The ninth night, everybody wondering where my big sister, Courtney, is — if she could really be that disrespectful to miss not one but every goddamn night of her own father’s wake. Mummy look outta sorts, nervous, embarrassed. Coffee run out. Uncle Belly haffe draw bush tea to serve visitors. “Serve the dinki mini people first, Belly,” Mummy instruct inside the kitchen. “Dem been dancing all night. Why everyt’ing always haffe be bout her,” she fume, “why Courtney so self-centered?”
“Teenagers, Bev…” Belly wink at me: “Remember, gerreh nuh jump till last night.”
Mummy overhear the remark. “If she planning to turn her own father’s death into some petty dance-off…” She so flustered she can’t finish.
“She haffe grieve on her own terms,” I sey. “She alone understand her feelings.” But even my patience wearing thin.
Round midnight, after a song sink into exhausted silence in the yard, a gerreh drummer trow words over the fence, as if on cue, “A traveler reach home at last!”
We not even notice when dem creep up, silent like duppy. When this statement sink in people’s bones, dem squeeze dem eyes shut and shake fists. “Ah de trute dat!”
And is now wake start. People stomp dirt and bam table, ready fe invite gerreh to take over dead yard from dinki. And nobody dance gerreh livelier than Courtney. When dem see she wining, hands on hips, changing her feet as quickly as the two boys shift the sticks, everybody’s mouth drop open. The boys jiggling the bamboo hip height and Courtney rolling between dem like she nuh need balance, flashing her eyes, the fife and drums keeping her afloat. “Courtney come fe talk fe her poopa ghost!” smaddy shout. “Open de gate!”
Me heart swell with pride. Even dinki mini dancers watching awestruck, retreating below the verandah, packing up dem instruments to spectate. Nuh matter how jealous dem get, dem haffe move dem feet too as dem watch Courtney dancing pon bamboo like she flying midair. Sum’n rolling in the substance of her face, not just her protruding eyeballs, trembling mouth or sweaty neck, like she really coming from dead land with ‘the seeing.’ Mummy watching her tense, ‘fraid. They raise a hymn. “Rock of ages!” And as dem coulda finish off the last line, “…myself in thee!” the Chairman knock him drum and track the song with a new one so everything blend and the mood nuh drop: “Sleep on beloved!”
“Sleep and take thy rest!” women answer from the steps, swaying dem bottom while fanning coal pots baking toto and pone. Nutten nuh sweet like coal pot pudding. Nutten nuh sweet like when music soak Courtney bone and she ‘trance’.
“Duppy mouth water she drinking…” mutter Big Life, the area don, watching me sister like a plate o’ food, salivating. Him grin at Belly and me, “Belly…is a bad t’ing fe sey, but I almost wish people dead more often so Muma Killa could dance…”
Fry fish and hard dough bread goin’ sour in people mouth corner. Bush tea and bammy goin’ cold pon table. When the Chairman call for him first drink ah whites and blow boom pipe, people bawl out and trow themself at the empty casket. Like him rouse both living and dead. Strangers crowd we fence and spill into the yard. The dinki mini dancers overcome dem petty feelings and rejoin the outpouring.
When me father a go dead
Him never make no will
But him leff one cow
Fe de whole ah we
And ah so niceness gwaan till we tired.
When me wake the next mawnin’, Courtney’s bedroom door open, she sleeping in her clothes, snoring. I watch the hairs sprouting on her chin, sum’n she always fussy bout and embarrassed, like her Adam’s apple. Her face still working like she dreaming the dead — like two people ina one body, fighting for dominance. Life can really stress her sometime. Dancing is her therapy, whether is dead yard or dancehall. Her features relax some. Watching her face now calm, handsome, yuh cyan see the gerreh ‘fire-stick’ — or ‘Muma Killa’ as dem call her — she was just hours before. Like she become a completely different person and retire it when she ready. Sum’n bout her transformation mek me believe in spirituality.
Daddy used to be a dinki mini chairman himself before the heart attack. (People sey is bad duppy kill him.) He praised the ancestors when Courtney bawn. He never complained when she chose gerreh over dinki. “She’s a leader, Peadove,” he prophesied, “not a follower…” She moved so powerful at him wake last night, people call her witch. And Mummy wore an expression like she both proud and uneasy. ‘Cause only we family know why she move so powerful, that her body special in a way people woulda never understand or appreciate.
Suddenly she start talk in her sleep, “I feel like I’m awake…like I’m awake in the real world.”
