Dunbarcrawled out of bed and tried to shake off the hangover from last night’s fete. He stood up, grabbed a pair of jeans off of his overflowing hamper, and patted the pockets for any loose change. Hopefully he would have enough to get to town. Surprisingly, he did.
As he walked out of the room he slapped the dangling corner of the Bob Marley poster back on the wall, and glanced at the picture of his mother on top of the chest-of draws. It was his favorite picture of her. In a silver frame, it was taken when she was young and fresh, wearing her favorite yellow dress.
He went into the bathroom to wash up and after a quick shower he hurried downstairs. “Alright Daddy.” He mumbled.
“Good morning Andrew.” His father answered. This was usually all he and his father exchanged, for that special bond between father and son, had long been broken.
Outside the day was new. Fresh out of the oven and bright like somebody had just polished it. Its heat encased him.
Themiddaysunshine hit him straight in the face and he paused, tilted his head back, and swallowed hard, as if drinking it down.
Hopefully Julian wouldn’t be too late. His older cousin always had something to get into, or something good to smoke.
Maybe, if he was lucky he would run into the Canadian chick he met in the club the night before. Or was she English? He was to drunk to notice, and it didn’t matter where she was from as long as she liked spending money and screwing.
On the way to town he took in the usual scenery. However, today he listened to the comments of the tourist couple sitting in front of him and for an instant took a look at his island home in a new light.
Feeling paranoid, he ruffled through his torn backpack for the dark sunglasses to cover his hung-over eyes and looked out of the window. The bright busy-day scenes zoomed by. Tourist talk replaced by daydreams and memories of a mother gone too soon.
In front ofNormanCentermall was already crowded. Young people loitered around defeating the purpose of the store windows, and getting in the way of the business people on their way to and from lunch.Dunbarlooked around trying to find someone to talk to. It was Carnival season and the middle of summer, new and old faces were everywhere. People who had been studying and living abroad were back and the tourists were out, mingling with the locals.
“Where de fuck is Julian?”Dunbarhad been waiting for about an hour and still there was no sign of his older cousin.
“Dunbar! Get a frigging job nuh…”
Oh shiteDunbarthought, recognizing the voice and the snicker. Gavin was back in the fucking island. Fun was definitely about to start now with this idiot back in the land.
“When you get back Gavin?”
“Day before yesterday.” Gavin answered, as the two sometimes-friends shook hands.
Gavin squeezed his way onto the ledge betweenDunbarand one of the other loiters. “SoDunbar, drinks on you tonite or wha?”
“I was just going to ask you Gavin….”
“I know you were, that’s why I ask you first ‘cause some things don’ change. You still broke as shite and liming in the same spot I left you in two years ago.”
Gavin’s comment brought laughter and confirmation from the few others who were sitting nearby, but attention of the group soon shifted to a couple of girls who were passing by. As always.
After theNormanCenterlime, Dunbar and Gavin decided to take a stroll through town, with Gavin stopping every few steps to speak to someone he hadn’t seen since he leftBarbados.
As they leisurely walked they saw an old high-school friend who now worked in one of the offices on the Harbour road. One Pigeon Cummings.
Face up close to the window of one of the jewelry stores down at the bottom ofBroad Streetwhere the taxi men operate from, the un-mistakable egg shaped head was hard to miss.
Pigeon was a little guy with thick glasses. He was the type of fella who sat in the front of the class. His real first name was long forgotten.
“Wha’ de men saying now? Wait….. When you get back Gavin ? Wha you sayingDunbar? You good? I ain’t seen you for a while? I thought you went way too…” Pigeon was all smiles, as if today was payday. He loosened his tie as he walked with Gavin and Dunbar.
“Wha you saying Pigeon? I still ‘bout ‘ere man. You know you don’t be going out no where man. Dis man may as well be married, how Lisa got he.”Dunbarsmiled brightly at his old friend.
“You know how it is man. I can’ party like wunna men ya know. Work be wearing me out man. But you know I goin’ be out dey for de festival boy, definitely. Definitely! So when de man get back Gavin?” Pigeon smiled and glanced at his watch.
“Last night. So is my first day back. Who want de honor a buying de man he first Banks?” Gavin asked, looking straight at Pigeon.
“Yea. I’ll get ya dis time. I could do wid a couple a cool ones myself. Leh we check out Sandy Bank. Eddie should be working maybe he could hook de men up. I park’ over dey by Dacosta Mall.”
A ride throughfive o’clockFriday evening traffic in the Pigeon mobile. A tight little bubble of a car, shiny and red.Dunbarsat in the backseat among a stack of comic books and air-plane magazines.
The three finally walked into the beach bar, exchanged greetings with some of the familiar faces and took up stools at a table near the bar.
“Eddie here yet?” Pigeon asked the bartender who had just begun to wipe down the bar.
“Nah. He ain’t get here yet. He should be here any time now.” The man replied wiping in circles.
After the drinks had been flowing for a while, Gavin started with the rumors. “Pige’ I know you heard ‘bout de men last summer?”
“Nah dread. Wha’ was up wid dem?” Pigeon took a sip of his Banks, and glanced at his watch. He had his right leg up on one of the rungs of the barstool, and it steadily bounced as he talked and looked around the room.
“I heard through the grapevine dat last summer de men pick up these two old, old tourist women and had it made for a while. I mean real fucking old ya know. Ol’ as shite.”
“Shite. Gavin man, who told you da’ foolishness boy?”Dunbarasked as if guilty. He had heard the rumor about he and Julian too, but that was all it was, a rumor. Still, he said nothing. Instead he smiled at the look of disbelief that the rumor caused to come over Pigeon’s face.
“Yea. I may be gone ya know….” Gavin sipped his beer, “but I still hear wha’ goin’ on pun de Rock. Anyway, Pige’, lemme tell ya. De men had these two shriveled up old girls. Had it made fa’ a while. Getting paid to screw. Boy I tell ya’. How much you mek outta datDunbar? Or better, how much you does charge?”
