Talon sat at the tiny, eroded gully at the back of his house with a collection of crumpled leaves in his palm. He had been trying to fashion a boat out of each one, just as Sana had shown him a couple days before with a piece of newspaper. But with the leaves, the ribs and veins snapped with each bend and fold. He pouted his parched lips and scratched the sparse white hairs lining the periphery of his ears. Sweat and muck marred his white cotton vest, and he had soiled his underpants five minutes prior. A light evening wind blew the foul scent into the backwood.
A devotional Hindu hymn played from his house upstairs. Sana had probably been ironing her work clothes, pasted with sweat in the hot room despite her tendency to only wear short pants that stopped below her knees and T-shirts one size too small, exposing her meager bodice. Blending in with the hymn was Lord Kitchener's voice faintly playing from behind the bushy coppice:
You make me scream,
You make me bawl!
You make me feel
Like ten foot tall!
Talon inspected the green leafy pulp on his palm and peered at two bachacs busily incising along the petioles. He grunted, crushing the leaves with a closed fist. With one strained breath, he blew the mush into the water. He dusted his palms off. And then he heard a rustling in the thicket ahead of him. He raised his bushy eyebrows and scanned his surroundings, mumbling and wondering about the monkeys. He thought, that blasted monkey come to terrorize me again?
Still sitting, he raised his knees against his chest, his legs folded over in upside-down V's. He moved his palm and accidentally knocked a broken Carib beer bottle into the gully. It rolled along the sandstone, clinking with each pebble it bounded over.
The monkey probably hear that, Talon was thinking, gritting his teeth. His toes curled, scouring up some dirt beneath his overgrown nails. He scooted forward and placed his bare feet in the gully, the turbid water climbing up along his toes. His soles pressed against the mossy conferva along the bank.
He scratched the stubble on his cheek as he focused on the rustling shrubs. And at the hairy palm creeping along the recesses of the hedge. He squinted. He pressed his palms firm against the rocks. The calypso bridge had kicked in, brass instruments punctuating the low howl of the dusk breeze. The bushes rustled again and the hand retracted.
His ears pricked up as the monkey groaned.
Then: "Daddy, you mess yourself again!" He spun around, now looking at Sana's legs. Then he turned back to look at the hedge. The hand had disappeared. She had scared the monkey off.
"Sana." Talon usually mumbled whenever he spoke, always vociferating as if he had food in his mouth. "Sana, the monkey in the bush."
Sana sucked her teeth and breathed through her mouth. She stooped down and hooked her arm around his shoulder. With a tug, she got him on his knees. "It have no monkey in the bush, daddy," Sana said with a sigh, "No monkey does live around here. How much times I have to tell you that?"
Sana shook her head and they took baby steps to a small basin she had set up at the side of the house, blockaded by three tall sheets of rusted galvanize and a tattered drape. She had left the water to run and the basin was already half full. As the water poured, the PVC pipes rattled.
An old wooden dog kennel stood beside the makeshift shed, from when they had owned a pothound years ago. A wire mesh covered the door and even though termites had gnawed at the back, it was still a functional kennel.
She produced a black plastic garbage bag and set it aside. "But I see it. I see it," Talon chanted as Sana helped him disrobe. A long shiny brown keloid from a cutlass slash from a bandit fifteen years ago still stood prominent along his left pectoral. Sana put on a pair of gardening gloves and slid his boxers off. She turned away as she did.
She had wondered if he had recognized her anymore. He had stopped calling her by her name for a few weeks. He would have always said it in a comforting sing-song manner. It had also perturbed her that for the last week he had become incontinent. She slid her thumb along the keloid, remembering the night he had tried to defend her and her now deceased mother from two criminals. They had made off with the TV set and a few golden family heirlooms but the two women remained unharmed. Talon was splayed on the ground, breathing heavily, soaked in blood. The blood stain had still been apparent on the thick cerise carpeting.
She wondered if he remembered that.
Sana pinched the dirty underwear between her fingers and dropped it into the garbage bag. She tied a double knot on it, tossing it through the drape. "What if the monkey come back?" Talon asked.
