Wake up to the same damn drought precautions on the radio, this time announcing water to be shut off from Sunday mawnin’ till Wednesday, or perhaps as late as Saturday. And unfortunately, me water storage tank is down. And no sign of the water truck four days now. Even Boogie Brown sound thirsty giving the bulletin: “Do not let the tap run while you brush your teeth or shave. Try to keep your showers short and only take one a day.”

Shower, I think frowning. Yesterday me, Mikey and Reds took a dip in Great River like when we was boys, and when we coming back, we walk the ol’ train tracks through Westgreen and come out at MegaMart in Fairfield. All the shelves bare. Not one bottled water we could find, not even a mini bottle left. I just hope what I have in the tank can stretch till the water truck show up again. When people see it nowadays dem scream like when pitney see ice-cream truck, run outta dem house even half-naked. I not even a hol’ a fresh this mawnin’. Just a wet rag tidy. The whole time I getting dressed and whistling gospel with Love FM, I thinking bout the dream.

I cut through the track beside Railway Lane. Pon the left I hear Nicky, Evie’s little girl, skipping rope in the side-yard and the little boy from upstairs the tenement keeping count. Angela in the backyard singing, Level the Vibes, like she in love with Half Pint, and scaling fish she just buy from Goggle Eye hand-carting through the backroad screaming, “Fish! Greens! Chat to mi!” till him mouth corner white. On the right, Mikey Dread I-salute me from him doorway, roll him Rizla tight and spit-seal him spliff then turn him mouth inside to tell Nola, him empress, to pass a cushion so him can hold a siddung pon the Saturday mawnin’ and make the good times roll, just like Shirley and Lee bubbling on the bar’s jukebox downstairs.

When I touch Lightbody Avenue, Mechanic Tony stooping, aiming pebbles at all the eviction notices UDC nail to the tree ever since gov’ment announce plans to reopen Montego Bay Railway Station. As soon as him see me, him grin and jump up. “Who deh yah?”

“Who deh yah!” chorus the other mechanics under the almond tree.

I fist-bump Tony and Prento, sidestepping the jack-stand so it nuh soil me Giorgio Brutinis. “Ja yuh go live long bwoy…,” Tony say, “I jus’ call yuh name to Reds.” Him squint at me then take the spark plug pendant hanging round him neck and point it at me eyes, mock frowning. “Ja yuh need to stay home today, doctah’s orders…look like duppy box yuh in your sleep. Nuh true, Prentice?”

Prento slap him big belly and laugh, “Wha’ppen, Ja, yuh start sleep under cotton tree?”

I rest a hand on Reds’ shoulder, watching oil seep from an engine block to a drip-pan on the blue tarp. “Bwoy, I get a rahtid dream last night…”

Crook Neck and Boysie, who come bar before cock put on him drawers, dip dem finger in dem plastic cup of JB whites and flash it ‘cross me shadow: “Spin an’ tu’n yuh roll young blood…bruk evil neck!”

Dutty Tony slide from under the Datsun so fast, the rusty creeper nearly trow him off. “Ja tell me exactly what yuh dream – nuh leave nutten out!” Him wipe him hands on a greasy chamois and pull him Cash-Pot dream book outta him coveralls. “I mus’ win some money today…!”

I already sorry I say nutten. Even Vybz put down him sack of clinking empty bottles and draw so close, people cover dem nose.

I keep dem all hanging. Evie kotch pon her verandah chair picking seeds outta ackee, but she really picking every word outta me mouth. When I glance round she turn her head quick up the street, like she waiting on Goggle Eye to circle the block or Ramgeet to come sell her coconut brush to shine her red steps, fragrant with the heady sweet smell of Genie floor polish. Last Christmas, Benny Ba finally promote Evie from understudy to play Belly Woman – in a way it was a changing of the guard. But Mama was irreplaceable. She had a different connection to what we do – she was the glue. Like she born in costume. When she retired, she didn’t even show up for we performance. That was her way. She was confident I ready to succeed her as spiritual leader of the troupe. And I glad she wasn’t there to see what happen.

