodele


  1. Replies
    1. yes boss, sorry for the delay. We gotta keep the story alive, least the people forget. One love, me Brother


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