We prodded the teachers into a classroom as if they were cattle — our cricket bats raised, sometimes pressed hard into their sides and backsides. Whap, whap, Kenny’s bat came down hard on a teacher’s big bum. She had turned around to give us a nasty glare.

Mr. Jn. Batiste, a skinny Standard Three teacher, gestured angrily towards Kenny, but was met with successive jabs to the ribs and stomach.

The rest of the teachers rushed into the classroom. We turned off the lights. Locked the doors. We’d taken the keys off the Watchie. Kenny had knocked him unconscious with one of the bats. At first, I thought he was dead but Maria, who watched too much Baywatch, had pressed her ear to his lips.

“He breathing,” she’d reported.

Weeks ago, Ms. Schnack broke her stick on Enrico’s palm. He’d ripped off his cotton school-shirt, the buttons shooting here and there. Then he ran down the steps. We followed, watching from the second floor as he scaled the chain linkfence that bordered the school. He paced the sidewalk in front of the padlocked gate cursing, his chest heaving and heaving like those tiny birds that get stuck inside a house.

“I go beat yo’ ass,” he screamed at Ms. Schnack, who stood alongside us on the second floor.  Then he dashed across the road towards the airport. A red minibus struck him dead.

Ms. Schnack ordered us back to the classroom while yelling for the Standard Three teacher, Ms. Mondaisy, to call an ambulance. Some of the kids who’d seen the accident sat, heads pressed to their desks, crying. I slipped one of his buttons that had rolled under a desk into the pocket of my overalls.

We feared Ms. Schnack. She had the best-looking beating sticks in the school. She hired a carpenter to cut the block of wood into exactly 12 inches long and 0.75 inches thick with sandpapered-smooth sides.

Ms. Schnack put her all into delivering the licks. Her lips pressed tight, and her eyes focused on your open palm. She’d rise on her tippy toes, stick raised, not too high, and then the full force of her short chubby body would come down in five solid strokes. On the last stroke, the corners of her mouth would twitch upward giving her the look of a satisfied cat.

Once, I’d made the mistake of writing in my notebook instead of looking at the blackboard while she paced the narrow aisles between the rows of desks explaining how to add fractions with different denominators. I cried for the rest of the day. Not because of my stinging flesh, it was one stroke across my back, but the shame that accompanies any beating.


“Dem male teachers das here ain’t good for nothing,” Ms. Charlmagne whispered to Ms. Latile, a Standard Two teacher. “To let a bunch of thirteen-year-old boys boss a big man like dat…no wonder he do’ have no woman. I wouldn’t mess with no sissy like that.”

They stood at the front of the classroom near the blackboard cutting eyes, first at Mr. Jn. Batiste and then at Mr. Rodney who sat slumped on a bench. His head throbbed. He had a bump. One of those hooligans had flung a stone at him. Well, more than one stone. Nearly took out his eye. He remembered when the ruckus had begun; he’d grabbed one by the collar when his behind suddenly exploded with pain. Then he felt a sharp pain right above his eye and he was down on his knees and hands, sure they had blinded him. But it was only a cut, just above the lid, bleeding furiously and darkening his vision.

He heard the new teacher, Ms. Charlmagne ask, “Who classroom is this?” She’d pulled out the drawers from the teacher’s desk and found a lady’s purse.

“I kah believe it, no cellphone in here,” she said after dumping the contents of the bag onto the desk.

But what did she expect? Ms. Charlmagne knew she was one of the few teachers who owned a cellphone or pager. A gift from her man, she took the phone everywhere, to the washroom, the staff room, even carrying it around during lunch, talking and laughing loud, loud for everyone to see and hear. But today she had forgotten the phone upstairs in her desk draw.

And those damn kids were smart enough to know who owned what, rifling through purse and pocket for phones and pagers.

“Hey, hey, hey, you got no right.” A short fat woman with an untidy ponytail rushed forward snatching the purse out of her hands.

Ms. Charlmagne sucked her teeth loud drawing the attention of the other teachers. She didn’t care. They’d been eyeballing her the moment she started teaching at Priscilla Prescod Memorial School with her tight-up skirts and long weaves that she let fall down her back like a white woman or one of dem chabine girls. But she was good at math. That’s why they hired her. She’d scored a one on her A-levels, winning her a scholarship to the University of the West Indies. And she could teach. Not many of them knew how to teach math.

