The town was his

Water dripped relentlessly from the ceilings, tormenting the faucets which had been dry for over three days; scorched wood made a dark patchwork quilt of walls where colourful landscape paintings once hung. Ominously, an oil slick slithered in slow motion across the floor, forming dark pools of sinister proportions. Sharp arrows of morning sunlight exposed bad joinery and the fragile tin roof creaked like old bones on a winter’s morning. The sorry looking figures of townspeople lay prostrate all around, some now stirring, others closing their eyes even tighter, afraid to face the day and deal with the inevitable aftermath of questionable behavior.

He rose to his full height and scratched his balding head. It hurt. His clothes were torn, his skin grimy, and splashes of blood lay half-hidden on the front of his red silk shirt. Wiping his hands on the back of his black trousers, he looked around. The place was a wreck; smashed tables and chairs were strewn in splinters all about, shards of glass were all that remained of once elegant goblets, works of literature and fine art lay in shreds and tatters, and the smoke-filled air was a reminder of the fires that had burned. An old couple in contrasting rags of green and blue shuffled deeper into the dark recesses of the room like nocturnal animals; away from the day, away from him.

Gradually, others began to stir and sit up. Seemingly unable to look each other in the eye, their cheeks were flush with an embarrassment of sorrow, guilt and fear. Their gaunt faces tried to comprehend the wanton destruction they had wreaked, the terrible mess they had created, the inevitable clean-up task that lay ahead, but which would never be completed. They looked up at him, now towering above them like a giant and casting a long shadow across their feeble forms. His face carried no message at all. He lifted the latch and the starkness of reality invaded the room. Stepping outside, he slammed the door firmly shut behind him and smiled. The town was his.

lunch break

I opted for lunch at a rather gaudy mid-town snackette where a friend had recently secured a part-time cooking and waiting job. It seemed a good idea to patronize the place and offer her a bit of moral support. Although it was still fairly empty I took a seat at the bar and studied the rather stark menu which was written on a small slate that hung at a drunken slant on the back wall between a faded picture of a very sober Jesus Christ and a dog-eared poster of a reefer-smoking Bob Marley.
It said:

Roti $8
Fish lunch $15
Fresh Guava juice $4

It was our very first week on the island and my stomach had not yet acclimatized to the food, the emphasis of which, it seemed to me, was on cooking the hell out of absolutely everything and then stacking a plate so high with rice, ground provisions, vegetables, beans, macaroni cheese, fish, pork, chicken or goat to the point where your lunch would be visible from space and you could no longer see the person seated opposite. Indeed, the term ‘lunch’, I had come to realise, was completely interchangeable with the word ‘food’; it was a generic and traditional belly-filler, high in carbohydrates and fairly low in variety. It followed a simple theme; a wedge or dollop of meat of some kind and then a shitload of absolutely everything else. It was bruising on the stomach, a heavyweight slugger of the culinary boxing card, and I was a novice flyweight who usually threw in the towel half-way through the bout.
“Hello Paul”, said Rhonda, wiping her hands on a dishcloth and then flinging it through a hatch into the kitchen. Actually it wasn’t so much into the kitchen, more out to the kitchen. Located in the back yard behind the snackette, it seemed rather wet, grimy and infested with stray dogs and equally stray men. But a kitchen it was, nevertheless.
“Hi Rhonda. How are you doing ?” I replied.
“Not so good oui,” she frowned.
“Oh dear, why’s that ?” I asked.
“My vagina hurting me oui,” she said, looking me directly in the eyes. I held her stare which was unusual for me as a psychometric evaluation paid for by my previous employer had declared me an extreme introvert, and therefore unlikely to be especially competent in the kind of situation that was brewing here. In hindsight I think it probably helped that I was so desperately trying to avoid looking down in the general vicinity of the aforementioned trouble spot that holding her gaze seemed by far the safest course of action.
“Oh. Er,” I offered, helpfully.
“It’s not because of sexual activities, you understand ?” she went on, now looking even more earnest.
“No ? Yes,” I nodded rather too vigorously.
“It’s because of Him,” she glanced over her shoulder.
“Who ? The owner ?” I asked.
“Heavens no,” she said. “The good Lord.”
“Really ?”
“Yes. I having a heavy period right now and it hurting me,” she winced.
“I see. I’m very sorry to hear that,” I winced back.
“Yes, oui. It has been hurting me since early morning and all through the time I preparing the fish lunch. It was so bad, oui, I thought it would spoil.”
“Your vagina ?”
“No, the fish,” she frowned.
“But you made it,” I blushed.
“Yes, oui. Praise be to Jesus. I hanging in there,” she said, making the sign of the cross.
“I’m happy to hear it.”
“Yes, oui. It still hurting, but less than before,” she smiled.
“So you’ll be okay ?” I smiled back, confident the conversation was now drawing to a close.
“Yes, oui. It always happens so. Every month, same thing,” she continued.
“I see,” I said, with what I hoped would be finality.
“So you hungry ?” she asked, now grinning
“Sure. What kind of roti is it ?” I grinned back.
“No roti,” she said, drawing a finger across her throat.
“No ?”
“No. We have fish,” she said, as if announcing something very special and unexpected.
“I’ll have fish then,” I smiled, trying very hard not to think of Rhonda’s vagina.
“Good. I going to come back,” she said and went off through a side door into the kitchen yard.
“Okay then,” I said to no-one.