“ Cheez-on-breadDunbar.” Pigeon busted in “Wha’ I ain’ know you were in dat ting so man? Not like dat. I ain’t no dat at’ll man.” Pigeon glanced at a young couple who had just entered the bar and gave them a wave, took another sip and continued. “I know Julian…I hear ‘bout he. I know he a big Howly. But I ain’t know you were in da’ ting so man? Not like dat. I ain’t no dat at’ll man.” He shook his head, looked atDunbarand shook his head again, then: “I hope de man ain’t giving it to de old tourist men too ya?” Pigeon’s comment caused Gavin to almost fall off the bar stool with laughter.
“Nah, nah nah, dread.”Dunbarshook his head and sucked his teeth. “Strictly female clients dread. Strictly!” He stretched out the word. “And I don’t do it da’ often ya know. Only when times tight and I need some quick cash.” He added a joke.
As the conversation lulled Julian strolled in with two guys. One white, one black. You could tell they were from theU.S.orCanada. They looked like fresh off the plane first timers from the way they were dressed and examined every ad on the wall.
“Wha’ you saying Julian?” Two locals, jet-ski men sitting at the bar, shouted across.
There was a slight resemblance between Dunbar and Julian. It was quite noticeable. Both had their Grandaddy’s green eyes that the girls liked. But Julian had a little more height and a totally unblemished pussy-getting face.
Many thought Julian should take advantage of his looks and try modeling. But Julian used his looks well enough, for the tourist women, as well as the locals loved him, and both showered him with gifts.
“Wha’ de men sayin’? When you come back Gavin?” Not waiting for a reply, Julian turned toDunbar. “Andy-boy I hear ya was looking for me, man. I just missed you today. Today was a mek money day man. You seen Kirby in here?” Julian scanned the bar and looked back atDunbar.
“Nah. I ain’t seen him.”
“I been looking for him…. oh yea, I been showing my boys ‘round de place man. Lemme introduce ya.” He paused trying to remember the names of his guests. “Yea dis is Bruce and Scott. They from theU.S.This is my cousin, Andrew right here.
“This hard working man ‘ere is the one and only Pigeon Cummings.” Julian stood behind Pigeon and pretended to massage his shoulders. “Anything you want to know about birds, any kinda birds ya know…. ask this man right here.” Julian’s new friends laughed at his comment and he continued. “This cool guy right here is Gavin. Gavin where you living now dread?”
Before Gavin had a chance to reply, Julian motioned to the bartender. “Ed wha’ you sayin’ Lemme get a round a Banks heh dread.”
He turned back around cutting off Gavin who had just started to speak. “So de men irie then?” He sat back like a relaxed king, puffed out his chest, a mischievous grin formed on his face and he controlled the conversation. His voice and laugh booming throughout the bar.
After the small talk dissipated, Pigeon said his goodbye and Gavin made plans to meet up with Julian and Dunbar later on….
…Half an hour later, Dunbar, Julian and his two “boys”, found themselves walking along the beach with Julian doing most of the talking.
Under a tall Manchinel tree, on two rusty, beat-up, old oil drums they found a seat. Enough moonlight and shadows to hide them, stars in the sky and a twinkling light on the horizon keeping them company
When they settled, Julian dug into his front pocket and pulled out his leather pouch.
“Now dat’s wha’ I talkin’bout.”Dunbarstated with a smile.
After a hit, he felt mighty relaxed. He tilted his head back and took two more deep draws, inhaling the herb with the salty sea air. The reggae music floated down to them in steady riddims from the beach bar they had left an hour ago.
Dunbarobserved his companions. A big nose black fella and an older white guy who was going bald. The two of them were sitting a little too close to be just friends, but he said nothing knowing how paranoid good shit made him feel from time to time.
Julian stood up, softly singing the reggae classic which filled the night. “I wanna get high, so high….” He hummed the tune as he took another pull.
“All I need is a good woman now and I would be set dread.”Dunbarjoked, rubbing his hand over his face and catching a yawn.
The waves crashed and a breeze blew rustling the leaves of the Manchinel tree and causing some of its berries to fall.
“You don’t need a woman. You got three healthy bodies right here.” The black one said to the delight of the white.
Dunbardetected that, yes, it was said and….yes it came from one of the foreigners. He looked at Julian, who acted as if the comment was never uttered, instead he continued singing, smoking and staring out at the ocean.
Dunbarlooked back at the two men in disgust. Stood up and walked over to Julian.
“Julian. Lend me ten dollars till next week man.”
“Here. “ Julian turned around and walked back toDunbar. He dug a hand into his back pocket. “Tek twenty.” He held out the twenty dollar bill, “You know you wanna go up in Warehouse tanite.” He added with a chuckle.
“Tanks. Let me hit da’ one more time…” Inhale. Exhale. Then: “Julian I out man. This ain’t my scene….” He turned, threw a dirty look to the couple sitting, oh so close, on the oil drum and walked back in the direction of the beach bar.
Maybe he should have tried to drag Julian away from the two bullers. At the bus stop now waiting for the10pmby-pass bus,Dunbarsat thinking alone in the darkness.
But he was ready to go, was relieved that he had reached the bus stop so quickly. Anyway, Julian could take care of himself, and if he wanted to stay he would. With or without Andrew Dunbar.
On the rattling bus, sitting in a window seat, he closed his eyes and began to doze, but he was harshly awakened by a passenger shouting his disapproval to the bus turning down a side street.
“Dey fixing this rahsole road again !” The many triangular ‘Closed due to repairs’ signs littered the buses’ usual path, causing it to revert down a side road.
Dunbarwas wide awake now. It was impossible for him to rest his head on the window as the bus bounced and shook down the pot-holed street. The journey through the side street took the passengers through theBarbadosthat most tourists never saw. Indeed, many tourists thoughtBarbadoswas too Americanized, what with everything from “Big Mac’s to Crack being available. But despite these, and other imports,Barbados still had its own identity.