“Where Ms. Schnack,” someone asked.


Ms. Schnack sweated like a pig. They’d tied her to the trunk of the felled plum tree that sat on a hill above the school’s gravel-covered yard. She lay back flat on the trunk with her hands tied in front with shoelaces. Damned Mr. Rodney for teaching dem kids in Boy Scouts how to tie knots.

Neon plastic pink, green, orange and ugly brown jump rope wrapped the length of her body to the tree’s trunk. She needed to pee. She tried to wiggle. If she wiggled long enough, maybe the ropes would loosen.

Shade from the large overhanging trees of the property next door fell on her thighs and left foot. But the noonday sun still hit her right smack in the forehead. She turned her head this way and that. Then tried to call for help. But who was she calling to? The house on the next property was at least fifty feet away from the fenced-off schoolyard. The occupants at work or school.

She thought things like this only happened in America. That God-forsaken land where nobody prayed in schools anymore. No respect for authority. Teachers cursed at and killed. She’d heard all the horror stories from CNN that came on at 9 pm every night.

It’s that boy. Enrico Perez Badeaux. They were doing this because of him. She wiggled harder.

Even her son, Anthony, blamed her for his death, “You’re abusive.” And for a second, she’d thought about smacking him across the face with the raw chicken she was seasoning. But then she felt small. So small. Four years-old, hiding in the closet, and trying hard to hold her pee as Mummy raged through the house overturning the foam mattress, screaming, because no one had washed the dishes. And someone had left pee on the toilet seat.

How could she have known Enrico would run across the road? Teaching for over fifteen years, she’d grown accustomed to kids displaying some aggression after she’d disciplined them: flared nostrils, the eyes narrowed and glaring and then the nasty graffiti in the bathrooms. But this…

It was American television: all those shoot ‘em-up, shoot ‘em-up movies destroying their youth.  That’s what had her Anthony acting the fool: tying red bandana around his head, growing his hair big-big and talking about oppression by the white-man systems. What white man, she had yelled at him. Ain’t no white man in charge of this country.

She screamed for help again.


Sweets Vendor doh care as long as she get her mon-ee.

I knew something was strange. It was well past lunch time when I pass by the school with my cart. But there — the kids jumping rope, playing cricket and soccer, and running around schoolyard.

I didn’t see no teacher, but I figure it must be one of dem sports days where they have the kids doing physical activity.

I didn’t think about it too much because they were busy pushing shillings through the links in the fence and yelling for some of my fudge, guava cheese, and raisin buns.


“She dead,” Michael announced.

We moved in closer to where Ms. Schnack lay tied to the tree then quickly moved away. She stank of pee.

“Santi!” Michael muttered.

I noticed the wet spot on the trunk and the small puddle below in the dirt where the pee had dripped off the side of the tree. She looked swole and sweaty. A heat rash had broken out across her forehead where the skin had darkened from the sun.

Maria refused to move any closer to check her breath. And the rest of us didn’t want her pee getting on us.

Even her son, Anthony, blamed her for his death, “You’re abusive.” And for a second, she’d thought about smacking him across the face with the raw chicken she was seasoning. But then she felt small. So small. Four years-old, hiding in the closet, and trying hard to hold her pee as Mummy raged through the house overturning the foam mattress, screaming, because no one had washed the dishes. And someone had left pee on the toilet seat.

I rubbed my sweaty palms against my grey uniform skirt, closed my eyes and counted to ten like Daddy had taught me when I felt flurries in my belly. We hadn’t meant to kill her. Killers go to jail. I reached for Michael’s hand, squeezed hard.

Kenny sucked his teeth. “Y’all dem pussie.” And he jabbed Ms. Schnack hard in the belly with his bat.

Ms. Schnack moaned but her eyes remained closed and her body unmoving. I wondered if we would ever use the tree again now that Ms. Schnack had messed it. We should have tied her to the banana trees on the other side of the hill.

I sucked my teeth— the Standard Fives, Kenny and dem, had dragged her and tied her to our tree.