I know what dem want to hear from me now. I get the feeling, watching the hungry looks, dem already figure whatever I dream have sum’n to do with dem too. Finally I say, “I dream see Benny Ba.” Everybody congregate, like I breaking fish and bread. Is like the tree shaking with dem excitement. “…I dream we standing on One Man Beach and she point and say: ‘De soulboat ah come.’”

Dem look pon me good for bout three seconds before everybody buss outta laugh. The only person not laughing is Vybz. Him reading me with him street prophet eyes. I know the dream have sum’n to do with what happen last Christmas. Sum’n that leave me with a bodderation ever since like I walking with a rock in my shoe. Sum’n that stop me from dance.

“De hot weather cookin’ your brain, Ja,” chuckle Prento, emptying the drip-pan into a jug and sealing it. “Vybz, come bring dis to de recycling plant.”

Vybz jump at the opportunity to earn a smalls.

“Toothache is twenty-nine,” murmur Dutty Tony, scratching him beard, leafing through him Cash-Pot book, “…an’ dead mother’s dream is forty-eight…”

Mikey skip downstairs to open the shop ‘side Joann’s bar. And him buying out the argument too, before him even t’ink to buy the dutty bottles Vybz collect outside the railway yawd. “Bwoy, Benny Ba muss turn ina she grave every time yuh put on jacket an’ tie an’ take up bible.”

Listen, mouth mek fe chat. Dem wouldn’t understand that ever since that Christmas night, I can’t pass Jim Dandy ah road and look him in the eye. That every time I look in the mirror, I see the Devil over me shoulder. I glance at me watch. “Today is communion…I doah wa’an late.”

“Alright, Janoah,” laugh Reds, waving him spanner, “gwaan go sail yuh ark.”

I pass Goggle Eye trowin’ fish guts to puss and dawgs and feel a strange hunger tearing at me stomach – like I envy the dirty strays – a hunger to be meself.

The day so hot people legs look like dem shimmering as dem walk. As I loosen me tie and wipe sweat stinging me eyes, I see dusty foot pitney and women, like a mirage, trekking from Hog Lane – where downtown meet uptown – balancing buckets of splashing water on dem heads. When I turn the corner, I bump into bodies jostling behind a silver water truck. And of all people, who I see but the Devil, Jim Dandy, operating the long hose, barking orders to hold the queue while him bwoy toy, Jasper, collecting payment.

Some shirtless rudebwoys skylarking by dem zinc fence, spinning ratchet knife pon finger and grumbling, “We nuh want nuh water from no battybwoy…!”

And bleach-face Jasper teasing dem, “So yuh nuh stay deh an’ dead ah thirst, gangalee.”

So the rudies ah screw face but still taking buckets from dem girlfriends.

“Dandy how de hell yuh pull dis off?” ask the security guard outside the duty-free shop, ‘cross the road from Pops’ tenement. “How yuh manage get water truck permit?”

“Jah works, Secky,” smile Dandy, “like Moses striking de rock.” Him wave him sticklike arm. “People, we on the verge of a boom in water delivery business. Yuh know how much frackles I mek since mawnin’ on Barnett Street alone? And look at, Secky, here – boasty slave – guarding Hanna’s Jewelry Emporium and cyan afford a damn t’ing in dem shopwindow. De ol’ Syrian even giving yuh Christmas bonus?”

People laugh. But the guard know better than to take Dandy serious. ‘Cause once him get under your skin him is like a tick. I know that better than most.

Upstairs in him air-conditioned glass cage, old man Hanna watching the rabble round the water truck like Backra watching Sam Sharpe whipping up slaves before Christmas Day Rebellion.

After Dandy fill the last jug, people clap and sing, “Jim Dandy to the rescue!”