A part ofDunbarfelt at ease in these parts. It brought back pleasant memories of younger days, when he, his mother and sister would spend time with his grandparents in the country. His good old days.
The bus sped past the fields of sugar cane and made its way back to the coast road, and with thatDunbarwas once again transported back to the modern world. Away from the little old ladies in the little wooden Chattel houses with their pointy roofs, baking coconut bread for their grandchildren. Away from the Grandfathers reminiscing over a bottle of rum, remembering when they had to “walk twenty miles to get to school.”
During Carnival season, the days and nights seem to blend. After nights of endless partying, what day it is can be determined by the club visited the night before.
All over ached asDunbarsweat in the hot living room. The smell of rum, vomit and piss overwhelmed him.
“Where de fuck…?” His mind spun, his temple throbbed, as he turned onto his back and stared at the ceiling. Looking to the left, he saw the hole in the wall by the light switch, the large fish tank with all the colors and coral, but no fish. He realized he was in Julian’s apartment.
Another morning, another stinkin’ hangover. But this was the worst he had in a while. His stomach burned as he sat up on the couch, trying to remember the night before. Smiling, he remembered he and Patrice, had cracked some good jokes on Gavin who had passed out early.
He had also made a date to go to the beach with Cleo. That, to his delight he did remember clearly.
“Well at least I did two good tings before the night was over.” He yawned and stretched, rose slowly and tried not to fall. Carefully he made his way to the bathroom. A note pasted to the mirror read: ‘Gone to work. Clean up after yourself. Something in the usual spot for you.’
He took the note off the mirror balled it up and threw it in the garbage basket. On his knees he grabbed the toilet bowl and began to cough and spit, the beginning to the official ending of another long night.
Dunbarhad an hour before his date with Cleo. Taking an extra long shower, he had managed to wash away the effects of the many rum and cokes from the night before. He grabbed a salt bread bun, lathered it with guava jelly, poured some coconut water, he found in the fridge, into a plastic cup and left through the back door.
Cleopatra Montague was the only girl he could ever say he truly wanted for more than sex. Maybe, it wasn’t love, but it was more than lust. She was back from a four month stint inEnglandwhere her mother lived. They were only friends now, she reminded him often, and he knew it was all due to an incident which happened a few summers before. ButDunbarstill hoped for a second chance, and he knew Cleo still had a little ting for him.
“Wha’ you saying, Cleo? A little late nuh?” He smiled at the young woman as she approached.
“It’s the bus that’s late Andy. Not me. I would have been earlier but my car is at the mechanic.”
Mmmm, Cleo looked good,Dunbarthought to himself. A polished mahogany doll, aglaze in the glow of youth. Her complexion a few shades darker now, undoubtedly from countless hours spent by her father’s pool. Her skin glowed and she smelled like coco butter.
As Cleo stood on the beachDunbar’s eyes wandered all over her body. Fantasizing.
“So how wasEngland?” He asked as they began walking down the beach.
“It was good. Real good in fact. I did some designs for my aunt’s boutique, right and this photographer who was in the audience, he did a portfolio for me. Yea, I made a lot of good contacts.” She smiled and looked at him.
“Cool. It seems like you were modeling in high school talent shows yesterday. Now check ya out. A high fashion designer and ting…”
“Well, I don’t know about all that. But this is what I always wanted to do. Ya know? Designing and stuff. Anyway, where have you been hiding?” She gave him a playful slap on his arm. “I’ve been back for a week. I tried to call you. Last night was the first time I’ve been out though, that time of the month ya know…” She giggled.
“I’ been going out a lot. Usually over by Marcus or Julian. Trying to avoid home. My ol’ man been asking me dem work and school questions again.”Dunbarshifted his backpack to the other shoulder.
“When are you going to get a job? Or go back to school? Or do something?”
“I was working fa’ awhile, ya know. But I just tek a break. Wha’ wid Carnival season an’ ting….” He stopped walking and motioned for her to put her stuff down.
Two Jet Skis zoomed across the bay, and a ship moved on the horizon.
“Have you decided on what it is that you want when you do go back?” Cleo took out a large blue and gold towel, shook it out and spread it on the sand.
“Nah, not really. Not really tinking ‘bout it right now.”Dunbarpushed his sunglasses up on his head and threw his sandals down.
“You gotta get serious Andrew. I know you still hurting, but you gotta bounce back. I know it’s hard, but you gotta try. What do you like doing?”
He removed his shirt and moved closer to her. “Cooling out. Getting high and being with you.” He replied jokingly, trying to sway the tone of the conversation.
“Yea. Hmmmm. Cooling out and getting high isn’t going to do much for you.”
“I been thinking about going to check my sister.”
“You should do that then, that might be good.”
“It might be….I been really mixed up lately.” He sucked his teeth and looked around, “I’ either been drunk, high or both for the past couple of weeks.” He sighed. “I really missed you, missed our talks.”
“ Ohhh, I missed you too.” She gave him a hug and kissed him on his cheek.
They had been in and out of the cool water all day. The sun was slowly saying goodbye as they sat talking on the beach. Their conversation bouncing between many topics and people, finally landing on sex. After a few minutes and chuckles Cleo stood up looked back atDunbarand held out her hand. “Come let’s get one more dip before we go.”
The light from the hotel courtyard bounced off the endless waves. “Daddy is having a pool party on Saturday, so be there.” She said as they entered the water. A passing wave caused them to rise and a few seagulls made their way south across the shell pink, fire orange, and blue, light-blue, blue of the evening sky.
“I’ll be dere.”Dunbarheld her around her waist.
“Andrew what would you like to do right now?” She placed her arms around his neck. “This very moment?”
The question caught him off guard. “Ah …I’ain’ know…tek off your bikini.”
“You would say that. You shouldn’t have messed with my sister then.”
