“You know what hurt mi, Horace?”
Horace sighed. “What hurt yuh, Mama?” He gripped the cordless phone receiver and waited for the Soufrière Hills eruption in Mama’s temper to stop spitting lava.
“The fact that you’re bringing a stranger into your house to watch over my grandchildren.”
“Stranger, Mama? Miss Hya is not a stranger.”
“Is Janet put yuh up to this?”
“She had nothing to do with it,” he refuted, annoyed.
“Coz I know she would put yuh up to dis you know.”
“No, you don’t know, Mama.”
“Anyway, which part a Hyacinth know how to look after pickney?”
“She fostered eleven children, Mama.”
“So what yuh saying? I’m not a good mother? After a carry yuh for nine months—”
“Mama, stop. I asked you. You said you had to think about it. I have work tomorrow, Mama. Miss Hya was ready and willing.”
There was a lengthy pause at his mother’s end of the line. He could hear her breathing like a raging bull. He imagined her flared nostrils, her tense jaw and her mouth pouting from here to eternity.
The fire breathing suddenly turned to sobbing. “Horace, where did I go wrong with you? Where did I go wrong with you, Horace?”
Horace exhaled loudly.
“Ee, Horace?” Mama sniffled. “After I tied my belly, gave you the very food out of my mouth . . . ”
Dear Lawd, Horace exclaimed and kissed his teeth. The ole, worn-out bawling tactic.
He placed the phone receiver, face down, on the armrest of the sofa and went to the fridge. Oh, what he would give to be at Janet’s glorious villa, beach chair pushed up against hers. Them, side by side.
He popped the cap off a Heineken beer and guzzled down half the ice-cold beverage in one go. “Ahhhh.” He licked his lips and glanced at his wristwatch. Janet must be enjoying dinner at Tryall.
He had sat on their bed as she folded a pink and blue bikini and then a neon orange one and packed them in her leopard-print travel bag. It had been twelve or thirteen years since he saw his wife in a bikini, much less a brightly coloured one that showed off her complexion and all her curves.
Horace dashed back to the phone and put it to his ear.
” . . . you had a roasting fever . . . ” Mama was still talking, except now, the words weren’t drowning in tears but marching vehemently out of her mouth.
Horace put the receiver down and strolled over to a wide, pane-glass window, droplets of water rolling down the Heineken bottle and dripping to the floor. He would dry it up with a mop later. And if he couldn’t find where Janet kept the mops, he would use a paper towel or toilet tissue from the guest bathroom.
He sipped the beer and admired the stars against the cloud-free, blue-black sky. Red Hills was lovely. He and Janet had chosen well indeed. The hill made him forget that the hustle and bustle of the city was mere minutes away.
Horace peeped in at the children watching an animated movie called Brave inside the den.
When was the last time I watched a movie, he asked himself. They must think I’m not ‘hip’. He grinned because it was the way he had regarded his own father.
When he was born, Paps was only twenty two—18 months younger than Mama. But in his childish mind, the man was old, ancient, no fun, disturbingly docile and a slave to Mama’s hot and cold temperament.
Before the stroke slowed his steps, his father had also been a slave to his job.
So was he. And he was tired of being tired, of being reduced to an empty shell by the time weekends rolled around. Janet was forever preaching about balance. She was right. He knew that. But he didn’t know how else to give his family the lifestyle they deserved.
This weekend he had summoned whatever energy the work week hadn’t drained from him and taken the children to Scotchie’s for Sunday dinner, allowed them to dress themselves too. So they were over the moon this evening. And their bellies were full of jerk chicken wings, roast breadfruit, fried plantain and soda. Especially fried plantain and soda.
Funny how they made him feel like a king. A king whose little princess and princes loved him so much they bickered over who should sit next to him at the jerk place. Janine was practically under his arm, and the four of them wouldn’t quit pulling on his hand for attention.
They’d gushed on about which friend said and did what. They’d argued over Captain America and whether he was “badder” than all the Avengers plus Superman “in real life”.
They’d told him about the twins whom the children at school couldn’t tell apart and a teacher who almost cracked an ankle in her five-inch stilettos while writing across the chalkboard. He and the children had laughed hard at Hayden’s impersonation of the teacher until they nearly choked on their sodas.
Horace picked up the phone from the armrest.
” . . . When Principal Millwood told me you couldn’t do CXC History, I told him no, no, no—”
“Mama . . . Mama . . . Mama. I have an urgent matter to attend to.”
“Then how yuh say it urgent?”
“Nothing to worry about, Mama.”
“So yuh hiding things from mi now.”
“If anything, I’ll call you back during the week.”
“Wha’ ’bout Hyacinth? Yuh going to call her back and tell her not to worry come?”
“Call yuh back during the week, Mama.” He hung up and walked around the house, switching off the unnecessary lights until he reached the den.
“Daddy!” The children chorused, throwing up their hands in glee.
Horace wiggled and plopped down between Janine and Hunter on an L-shaped sectional. Hayden and Joshua were on the floor before them. Horace sipped his beer. “Who is this Brave person now?”
To be continued…
©Dionne Brown 2016
Image “Corporate Man with Finger on His Head” courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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