Sana tied her shoulder-length hair into a ponytail and leaned against the edge of the basin, bowing her head. She said a prayer. She looked at him with warm eyes, as she soaped up the sponge. She told him, "I want you to stay inside from now on. I can't have you wanderin' bout the place when I gone to work. You pick up a nasty habit there. Okay?"
"Okay." His sullen tone made her brow pucker.
"You have your radio," she added, "You remember how to turn the station? You remember how to turn on the TV?"
He was silent.
"I'll show you again after."
The next day, Sana went to work. She left some whole wheat sandwiches for him on the kitchen counter and covered it with a few napkins. She did not need him contracting gastroenteritis. But Talon had no appetite for bologna on whole wheat. He took one of the sandwiches and left it by the gully. He crept back to the house and managed his way upstairs. He parted the curtains and stared down. Where is that monkey? He thought. Maybe monkeys didn't like bologna.
So he went to the tiny fruit tub Sana kept under the table. He rummaged through oranges, grapes and three different types of mango. Not what he was looking for. He sucked his teeth and scratched his head. He opened the other cupboards and swiped aside the array of ceramic wares. Impatient, he began taking them out and hauling them across the room.
By the time he was finished with the top cupboards, shards of terracotta, porcelain and glass laid strewn across the kitchen floor.
He then fumbled around through the refrigerator, throwing aside all the frozen celery and tomatoes and ripping apart a small seasoned chicken Sana had intended to cook for them the following day. He bit his tongue between his front teeth and grimaced. He ran to the kitchen window and looked out again. The sandwich had been there.
Of course, it was not going to go anywhere.
Because monkeys would not be interested in deli meats.
Talon bounded back upstairs, knocking over the radio on the counter. It broke as it fell. He opened Sana's closets, groping her work clothes and her saris. He tore them off the hangers and flung them on the floor and the bed. He pulled the drawers open until they came out of their slits. And he fumbled through her lingerie, grabbing them in his fists and pitching them under the bed. He swung his arm against her assortment of makeup and fragrances, throwing them off the dresser.
He opened a little box. It played a dulcet, honeyed melody, like chimes of a miniature calliope. He focused on the tiny ballerina figurine, twirling along its surface, her plastic rictus fixed in a dazed smirk.
The tune stopped.
He closed the box, and opened it again and listened to the entire melody again. He put the box back on the dresser and sat on the edge of the bed, arching his neck and staring at the ceiling. He gripped the sheets and muttered, "Where them figs could be?"
He made his way downstairs and decided not to pass through the kitchen, avoiding having his feet cut by the splintered wares. He slid on his rubber slippers from the porch, near his rocking chair. And he passed around the house and back to the gully.
The sandwich was still there, now infested with a horde of ants, making zig-zags along the crust.
He stood by the gully and glared at the thicket. It rustled again. The monkey was there. He knew it. It was there curling its tail at him. If only he had had those bananas. The thought crossed his mind to hop in a taxi and go to the market and buy some. But he had no time for that. And no money too.
The monkey would escape by then!
He went to the kitchen door and picked up a broom lying against it. He unscrewed the brushed head and waved the broomstick around. He put his feet in the gully and tiptoed across the smooth rocks, pressing the stick against the bed to keep his balance. He made his way up the bank and pressed his soles against the mud. He took a deep breath, letting the hot, humid air seep into his lungs.
The bushes rustled again and he could hear a low murmur and chatter. He parted the bushes with the broomstick. He saw the monkey's head, fidgeting silently. He grinned and his eyes opened wide, his round eyes getting rounder still. He lifted the broomstick above his head.
And with one swift arc, the monkey fell unconscious.
Sana came home early that day. Her heart beat violently as her feet sweeped aside the chips of glass and ceramic on the kitchen floor. Her first thought was that they had been robbed again. She saw the broken radio. She dashed upstairs to see her rummaged closets. Her saris crinkled and scattered across the bedroom carpet. She leaned over and held them against her chest as she looked under the bed for her father.
Then she heard a yelping coming from outside. She peeked through the window and could see the makeshift shed with the bath basin. Her father had been kneeling at the old dog kennel. Sana scrambled downstairs and to the old dog kennel.
And her father looked at her with much pride in his eyes. She had never seen his deep hazel eyes twinkle like that in years. "Darlin'," he said, sticking his chest out, "I tell you it had a monkey."
