Excerpt of “Serious Ting”
by Brian Reeves
Bailey Willis is the first to spot the girls, glancing up from a rickety table where he is shaving stems of banana with his sharp blade. They appear to him through the green wall of banana leaves between him and the road, only movement and color at first, but then between a gap he sees their smiling faces and hears the slap of their sandals on pavement. He forgets the knife in his hand.
“How come you stop so?” Junior Lewis asks him from the other side of the table. He follows Bailey’s gaze through the banana and out to the road where the girls have gotten closer, more distinct. Their voices come through the leaves.
Banana, knives, and plastic-lined boxes forgotten, the two of them move to the other side of the shack to peer out into the road. From here they have an unobstructed view as the girls finally round the bend. The road they walk is paved, but pitted terribly, and just wide enough for two cars to pass closely. Trees and grasses crowd the ruddy ditch. Coconut palms bend through the trees, littering the ditch with green and brown nuts. Thick clumps of tall lemongrass hiss in the light breeze.
There are two of them, maybe just out of their teens. They are talking energetically and looking up at the jungle climbing the towering, wet-green ramparts of Morne Gouveneur, and not at the tiny peeling blue shack or the stands of rubbery banana trees by the road. They are American and of light skin, sporting blotchy pink sunburns. One is brunette with her hair pulled tightly back into a braid, wearing a white shirt and expensive jeans.
Reeves 1But the other is blonde, with loose, shoulder-length hair. She is wearing khaki shorts, a white tank top, and new leather sandals. Her hair falls perfectly around her face, catching the sunlight. A whirring chorus of insects, alarmed at the presence, hush in the grasses. She looks like a movie star, the kind he sees in the American television shows.
“What a-go on?” comes a voice behind them. Hedley. He is always the one demanding and questioning, Bailey thinks. He struts about shirtless, his tiny dreads wet with the sweat of work. Bailey does not turn to look at him.
“Look pon the gals there,” Junior says, waving Hedley over.
There is a pause, during which the girls draw closer. Hedley joins his employees and watches. “I see them before. Part of a foreign group come stay in La Plaine.”
“What group?” Junior asks. “Where in La Plaine?” Bailey asks. “I dun know,” Hedley says, “but them from America. A bunch a them, going a build houses in
Delices. One stay with Yvonne.” “Hey, Bailey, maybe you get a woman, now!” Junior says. Bailey sucks his teeth and glares at Junior, but Hedley laughs. “All my life, I never seen one gal
who want to touch you, boy.” “There was Monique,” offers Bailey. “She-” “She nah count. All you done was drive she down a Portsmouth. Tink you big man cause you
grandfather got a car.” “What about Nicola? You nah count her?” Junior bares white teeth in a grin. “What happen to you, man? You lose you senses? She brother
nearly kill you fi touching her at the club.” “Shut it,” Bailey replies, looking back to the girls.
Hedley strides off, returning with an empty bucket back into the field of banana. But Bailey doesn’t watch him go, his eyes instead fixed on the girls. This was not something he saw often: two young American girls in this part of the island, so beautiful and sure, walking alone along the narrow roads. He wonders if they are looking for the river, or perhaps to explore the beach. He would show them how to get there – it wasn’t far. Then, once they had climbed along the rocky stream bed, and come out on the sunlit, thundering beach, the blonde would take his hand and lay him down in the sand. He smiled at the thought. Yes, she would lie down in the sand and he would run his hands over her smooth skin, grains of wet sand clinging to her curves. He would make love to her right there on the beach. Just like they do in the movies.
The girls have almost reached the shack. Bailey moves over to the open frame of the door and strikes a dapper pose, leaning on his upstretched arm. Sunlight falls across his face, causing him to squint. He presses his tongue to the back of his teeth and hisses, making sure they can hear. The two girls shoot a glance his way, then purposefully look down, their conversation dropping. Bailey tries hissing even louder. They are very sexy, their bare legs flexing with each step. A stray breeze catches the blonde’s hair. Just like it does in the movies.
Junior Lewis shoves past him. He walks over to Hedley’s truck and picks up boxes of banana already crated and ready to be delivered. He pauses to grin and nod and the girls, and the girls smile demurely as they pass by on the road.
“Sa ka fet, ladies?” Junior sings, greeting them in kweyol.