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.

dreams of a wistful nomad (1.0)

DREAMS OF A WISTFUL NOMAD
By Paul Crask

the nomad

Nestled on the brow of the grassy hill was a cemetery whose weathered headstones had been ground smooth by both the passage of time and the bluster of the seasonal mistral. Half encircled by a broken picket fence, once whitewashed but now flaking and sun-bleached, the cemetery looked rather like a defective carriage wheel with crooked spokes and a battered rim. In the distance beyond the hill, bright shafts of low autumnal sunlight pierced leafless birch and chestnut trees, extending unchallenged across the sprawling farmlands of the massif. A tractor and harvester were already at work in a far off field, and a lone deux cheveaux drifted silently along a meandering country lane. Golden meadows of corn and barley glistened with a light morning dew as the night frost thawed and the mist withdrew like the breath of a sleeping dragon. Standing within the perimeter of this forgotten burial ground was a figure just arrived. The nomad, a dark and lonely silhouette imprinted against an infant sky.

In dire need of rest, the nomad dropped to the ground with a thump and propped himself up against a dusty headstone, assuming the grave’s occupant would no longer mind. His clothes seemed to suit his demeanour, both dark and worn, and his unshaven face was daubed with dried mud, scratches and grime. On his feet he wore a pair of heavy leather boots, and a long canvas jacket covered faded pants and a threadbare shirt.

He was feeling decidedly off kilter and his vision was more than a little fuzzy. He had been travelling all night, this much he knew, though for some reason he could not recall whence and why. In fact trying to remember anything at all made his head pound. He smelled himself and concluded the scent was not especially pleasant. He ran his hand through a brush of matted and tousled hair sending pieces of twig and similar woodland debris falling into his lap.

What happened to me ?

The nomad leaned back against the headstone and absorbed his surroundings. The world beyond the hill seemed fresh and colourful, animated and warm. Although his eyes were heavy and slumber seemed just an instant away, he forced himself to stay awake and devour the view. So taken was he by its pastoral beauty, it felt as if his eyes were seeing the world for the very first time.

Wearily and still a little stiff and chilly from the night, he pulled a crumpled packet of cigarettes and an old brass lighter from an inside pocket, lit up and smoked. The action was habitual. He had done it before and he knew the cigarettes and lighter were there. But these facts did not register with him. When he put them back in his pocket he felt something else there, something new. A piece of paper perhaps. Pulling it out he saw that it was in fact a black and white photograph, torn in half. It was a picture of a man sitting on a bench. Behind him was a building with the letters ENZ above a large window. Around the man’s shoulder hung an arm with a delicate hand. It was the hand of a woman. The rest of her had been torn away. The nomad flipped the photograph. Hand-written on the back in small blue script was a message:

You have no memory, but don’t worry. The answers are in the town. Finding them will be difficult and perhaps dangerous, but they are there. There is someone special you must seek out – the woman on the other half of this photograph – but I cannot identify her in case you are captured. Be vigilant. Follow the windmill. Trust me. Trust yourself. Go to the town. You made a promise.

The nomad reread the note several times over another cigarette. It made his head hurt even more than before. Turning around, he scanned the scenery on the other side of the hill. It could not have been more different. Extending far into the distance was a deep, cloud-covered valley whose steep sides were cloaked with savage thickets of black sage, thorn and cypress. Yellowing dogwood trees and matted spinneys of broom and juniper filled the swales alongside an old footpath that meandered down the valley side from the cemetery gate. From time to time a window appeared in the murky veil and the nomad could make out the slate tiled rooftops and pointed spires of a town. But the curtains would soon close again and the buildings disappeared beneath an ever darkening mist.

to be continued

Dream

I was in a cathedral, I’m not sure which one, but I guess it could have been the Roseau Cathedral here in Dominica. It was functioning as an exam hall and I, along with many others, was sitting at a small wooden school desk staring at a question paper. Apparently I had failed to register a specialist subject on which I would have been tested, so instead I had to take the default paper which was entitled ‘Tomatoes in the Bible.’ It seemed very unfair. I looked over to my left and an old woman was taking her test on the life and works of Stendhal which would have suited me fine. Instead I read my first question: ‘Jesus was fond of a good tomato but can you name his favourite variety ?’

I mean how can anyone sleep properly with dreams like this ?
Caribbean freelance writer,editor & photographer. Dominica travel guide,Grenada travel guide