“We been through da’ already. How many times I gotta tell you dat I ain’t do nutting wid her. How many times I gotta tell you dat she kiss me I ain’ kiss she, she kiss me.”
“Yea right. You just stood there and let Kat kiss all over you. Yea right.”
It wassix o’clocknow, they had been at the beach for two or three hours andDunbarwas starting to get restless. His stomach had been growling for the last twenty minutes, pleading for food.
“I believe you.” Cleo whispered as she straddled him.
“Cool.” He replied.
The bikini bottom came off easy and her deep moans made him smile…another wave passed and they held each other tightly and rose.
The sun began to slip, and a slick white catamaran made its way towards the West Coast, its occupants enjoying the ride.
“I hope this evening meant as much to you as it did to me Andrew…?” Dressed and dry now, standing at the bus stop across from the busy gas station, Cleo looked at him, the question lingering in her stare.
“Of course Cleo. Come on. You know it did.” He pecked her on the lips.
“Well I just want you to know I don’t take sex lightly”.
“Me needa. You know how I feel ‘bout you.”Dunbarwhispered sweetly, hoping she could not tell that he was being a bit melodramatic.
“I gotta go Andrew.” Cleo stated as she tip-toed up and gave him a kiss. “Thanks for a beautiful day. I enjoyed being naked with you.” She giggled her giggle. “Give me a call later. Matter-a-fact, give me a call tomorrow. Christina and the girls supposed to take me out tonight.”
“Alright, Cleo I’ll probably see you some where tanite. I had fun too. We gotta do it again sometime.” He grabbed her, pulling her close. “Soon…soon.”
Cleo’s bus pulled up; she popped another kiss on his lips before she stepped in. “Bye…call me.”
“ Alright see ya ….”
He crossed the road to go to his bus stop. This might be a good summer after all. He thought to himself. A grin formed on his now sunburnt face and he finished off the thought in speech. “This might just be one to remember.”
The drive toRootsCityseemed a little shorter this morning. Perhaps it was becauseDunbarslept most of the way and surprisingly, Marcus didn’t have much to say. The radio in the old car was constantly switching on and off the station and Marcus quietly cursed it as he tuned the dial and tried to maneuver the vehicle through the thin, rough island roads.
It was a rather grey morning, and the smell of rain lingered in the air mixing with the sweet, raw grassy smell of the thick field of sugar cane which surrounded them.
RootsCitywas a Rastafarian commune on the East coast of the island. An illegal settlement on government land, it was the home to about ten or twelve Rastafari, men, women and children.
Lately, Marcus seemed to be thirsty for knowledge andRootsCitywas as sure a place as any to quench this thirst. The commune was the home of the true Rasta man. Wise dreads who provided for themselves, by selling their handmade leather products, beautiful wooden sculptures, fresh vegetables and fruits from their gardens.
Many of the talented residents of RootsCityalso composed songs and poetry honoring the African ancestors and Jah.
Some of their poems, art-work and songs were recited and seen at many of the local cultural shows which occurred around the island, especially during Carnival season.
“When I come up ‘ere I learn more than I evah did in school dread.” Marcus broke the silence of the morning.
“True, true.”Dunbarquietly replied. The knowledge was definitely cool, he thought, but the hard hitting marijuana the Dreads had, wasn’t that bad of an extra.
Their ‘erb seemed far more potent, fresher, and this, along with the company and conversation, was worth an early morning ride…. every once in a while at least.
“Seed. Ras Seed!” Marcus shouted as they stood by the door of the large shack. The door opened, a cloud of smoke escaped, followed by a coarse “Who dat?”Dunbarstepped in first; Marcus liked the knowledge, but was a bit leery of some of the Rastafarians who shared it with him.
“Wha de man saying Bongo? Ya Irie?”Dunbarasked the young Rastafarian who stood in the door way.
“Jus’ ‘ere….” The young man cleared his throat and looked at them waiting for their next move.
“True, true. Where Seed an’ de rest a de men?”
“Dem gone….Dey not ‘ere…dey should be back any time now I-ah.” Bongo replied.
Bongo was Ras Seed’s nephew. He was about seventeen and looked like a young African warrior with his dreadlocks tied back. He was very dark-skinned with prominent cheek bones, you could see he still had some growing to do. “Dey should be back soon. Ya’ll could wait. Come.” He turned and moved back inside.
Dunbarfollowed the young man into the shack. The scent of incense and marijuana touched his nostrils; he paused and looked around the interior. “Wunna change up in here a little nuh?”
Posters of Marcus Garvey, Emperor Selassie and a few
others decorated the walls. A huge red, gold and green flag, with a picture of Bob Marley draped down from the roof, and a few finished and unfinished wooden sculptures lay in a corner of the room.
Some carved stools and African drums were in a slight circle and a flag covering one of the windows made the room a bit dreary.
Ras Seed was the first of the five men to walk into the shack.
“Blessings yout’ men. Long time na see. De men irie?”
“Yea, Ras how you?” Dunbarsmiled at the man whose dread-locked head looked like an eruption of salt and pepper stalactites and stalagmites. He was a slender man who also carried a grizzly beard, and the whites of his eyes were white, white, white, against his dark face.
Ras Seed was an enlightened man, an intelligent black man he liked to say. But his intelligence didn’t only come from books, which also crammed the room; much of it came from talking with people. Seed listened to everyone, and seemed to observe something new everyday.
Dunbarrecalled early one Saturday morning, when he was in a carload coming home from a fete`, seeing Ras Seed in town deep in conversation with one of the street sweepers. When he next saw Seed he asked what they were talking about and he comically replied “Brooms, I ah.”
As the other men walked into the room, Dunbar placed names with faces. Tall, lanky I-Bob, the poet, was followed by Brax. Brax seemed uneasy and quieter than usual. His locks were now gone due to a short stint in Glendairy Prison, and Dunbar assumed this was the reason.