A freckle-faced redhead — fresh offa the JUTC tour bus — strolling City Center’s pink terrace with other tourists, beat her husband excitedly with her straw hat. “Harvey quick! Get the natives on vid for the Instagram travelogues!”

When him see white people Dandy start drop foot, bending him mosquito legs like dem bout to snap.

“Dandy mine polio cripple yuh! Leg cyan buy a shop!”

Besides him legs being extremely thin, one longer than the other, giving him a seesaw walk. People say that’s why him dance so good. But Benny Ba say dem don’t understand that Dandy turn him pain into poetry.

Like Mama, Dandy is a generational talent, can jump any role ina Junkanoo. When him ready sometime, him dress up ina frock and heels and walk Sam Sharpe Square with a fierce expression, like him thirsty for confrontation. If anybody shout, “Battyman!” him would quickly rebut, “And proud of it!”

And they’d laugh and leave him alone. Other times when him ina good mood, no dance or wake can keep without him. Yuh haffe get Jim Dandy to make it sell-off.

From the edge of the crowd, I watch him – crafting him movements to give the impression that at every turn, every twist, him flirting with danger, like him ina battle with life and death. The performance play on your emotions, leaving you breathless.

“Go Jim Dandy. Gooooo!” dem shouting.

Like Mama, Dandy is a generational talent, can jump any role ina Junkanoo. When him ready sometime, him dress up ina frock and heels and walk Sam Sharpe Square with a fierce expression, like him thirsty for confrontation. If anybody shout, “Battyman!” him would quickly rebut, “And proud of it!”

Dandy dance till him salt-and-pepper mohawk dripping sweat. When him see me, him flash him gold teeth. The Devil’s red mask is back on his face. The day get as hot as hell. Me hands get so sweaty me bible slip. And though I standing in the sanctified body of Jaheim Murray, born-again christian, I am Warwick again, back on the battlefield.

That night, diehard fans rattled dry poinciana seedpods till the shacka-shacka rose to a crescendo that made me feel invincible. During the dance-off we was leading on every scorecard, till somebody threw the words chi-chi man at me like a rock. The strategy worked. I broke formation and attacked Dandy’s troupe. Then I felt sum’n slam deep into me neck. I trow down me sword and clutched at Horse Head’s cape, thinking, Somebody just cut me neck! Horse Head panicked and bumped into House Head’s back, nearly toppling the plantation house from on top House Head’s straight-hair wig. When Horse Head galloped ‘cross the spirit space — with me clutching the iron pole extending from his jaw — I felt as if I flying through a canepiece that stretch as far as the eyes could see, the green stalks snapping back to sweep me shoulder beads, slap gainst me foil-covered cardboard breastplate and wipe blood I sure flowing from me neck. In all me years of performing, is the first the spirit space ever come alive, like I finally ‘cross over.’ But burned into me brain was nothing but the fact that I’d been outed. I’m cut! Me mind screamed the words over and over. Till I abandoned the skirmish and ran off the street down to the beach, the drum and fife music fading in a fog.

And just like that night, Dandy coming towards me now, parting black bodies like the Red Sea, holding me gaze, the bottled water him holding transformed to a whip. I stand there spellbound on the hottest day in December, still battling memories.

I tottered headlong down the dark beach, feeling me neck. I heard him behind me, cracking the whip, making devilish grunts, “Yuh have the power bwoy but yuh ‘fraid fe use it.” I tried to run faster, but it was like trying to outrun your shadow. He tied me legs up with the whip. Outta breath, I clutched the sand. Fireworks lit up the bluff beside Margaritaville Nightclub, bright colorful flames reflecting on his glittery mask as he stood over me. The pain of the blow almost gone, the street noise faint. Like a mocking twist of fate, I heard the familiar music of me troupe coming up the street. Kneeling, he stuck a finger under me tunic, shifted me underwear and me cock jumped out like a knife. I swear him smile under the mask when him see it, him whispered as him lowered himself, “Yuh cyan jump Junkanoo ‘cause yuh nuh free. Yuh have Benny Ba blood but yuh…” I didn’t hear nutten else except the music getting louder, a beacon trying to find me. But I didn’t want it to, ‘cause Jim Dandy setting me soul free, as if him not only cut me neck but me whole body open. I groaned and burst like a dam in him mouth. Rising in his half-raised mask, he ripped mine off triumphantly.