I run over and shake her ‘cause she getting tangled in the sheets. She look at me cross. “Why yuh do that?”
“Yuh were talkin’ to yuhself.”
She sit up, toss her hair back. “No…I was talking to him…”
“Yes. I’ve been talking to him ever since he died. But this time different.”
“How…?” I ask tentatively.
“It’s…like gettin’ your hands burned but continuing to put your hands in the fire. This time it was my whole body. I was almost someone new, Peadove…like de fire was a gift of courage.”
“When Daddy died, part of yuh died with him too, eh. Yuh and him did closer than anybody else in the house.”
She stays silent. She doh even keep friends at school — always an outsider, even when she little. You get the feeling sometime she tired of being a fascination to people — that one day she go reach a breaking point. We live with that fear every day. “What yuh and Sweaty fight bout last Friday?” she ask, crossing her arms.
“After we done play basketball, he said, ‘Peadove, how Courtney gwaany gwaany so? Like no man pon Middle Road nuh good enough fe har?’ And then Marvin laughed and said, ‘Either she ah lesbian or her pum-pum belong to boneyard.’ So I grabbed Marvin’s neck. And Sweaty jump me.”
She lean ‘gainst the headboard. “Pea, I doh want yuh to fight me battles…”
“Yuh cyan run from yourself. I saw you packing your bags secretly.”
Her eyes tear up.
I grab her wrist like a handcuff. “Anywhere yuh run I finding yuh. And if I doh find yuh destiny will — yuh marked for great things. Daddy seet.”
“Sometime I feel I doh have no confidante. Like I doh have no ally since Daddy gone. I was this close to running away — yes — then I find him back in gerreh…I follow him duppy straight to dead yard last night like a flame…” She look in me face. “I learn sum’n while dancin’…bein’ your true self can unleash you to be de best you ‘cause it liberate you from havin’ to work at hidin’ an important part of you.”
“Yuh mean the part yuh still can’t face in the mirror? I doh wa’an contradict yuh, Cee, but I think yuh yet to find your best self.”
She go quiet, so I leave her be and go get ready for the funeral.
When I come home from school the next day, Uncle Belly look lost under the plum tree. “Whappen?”
Him fan me off. “Peadove gwaan nah!” Him finally sey, “De package buss ina Keisha belly…”
“Dem hol’ her at Miami airport.”
“Ask Troy to help yuh. Is your best friend. Let him talk to Big Life for yuh.”
Belly rub him head. “I not looking to get Troy mixed up. Big Life already control everybody on Middle Road, I feel even without this happenin’ I woulda get pull into his orbit. See Troy drop outta Chester College deh fe turn selector. Nuh matter how him mother pleading with him, him nah go backa school.”
“But that was Troy’s decision.”
“And a guess yuh t’ink all de ‘engineers’ juss carry sound box.” Belly laugh pitifully, “His decision, yuh doh know how world run, Peadove…as long as Big Life have dat sound Troy playin it, like him chain to turntable. And if him lose de clash tonight, Life liable to…” We hear the gate open; we freeze.
I hurry to the living room. Belly follow me like ghost. Soon as Mummy come in, she see trouble stamp pon Belly’s face. She drop her work bag. “What yuh do now?”
Belly humming and hawing. “Big Sis, me girlfriend swallow some capsule but…”
Mummy raise her hand. “Wait…coke?”
Belly nod miserably. “She under police guard at hospital. Dat package was me buss toe.”
“Yuh buss toe?” Mummy lean forward, squinting.
“Him haffe sell it fe join FireClappers,” I explain.
Mummy launch her ashtray at me head. “Yuh lookin’ to sign up too?!” She fly up from the couch but Belly step between we. She start pummel him. “Lemme go! From yuh bawn yah trouble!” Belly just taking the blows. She crumble ‘gainst the wall, weak with disbelief. “…Belly wha’ go become ah yuh?” Belly sink in the chair like snake. “When yuh go step up and be the man in this house!”
Belly clutch him cornrows. “I doh want dat responsibility! Stop bully me!”
“Mummy…” I try hug her but she shrug.
She sniffle, “Big Life ah murderer. Look how much duppy FireClappers man mek Easter when dem war New Lots. Middle Road people cyan even walk past Crossroads, we haffe walk round Hope Bridge and hope dem nuh waylay we. Yuh have Life money fe pay him back?” Belly shake him head. “How much money we talkin’?”