Stoakley and Macka came in last. Macka propped the door open to allow the sea breeze and some light to stay in the shak. He didn’t notice Dunbar and Marcus until he turned around and immediately his smile vanished. The young dread-locked man did not likeDunbar, and although he didn’t really know Marcus, he automatically disliked him too.
Dunbardidn’t care much for Macka either, but nevertheless greeted him the same as the others.
“We got the knowledge seekers heh today nuh.” Macka grunted “Sit, smoke and reason ‘bout the problems a de black man for awhile, before ya go back to the heights and terraces….”
“ Listen don’ start yout’ man. Don’ bring no negativity to the morning I. These yout’ men welcome heh just like you.” Seed quickly intervened.
Dunbarwasn’t afraid of Macka. He knew him when his name was Mikey. Mikey Brown. Before he had the shoulder length locks and the new name.
Mikey Brown had always been trouble.Dunbarhad tangled with his lean, muscular frame once before when they were in third form, but with the yearsDunbarhad cooled while Macka had gotten bigger and hotter.
Personally,Dunbarbelieved Macka was just jealous and confused. There was also the coloration issue with Macka as well. Same old cliché, ever present, hovering in the area like a bumble bee.
“How Julian? You, Julian is something else….” Brax asked, with a laugh, as he made an attempt to ease the tension. “Julian is something else dread…”
“Julian is Julian ya know…”Dunbarreplied, shrugging his shoulders. Like many of his other habits, Julian also introducedDunbartoRootsCity. In the past Julian made many trips toRootsCity, and like many of the wayward youths who visited the commune, Ras Seed had tried to reason with him, tried to get him to cool out. Cool down. But the trips to Roots City were just another phase in Julian’s life, which was soon replaced by some other fad.
Stoakley was the other Rasta man who entered the room. Like Macka, Stoakley was not a resident ofRootsCity.
He was a third year student at the University of theWest Indies, who wrote a column called “Stand Up!!” in one of the island’s newspapers. Stoakley liked to wear a lot of red and black, and always wore a pendent, shaped likeAfrica, around his neck.
His writings spoke of the injustices which occurred in Barbadian society and were often critical of the government and the big businesses. Sometimes he spoke at the political platforms Elliot Montgomery held in town every other Thursday night.Montgomerywas an independent candidate with dreams of becoming Primeminster of Barbados, but most just viewed him as a loud mouth who tried to stir up trouble.
Stoakley was a talker, and thrived on the attention of the crowds.Dunbarliked him and respected him a great deal even though he could be a bit long-winded at times.
Bongo sucked on a mango and slowly wiped away the juice which trickled down his chin. Dunbar tried to peel the long stalk of sugar cane with the dull knife Brax had given him, but frustrated, gave up and resorted to stripping the stalk with his teeth.
All ears and eyes were on I-Bob as he recited the poem he was entering in an upcoming competition. While I-Bob rattled on about island life,Africaand the stars,Dunbar’s mind drifted to the sounds outside of the room. A sheep “baaaed” as if it were in pain. Little dread locked children played and sang some of the popular calypso songs which packed the radio waves, thanks to Carnival season.
Slowly,Dunbarrose and moved across the room to the window. Looking outside the sun had chased the early grey away, and he could make out the surfers at the beach, a mile or less, down the hill from the commune.
Looking closer, in the opposite direction, it was easy to see some of Ras Seed’s younger children as they slid down the grassy hillside on strips of card-board. He watched some of the older ones more intently one climbed up a coconut tree, and quickly tossed down a big green coconut to his accomplices, who waited impatiently; ready to be rewarded with some of the refreshing coconut water and rich white jelly.
The light blue sky, lush variations of greens, thick sprinkles of red flowers exploding atop a frangipani tree off in the distance, and sweet looking golden yellows on another tree nearby surrounded him, he took a breath. Pure tranquility.
Marcus was sitting quietly in one corner tapping a drum lightly, his eyes closed and head swaying. Macka and Stoakley were passing around a large joint, deeply engrossed in conversation. Each man’s eyes were converted to deep red slits from smoking too much Ganja.Dunbarshook his head, stood up and smiled and joined Seed on the steps of the shack.
“Wha’ de man reading dere Ras?”
“Just trying to find out more ‘bout dem black Muslims. So I pick up this book de yudder day.” Marking the page with his finger, Seed showed him the cover of the book.Dunbar’s eyes focused on the picture of Malcom X and quickly digested the few words which were on the cover.
“It al’right. Some a dey beliefs, I don’ ‘gree wid. But after dat group try to overtake de government inTrinidad, I been interested in dem. In some ways dey share de same goals as I and I, but dey got dere own ways of achieving dem.”
“You know how they view you?”Dunbarasked, showing a growing interest in the conversation he had initiated.
Seed paused for a couple of seconds, pulling his beard. “Not really ya know. Dat is somethin’ I must find out. Dem feelings toward I and I probably the same way I and I feel towards dem…I sure dey know de true Rasta man is fa de upliftment a de African race.” He paused took a draw, natty head shaking disagreeing with himself, “Nah, nah my ‘yout Rasta for upliftment of de human race I-ah. But we got to get our own right first. It ain’ only black people dat been brainwashed I….”
“You believe dey were right inTrinidad?”
“Wha’ you believe?” Seed’s watery eyes widened. Bulging. “Do you believe that five percent of a country should be living like Kings while de rest barely living? Living dread, dread, dread I. You believe dat people should be starving, hospital lacking medicine, education crumbling while dey building a two million dollar monument to a Prime Minister? These political leaders ‘bout heh gotta get dere priorities straight man. Stop all dat politricking nonsense. Or it obvious somebody going try ta tek ‘em out I.”
He took another draw and shifted his attention to a flock of birds as they flew by high in the sky, then he continued. “These peoples who running this rock heh, dem better tek heed, change dere wicked ways. Or as sure as we sitting ‘ere, dere time goin come. Just as sure as dere’s a tomorrow, there time goin come too.”