But Sana's jaw dropped. In the dog kennel was not a monkey but one of the villager's youngest sons, Akeel. The little dark-skinned boy had been packed into the kennel, too afraid to speak, too afraid to scream. A trickle of dried blood blotted his right eyebrow. He looked up at Sana, his eyes watering.
As Sana began to undo the latch, Talon exclaimed, "But the monkey will get out, girl!"
Sana paused. Her eyes had begun to get hot as she looked at Akeel. She wiped her nose with her sleeve. She mouthed to Akeel, "Stay here," and clasped Talon's arm.
"Do you know Akeel, daddy?" Sana asked him, leading back into the house.
"The monkey friends might come lookin for him, girl," Talon said, "We need to make market and get fig."
Sana closed her eyes. She took a deep breath. "In the morning, we could do that."
"It have a big crocus bag lyin around near the washroom there," Talon went on, "We could fill that up. Right up."
Sana lead him up the stairs, being cautious with each step. She told him, "We have to get the green ones too."
"Why the green?"
"So they could yellow if the other monkeys takin too long to come."
Talon nodded. "Smart girl."
Sana lead him into the bedroom and made him sit on the bed. "Daddy," she began, "How bout if we just leave the monkeys alone? I don't think they goin to do we anything."
"No, no. Them monkeys is pests. They goin to pester the whole village." The sternness in his voice only pained Sana more.
Sana rubbed the tears out of her eyes and covered her face. She took another deep breath and gave Talon a hug. He did not reciprocate. His arms hung limp as she squeezed his back. "No chance at all?" she whispered in his ear, her voice breaking.
"Girl, you just doh understand," he said gruffly.
She buried her face against the crook of his shoulder. Her voice was muffled there. "It might have some men comin tomorrow to move you away. People might say some nasty things from now on bout you." She swallowed hard. "And me."
He didn't speak. He just nodded.
Sana cleared her throat. "Is just that some people here like the monkeys," she said, "And they movin everybody who don't like the monkeys to a different spot."
"Them chupid or what? Why them want them monkeys around?"
She looked at him and rubbed her eyes again. With her palms pressed against his shoulders, she kissed his cheek, the rasp of his beard grazing her lips. "You work hard today. I need you to take a rest now. And I goin downstairs for a while." She hugged him again and left the room, locking the door behind her from the outside.
When she went back to the kennel, Akeel's eyes grew wide again. And again, he said nothing. As she undid the latch again, she said, breaking down in tears again, "Akeel, please don't tell anybody what happen here today."
He shook his head. While mimicking him nervously, she asked, "What does that mean? Does that mean you going to tell?"
She released the latch and opened the kennel door. She stopped herself from crying as she reached in and pulled him out. He was shaking. His knees wobbled as he looked at the darkling sky. "Lemme dress that cut," Sana said, "We can't leave that so."
He backed away from her.
"Come," she said, "I have food inside too. Lemme give you something to eat."
He took another step back.
"Akeel, please," she said, her voice fragile.
Then Akeel darted off.
The next day, the authorities came in their white suits and packed Talon into a van. When they had come, he was listening to the music box. All the neighbours had come out to watch and Sana wished they did not stare at her so coldly when she hugged her father goodbye. She had decided to wear a long skirt that day. Akeel's mother shook her head. And the rest of the villagers avoided Sana for the rest of the day. She phoned work and decided to take a week off.She packed her clothes back into her closets. She opened the music box and, as the tune played, and as the ballerina twirled, she got on her knees and tried to scrub the fifteen year old blood off the bedroom carpet. But no matter how much she tried, she just could not get it out of the fibres.
Kevin Jared Hosein was born and raised in the Caribbean island state Trinidad and Tobago. He is a writer and poet who has worked on his craft since his teenage years. In 2009, he penned a poem entitled "The Wait is So, So Long" that would go on to be adapted as a short film that would be featured and win a Gold Key Award at the NY-based Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Although he is currently employed as a Biology and Physics secondary school teacher, he writes everyday to have a significant body of work, to build discipline and to create his own voice and style in the world of West Indian literature.
Wow. Such a sad story....
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