“Don’t you know it’s dishonorable to unmask a warrior!” I said, in a voice barely managing outrage.

“You’re no warrior,” he taunted, “you’re a coward!”

“You’re the disgrace to the costume!” I cried, sounding stupid to me own ears, “you’re the insult to an honorable tradition! A faggot – freak!”

“Don’t talk to me bout honor,” he laughed, me seed dribbling down him chin, “I am everything you’ll never be. Yuh playing dress-up – hiding behind a mask! Yuh think is me whip cut your throat? Is your own insecurity!” He attempted to remove his mask.

“No…,” I begged, “keep it on…,” then rolled over and let him finish what him start.

The whole time him thrusting, him answering every moan I burying in the sand like dirty secrets, “Yes Jaheim…now yuh jumpin’ Junkanoo…”

I don’t know when and how it happen, but him holding me now, just like that night, folding me fingers over the bottle with a half-cocked grin. “Fresh from Hopewell Spring, Jaheim…” I turn and tear down the street, laughter chasing me.

Is when I reach church, I realize I holding the bottled water instead of the holy bible.


Inside church, the wall fans only bouncing hot air off the zinc ceiling. Before communion Pastor announce, “Bredrin, due to the drought we will forego the washing of feet. But we will still partake of the body and blood.” The su-su start. But most people agree dem rather drink grape wine than wash dutty feet. Pastor give the usual warning from Corinthians – bout taking communion with unconfessed sins – then turn the podium over to Bredda Shipwright to lead the singing.

Sister Darmond fanning beside me like she deh pon fire. Sweat jus’ a run down her bosom, like whatever she dying to confess burning her up. When Shipwright wheel him fist and thump him pants seam, when him change tempo from stanza to chorus and belt, “I am thine O Lord…!” using him voicebox like gearstick, I see the Devil beside him making quick vibrating steps, the cowbell attached to him backside clanging in step with me conscience. Sister Darmond mussi see him too, ‘cause she drop her hymnal like grenade and hug her body and rock till she shake the pew.

She wheel out ina the aisle and start move hippy-hoppy with her top-heavy self, spinning and pointing with her eyes shut, and everybody ducking the searching finger. “Somebody soul not right!” she yell. “Yuh cyan serve two master! Your sins will find you out!”

Meanwhile me going numb in the bench, watching the Devil spin with long quick turns beside her till him jab her with the pitchfork and she lose balance and fall pon me. I cover me face and shriek. People lift dem hands, bawling for deliverance.

Valerie Black jump to her feet. “Jaheim confess! Nuh mek de foul spirit kill Sistah D!”

Sister Darmond shake me shoulders and gimme one bitch slap in me forehead. “Demon, I command you! Leave Gawd property!”

“Yes,” I cry, “is true!” breaking down in tears till two deacons pick me off the floor.

Inside the vestry I confess everything, the gay porn, the attraction to men. When Pastor link hands with four prayer warriors and me kneeling in the middle, and warn the Devil, “The circle will not be broken!”

I scream, “I see two men fucking on a beach every time I close my eyes to pray!”

Pastor pause, stroking him goatee. “But this serious…we need an emergency exorcism.” Him send Deacon Herro for water quick-quick and bless it then pour it on me head, shouting himself hoarse, “I cast out the spirit of homosexuality! I cast out the spirit of blasphemy! I cast out the spirit of disbelief…!” But all him ‘casting’ I don’t feel a thing. When I glance at the bottle him holding, I realize the fool-fool deacon bring him the water Jim Dandy gave me. That did it. I get up, grab me jacket and leave churchyard same time, feeling ashamed, confused and foolish. Pondering what this soulboat could be.