“Bout fifty thousand US, street value…”
“Zaas Gawd,” Mummy croak, “and the bank juss send me overdraft…”
Belly mouth can hardly open. Dem call him Belly ‘cause him is the wash belly, the name stick ‘cause him never really grow up. Always in and outta job, in and outta jail.
“So yuh graduate from hauling sound system box,” Mummy chuckle humorlessly.
Belly crawl pon him knees towards her. “Sis, I go fix this — I promise!”
“Like how yuh promise to repay de bail money?” Mummy gaze at him sadly, sweetly, feel him jaw and sey quietly, “See that clock, Belly? That’s your life tickin…yuh juss too dumb to know it. Yuh doh feel the rope round your neck? I been around long enough. Yuh forget that me and Life go school? That I used to date Life before I marry Conrad. Life petty, cruel, unforgiving. This here is not bout you alone anymore. Him go use it to get back at me for mistreating him. For having another man’s children instead of his.” We hear the gate unlatch. Courtney hail the next-door neighbor. Mummy get up, wipe her face. “Not a word bout this — both of yuh!”
As soon as she come in, Courtney know sum’n off. “Mummy…yuh been crying?”
“I have a bone to pick with yuh.” Mummy sey, brandishing some letter. “We been through this. Yuh ditching gym again?”
Courtney roll her eyes and push up her lips. “I tell yuh I juss ain’t ready.”
“That’s all yuh got?” Mummy sey sarcastically. “Yuh can do better than that.”
“Is not my fault,” Courtney sulk.
“Whose is it? We havin’ dis conversation ‘cause yuh didn’t keep your end of de bargain!”
She trow her schoolbag to the floor. “Yuh always got my name on the ready!”
Mummy step towards her, softening her tone. “Okay come…”
But Courtney pull back. “I nah talk bout dis behind closed door. There’s no secret in dis house. Peadove an’ Belly know what’s happenin’. No, ‘cause you…” But she so heated she cyan speak. “Dat’s so disrespectful of dat school and I’m over it! It’s my body. It’s my decision!”
“An’ it’s my house an’ my money payin’ tuition!”
“Oh so this is about money?” She spit out the word disdainfully.
Mummy point at her face. “Yuh know what’s disrespectful? The way yuh talking to me right now.”
“I’m not the one who’s the problem in that class!”
“Well then blame the world Courtney, yuh not the only one in it either that’s like you the way you are, that’s…”
“Say it…say it! What am I? Exactly? What’s written on me birth paper? I’m a freak!”
Mummy draw a tearful breath. “Nobody can define yuh, love.”
“The government did — the school is about to! Everywhere I go I under rules and regulation. Like a flashlight up me privates!”
Belly and I glance at each other. Usually at this juncture we’d both leave, let dem have it out. But Belly intervene, “No, yuh need to think better than that, Cee.”
“Why? Like my mindset go change de way they think bout me? They need to be better.”
“Then the whole world needs to be better according to Courtney…,” Mummy sey.
“It’s just…oh Mummy I’m so tired.” She look ready to collapse.
“Listen, last year it was the guidance counselor’s fault for singling yuh out for counseling, and making yuh feel different than everybody. Then it was Sister Henry’s fault for switching yuh to a different class for being ‘uncooperative.’”
“I never blamed Sister Henry…”
“Now it’s Mrs. Henderson’s fault after she give yuh the option of wearing swim trunks and bikini top.”
“And how I go look when every other girl wearing swimsuit? Why I even have to do the stupid swimming class?”
“’Cause is part of yuh grade! Why yuh always haffe mek t’ings difficult!”
I doubt Courtney hear her, she staring rapt at the wall photo. “I miss Daddy…”
Mummy’s face twinge with hurt, she was always jealous of dem relationship. She harden her tone. “If yuh doh want to be there anymore just say it. I’ll get yuh a tutor. You’re wasting everybody’s time here.”
Courtney laugh bitterly, “Fine, I’ll concede. I should juss wear de damn swimsuit too. It’s not like I didn’t go prep school wit’ half o’ dem. I’m sure dem remember de infamous swimsuit bulge from back then — I’ll be a team player! Gym shower an’ everyt’ing!”
“That snarky attitude! Yes, the odds stacked ‘gainst yuh. But it’s always something you’re involved in where some other person shortchanging yuh. Yuh always blameless. Doh expect anybody to do right by yuh by default. I bend over backwards to give you everything and then you think I’m always accusing you of being at fault? I’ve seen you grow so much since you father died, but yuh still selfish and self-sabotaging!”
“Ugh!” Courtney tramp to her room, slam the door. She doh even come out dinnertime.