The tree and the hill were the domain of the Standard Fours. We hung out there before school started and during lunch. It was where we held court. A group of us, elected as judges by our classmates, passed sentence on other Standard Fours. Like Jenna, who had kissed Michael, my boyfriend, without his permission. I banished her from the hill for a week. I was head judge and the tree, my throne.

We followed Kenny down the hill. He was the baddest boy in the school. Twice, he had failed the Common Entrance exam to get into secondary school. He had one more chance before the government sent him to a vocational school. But he didn’t care. Kenny often talked about fellas he knew who never graduated but drove fast cars and owned how many motorbikes.

Taller and stockier than most of the boys, he bullied other kids into giving him their bus or lunch money. But if you paid Kenny, he would fight another school bully for you. Sometimes, he wouldn’t even have to fight. He and his posse would just show up threatening to beat yo’ ass.

I knew he would help us. Enrico was one of his pardners. They took the same bus to school in the morning and spent the hour before the bell rang racing each other back and forth across the school yard.

When we descended the hill, a hula hoop competition was in full swing while another set of kids jumped rope and others played football or raced each other around the yard.Fat Frank chased a group of Standard Threes who had stolen his lunch bag, tossing it back and forth to each other. And the younger kids busied themselves sucking hard on lollipops, their mouths ringed with red, their tongues blue.

Bon Bon wrappers, empty Chubby bottles, lollipop wrappers and sticks littered the grounds along with ribbons and buttons. Kenny and dem had broken into the canteen handing out candy, icicles and foil wrapped dahls and bakes.

Michael and I joined a group playing say la ola ola, say clap, clap, clap until Short Pants, one of Kenny’s posse, ran towards us screaming, “I kah find the Watchie.”

“Ring the bell, ring the bell,” Kenny yelled at Michael as he rushed to unlock the school gates.


For a moment, the Watchie thought he was living in America.

Me kah believe dem kids capable of dis. Is like living in the US wit’ all dem kids shooting up and fighting up. As bad as Jamaica wit’ all dem kids carrying gun.

I tell you, I woke up wit’ one splitting headache. Touch the back of me head…blood on me fingers. Dey lef me for dead in the grass at the back of the school.

I kah remember much but I know dey do dis to me.

I sneak quiet, quiet to de other side of the fence. I ain’t see no teacher but children playing like is summer break. And the time on my watch read close to 2:30pm.

What dem kids do? I tremble. Maybe they have gun and they shoot up all dem teachers.

I make my way to the back of the school. I jump de fence and I walk to a gas station das about a half mile away.

The people there, doh believe. And I know is ‘cause I is a sight: sweaty from the walk, blood, mud and grass stain up me clothes. Dey think I is jumbie.


Principal Clark got the call around 4 pm. On her day off. But that’s her luck; anytime she tries to do something for herself, someone needs her. Last time she had taken a day off, years ago, she had gotten a call that her mother had taken a bad fall. And she’d rushed off down south to the hospital, spending the rest of her vacation waiting hand and foot on her mother.

But when Ms. Gibson, the stage two teacher and vice principal had called, she hadn’t minded — she’d spent almost the whole day in her cotton house dress, the one with the embroidered hibiscus on the left breast. For the first time in months, she’d finished a hot cup of Ovaltine and caught up on Young and the Restless. Her kids were at school and her husband worked downtown as a clerk in one of those government buildings. He wouldn’t be home until 7 pm.

She got the call while harvesting dasheens from her garden.

Ms. Gibson. “Principal Clark, emergency, the kids! We’ve called police.”

She had to confess she was not too concerned. That woman always made a mountain out of a molehill. And that high-pitched screeching voice of hers made everything sound worse.

With rush hour traffic, it took her an hour to get there. The police cars with their flashing sirens lined the street next to the school when she arrived.

“Eh, eh, what kind of madness happened here?” She heard herself ask out loud. The schoolyard was in a state, covered in candy wrappers, popsicle sticks, plastic bags, sling shots, tree branches and homemade cricket bats. Then she grew ‘fraid, ‘fraid. What if those kids shoot up the school? But she didn’t see any blood or bodies.