Dunbarsat and conversed for a few minutes longer. After a few more questions Seed kept looking at the book he held in his hands.Dunbartook the hint, “I goin’ down by de beach Seed. When Marcus ready tell him ta come and get me.”
“Alright yout’ man….guidance I.”
AsDunbarwalked down the path he noticed everything had a dampness to it, but the sunlight still twinkled through,Dunbarnoticed as he strolled down the well worn track. The bananas on the trees around him were not yet ripe, but it was evident that in a couple of weeks the residents ofRootsCitywould be providing many to the fruit vendors down in Speightstown.
A thick fence of thorns spread out around the banana trees, and other plants in the commune’s garden. A monkey still lingered nearby though, watching him as he made his way past.
Dunbar’s mind was still lingering on the conversation he was having with Seed shortly before. He had seriously thought many times of converting to Rastafari. Or reaching the “Heights” as some called it. But the pro’s and con’s of the Rasta way of life balanced on his reasoning scale.
One thing he knew though…. it was all the way or nothing. He refused to be a “Plastic Rasta”, or “Long-Lock man,” one who only wore the locks because they were in style. These were the ones who gave Rastafari a bad name he thought to himself. But, there were so many. Men like Mikey Brown. He never did anything to Mikey. Nothing. But ever since second form the man just did not like him. Nothing but negative vibes.
The third form fight was over some foolishness. A “your mother joke” gone too far.
Now Mikey was Macka. Macka Brown.
The wild ferns and bush shook as he moved down the steep path. “Wha you saying?” He quickly exchanged with a few surf board toting locals. He stepped on to the white sands; he shielded his eyes from the glare which shimmied off the sand and the pool blue ocean. AsDunbarrelaxed on the beach his attention was shared between the surfers, and two little ghost crabs who fought and ran in and out of their holes in front of him.
“Wha you saying Clay? Who else out dey?” He asked the surfer who rode in on the last wave.
“Wha you sayin’Dunbar? Ya irie?” The young man replied, as he bent down to remove the surf board’s leash from around his ankle. “Jus’ a few a de men from ‘round heh and a couple a Point men. De waves ain’ really saying nutting today. Dey ain’ breaking good atall dread. I ain’t seen de man up here in a while though…Where de fete` tanite?”
Rising,Dunbardusted the sand off his shorts “Either Sandy Bank or de Warehouse.” Clay’s ribs protruded through his Coca-Cola colored wet skin.
Dunbarnoticed. “Ya like ya losing weight man…Hope you ain’t got da’ ting…Hope you name ain’t pun de list.”
Clay was more of an acquaintance than a friend. One time at a fete up inWansteadGardens, they wound up in the same smoke session, but never really moved together. Clay was a character. The wide space between Clay’s front teeth combined with his large ears, which looked even bigger because of his haircut, madeDunbarchuckle.
“Nah! Nah dread. My name ain’ pun no rahsole Aids list. Nah. I tired as shite though boy. I been out dey all rahsole day, trying to get ready fa’ next month.”
“Wha happenin’ nex month dread?”Dunbarasked, eyebrows raised.
“Man you know, de las’ heat fa de Flying Fish Invitational…”
“You mekking sport….. You trying out fa da’ dread?”
“Yea man. Dey had de first heat last week, up at South Point.”
“And you mek it pas’ da’ ?”
“Yea man, I mek it. I place third overall.”
“ Third. Dat ain’t bad. I ain’ know you wuz dat hard pun de board dey my brotha?”
“I been practicing hard ya know. And I ain’t in dey yet. Dey got five more heats dread, wid all de top men. So I gotta keep my fingers cross.”
“True, true…Good luck dread. Good luck. I gotta get my board fix I ain’t surf in a while. The last time I surf was when they had a break down Batts Rock.”
Clay was looking out to the part of theAtlantic Oceanhe had just left behind.
“De man might just represent de Rock one a these days nuh.”Dunbarcontinued.
“Ya never know. Ya never know.” The wind picked up and the waves began to roar a little louder, a stampede of water rushing in.
Although Clay was cool, he had a reputation for bending the truth, or more like breaking it, to suit his mood, the moment, so one had to wonder about the stories he told.Dunbar’s good luck wish was genuine nevertheless.
The beach was surprisingly emptier than he had expected. A few girls lay on the sand, half asleep, half up, searching for the perfect tan. A group of young teenagers sat chatting, looking over the water at the surfers, Boogie and skate boards close by.
“Nutting but teeny-boppers out heh today boy. It’s kids day I guess.” Clay remarked comically.
“Wha’ you tink you is?”Dunbarreplied to the wet boy.
“Shite boy. I gunna be sixteen next year ya know.” Clay replied forcefully, sucking his teeth.
“So.”Dunbar replied with a laugh.
The two boys sat and talked, shaded by one of the large disabled fishing boats which sparsely lined the beach. It was a big faded light blue one, with the wood rotting at the front, and a gaping hole on the side. It still smelled like raw fish and the name ‘Lil’ Dipp’ was painted in faded black on the side.
The conversation ended abruptly as Marcus pulled up in the oldToyotaand blew the horn.
“Alright Clay. Tek it light.”
“Alright,Dunbar. I probably goin’ run into de man somewhere tanite.”
“Probably…. Alright, easy Clay.”
“Yea, easyDunbar, easy.”
The white pool deck was the stage for an abundance of fluorescent and other brightly coloured swimsuit- clad bodies, diving in and out of the sky blue rectangular pool. Laughter and excited conversation buzzed all over the large white house as young adults and aged teens mingled, hugged and chased each other around the overcrowded yard.
Not only was it sunny and bright, but it was hot. A good ninety-six degrees, even in the shade. Because of the heat, the pool became a people magnet, drawing all shapes, sizes and colors of sun burnt bodies into its cool refreshing waters.
Once again Cleo and Katrina had pulled off the pool party of the year.
Dunbarpaused at the sliding glass door, surveying the scene and comparing it with last year’s before he became a part of it. There seemed to be more of everything and everyone this year. Members of the ‘in’ crowd as well as the ‘out.’
