Customs and excise had been generously bribed over a year ago for the Lotus Esprit, even before Lucas Feria chose it at the Miami showroom. Finally, the car — a pearl-glazed, steel and fiberglass marvel of aerodynamics — was parked in the driveway at New Moorings. Ready for a test run. Lucas would drive to the end of the island, towards Maperpie Mouth, at the highest RPM the winding San Piedro Road would allow. Tonight, he needed to be alone with the sea.
The night before, an apparition had fogged Lucas’s bathroom mirror. But that was after an Easter weekend binge on fine Colombian, red beard weed and six shots of Barrel 19 rum a night for three straight nights, each shot raised to Christ. The rum burned his throat and he only drank to please the fellas. The coke was so much better.
“How the jumbie looked?” asked Jerro, snickering and wheezing from inhaling the Colombian too fast.
“Just like Plaits”, Feria replied.
“Wait. Plaits from San Piedro?”
That was where they got the good weed.
Feria nodded. Sixty-feet, the length of two electrical poles laid top to bottom, and millions of Spain-by-Sea dollars separated New Mooring, where Lucas lived, from San Piedro. Both towns had suffered the indignity of cable wires crossing out clear views of the gulf, which was even closer to them than the distance between the towns.
“Ent Plaits get clean up in Miami about the same time you went to see the Lotus?”
Jerro remembered. But Feria didn’t answer.
“Alright, so what the jumbie was doing?”
“Standing on an electric pole, watching me hard,” Feria replied like he was in a trance.
Jerro looked bemused, “Maybe he was recruiting. You never hear when a bad-man dead, the devil always looking to carry on the legacy?”
Lucas ignored the gibe and continued in a dour tone, “He kicked his other leg sideways and it reached the pole on the other side of the road.”
The thought of the local pusher man as a gigantic Daddy-long-legs on top of two electric poles sent Jerro into hysterics,
“Bwah-ha-ha! Like you on some bad trips these days, Feria. Must be residue from that red-bush he sold you before he dead. Or maybe some jumbie following you in truth.”
Jerro could laugh all he wanted. The girls liked Lucas Feria. His beach-tousled hair grew to shoulder-length, and he brushed it only with his fingers. He could speak fluent Spanish too, even though he failed it at mock exams. That didn’t matter. Why should he care? His mother was from the mainland, a Venezuelan. His father was a Portuguese-Creole with property all over Spain-by-Sea. The boy didn’t need O-levels.
Lucas Feria was bulletproof. He could kill a man and get away scot-free. Last week in Miami, he bounced down a Rasta-fella at a four-way stop. No other cars were around. High on two sprigs of red-beard he smuggled from Ferdinand, Lucas stumbled out of his rental car to survey the damage. The Rasta-man lay straight as a pole, at regiment-attention on the smooth pitch, eyes wide open, staring to Zion. Jesus coming down to meet him. The man looked identical to Plaits, Lucas found.
But what was Plaits doing in Miami? Fellas like him couldn’t get a visa for America. Nah man, he was seeing things. Lucas positioned his face over the man’s own to study it. The dead man’s pupils pumped wide in response. Cold liquid mercury ran through Feria’s chest. Something had invaded his soul. He almost jumped out of his skin. It had to be Plaits.
Plaits struggled to get his final words out. His throat had practically sunk through the pavement with the hit, but if he could, he would have explained that he and Feria were kindred. How much he admired the young fella. He had seen the news articles. Feria had made jail too. Front page of the Guardian, barefoot, in short pants and handcuffs and that nest of hair that the girls loved. They were brethren in a past universe. Next life, Plaits would be the son of a rich man too and raise hell the right way.
“Fer-eee-ah. Kin-dred,” he made a last gasp.
Maybe Plaits wasn’t dead yet. Maybe he could be fully revived but how long would it take? The last thing Feria needed were questions from a Miami-Dade cop. Florida cops had no mercy. Worse yet if they found out you were flying high on red-beard.
Next morning, Lucas booked himself on standby and got the last seat on West Indies Airways. He undid his ponytail and shook his sun-streaked, uncombed hair free. He felt more like himself. He didn’t know why, but he suddenly thought of a girl he used to check at the fishing tournaments on Union Island. The same one he fed mifepristone pills, grinding them into the ‘bossest’ fried conch dip he mixed for her. She had tried to ambush him at the airport, blood still leaking down her leg, but he shrugged her off and breezed through security. Cool as Maperpie Mouth seawater. No one stopped to question him as she cursed him with a lifetime of painful ulcers, out loud in front everyone at the airport.
Feria related the drama back to Jerro, “You think she could have put something on me?”
“Put something on you like what? You done put ‘something’ on she,” Jerro parrot laughed kyar-kyar-kyar.
But Lucas looked concerned.
“She said the vengeance of Moko will fall on my head.”
Jerro laughed. “Oh, she was trying the hoodoo on you? Well, if you believe that, then you must know obeah can’t cross waters. You never hear that?”
How far between waters would you have to go, Feria wondered. For he and the girl shared the same sea.
Feria was glad to be home again. He thought back to the days after he left Miami, the placid silence at his New Moorings villa. Not a phone call, not a question from the rental car company about the body-shaped fender dent. Maybe another driver took the blame. Instead, a front-page news headline absorbed all the talk. Local drug dealer receives ‘hit’ in Miami.
Feria saw a photo of Plaits which must have been taken before he tun ‘ras. His hair was trimmed low, greased with Brylcreem and combed back. His face was shaven bare: the look of a Don. Feria read the first few lines of the story, San Piedro drug dealer Maylord ‘Plaits’ Simon was run over and killed in Miami over a suspected cocaine deal gone bad…
Feria shook his head in amusement. ‘Suspected’, yet no suspect. Things looked as smooth for Feria as Plaits’ bare face. The night was cool and still. Feria had the whole of Maperpie Road ahead of him.