From Ms. Gibson, she learned that an ambulance had taken Ms. Schnack to the hospital for dehydration and sunstroke. The Standard Fives had dragged her across the yard and up the hill. She would receive treatment for the plethora of scratches that covered her legs.

“She stank o’ pee.” Ms. Gibson clucked her tongue. She-self looking like she’d been dragged through the mud. Her hair askew, torn panty hose and rumpled up clothes.

“Wha’ happen? Wha’ happen?”

“‘Ruction,” a voice said from behind. The Watchie. His head wrapped in a bandage. “De children take over de school. Like in dem American shows,” he continued, signaling for Principal Clark to follow him to where he had been attacked, and then to the classroom where the teachers were held captive.

He’d finally convinced the people at the gas station to drive him back to the school. By the time he arrived, the perpetrators had already boarded buses to their respective homes or been picked up by their parents. He’d gotten a stage one to show him where the teachers were locked up. With help from one of the gas station attendants, they busted down the door then called the police who didn’t arrive until an hour later.

Principal Clark trembled. She would lose her job. The Ministry of Education had already warned her about that mess with Ms. Schnack and that boy. The boy’s parents had not backed down after the Ministry had issued its support of Ms. Schnack. She’d heard rumors that they had reached out to an international human rights group.

Lawd, what had Ms. Schnack done now? She had damn well told her, lay off the hitting, let the children kneel with their hands up in the air.  Or get them to pick up the trash around the school. Damn woman more stubborn than a mule.

‘Police pick up two of them,” the Watchie interrupted her thoughts.

She nodded, her mind still swirling. As the primary bread winner, she brought in twice what her husband earned. How would they pay for the mortgage and the two car notes?

“Dem stupid. Holding court near the wharf downtown, their chests puff, puff boasting about what they do here,” the Watchie continued.

“Lemme me talk to the police.” Principal Clark pushed past him towards her office which the police had turned into their temporary post, taking statements from the teachers.

She would never work again as a school administrator. She imagined the morning news: Principal takes vacation while students ransack school. Already she had come under fire by the media for Ms. Schnack. One radio host had suggested that she was akin to a slave master and Ms. Schnack, her overseer. And another accused her of facilitating child abuse. Now, this. Lawd!

She sucked in her round belly as she marched into the office demanding that someone tell her exactly what happened.

Principal Clark returned home at 9:30 pm to her anxious-looking daughter and her son. She nearly had a heart-attack thinking the incident had played on the 7 pm news.

“No. Phone ringing off the hook for you,” her daughter corrected, “we gave up answering and let everything go to the answering machine.”

Her husband as usual did not wait up for her. She could hear him snoring loud, loud.

Her head hurt after putting up with the teachers and their threats to resign. That young one who was always scantily clad, Ms. Charlmagne, or Ms. Charming as she liked to call her, wanted the Watchie fired.

She hit play on the answering machine.

“Ms. Clark,” the first message began, “I heard the strangest thing from my child today. School takeover? And she come home with barely any homework. Me tink she make up a story. But then I talk to Mrs. Rhodes and she said her daughter tell her how some older kids rough up the teachers. I say to myself let me check with Ms. Clark before I send my child back to school tomorrow.”

“Ms. Clark, my son come home without his book bag. One story about class lock up…teachers lock up in class…somebody head bursts…one nonsense…but I hearing what he says is true…”

Principal Clark pressed stop.

She smelt ginger, Vicks, and Bay Rum. Her eyes fluttered open. She had fainted.


Mummy couldn’t believe I was capable of such wickedness. In the weeks before the trial, she kept to her bedroom. I heard her praying, sometimes crying.

Daddy would peek at me from behind his newspaper when we sat watching television in the afternoon. “So much potential…now you could be sitting in a juvie center.”

He sucked his teeth.

But he had partnered with some of the other wealthier parents to hire a big-time lawyer to defend us, The Original Six, organizers of the Prescod School Rebellion.

That’s what they called us on the news: The Original Six.

The news also replayed the events surrounding Enrico’s death spotlighting interviews they had done weeks ago with parents and students who questioned the need for corporal punishment in this modern era.

