Come morning, before even cock crow, she was up and got him up for a shower and the hard work of helping her lug the boxes out to the corner where dogs and people would have ample time to pick through them before the trash men came on Tuesday. She fed him saltfish and chop up for breakfast and they still made it to church on time. She could tell he hadn’t been in a while the way he fidgeted in her late husband’s old clothes and scratched at himself all through mass. She almost expected him to bolt when finally Father George set them free. But he stuck to her side on the way home and throughout the day as she cooked a dinner of potato salad, macaroni pie and goat meat. She didn’t have a TV anymore but he sat with her as she read from the Bible and when finally he started to nod off, bedded down on a cot in the now-cleared-out second room when night came. The next day and the next and the next, she worked in her garden and he was like her shadow, and she didn’t need to talk to the plants anymore, because he was there to listen – that was all he did as he watered and trimmed at her direction. She didn’t mind being the chatty chatty one.
People talked, of course they did. People wouldn’t be people if they didn’t talk. Gossip was as essential to this small Antiguan community as air and livestock and clean ponds of water. Electricity and running water they could live without when the Antigua Public Utilities Authority chose to cut it off, following no particular rhythm but their own, but gossip was another thing altogether.
Su su su su su su. Listen close you could even hear the murmur of it on the wind.
So, she expected it.
“Teacher May really lose she mind now, shacked up with that little boy.”
Above is an excerpt from my story Teacher May which appears in Poui (No. Xll, December 2011). Poui, the Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing is edited by Jane Bryce, Mark McWatt, and Hazel Simmons-McDonald. They wrote in the Foreword:
“Without prejudice, we would probably agree that in our region, the quieter literary arts are often drowned out by the loud and joyous noise of our musicians, who provide the soundtrack to the international tourism on which we all depend. In this context, writers have to struggle to be hear, and the best way to do that is to get together, organize, listen to each other and grow together.”
It resonated with me as it’s kind of on track with the thoughts I’m preparing for my presentation at the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars conference in May.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten, the Foreword. I just cracked the book after receiving it in the mail this week. I’m looking forward to reading the stories and poems by the likes of Lorna Goodison, Obediah Smith, Carlyon Blackman, Maria Soledad Rodriguez, Andre Marsden, Jane Bryce, Mark McWatt, Vashti Bowlah, Philip Nanton, and others. Some I know by reputation, some I’ve met in person or online, some, mostly those in the ‘others’ category, I’ll be discovering for the first time. Getting this book was a highlight of my week (hey, no jokes about this being a slow week…for a bibliophile like me, this is like Christmas). And of course, as an emerging writer, having stories survive the rigorourous selection process and make the cut is always trippy.
About Poui, from the book jacket: Funded by the Department of Language, Linguistics, and Literature, UWI, Cave Hill, it is independent and has no other agenda than to be a vehicle for new and interesting writing … All that matters is that what’s in its pages should make the hair stand up on the back of your neck – the infallible test of good writing.
About Joanne C. Hillhouse: I’m the author of three books, the most recent of which Oh Gad! hits the market in about a month. I’ve also published poetry and fiction in The Caribbean Writer, Calabash, Small Axe, Ma Comere, and elsewhere.