By Omilla Mungroo. Steeped in superstition, our country could sometimes make the simplest of events seem so serious and confusing. If something out of the ordinary happened, “book it”, there was bound to be a story behind it — a story which unfolded in any direction you wanted to tell it, unless it was someone else’s story. – cricket boots
I will never forget my late grandmother’s vociferation that day, slicing through the cold, early dawn in the crispy hills that surrounded Maracas Valley. The village I grew up in snuggled comfortably under the breathtakingly beautiful Northern Range. El Tucuche and Cerro del Aripo loomed far away but their majestic view made me marvel at the treasure that I thought we alone had in Trinidad — the mountains! How badly I wanted to go to see my uncles play cricket that day! I thought the mountains were feeling my pain that morning as my grandmother shouted to me with fierceness I never heard before. “Don’t cross it over, you mad chile! You doh know what it is and who put it there!”
My late aunt added to the commotion, “Yuh cyarn see that is somebody do that to cause trouble here?” What trouble? I was in a daze, and could not understand what they meant. Other wiser, stricter authority than my grandmother had shut me up and sent me inside sulking. It was very early, around 6.00 a.m. when I went to see if my uncle’s shoe laces were still on the line where I hung them at the back of my grandmother’s house. They were gone, so I knew he already left for the match. Ours was an extended family with three houses in one yard, but I spent most of the time at my grandmother’s.
Hearing the noise, everybody came outside rubbing sleepy eyes, wiping their faces, feeling for “yampie” and mumbling, “wha’ happen?”
It wasn’t long before my cousin, nine years old and always in the middle of grown ups, whispered something like, “de obeah ting in de back ah Ma house.”
The “obeah ting” in question was a diagram on the ground, like a rectangular box, with lines crossing one another like the Great Britain flag, the Union Jack, as it is sometimes called. The lines were white and straight. I thought it looked neat inside the boxed border. It reminded me of the same diagram the pundits used on a rectangle box on the ground, filled with dirt, when my father’s parents held their Hindu prayers at their home.
As I passed the ledge downstairs where my uncle’s cricket stuff was stored I put his bottle of whitening back on top of the shelf and stood near the door. He must have forgotten it on the ground in his rush to leave home. My two brothers, sister, another aunt and my cousin now stood at one end of Mama’s house. They were all whispering as I felt a sharp slap across my back. “Ent I tell you to go inside?” My aunt shouted, her evil looking eyes boring through me like a drill hammer.
I did not remember anyone telling me to go inside but I quietly went, leaving everybody else there.
My two uncles had left very early to play an important cricket match, somewhere in the east of Trinidad. How I wished I had gone, so I wouldn’t have to be scolded all the time. They were playing in their white clothes. Big match! My younger uncle begged for me to go with no success. He was the most fun person, I thought, in all my family, and the only one who would “take for me” when my aunts scolded me.
We all passed the day quietly, eavesdropping on my two aunts and grandmother. All we heard was my aunt, “Mus be Boysie an dem nah! They fighting for what is not theirs. That ent goin an frighten me.” But she was the most coward person I knew.
Then my grandmother, “But what hour he go come here an do that? Mus be in de dark!”
“Since Papa dead an gone he feel he own even here!” “Wait till I see de scamp!”
Their voices were hushed, and in-between my aunt would get louder than the rest, “Well yes! What to do now? This place always have trouble oui!”
He swished the whitening brush all over his cricket boots
It was the dreariest, bleakest, somber day, despite the glorious sun shining out — a perfect day for cricket, I thought, and here I stood, praying that my uncle’s team would win the match and come home quickly. All day we had to stay inside and not go near that “thing” on the ground. We couldn’t even play hide and seek.
It wasn’t until the next morning when I opened the window upstairs in the room where I slept with my grandmother, that I heard whistling and knew it. I saw my uncle downstairs, standing right over the rectangular box on the ground. I ran out through the hallway and opened the front door, skipping down the stairs, hurrying to gripe about what had transpired the day before, to warn him about the “thing” near his feet, and to say how badly I wished I had gone to see them play, but how I had to be shouted at all day and had to stay inside and not talk at all; a punishment too harsh for a talker like me.
They had won the match and had to play another one in two days. Before I finished talking he was laughing so loud I heard my aunt upstairs quarreling. For some weird reason I was not afraid. I could not understand why my uncle would laugh at me though, and I felt angry and almost in tears when he finally spoke. “So this is what cause all that?” And he swished the whitening brush he held in his hand across the ground adding another very straight line inside the box. I froze. I stared at the box. Then he swished it again, and again, and we both laughed. He had been whitening his old cricket boots the evening before, and swished the brush by accident. When he saw how straight the line was, he swished it again and again, creating the pattern on the ground, just as he was doing then.
I laughed because I was remembering my “wicked” aunt’s slap, and her tone of voice when she said, “This place always have trouble, oui!” My uncle did not believe in superstition, and I don’t think he wanted me to grow up believing in it too. He promised to take me to their next match, no matter what my aunt said.
I felt secretly glad that I moved his bottle of whitening from the ground before anybody else saw it. Oh what stress my aunts must have experienced. Suddenly I felt everything that went wrong the day before, seemed right. I helped hang my uncle’s shoe laces on the line and carefully placed his bottle of whitening on the shelf inside, with the most victorious smile on my face.
December 2013 – Issue 7 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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