Boysie’s Fixed Account by Verdanci Benta

[2005 Young Explorer Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Honourable Mention]

Verdanci Benta workshopped her story in the Wadadli Pen workshop before the competition; here she is hard at work.

Boysie was a regular jack-of-all-trades who was more often out of work than in.

In order to save his family from hunger he often ‘trusted’ goods from the ‘Wayside Grocery Shop’, the only shop in Dryriver village.

The ‘Wayside Grocery Shop’ was a wooden, old-fashioned grocery shop with a long counter that separated the goods from the customers. The shelves were neatly stacked. Hanging from a nail over the highest shelf was a clip-board crowded with bills and other valuable documents. On one far end of the counter was a large, heavy-looking scale for weighing goods like sugar and red herring. At the other far end of the counter was a cage-like compartment from which adult stuff such as rum and cigarettes were sold.

Boysie’s connection to the ‘Wayside Grocery Shop’ goes way back to his childhood and he seemed to have inherited the habit of taking goods on credit, but, unlike his mother, he was a bad debtor.

“See you next week, Miss Ruby,” he would say to the shop-keeper when reminded to pay.

Miss Ruby, hands akimbo, would always reply, “Boysie, if it wasn’t for your wife and children, I would let you starve.” But Boysie knew better and just kept on ‘trusting’ goods from Miss Ruby.

But Boysie was soon to find out another side of Miss Ruby that he had never seen before.

“Boysie, I hear that you working for big money now,” Miss Ruby shouted out to him one Friday night while the regular guys were under the mango tree building and breaking up law. Boysie’s voice had risen above the others because he felt that he knew everything about income tax.

Being the only shop in the village, in and around the ‘Wayside Grocery Shop’ was always teeming with activity. The age-old ‘lazy bench’ outside under the mango tree was where the villagers and passersby would sit and chat, and one of its frequent visitors was Boysie.

“Man, no country can run without income tax!” he told the group of men, the majority of whom were Labourites. But Boysie was so taken up with his argument that he did not hear Miss Ruby.

“Boysie, you cyarn’t hear Miss Ruby talking to you? You making big money now,” Sukie called out.

“Go in and pay your debt, man, and when you finish, go and pay up your income tax, too!” mused Jakie.

But Boysie did not like where the discussion was heading. News had obviously reached Miss Ruby that he had a construction job.

So, when he finally went into the shop to explain his position to Miss Ruby, he felt like a school-boy on his way to the principal’s office to explain why he did not do his homework.

“Miss Ruby, I have a fixed account at the bank. I can’t draw any money under six months. Please, give me a break ‘til next mont’,” he said as Miss Ruby, with deft fingers, sifted through her thick records for all his bills.

“Here. Pay up all or none, Sa!” she said as she handed over the bills to Boysie, who by then had had a look at the freshly written sign, over the top shelf, which read: “NO Credit Today, Come Tomorrow.”

“Boysie, as far as me can see, your account here is fixed at $450.00. It not goin’ to get any higher,” she said as she dug her hands into the two large pockets of her dress and turned her back at him to serve Gwen who had just come in to get her evening’s appetizer at the adult section.

Boysie glanced at the glass in Gwen’s hand, then looked out the window just in time to see a Migo-man delivering a brand new television set at his house.



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