He snapped a mental picture of the party scene and walked off to receive his share of hugs and kisses.
The songs of Shabba Ranks blared through the speakers trying its best to drown out some of the noise the crowd made.
“Okay, first I gotta find Cleo, let she know I here. Then I can go hunting.”Dunbarthought to himself. It seemed all his old friends, lovers and acquaintances were there, back from studying, living and working in the States,Canada,EnglandandEurope, telling stories to anyone willing to listen.
His eyes searched through the crowd of people at the bar which was a hive of activity with noisy folk trying to collect their share of free alcohol.
It was still rather early, around three. Most of the “smoke-out crowd” weren’t there yet, but as time went on, familiar members started arriving, already high or hooking up with their colleagues leaving and coming back with strawberry colored eyes and large bright smiles.
“Andy, what’s up?”
Turning around to a vaguely familiar voice,Dunbar’s voice heightened with excitement. “Waaait! Kyle! Wha de man saying now dread? When de man get back?Dunbarasked as the two exchanged a quick hug and a long handshake.
“Yesterday cuz…..Or rather early this morning. Shit my bags haven’t even arrived yet. These are the clothes I wore in. I can’t wait to change.”
It was good to see Kyle alive. Looking into his face a change was noticeable. He was bigger than before. Tall and light skinned with a head of curly hair. Gone was the wild, spoilt, senator’s son of summers past. He seemed calmer now, shy even. More mature. Images flickered throughDunbar’s mind to different days. Days when Kyle stood before him in a wild rage, taking three security guards to hold him down, preventing him from killing himself and others. Back then Kyle Gilliem was more like a walking drug than a human being.
Dunbarfelt awkward around Kyle now, and wished he could go back. Not to the drug days, but the pre-pre drug days. Days when they flew kites during Easter break, or hopping fences to steal mangoes off Mr. McCollin’s trees. Those days seemed so far away. Back then Kyle was his idol. His best friend in the whole world. Now he couldn’t even talk to him.
“So….Ah, how de man doing….you Irie?”Dunbarreally wanted to know if he had finally beaten the drugs or, if he was still being treated at the expensive Drug Rehab/ School his father was paying for in up-stateNew York, but these were the only words which came out.
“I been chilling man. Chilling. But lemme tell ya something cuz, there ain’t no fucken place like home you-know-what-I’m saying?” Kyle wiped a hand over a sleepy eye. “If you only knew how much I missed this place. But ya gotta do what ya gotta do ya know what I’m sayin’? The American accent didn’t seem to fit him. But living overseas for so long it was obvious that he would have one. Still, it seemed to change his whole character.
The two conversed, reconnecting, remembering the old times and catching up on the new. Through the corner of his eye,Dunbarsaw Julian making his entrance. Like a child with a new toy, Julian smiled as he showed off his new conquest. A middle-aged, not short -not tall, blonde white woman, with big breasts, who clung to his side as if trying to merge….
Once upon a time Julian, Kyle and Dunbar wereBarbados’ version of the three musketeers. You couldn’t see one with out the other two being close behind. It was as if they were the main characters of a movie and everyone else a co-star, an extra. However, like most movies with major stars, Julian and Kyle competed for top billing. It was this competition, as well as a few other factors, that broke the bonds of a friendship many thought would last forever.Dunbarwas forced to choose between the two of his closest childhood friends, and for awhile he choose neither. For both seemed headed down a rocky path without the other. It was Dunbar who saved Julian from Kyle that night at Quayside Mall when the drugs were frying his brain and the three policemen tried frantically to restrain him. That night for a brief second, ironically, the three musketeers were together again.
“Wha de men saying? How you been Kyle?” The fake smiles surroundedDunbar, from Kyle to Julian and back, and from Julian’s lady friend to Cleo, who had just stepped toDunbar’s side. “This is my lady. Greta. She fromGermany.” Julian continued putting his arm around the woman’s waist. The “nice to meet you’s” bombarded the European woman as she stood nodding her head trying to look comfortable.
If only they could rewind life, edit the mistakes, the bad parts,Dunbarstood thinking. Then the three musketeers would be together again, experiencing new adventures with the old crowd.
But the members of his old crowd had also changed. To many of them,Barbadoswas no longer home. They were studying and living abroad, summer visits toBarbadoswere only brief escapes from the classes, appointments, deadlines and other priorities which now occupied their lives. Anyway, there was a whole new crowd emerging, with its own musketeers.
After an hour or so of idle conversation with Kyle and some other old friends,Dunbardecided it was time to do more mingling. The pool- deck was crammed with many more partiers now, the day had cooled down causing some of the pool’s inhabitants to vacate the warm H2o.
Dunbarleaned on the balcony rails and rubbed the cool beer bottle on his forehead before taking another sip. The view of the harbor and the downtown area looked as if it were jealous because Cleo’s party had all the action.
“Hello Andrew.” The soft sexy voice broke his daydreaming.
“Heh Kat. Wha’ you saying…?” He tried to sound uninterested as the voluptuous seventeen year old stood in front of him. The revealing bikini brought back memories of heated nights onAccrabeach. “Where Caspar ?” He tried to remind Katrina, as well as himself that she had a boyfriend.
“Matter-a-fact, where Cleo?” His conscience kicked in once more as he tried to repress the rising testosterone bubbling below his waist.
“I haven’t seen any of ‘em. Makes ya wonder doesn’t it?” Kat gave him a wink and a smile.
Dunbarhad noticed through his friendships and relationships with sisters, that they either were close, shared all of each others secrets and despite little arguments over trivial things, were the best of friends. Or, they were totally opposite and hated each other.
Possibly, in their younger days the two elder Montague sisters were close. But with each passing hour their two distinctive personalities spread them farther and farther apart.
Kat was a wild one. Fast from early days, the first timeDunbarhad sex with her she was thirteen and seemed to know more about sex than his seventeen year old mind ever imagined.