Later that night, we hear Troy warming up Mello Vibes. The whole Middle Road abuzz with excitement. But the house quiet.
Mummy in the sofa, the TV watching her, lay-waiting Courtney. When she click her door open, Mummy walk her down. “Where yuh think yuh goin’?”
“Where it look like?” She touching up her makeup in the bathroom mirror.
“Yuh not leavin’ here tonight.”
She fix her blue wig. “…Who go stop me? Only an act of God stopping me from that dance tonight and God doh exist…so an act of man then,” she smile spitefully through the glass. “Why yuh look so shock, Mums? There’s no salvation or divine intervention, juss will, de will to do right or do wrong.” Mummy spin her and slap her. I have to hold her back. She mad to tear off Courtney’s clothes.
“Look at yuh! Belly-skin and cut-up tights showing yuh batty. Dress like a whore!”
“I done live for people! I done dance ah wake! Ah Courtney time now! Me done perform like monkey pon bamboo!”
“Yuh better than this, Courtney…” Mummy plead, wringing her hands like she doh know wha’ fe do with herself.
Courtney snap on her false lashes, with everything she put on is like she burying herself. “That’s what yuh think…see Daddy dead gone wid him dreams in him head. Ah time fe you wake up. Nobody control we life but we. No higher calling, no overarching destiny, no hero or villain. We write we own script. I dance when I feel like it. And I feel like goin out tonight.” Mummy raise her hands and drop dem and look confused. Courtney see that sum’n wrong. She put down the mascara tube. “Mummy…what yuh not telling me?”
Belly creep up in the doorway, looking shy and guilty like butter mouth puss.
Courtney brain quick; she put two and two together. “Uncle what yuh do?”
“Mek Bev tell yuh,” Belly reply.
But I cyan talk.
Mummy finally bring out the story. Courtney siddung and laugh hollowly, “But what yuh expect? It woulda happen sooner or later.”
“But doh yuh see we all in danger?” Mummy appeal.
“No…” Courtney shake her head and reapply her eyeshadow. “You in danger, not me. I never lose Big Life drugs.”
Mummy grab her arm. “Courtney listen…”
But Courtney push past her. “I tired of listening! Tired of being afraid! Tired of hiding!” She put on her boots, teck up her glittery matey bag and leff.
A reddish haze hang over the street, carrying the sweetish smell of ecstasy; coke-laced weed; the vinegar kick of heroin in your throat, and rank sweat like saltwater pon fisherman neck. Dem use biscuit box to cover streetlights so only houselights half-illuminating the road. “Mercy…” Mummy cough. “I cyan even see where I goin for smoke. Where so much nayga come from?”
“Hol’ on to me shirttail,” I tell her.
It sound like Troy losing the clash. Big Life sprawl off on a chair outside him red iron gate an’ doh look pleased. Three bodyguards round him, like him bulletproof vest not enough.
The MetroMedia selector spin, “…ah soundbwoy time is shorter than rope…and tonight tonight!” then make it echo out to lighters, Baygon flares and people belting out dem throat. Troy stand round Mello Vibes turntable looking discomposed, not him usual confident self. The dance quiet, waiting pon him answer.
We use the lull to approach Big Life. After the bodyguards search we, Belly tell Life what happen. Big Life stroke him pit bull’s neck and laugh heartily. “Yuh have till weekend. And nuh think yuh can run, Belly. Enjoy yuhself…ecstasy an’ liquor free till twelve.”
Mummy speak up, “We doh have that type ah money. Might as well tell yuh now.”
“Beverly,” Life drawl, clenching his cigar between platinum teeth, “always talkin down to me…still doh know how fe humble. Yuh membah how yuh used to clown me gal? Yuh know what yuh modda used to do, Peadove? Mek me pay her way into school bazaar, then after me buy her few drinks and she give the fat bwoy couple pity dance, she arms up wit’ odder man ina dark corner. See yuh uncle deh — ask him. Is lie, Belly?”
“Big Life we was children,” Mummy sey in a muted tone. “Dis isn’t about me and you?”
“Oh it isn’t?” Life toss him cigar. “Yuh is ah wicked gal! Vain and always fulla yuhself. Ah should…!” He curl his fingers then catch up pon himself, scaling back his temper, chuckling, “But Life nuh petty. See Conrad dead gone deh. Death matures yuh. I go show mercy. Tell yuh what. I will write off the debt…for a little…” Him run him eyes over Mummy. She stiffen. Life laugh, “Yuh t’ink is yuh I want…yuh a ol’ fowl now, Bev. Doh flatter yourself. Bring de Muma Killa come.”
