A simple man

A short story by Irma Rambaran

Illustration by Shalini SeereeramIllustration by Shalini Seereeram

I is a simple man. I does fish, go in mih garden, cook some food, drink some rum and mind my own business. Even when the fellas by Sampee knock back a little too much on a Friday evening and start kicking up about how the government should pass a law to stop the Venezuelans from trawling, I does say, “Leave it to God”, because, in my experience, things have a way of working out. Every now and then he does send a blessing. When that happen, like when mih last boy did get the scholarship to go UWI, I does fast, do a little puja, give thanks to Rama and ask blessings for the future. People does work up deyself too much, I find.

Take today. Since morning it have a set of shadiness going on. Was six o’clock. I did now come back from the sea and mih ears was still ringing because the fellas real cuss-up the new buyer from Sangre Grande for giving them a dollar a pound for the moonshine, and Guppy does feel we does be holding back on he.

Well, I was fixing some coffee when Miss Parris son come round to ask if he could look for a cricket ball dey loss. Now, that funny because is not cricket season and everybody know the boy prefer football. He almost make the under-19 football team a year, and for a while after that he was acting as if he was coach, referee and manager all in one. But I tell he go ahead.

So I watch him searching, searching, but in my eye I know it ent no cricket ball he looking for. When you looking for cricket ball yuh does have to look under leaf and move the bush with yuh foot. But he was looking for something bigger because he eye was looking further than he foot. Well, after a while he give up, tell mih “Thanks Mr Mootie,” and he leave.

So I drink mih coffee and went on the bed to lie down. I doh sleep so sound these days, I does be thinking. In fact, mih wife, God rest she soul, used to say I should stop thinking and start acting. Besides, I couldn’t sleep because the seine did hook on something and I had to meet Fresco to fix it. So I lying down and mih eye fall on the new suit mih daughter did buy for mih birthday last week. Just as I getting up to put it in the grip somebody else come calling.

This time was Tractor Mouth. He real name is Henry, and he own the only tractor in the village, but he does talk like a tractor. I call him in the gallery and we sit down. He start one time:

“Now I know you is a man who know the ways of the world. And I asking you this, ‘If you find something and it worth plenty money, what you go do with it?’ That is a question Plato and Aristotle asking theyself from ever since.”

Henry like to show off that he does read big books. Plato and Aristotle is he favourite people.

He continued: “Well, the way I see it, the first thing I would do is to fix up this house. Look at it, it falling down on you. As a friend, I telling you if ever you want to break it down and build a new one, just check me. I dealing with contractors from all over and I will make sure you get the best deal.” And so he went on.

Now, I living on this beach 40 years now. This house build 20 years ago. It ent a mansion, is true, but it comfortable. I know it have some cracks where the wood and the concrete didn’t match and it have a leak over the kitchen sink (see how God does work) but the foundation solid and the two bedrooms was enough to raise mih wife and five children. What I alone doing with new house?

So I tell Henry I will keep him in mind and decide to go down by the boatshed. Well, I was walking down to the beach and is then the real shadiness hit mih. Everybody saying “Good morning, Mr Mootie” and I answering “Good morning and how the family?” and everybody say, “Everybody good, thanks.” But I find that people was watching me shady, shady. But is something I did learn from mih wife, God rest she soul, that people does look at you funny when they think you keeping secret. I almost open mih mouth but I stop it in time. Sometimes a man must hold back what he have in he mind.

 

Anyhow, I gone down by the boatshed and Fresco was dey already. We fixing the seine and talking. He tell me how mih birthday party last week was real nice and he find mih grandchildren growing good but to watch out for the littlest boy because he have the same kinda bookish streak mih son did have and look what happen. Book sense is not common sense he say, and I agree. Then he ask me if I hear the talk. Before I could say a word, he start.

“Well, the rumour is a big load of cocaine disappear right on we beach and everybody looking for it. In fact, they say it worth millions of dollars. What happen was the pilot make a mistake and he miss the real place.”

 

Now, we beach is a small small beach. You could swim from one point to the next in ten minutes and after that it have a next beach the same as we own. So I ask him how they sure is we beach and he say he ent know, is just people talking. Besides, all kinda people dropping by he house since morning, because he house not too far from me and it facing the beach.

Well, the seine fix up as much as it could fix up, but I find is time Guppy get another seine because we patching on patch now and is a long time he ent raise we pay. When we finish Fresco go he way and I go mine, as usual.

All this shadiness was getting to mih, so when I reach home I tell mihself the garden good for today, I will just cook something and take a little sleep. When I get in the kitchen I open up the louvres over the sink. If was one thing my wife did like about the kitchen was the view. The sea right in front and she did plant a flower garden outside. In the corner she put the jhandhi1 with some little tulsi2 plant around it, and morning and evening she raise she lota3 and praise God.

So I stand up dey cleaning the fish, thinking about the children and I look at the jhandhi. The new flag was a bright red and the cloth was crispy and shiny. You could see it a mile off because the boy get excited and he cut the bamboo pole too long. The flag stand up high high, up in the sky. But the pundit was a nice young fella and he say doh mind dat, yuh  prayers go reach God faster.

And I start thinking about last night. I lying down in de bed and I hear a plane passing low low. And then I hear Bradapps and the plane fly off. So I gone outside to look, and right on the beach is this big big parcel tie up in a setta white plastic.

I look round left, I look round right, and I look round behind me. The beach empty. The tide out and the moon shining bright bright, and the sand stretching out clean clean except for this big white parcel.

Now, for all the simple I simple, I not dotish4. The beach was empty and with Venezuela right across the road everybody know what does be going on. So I went inside and get a knife. Then I walk down the beach and I take that parcel and drag it in the water. Then I stab and stab and stab that blasted parcel till every damn drop of that white powder wash way in the sea.

Then I take the plastic and start swimming and as I swimming I thinking. I think about mih son. I think about how tall and strong and good-looking he was. I think about the pride I used to feel when I had to buy all them books and watching him studying and thinking he go make something of he life. And I think about mih wife and how she couldn’t take it when they find him in the mangrove and the doctor say “Overdose”. And I think about how she grieve and grieve and how she stop smiling and how she start getting smaller and smaller until that fiery face lose all the light and she melt down to nothing.

Two good people gone. Just so. Gone. When I reach out behind the breakers I take that plastic and fling it as far as mih arm could go. It feel good. One less child.

 

I stand up by the window cleaning the fish and watching the sea and I look up at the jhandhi. As I does always say, God have a way of making things work out.

 

1 Flag erected on a pole used in Hindu prayers

2 Herb. Holy basil plant, native of India. Apart from its medicinal uses, leaves of the plant are used in Hindu offerings and prayers

3 A brass jar without handles used in Hindu rituals

4 Stupid, foolish