“That’s some antiquated method of disciplining,” one interviewee answered, “like back when master used to beat slave. Is that the kind of mindset we want to give our kids? That low self-esteem ‘we beat you like an animal’ type-of-thing?”

Another argued, “This is what keeps our children on the straight and narrow. God said spare the rod, spoil the child. The fact that we’re talking about this shows how much we’re letting American culture influence our education system.”

“They beat kids in Africa,” another interviewee yelled into the camera.

The lawyer planned to argue that the emotional distress of witnessing Enrico’s severe beating and subsequent death along with no disciplinary action taken against Ms. Schnack contributed to our feelings of distrust, fear and inevitable violent actions.

He believed he could get us off.

The parents came over to our house once a week to discuss strategy and offer each other support. Mummy instructed that I stay in my bedroom. But I left my door ajar, listening intently to the back and forth.

I knew the women drank tea from my mother’s expensive tea set. A wedding gift from her French relations. She grumbled each week about the hassle of washing and placing each delicate piece of china back in its place.

“Soon they’ll break into pieces from so much use.” She glared at me as I carefully dried the saucers.

My father handed out bottles of beer and shandy to the other fathers and cracked open a bottle of his favorite rum. I listened for the chorus of ice clinking against glasses.

“The whole island is in an uproar over corporal punishment,” I overheard Michael’s Dad saying. “Parents questioning whether this whole beating kids ‘cause they talk in class or are sweaty from playing make any sense.”

“I mean if the child run all the way from the bus stop to school and arrive on time, you go beat him ‘cause he sweaty? Nonsense now.”

“Violence begets violence,” another parent piped up.

“And adults should know better. These are just kids trying to protect themselves.”

“And that whole ‘Peter pay for Paul’ stupidness. If your child get-on bad why my child getting licks?”

“I’m not too sure about this trial thing. It’s a British system. What if it’s generational trauma from slavery time these children working out?”

Someone sucked their teeth. “Generational trauma? Don’t start with that nonsense. Soon you’ll have murderer and rapist claiming that for their defense. Das papicho. Nonsense.”

They’d go on and on all evening about the cause of our violent uprising.

I took pleasure in listening for their shock.  Eventually someone would mutter, “Is primary school children that do this? I still kah believe.”


Da Gurl waited for him outside the Northside Library. That’s what Kenny called her, Da Gurl. With her fat twists pulled back into a bun, her four-eyed stare and she dress all proper with her long skirt and buttoned-up blouse. No one would look at Da Gurl and believe she a badjohn.

She jerked her head to the left and walked towards the bush that grew on the side of the library. He followed. He had taken two buses to get there.

One lawyer would represent all of them, but his mudda-self couldn’t be bothered to take all that transport and then walk up a hill to meet with all the other parents each weekend at Da Gurl’s house.

Kenny wished she would go. Just to tell him about the house; is it true they have basketball court and swimming pool and t’ing? And how many cars they have park up in the driveway?

During the week, the lawyer’s assistants dropped by his mudda’s stall at the market or later in the evenings at their small house to update them on the plan for the trial. None of the kids were allowed to communicate with one another.

Kenny’s mudda go along with whatever the lawyer and dem say ‘cause she kah afford no lawyer for him.

But Kenny still talked to his fellas.  Das he pardners who had helped to take over the school. But dem not on trial…all Babylon want is the leaders. Is same fellas dat had helped him get a message to Da Gurl.

“Is Kiran who go and open his mouth,” Kenny began once Da Gurl stopped at a small clearing after they had walked deep enough into the bush.

“He holding session downtown. Man, if his mudda hadn’t beat his tail so bad, we woulda mash him up.

He say when the police hold him, he ain’t say nothing. He say, when his mother bust up he eye, he ain’t say nothing. But he run his mouth already. Rumor flying, flying…I hear we bring gun into the school. What gun? People does lie.”

Da Gurl waited for him outside the Northside Library. That’s what Kenny called her, Da Gurl. With her fat twists pulled back into a bun, her four-eyed stare and she dress all proper with her long skirt and buttoned-up blouse. No one would look at Da Gurl and believe she a badjohn.

Da Gurl stood there looking at him, her hands crossed over those little tatas sprouting from her chests. He kah read she face.