Mummy drop pon her knees in the driveway. “No Life…me ah beg yuh!”
Big Life doh even look pon her.
The bodyguard return with Courtney.
Big Life’s babymother, Topaz, walk up aggressively. “Wah gwaan yah so!” But Life order dem to escort her wey.
Courtney stare at him.
“Yuh nuh fraida me?” Life smile.
Courtney sneer slightly. “Why I should fraida yuh?”
Life spread him bulk like a Roman king. “I like yuh…dance for me.”
Soundbwoy yuh see a pretty coffin wah yuh like!
Courtney slowly swing her hips. Troy finding him speed; the clash swinging in him favor. Every man a swear offa Courtney while she diva-wine and Troy playing:
Test Mello Vibes then yuh muss lose yuh life
We done buy de wreath and plan de Nine Night
“Jiggle for me baby,” Big Life drooling, watching her waistline. Courtney turn her back, hands on her knees, but how him splashing her with champagne look obscene, like him urinating on her. Pot cover ah knock. Fence ah get kick. Troy pull up the dubplate and Big Life pull Courtney and whisper in her ear.
“Life no…!” Mummy begging, dragging Courtney away, like she losing her mind. But how Courtney silent tell we she lock off herself. She stubborn like Daddy that way.
She pull we aside. “Mums doh worry. I need dem to be uncomfortable in this moment…to test dem, to see how dem goin respond an’ learn how I feel. Gwaan home. It go be alright.”
“What yuh mean, chile!?”
But Courtney done talk.
After we reach home, I hear Mummy sobbing in her pillow, probably asking God and Daddy for forgiveness. Belly siddung pon the back-step, chain smoking.
After the dance lock off and street go quiet, I hear a gut-wrenching scream, peals and peals of screaming, coming from Life’s compound. We rush to the verandah. In the wee hours ah daylight, is Courtney that coming home. When she step inside, she drift past without a word. We follow her. She sit quietly on her bed. “What yuh do to him?” Mummy ask terrified, ‘cause we could tell it was Big Life screaming.
“Yuh shoulda see it…he had a look, Mummy,” Courtney sneer, “as if he was about to sink his teeth into me till he realized he was the dinner.” There’s sum’n like righteous cruelty in her eyes, an awakening, as if she isn’t our Courtney but belong to smaddy else. Maybe to herself. Fully, finally.
“Whappen in that room? Doh lie gal!”
Courtney’s face almost glow, she look outta it, like how yuh feel after dentist gas yuh. “Mummy, I grew a spiritual muscle. Like I dive to de bottom and Daddy was there…waiting.”
“What yuh saying, Cee?” Belly ask. “Yuh show him yuh…?”
“My body was immaterial,” she sey dismissively. “I show him life…bigger than him. But I grow too — I had to gain strength to resurface. I know what I muss do now…” She close her door, we hear her snoring peacefully, not the tormented dream sleep.
Big Life wake up the whole Middle Road with cow bawling. Me walk up the road and see him siddung at him gate shirtless, no bulletproof vest, mumbling, rubbing him bald head. “Me finish…!”
Topaz dragging him. “Get up! Whappen to yuh?!”
But Life won’t budge. “From she teck off her clothes she tu’n me dung…me appetite betray me.” Him teck off the de Laurence ring and trow it aside like trash. Two twos, we hear sirens. First we think is ambulance but realize that police get wind that Life ‘incapacitated’ — probably goin mad — and come with search warrant. All ah Middle Road pour ina the street, watching jeep after jeep arriving and police ransacking him place. Dem haul out bale after bale ah money, all kinda currency, money nuff so till it rotten, so till rat gnaw the paper and piss pon it. Big Life doh even look at dem once. While dem leading him away handcuffed, him muttering, “…Ah can see from your face yuh doh believe me. But yuh haffe seet fe believe it. Ah doh blame yuh. I wouldn’t believe it meself if I never seet.”
“Gawd mek her dat way,” sey the sergeant, “she should be proud.”
Big Life glance round dumbly, like a helpless child. “De balmyard Modda tell me, dat any day me undress both man and woman me finished…” Him shake him head, as if afraid of being seduced by the memory, but him failing. “…me ah nuh man again…” Dem duck him head into the backseat. I can read him lips as dem driving off. “But how…why? Me ah nuh battyman…”
“Tax evasion,” sey a bystander. “Dem can put him wey fe life…”
People nuh look happy. “Who go protect Middle Road now dat Life gone?”