Turning onto Gravel Lane, I hear bangarang inside Livity Market. So I navigate round the housewives hip-balancing wicker baskets, the beggars and bus loaders and thieves tugging me trousers and sleeves, round Juicy shooing street-boys from him sky-juice cart, round women sitting over green bananas and bolts of colorful cloth, till I reach the racket. Pushing through to get a closer look, I see sum’n I’ll never forget as long as I live: a pack of street dogs growling and snapping at a Johncrow hopping in dem midst, spreading its bitten wings to fend them off. People getting on like dem at cockfight. And Big Foot Beres, who always wear bell-bottom trousers to hide him elephantiasis, scampering round taking wagers: “Work me a work, anuh chicken me a jerk. Place your bet or step back!” When him see me him shrill, “Big money time Ja, wuleepa money mek – which dawg go bruk de Johncrow neck?”

“Wha’ppen here, Beres?” I ask in bafflement.

Vybz gather the Johncrow so tenderly, you woulda think is a shepherd cuddling a lamb. Up close, the bird so ugly it turn stomach. I give it a wide berth, ‘cause to even touch a tail-feather bring a year’s worth of crosses. “Vybz, what you goin’ do wid it?”

Big Foot Beres skin him jackass teeth. “De Johncrow so thirsty him lose him bearings! Land smack dab ina Livity, come drink dutty watah like is oasis.”

“Come poke him beak ina people business like Boogie Brown!” smaddy else charge.

When the vulture finally collapse from exhaustion, the dogs rush forward. But outta nowhere Vybz appear, beating both mongrels and gamblers with him staff.

“Yuh tellin’ me there’s no love in de heart of de city?” him shout, flashing seashells beading him sun-bleached dreadlocks. “Dis bird is a sign ah providence, an’ if yuh let these bloodthirsty mutts kill it we all go suffer!” People know better than to mess with Vybz, so dem steups and scatter. Is only now dem realizing Big Foot Beres disappear in the market crowd with dem money.

Vybz gather the Johncrow so tenderly, you woulda think is a shepherd cuddling a lamb. Up close, the bird so ugly it turn stomach. I give it a wide berth, ‘cause to even touch a tail-feather bring a year’s worth of crosses. “Vybz, what you goin’ do wid it?”

Vybz stroke its head. “I go nurse it back to health and set it free after de first shower ah rain dat Gunguru Mara send. Just like you should set your soul free, Janoah.”

The last statement alarm me. “Vybz what yuh mean?”

Him laugh to himself. “Your friends know you better than you think Jaheim…they always have.”

That afternoon, I drop asleep in Benny Ba’s rocking chair and dream see the peel-head Johncrow preaching, saying a yearlong prayer for rain. With every squawk, it enumerate a month, like beads on a string or knots in a rope. Then with its beak, it wrap the prayer round me throat. Gasping, I jump awake.

That’s when I realize the exorcism had worked – it just got rid of the wrong thing. From then on, I know I don’t need the church.


Next mawnin’ is the same damn thing. Boogie Brown sound like him on him knees. “People please, conserve! The NWC says the Mona Reservoir and Hermitage dam are down to 26 percent and 36 percent of their capacities respectively, so restrictions will remain in place until further notice.” Then comes the lecture: “Do not allow children to play with pipes —” I steups and switch off the radio.

That Sunday, sickness bruk out in MoBay like heatwave. Everybody who buy water from Dandy either have bellyache, dem skin bump up or dem vomiting. Some — especially children and babies — reach as far as hospital. As sick as people be, dem find strength to launch a manhunt. When dem ketch him on Hart St, hiding in a wholesaler’s saltfish barrel, dem not even bother turn him over to police. Dem drag him outside and tear off him gansey. Smaddy step up with cricket bat like Brian Lara to the crease. “I go straighten out yuh life – till yuh learn fe stop bloodclaat sell samfie!”