Four nervous nights passed, and the village could not rest since hearing the new and reading it out loud in confirmation only made things worse. Talk travelled fast enough on the island, but the story and the accompanying malicious gossip moved at breakneck speed between San Piedro and New Moorings: Plaits, the bane of the village, was gone for good — but before they could quietly give praise and thanks for that, Feria was gone too. He had fatally crossed electrified cable lines yanked low across two electrical poles. Who’d done such a heinous thing in the middle of the night? Was it a prank gone wrong?
The impact of the yank catapulted Feria through the windscreen. The car lost control surrendering its pearlescent beauty to a steel pole. No one could understand how such an awful thing could have happened. Oh Lord, now the village was cursed! Everyone would say it was because of some dastardly village boys playing the fool with life and limb. What a scene…bloody slashes and glass embedded in Feria’s once-handsome face; his body cat-spraddled like roadkill. Just outside the lane that took you to the Church of The Rock.
It couldn’t have been coincidence he and Plaits died the same week. Maybe Plaits and Feria were in some small-time drug deal gone sour. Maybe Feria smote Plaits, and Plaits’ recruits mowed down Feria in retribution. Or maybe Feria himself was dealing! Maybe Plaits was his main soldier! Everything and nothing would be surprising. The small island story-factory was in full spin. And to think the whole disaster originated and ended in a village named after Jesus’s head saint. The ignominy! Lord, why? Selah, the San Piedro madwoman, who forever carried a stalk of bay leaves dipped in ‘holy’ seawater for protection (holy because she attended 6 am mass armed with it) would annoy passersby in the village by dousing them with it, shouting, “I rebuke thee Satan, and all thy empty promises!” She had an answer.
Selah said the spirit Moko had waded through the African side of the Atlantic to the Caribbean Sea to settle a score for the villagers. As usual, they dismissed her ramblings. What score? What foolishness? If it’s Plaits you’re defending, we glad the scoundrel dead! Look how many bad boys come out bearing San Piedro name these days, because of him. Making the whole town look like Babylon thieves instead of God-fearing fisherfolk!
And! Even if there was such a thing as Moko jumbie, what would Moko want with the Feria boy? Is us who have to fear now! It’s his death on our heads now as payback for all of Plait’s wayward youths! They mocked and sucked their teeth at Selah.
It was too much high tension for San Piedro. As it was, the backlash from police and New Moorings residents would be almost too much to withstand when they were ready for them.
The San Piedro night grew eerie and thick with low and ominous cloud cover above the village, hushing the hubbub. Something else was going down tonight. The jumbie bird made its familiar whoop-whoop. Stray pot-hounds howled in response — who or what else might be taken tonight? Please Lord, Please Ogun, Moko? Please? Any god who would hear the good souls of Piedro, please heed the plaint of the good. There was no thunder, no lightning flash. But an unceasing hum seemed to be approaching from the sea and increasing in decibel power.
The sound came, rapidly blanketing the traffic noise and restive dogs. It was a low, unceasing baritone hum, as pleasant as a lullaby. The voice-hum transported San Piedro residents to their baby days, even the ones who didn’t have good memories felt peace in that one night. But what could it mean? What was to come…what?
The phantasmal hum dropped its weight over Santo Piedro like a comforter, coaxing the village into a phase of deep, urgent sleep. It was a night so many had wished for since the accident. Not one car traveled the single road, the burden of sleep too heavy. Drivers pulled aside to the sea banks if they could make it in time. Some of the wearier halted midway in the road and let the urge take them. The humming lasted ten hours and all who reached San Piedro fell under its dreamless spell.
In the morning the village arose with the exuberance of renewed youth surging through its bones. They figured the television station must have shut down early and put everyone in a somnambulist trance. Maybe there was a calming spirit in the air. Maybe there was something astir in the gulf waters. Who could know for certain? The day began in absolute mellowness, but some folk were cautious…what would the new day bring? It wasn’t good to be too optimistic in a time of grieving. They had followed the news reports. No one called for Plait’s body to be shipped back home but Feria’s funeral was in a few days. Some San Piedrians noticed two more poles were slanted since the crash and they knew the damn electricity agency would never come to straighten them. They would wait for another fatality.
All morning, the villagers began to get nerves about police and the backlash from New Moorings residents. Concerns were reaching a crescendo, until on the twelve o’clock broadcast, Feria’s tearful mother appeared clutching rosary beads from the Chapel of Little Flower gift shop acquired on her last trip to Caracas. She pleaded for the police to cease their investigations. Lucas was in Jesus’s custody now, she said. Her boy was a good boy, and the Lord would judge him and all mankind. She asked, could those who mourn instead pray for World Peace, the war in Ukraine and the visionaries in Medjugorje. En El Nombre de Padre, Del Hijo y Espiritu Santo. Ah-men.
For years to come, young and old would puzzle over the legendary, deep calm that lay upon the village that night, how they slept as freely as men who had cleared the sludge of their conscience, no longer feeling that somehow Feria’s death had something to do with them. Maybe it was an earth tremor or a low-pressure system passing through. No one could truly say.
In the deepest dark of night, the sea began to move its mirrors. Moko shook and jerked his shrunken legs until he wrested them free, leaving the electricity poles bent from the struggle. The mirrors joined a cyclone, into which Moko leapt. He disappeared from sight, surfacing a few minutes later like a leatherback coming up for air, and headed for Maperpie Mouth, then towards the African Atlantic.
Anchor image: Lee Jaffe