Everybody looking pon everybody else.
When I return home, Courtney lock up in her room.
Moments later, we hear honking at we gate.
The sergeant call, “I’d like to speak to the young lady who was at Life’s house.”
Dem have Topaz in the back of an open jeep, in cuffs.
We knock. Courtney open up. Her room smell of incense, she kneeling before Daddy’s picture, bowed low, dressed in her ruffled blouse and plaid gerreh skirt. She get up and blow out the red candle. “Doh go out there, Cee.”
She look at me chu her dresser mirror, tying ribbons in her hair. “Yuh fraid likkle bredda? When Daddy dead he was smiling — yuh remember, Pea?”
“What that have to do wid anything?”
Walking past, she tug me cheek. “Yuh need to smile more — have some faith.”
Mummy and Belly speechless. Powerless to protect her.
When people outside see her, dem asking one anedda, “Is who dead? Is whose wake she goin’?”
Topaz rattling her handcuffs in the rear seat, screaming, “Come out here bitch! Yuh think yuh go mash up me life without consequence?”
“Where yuh takin me dawta?” Mummy ask, bustling ‘longside the sergeant, “leave her alone — she doh do nutten wrong!”
“Standard interrogation, ma’am…Life is a big fish,” reply the sergeant, holding Courtney’s arm.
Mummy look distressed. “She been chu enough!”
They put her to ride up front. Courtney composed, fearless. Like the jeep is two pieces of bamboo under her feet. Like she ‘traveling.’
Topaz hiss behind her, “Wha’ yuh use bewitch me man? Yuh — whatever yuh are!”
People jog beside the police motorcade driving slowly downhill.
The sergeant sey into him radio, “All units — proceed to the graveyard.”
When dem enter the graveyard, the sergeant sey to Topaz, “Where?”
She point to a spot in the left corner, overrun with cocoyam.
Police work the ground with shovels, pickaxes, while others tugging sniffer dogs.
Nobody sure what dem digging for — if is body in shallow grave, more drug money, guns or drugs.
After about fifteen minutes, dem stop and ketch dem breath. By then the pit quite wide, though not deep. I can’t see what dem hope to do next. “Nutten…is a damn goose chase,” sey a squaddie, trowing him shovel aside.
The sergeant jerk Topaz elbow. “Listen — if we doh find it, the deal is off! Yuh getting charged as an accessary.”
The diggers wiping sweat, looking like disappointed pirates.
But Courtney seeing sum’n. Her eyes widen, her lower arm thrust slightly forward, like she gripping an invisible hand. She teck a step.
“Hey!” sey the sergeant.
But people tell him, “Let she try — maybe she can help.”
“Fine,” shrug the sarge, “…if she wa’an soil her pretty dress…”
We watch quietly, inhaling a haze of uncertainty like incense. Courtney step into the ditch. The dogs howl. The soil tear loose like broken veins under her heel.
“But wha’ de bumboclaat dis…,” mutter the sergeant. “She a witch?”
“No…,” reply Belly. “She mark.”
She start digging. Clawing. Trying to get at something. Her frustration mounting.
After a while, she tire. She lie in the ditch and pour handfuls of dirt over her legs, concentrating, improvising her strategy as much as her burial, mumbling, like the earth interrogating her, or she seeking permission, “I am Cancer and Leo. Born between the 22nd and 23rd at midnight. I’m both sun and moon. Leo is love but I’m more Cancer than Leo. If yuh want to stir me up just cross me. If yuh want me to give yuh the moon and bright light then show me love…”
Sum’n inside the red dirt answer her.
She use her fingers like cutlass and fork up the soil.
Mummy shriek, “Get her out!”
But Belly restrain her. “Wait…”
She never stop digging the pit side till a hollow collapse and red ants pour from a half-dead tree trunk like buried blood.
The way how ants pour from the ground, people blood run cold.
“Me mooma bloodclaat…,” sey the sarge, stepping back.
The red ants race over Courtney’s arms.
“Get her out!” Mummy yell again.
But nobody cyan move.
Courtney lie down in flames. Red ants fill her crotch like a cup, she moan and squirm like an infant then go quiet as if she pass out.
The sergeant swallow him spit: “Who is she…really?”
We hear the gerreh troupe coming:
“A likkle more rum pon de drum keep it playing…!”
Courtney pop open her eyes, looking slightly surprised. When the ants necklace her throat and race up her neck, she open her mouth to scream.