“Nuh bruk me up!” Dandy beg. “Spare me till after Junkanoo – please!” Him start dance but nobody clapping. So him kneel but dem haul him up.

“Ah long time yuh have dis coming. What yuh put in dat water? Talk before we buss yuh kneecap!”

“Is…is ah petroleum truck me rent and retrofit,” Dandy mutter, wrapping him arms round him bony shoulders. “Then drive go Westmoreland go fill it.”

“Fill it wid what, yuh dutty Jancro!”

“With…river water.”

People shake dem head. “And him didn’t even clean it out properly!”

But coming from Jim Dandy, ‘river water’ could mean anything. Last year when dem ketch him selling rotten meat at Livity, it took a fractured collarbone before him confess him scavenge it from Riverton Dump.

A mawga woman say, “I hear is not even a oil truck, but a sewage truck him rent cheap!”

This get people hopping mad. Some start search for stones.

Dandy try climb the light-post. “No! Me can prove it. Me have de receipt!”

But people blood hot for murderation. And dem woulda let him have it if somebody never shout, “Halt!”

When dem look is Vybz again. This time with the Johncrow perched on a makeshift gauntlet, looking like a falconer or mad prophet with him personal avenging spirit. People scatter fast yuh rass, mixing bumboclaat with Psalm 23 to ward off goozum. The bird’s face just as fierce as Vybz’s, in a weird way dem look like kindred spirit. And ah so Vybz’s wood-bottom shampata ah crush road, ah so door and window ah slam. Vybz stamp him staff. “Don’t I say yesterday dis bird is a sign? Now look at you, fulfillin’ prophecy — ready to tear Dandy to pieces! When yuh all damn well know when you buyin’ dat water him never get it from nuh dealer, dat him nuh have nuh license! Yet yuh drink it, hopin’ for a miracle. Well, that’s what him sell yuh, hope. And is a hard-earned lesson. Now deal wit’ de consequences!” Dandy grab him shirt and splurt. Vybz reach as far as the supermarket where I shopping then turn round. “It goin’ tek some serious soul-searchin’ before dis drought stop. Dis land thirstin’ for change!”

By the time I get back to Lightbody Avenue, him and the Johncrow turn global evangelists, trending with hashtags like:

#jamaicaisnotarealplace: Doomsday Preacher and Jancro Save Scammer From Lynching

I see dem nailing a fresh notice to the almond tree. Mechanic Tony pleading with the man, “Boss…gimme a grace period till after Christmas.”

The bearer shake him head. “Listen, why yuh think this is the widest street in MoBay? Because it lead to the railway station. This street was founded on prestige and the glory days finally coming back. They goin’ fence this tree off and turn it into a proper roundabout. This whole area up for urban renewal. Change is coming, bredda. You standing in the way of progress. Is the bailiff coming next.”

Everybody quiet. The tree quiet too. Remembering every notch we cut into it measuring weselves growing up. Feeling me carve the name of the first boy me like. Laughing at the times Benny Ba cut me tail for skipping school to play cricket here. Crying bout that Easter Evie fall from it and break her leg. Is the thought of losing the tree that frighten us, not the eviction. Is like we realize too late the tree is hallowed ground. And I know I owe it to me friends to finally be honest with dem. Before we lives change forever.

Evie — chiney-bumping Nicky’s hair for Gran’ Market — call from her steps, “Listen, we only need a top three finish to secure enough money so Tone can rent a shop.”

Reds nod. “This could be de las’ year we performin’ as Almond Tree Troupe. Let’s make it count.

Boysie raise him flask. “I’ll drink to dat!”


When the MC, Boogie Brown, announce the finalists, we step back out into street lights coming on at twilight. Of course, the job is only half-done, ‘cause now it’s a matter of pride. Boogie shout, “People, this is the rematch of the century!”

Me gutside – you shoulda hear the crowd!