Her fourteenth birthday was the day Cleo caught them in one of the upstairs bedrooms. No matter how much he told Cleo that he was an unwilling participant to the kiss, she never truly believed.
Her not trusting him was justified. For not only had he been Katrina’s kissing partner many times after, but her sex partner as well. Katrina was just so sexually satisfying that it was hard to leave her alone. You looked at her and you only had one thing on your mind.
Like a hurricane, she left many crying and moneyless in her destructive path. Caspar Morris was her latest victim and he was definitely a prime candidate, for not only did his people have money, but he was gullible. In fact, this was his second go at being Katrina’s mate, and once again he seemed to be losing.
Many of Katrina’s so called friends constantly spoke about her behind her back, but they all envied her and wished to be in her position. Possessing the power of male manipulation.
Katrina was also the main reason why Kyle Gilliem wanted to squeeze every breath from Julian Haligan’s body. The main reason for the destruction of the three musketeers.
Dunbarnervously looked over the now lit party scene in search of Cleo. He promised himself that if he and Cleo ever made any type of commitment, he would leave Katrina alone. That night with Cleo, only days before, flashed through his mind.
“You look nervous Andrew. Do I do that to you?” Katrina asked with a sexy grin.
“I ain’t nervous. Just looking ‘round dat’s all.”
“Yea right. I think Cleo’s gone to take some people home and pick up some more drinks.”
“There’sCasper, over dere.”Dunbarpointed to his stumbling ex-high school classmate.
“I see him.” Katrina replied looking ashamed of her boyfriend, who screamed and laughed with some of the other drunken male guests on the freshly trimmed lawn.
“Would you like to dance Andrew?”
“Ah…..” It was a tempting offer. The slow song which held the couples on the dance-floor, was one of his favorites and it would mean dancing close to Kat and touching some rather interesting parts which the bikini barely held in place.
But what if Cleo came back?
He could always say he was drunk, which was not entirely far from the truth. “Fuckit. Yea sure. Why not….lead de way.”
The two danced within arms length of the bar, andDunbartook advantage, with the bartender readily supplying ice-cold alcoholic beverages to his eager appetite.
“So, Andrew how come we haven’t gotten together lately?” She playfully poked him in the chest.
“I been busy….Wid your sister.” He didn’t want to say it, but he thought he should. It was obvious Katrina was teasing him, for surely she knew of the cozy situation between Cleo and him. But, of course, stealing her sister’s boyfriends was nothing new to Katrina.
Some parts of his body wanted Kat and showed approval to the close dancing, but his mind tried to resist, as the short, sexy brown-skinned girl looked up into his face. Cleo was on his mind and she could walk in at anytime.
“Anyway you gotCasperkeeping you busy right.”
The sarcastic “Yea right”, showed thatCasperwasn’t satisfying her, and would probably be another part of her broken heart collection pretty soon.
Casperwas in plain view, lying on one of the lawn benches getting ready to fall. “Will you please help me put this fool in the laundry room Andrew? Please.” Kat mumbled a few words of disapproval and shook her head as she pulled away fromDunbarand moved toCasper’s aid.
The dance floor was more crowded now as the DJ picked up the pace with a number of faster, current hits.Dunbarweaved his way through the crowd, eyes focused on the lower parts of the healthy looking girl he followed.
Her ass was hypnotizing. A part of him was rising and the drinks were starting to really affect him now. Cleo was becoming a faded memory, as he wondered how long it would be before he touched Katrina in all those wonderful places.
Katrina pulled the hanging string, quickly illuminating the insides of the laundry room.Dunbarslumped Caspar’s passed out body onto the floor, propping him up on the washing machine. The room went dark and he felt Katrina’s hand running down his chest, eventually, fidgeting with the top button of his shorts.
“Mmm, Kat, what about…?” He tried to sound as though he did not want her, but stopping her was the last thing on his mind.
“Come on Andrew.Casperdoesn’t know how to do it right…atall…atall.” Katrina said, making an attempt at sounding innocent.
“And I know my big sister don’t know….” Her sexy giggle came and she added, “ ‘cause she don’t like to do it.” She giggled again and kissed his chest. “But I know, don’t I Andrew?” Her hands were unbuttoning his shorts now. “….and I’ve got some new things to show you.”
Outside the DJ played a top Calypso, a song called ‘Love Doctor’, the big tune everyone had to win at this year’s Carnival. Shouts and yells of approval came into the near-dark laundry room, along with the sweet Kaiso music.
IfDunbarsat and thought about every girl he had ever been with, they weren’t that many; he would have come to the conclusion that what Katrina was saying was right. Out of all of them, she knew for sure what she was doing.
They had been going at each others bodies for what seemed like hours with the soft bundle of dirty clothes making a comfortable love nest beneath them and the pounding, pulsating beat of the Calypso surrounded them.
A few feet awayCaspersnored and mumbled to himself, dribbling, knowing nothing of the act which was taking place in front of him.
Once again he had sneaked a taste. A rub, a pull, a kiss, a touch. Sweet penetration.
He stood now by the bar trying to wash away the traces of guilt which had begun to come over him, with a slow rum and coke. After two sips he pulled himself off the barstool. His rendezvous with Kat and the endless nights of partying and more partying were beginning to take a toll on his body. He made his way to the den which was crammed with some of Cleo and Katrina’s close friends and cousins. Eddie Murphy cursed out of the T.V. asDunbarplopped down on a couch in the corner to watch his favorite entertainer.
Summer ‘90s pool party was over. A few stragglers hung around trying to prolong the activities, but the DJ had started packing up and the bartenders had begun carrying cases of empty bottles into the laundry room. By the time a pestered Cleo got backDunbarwas snoring deeply in a corner.
Morning would find him, and probably many more, crashed out in the den. But this was normal. This was the laid back surroundings they lived in. This was island life. Usually safe, usually friendly and usually secure. Usually.