The words slithered from his mouth like a bone-idle Jamaican Boa. His gravelly voice was way too boisterous above the crash of dominoes against the rickety wood table outside the roadside bar. And his breath reeked of rum, the white, over-proof variety they all drank with water every Friday evening and straight into the dead of night.
“Hear what I seh.” His voice echoed into the forest on the other side of the street.
“What yuh saying, brodda Merv?” Ludlow encouraged above the reggae music playing inside the mini, maroon and yellow, zinc-roof establishment.
“Hear what I seh.”
“Talk yuh talk, Mervy.” Maas Hezzy spurred him on. “Talk yuh talk.”
“Hear what I say.”
“Wi listening, brodda Merv; wi listening.” The table quaked and the played dominoes jumped out of line as Chester slammed down his double-three then sat back down and scratched his grey beard.
“Di wife seh.” Merv’s voice soared. “Di wife say . . .”
“What di wife say, brodda Merv?” Chester placed the two dominoes in his hand face-down on the table, sipped his rum-water and grimaced.
“Di wife seh,” Merv dropped his voice, “don’t come back home if yuh drunk.”
Maas Hezzy’s bushy, grey eyebrows shot up as he slid his second-to-last domino from the edge to the middle of the table with a finger.
“The wife say,” Merv twanged, “she say if I am drunk—”
“What she gonna do, brodder Merv?” Chester twanged too.
“She gonna lock me out.” Merv rose, raised his hand high above his head and smashed his last domino against the tabletop. He gripped the sides of the table to stop himself from pitching over, face forward.
Chester guffawed. “So what you gonna do, brodda Merv?”
“I shall be going home.” Merv’s plastic chair scraped the tough, red dirt as his calves bumped into it and pushed it further behind him. His body swayed like a banana tree caught up in a gust of wind.
“But she’s gonna lock you out, brodda Merv.”
Merv stared into space. “Well, Chesta.” He tried resting his hands on his waist, but his hands couldn’t find his waist, so he gave up. “I shall sleep . . . on the grass.”
Maas Hezzy objected. “Mervy, you will catch up cold!”
“Well—” Merv staggered backward.
“Easy!” Maas Hezzy grabbed at him to catch him, but grabbed air instead.
Merv anchored himself, one double-jointed leg behind the other, his left calf pressing against the edge of his chair seat. “Well, I shall be sleeping on the verandah.”
“But, brodda Merv,” Ludlow slurped his rum and water like hot tea, “the grill gate going to lock.” His face shone with amusement.
“Well,” Merv tried folding his arms, but couldn’t quite remember how, so he let them dangle, “I will sleep on the steps. How dat sound?”
“Sounds hard and cold, brodda Merv.”
Merv took one sure step away from the domino table. “Well Luddy, that’s what I’m going to do. Coz is my house too. And is my step.”
“Dat’s right, brodda Merv! Fifty percent of that step belong to you,” Chester agreed and grinned from ear to ear.
Merv stuck a hand high in the air, all five fingers splayed, and bid them goodbye, “I gone.”
“Walk good, Mervy, walk good.” Maas Hezzy swooped the scattered dominoes towards his chest, swirled and shuffled them, swish, swish, swish, on the table.
Merv staggered away from the bar, the strains of Bob Marley’s “Coming in From the Cold” ushering him off. He made two wide steps out into the deserted street then swung back towards the soft shoulder.
“Walk straight, Mervy, walk straight,” Maas Hezzy called out.
Without looking back, Merv shoved a hand up in the air. “I gone.”