KEN was hard-ears, troublesome and always in some sort of trouble. If it was not fighting it was gambling, pelting or cussing someone. Ms. Niles scolded, beat and deprived the boy of food but these actions did not bring the desired results.Ken was an orphan. His mother and father had both died of AIDS when he was just four years old. The only person who offered to raise him was his maternal grandmother, old Ms. Niles. By the time he was eight, he began to behave in ways that caused him to be regularly and severely punished. One day his Common Entrance teacher beat him for not producing his homework. That afternoon both the teacher’s bicycle tyres were slashed.
At home, it was the same thing. He fought with his cousins and would not back down even with the threat of a licking. That Saturday the children were playing indoors. They were instructed not to make noise because their grandmother was making her delicious black pudding. If they were noisy, the runners would burst and the specially seasoned rice they held would pour out into the pot. This would mean plenty of buss rice for sale.
Ken tried to abide with the rule and when he could contain himself no longer, he began to horse around in his usual boisterous wa.
Trouble hung in the air for the boy.
“Come here boy! Yu buss me Black Pudding!”
Ken knew the tone well. He was also quite aware of what lay at the other end of the tone. It would be either a broad leather belt or an old sewing machine cord. He intended to avoid them both.
The frightened boy fled in the opposite direction. For the next hour, he hung around the front yard. He kept a sharp eye out for his big cousin in case she tried to capture him. In the meantime, cars, motor cycles, cycles, people on foot and even donkey carts came to get the famous black pudding. This was a normal Saturday afternoon activity at his home. By the time the last customer departed it was dark.
He got ready to run.
“Boy like yu trying me faith!”
Ken walked over to the coconut tree at the side of the yard and braced against it. He knew from experience that running had caused his punishment to multiply. He sighed and rested against the trunk of the tall tree.
His eyes swept the dark yard. There under the large calabash tree at the back was a dark form.
A low menacing growl was coming from the crouched figure. It was a dog. Fun for him. He stooped and scooped up a brick. Quick as a flash he hurled it at the stray. To his dismay the animal did not flinch. It stopped crouching and raised itself up to its full height, on four feet. The dog was a monster. The biggest dog he had ever pelted. It was big enough for Ken to take a ride on.
The dark form moved slowly towards him. All fear of licks instantly evaporated and was replaced by blind panic.
“Granny! O Gad! Granny!”
Ken made it to the door and into the house in record time. Even though it was a very short distance the boy was out of breath. His eyes were wide with fear and tears streamed down his cheeks. Granny came hustling into the living room.
‘Wat happen to yu?”
When she saw the state he was in and heard his story through plenty of stammering and confusing words, she nodded in understanding. All thoughts of handing him a good cut-tail was shelved
“Is not a dog ken is a spirit.’
That made matters worse. He refused to sleep in his room that night.
The next morning arrived with an overabundance of sunshine. Ken’s old self returned. He felt invincible and fearless. What shameful behavior the night before. He went round to all his friends and the entire gang assembled at his home that evening. He proceeded to tell them why he had called them. The looks they threw each other should have served as an early warning of things to come. Ken missed this vital detail.
Ken produced an arsenal of weapons for his troop. One old rusty cutlass without handle, two bricks, two pieces of sticks, one half rotten and the other very heavy. An old beat-up pointer broom, and a large milk can. Armed to the teeth they waited in hiding for the beast to return. War was about to break loose.
Like the previous night, the dark form appeared out of nowhere and crouched beneath the calabash tree. The boys looked at it and many hearts shuddered. Nobody wanted to be the first to chicken out, so they stayed. At a signal from Ken they made an orderly advance. They were going to beat it to death.
The menace in the deep growls sent cold shivers around the entire group. They stopped their steady advance. They waited in silent fear for someone to take the lead. There was no willing volunteer. Then things shifted into high gear. The animal suddenly took the initiative. With flashing teeth it began a slow, deadly advance.
As the spirit moved towards them, the gang retreated slowly. Ken made sure that there were always a few bodies between him and the Jumbie. At least they would keep it entertained while he made a dash for it. If there were no bodies between them he would make sure there were by helping the process. Survival was key.
Sweat and fear, trembling hands and round eyes moved as if controlled by a puppet master.
“Ken! Get yo backside in hey!”
Ms. Nile’s voice was so loud that it made the army in retreat jump and look around in confusion. This was a cue for the dark advancer. With a vicious snarl it charged them biting and scratching.
Well I am sure you never see boys so eager to go inside; all at the same time. With screams, howls and bawls they threw themselves at Ken’s front door. Ms. Niles sat in her old rocker knitting. As usual, Ken was fooling around outside. Enough!
“Ken get yo backside in hey!”
There was some sort of commotion in the yard and then the front door burst open and nine terrified boys tumbled and sprawled their way onto the living room floor. Ms. Niles sat looking at them her mouth ajar.
“J..J…Jumbie bite me!”
“Jumbie dag run we!”
“Granny de dag come back!”
Ms. Niles sighed. She would have to seek some advice from Pundit. Maybe some work was imminent.
That night parents had to come to collect their sons. Questions were many, but poor granny could not explain the many tear up pants seats, or the scratches and small bite marks many of the avengers took home with them.
by Neil Primus