We watch Dandy’s troupe warming up, led by Pitchy-patchy quick-stepping sideways from foot to foot, causing his brightly colored rags to tremble. Dem blowing conch shells and fork-scraping graters till ruckus fills the Hip Strip. Dandy kicking up rumpus bwoy…jumpin’ Junkanoo like a jumbie. Policeman jigging beside him, swinging him baton, feinting at the crowd. I draw me silver sword and charge. We spin and pause before dem, watching Madda Lundi roll her big bottom and drop libations to invite the spirits to stand between us. I shut out the cheers, stop glancing at judges at the scorer’s table, even shut out the groaning tambourines and swishing whips, till Benny Ba standing in the spirit space, not as Belly Woman, cradling her timeless pregnancy, but teaching me mi first steps on One Man Beach – where she was the only fisherwoman – passing on life lessons. “Jaheim, when you dance never follow the beat of the drum, let the drummers follow your movement. You be the tempo of the music.” The whole time me dancing, me not moving free. Even when Wild Indian sweep him long painted stick and me skip it, even when Cow Head buck at me ribs, me sword just barely graze him coconut shell. It just take a glance in Dandy’s direction and me outta step with the band, so me drift back and signal to Boysie on the sidelines to replace me. Then, ducking through gigolos leaning on rent-a-scooters with white women and American frat-boys chugging beers on the sidewalk, I walk down to One Man Beach, feeling lost.

The gunpowder smell of firecrackers mixing with the salty sea breeze. A wind come up. The sea swelling. I hear the water talk a little. Only fishermen know how to listen and talk to sea when it mad.

Crax cratax doom doomm, thunder rolling.

Kadak doong doong, drums answering down-shore.

I see a troupe I never see before. “Hey!” I shout, “the sea on the rise. Don’t stand so close!” But they ignore me. Jack-in-the-Green pull a branch from him body like a rib and plant it in the sand, then twirl a tattered green flag toward the sea. “Hey! Can’t yuh see the sea on the rise? Storm ah come!” I can smell the rain. The wind whipping up a sermon bwoy, but I can’t make it out. To me ears, it sound like people moaning out on the sea, like people too sick to make it across or ashore. First I think is a few, but the sermon on the wind tell me is a bagga people, like a multitude. Two drummers sit facing each other, drumming before an upright coffin. When I step closer, I see the image of a ship carved into it, and the doong doong becomes many hands banging on the ship’s door. The Devil use him broom to outline a ship-shaped performance space round us. Whiteface Ku-Ku knock on the coffin’s lid and Horse Head, wearing a horse skull of flesh and blood, step out. I kinda scared now, but is a holy fear like Ezekiel’s. One of the drummers pull the coffin’s chain, and while the other drumming, chanting Rivers of Babylon, she drag the coffin ship over the sand into the surf.

We march slow behind her. The sermon on the wind sounds like wailing from the coffin ship. “What dem saying?” I ask Horse Head.

“Son, every captive spirit has a part of dem soul inside dat boat. Listen to it.”

The soulboat moving down sea. Moving and standing still same time, like it waiting for me. As the storm-wind kicks up, the wailing becomes heart-rending shrieks. I make to run after the boat to save dem, but Horse Head grab me. “They can’t undo their fate, there’s nothing you can do for dem but live free.”

So I take off me mask and fling it out to sea, kneeling in the sand, feeling raindrops pelt me face, crying me farewell, watching the soulboat drift till it disappear behind squalls of driving rain.

Belly Woman pull me up. “Now go live your truth, Jaheim.”

Dwight Thompson is a Jamaican and author of the novel Death Register (2018) and has published short stories in PREE and the Caribbean Writer where he won the Charlotte and Isidor Paiewonsky Prize. He was shortlisted for the 2012 Small Axe Literary Competition and longlisted for the 2021 and 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. His upcoming novel, My Dear Own People, will be published by Akashic Books. He works at an international school in Hiroshima.