Kenny had come for his money. The hundred dollars she and that richie rich white boy owe him and his fellas.

He didn’t break bat on teacher behind for nuttin’. She and that white boy had approached him and the other Standard Fives. She knew how he get on bad. He, Kenny, had received more cane from Principal Cac, das what he called Principal Clark, than any other student and never cry. He cool cool…since he was five…he could take licks. And he could give licks too.

He had agreed with Da Gurl, Ms. Schnack never shoulda been allowed back to teach. And Enrico was a cool fella. They used to race around the school before class started. Mate could run. Fast.

“You chat with anyone else,” Kenny asked.

She shook her head.

He studied she face. Da Gurl do’ feel no fear. Is true what dem say, rich people rule over the poor.  He hear all de talk before the takeover, how Da Gurl and dem running some judge court for the Standard Fours. Banishing people from the hill and t’ing. Das why him glad he asked for money. Kenny well done had seen the big car she fadder drive.  A hundred dollars upfront and then a hundred dollars the day after.

“Man, you shoulda hear she scream…bondyé,” Kenny laughed.

Still Da Gurl just looked at him, eyes blink blink. Then a trickle of a smile flashed across her face.

Kenny doh regret the takeover — everyday he watching TV and playing his Game Boy ‘cause he suspended.  And whole country in uproar over this. “Y’all shake up de country,” his grandfadder had called when he heard the news. And Kenny felt like a big man, like dem Rastas who live up in the hills, and when they come into town hoodwinking police who try to jail dem.

Ya man, he a revolutionary.

He leaped up and grabbed hold of a tree branch, swinging his body back and forth. He wondered if she let that white boyfriend of hers touch her tatas.

“I eh uh afraid of no policeman.” He swung forward and let go of the branch landing five inches from where she stood. She flinched a little before her face returned to its placid stare.

“Or no judge court. Or no teacher. They kah do me nuttin’.”

He circled the small clearing, picked up a stick and struck some trees.

“Mummy comes early.” Da Gurl checked her watch.

“Here.” Her outstretched hand held a crisp one-hundred-dollar bill.

Kenny grabbed the money and shoved it into his pocket.

He walked with her to the library.

“When you done with dat white boy…and you want a real badjohn…” he smiled at her. Looked left and then right before running across the street to the bus stop.

Her balling laughter filled up the dusty street.


A week before the trial, Mummy sent me to the country to spend time with Grandma. She owned a small convenience store that everyone in the village frequented.

I helped her unpack boxes of Carnation evaporated milk, Always sanitary napkins, bon-bons and lollipops. She stayed in a small room on the side of the shop that had a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.

At night she cooked rice and peas and black mackerel. She let me drink all the chocolate milk I wanted.

I liked stacking the large tins of powdered milk and Nesquik into pyramids at the front of each aisle.

Grandma never asked why I did it. She simply said, “That teacher never should have continued to teach there.”

I nodded. Mummy had told me stories of how Grandma had beaten her until she had welts on her shins.

“And I heard she put licks on you too,” Grandma continued.

I nodded. Mummy and Daddy had asked repeatedly why I had done it. I didn’t know how to tell them that I just knew we could. That it was the day when one of the Standard Fives had gotten his head bust open by a cricket bat. We had rushed to look at his crumpled body before being pushed back by the three or so teachers who acted as lunch monitors. They had tried to form a barricade yelling for everyone to return to their classes. But the whole school had pushed forward eager to see the blood pouring from the boy’s head and pooling onto the gravel-covered yard.

There had been so many of us. And so few of them. I knew we could take over the school.

But I didn’t know how to say this to Mummy and Daddy. Or to the lawyer who only cared that I responded the way he said.

Grandma ruffled my fat twists with her left hand using the other to pull out a lollipop from her dress pocket.

Later, I played outside in the backyard with one of the village boys. We chased lizards. Catching a few by the tail. He’d brought over his dad’s machete. We wanted to know if it was true that lizards’ tails could grow back.

Catherine-Esther Cowie was born on the island of St. Lucia but resides in the US. She is a poet and visual artist and enjoys listening to kora music and Arvo Part in her spare time.