The Village Peeper: A Short Story (Part I)

WHO is the fastest man in the village of Victorious along the Corentyne coast? One young man asked a group of men hanging out on the side of the road, a typical pastime practice in rural Guyana.
What about Deolall? Another young man guessed.
The rest of the men in the group were confused and silent, wondering why the question of the fastest person in the village mattered, especially since no one had ever participated in track and field at the national level in the history of the village.
The topic of “passionate” murders that had occurred over the past decade would have been more of an in-tune question. But that too would have been a lame question leading to an abrupt end. You see, this is the daily dynamics when young men gather especially along roadsides in rural villages when the sun cools down. There is no rhythm, no formal filtering, and no penalty for saying the weirdest thing. If you had told this group that there was a “Man Fire Rass” in the village sucking people’s blood when they go to sleep, they would believe it.
So, one buzzing story was that someone was visiting small stilted houses on the backlands of the village in the early hours of the morning. These houses were owned by sugarcane harvesters whose wives normally got up around four o’clock in the morning in the skimpiest clothing in the tropical heat to prepare meals for their husbands to take to the sugarcane fields. A few nights previously, one housewife said she saw a tall-looking figure directly under her four feet high stilted house. Whenever she moved from one section of the kitchen to another to prepare the meal, she noticed from the rays of lights escaping through the cracks in the wooden kitchen floor that the person underneath her house was moving along with her. She could not recognise the person, but when she hollered he was gone, scaling the wire fence into the bushes like a sprinter preparing for the Olympics.
The next night, the person showed up in the east of the village and did the same thing. On the third night, the person showed up in the south of the village, and on the fourth night in the north of the village. The villagers now believed that there was a peeper in the village with a distinct pattern, and they were determined to find out who he was.
The villagers planned and waited for the peeper. Housewives who normally awoke early in the morning to prepare food readily moved around in their kitchen wearing the skimpiest of clothing to lure him into a trap. The husbands sharpened their machetes even more with the intent to place marks on the peeper’s body so the villagers could identify him in broad daylight.
The villagers knew it was a man. They knew he disappeared very quickly if noticed. They knew he did not steal anything. They knew he liked to peep at women. But why this rather unusual behaviour in such early hours in the morning, in the most dangerous sections of the village, when cane harvesters were sharpening their machetes for the day’s work—a tool they could use without much thought if someone intruded into their territory? Six months passed and the peeper was never seen, or so it seemed.
“Ramlall, wake up, wake up, I see he!”
“Who? Who?”
“Quiet, the peeper!”
“Where is he?”
“Directly under the kitchen.”
Ramlall, got up in a rage, heading towards the kitchen for his machete. “Oh no,” said his wife. “Do not chop he.”
‘What, I want to mark he up.”
“No, no, I have a better plan. You go back to bed, and I will take care of this.”
The housewife, Dolarie, said in mock disgust, “Man, this damned place is getting so hot and the sun is not even out yet. This place does get on, you know.” She murmured under her breath in the local village pidgin dialect while fanning the flame under the pot of boiling water on the fireside. The hot water was there to boil rice but this morning the rice had to take second place.
“Oh my God, it is he, the man that walks with a limp!” She grabbed the pot of hot water and moved towards the window. The peeper also moved underneath the stilted house, now having a clear view of her. The peeper started to make odd noises, and just when it was getting louder, Dolarie threw the entire pot of water on him.
“Ramlall, I got him! I threw the pot of hot water on him, and I am sure he is burned. We will recognise him in the morning.”
“Where is he?’
“I do not know but he is gone. He has disappeared.”
“I tell you I should have mark he up with my machete.” “Did you recognise him?” (To be continued)

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