Inside, the two men went passed the other patrons and straight to the counter. Only a few minutes had passed though. But to Toney, he felt as if it was hours. He was not the kind of man to sit still for any lengthy periods. Being asked to sit still was like asking him to serve a lengthy prison sentence, for a crime he did not commit.
For those moments in the bar, he did sit; but rock back and forth, and tapped his fingers on his lap. Then again, he was not much of a drinker. So being in a bar was unnerving.
He felt the walls of the bar closing in on him.
The countertop, the only area of safety for him, a few times he rested his elbows on it; it sparkled.
The constant wiping on the countertop, by Peter, offered a welcoming distraction for Toney’s eyes.
The cream coloured walls, flaking, offered no beauty to the already dreary room.
It appeared, in every inch of the room, the mixture of sweat and liquor dancing violently in the air. Toney’s stomach churned. Glued to the countertop; he meandered his way in telling a bit about himself to Deo.
“Well, that is a little about me. Nothing much too this man before you. I am like a child in this place, brand new.” Toney looked at the glass of whisky, twirling the last bit.
“I see…I see,” Deo shook his head, he too looked at the countertop.
“But, you have not really said much about yourself, who are you around here?” Toney shrugged his shoulders.
Deo looked at Peter with a quick side glance. Peter on the other side of the counter, with a white cotton cloth in his hand, had about six wine glasses in front of him. Not in the conversation, but certainly close enough to hear the two men. And maybe he did. For as soon as he heard Toney’s question and got the glance from Deo, his countenance changed.
Peter moved away and tended to other customers.
Deo glanced at Toney, and then surveyed the bar on either side of his shoulders. He appeared to look for something, something out of the ordinary.
Toney became concerned, but did not venture to speculate.
He waited for Deo to decide to answer, or at least process a response.
“Toney, all men are not build up equal,” Deo muttered in an undertone. He peered into his glass of whisky, his eyes ferocious; more so than what it was outside a while ago.
Deo gulped the last bit of the drink then continued, “Toney, I could sense you’re a good man, your heart, pure. An adventurer, but your heart is pure.” He gripped the glass closer in his fist.
“Over twelve years,” Deo bent his head back and closed his eyes, his breath is slow and deliberate; he dragged his words, “Toney, you tell me, what kind of man leaves his wife, his daughters, girls Toney, girls, and allows himself to go away!”
Toney bit down gently on his tongue, then attempted to fix himself on the bar stool, “Deo, you—”.
Deo interrupted him. Toney acted surprised, but was relieved to not make a comment. Really not knowing what he would have said.
“Toney, a ruthless man, I am a ruthless man!” Not wanting to draw attention to himself, but apparently not realizing his strength, slammed the glass against the counter.
“That is okay Toney you could say it,” Deo jumped off the stool, stood, then pushed the glass away from him.
The two raised their heads recognizing Peter had moved closer to where they were.
“Deo, I think you had enough,” Peter said, as he reached for Deo’s glass.
Deo looked at the glass in Peters hand; he became pensive, hypnotized by something, “Yeah well…,” he mumbled.
Peter cleared his throat and turned to Toney’s glass. Toney slid it to Peter’s reach, he too stood, frozen; waiting.
Then Peter spoke, “Ruthless men do not feel shame and guilt, but conscious men do. You have returned, Deo, you are here now. Shelly is happy, the girls are happy. You have matured and I am sure that no one really treated you badly since your return.”
Deo bent his head, placed both hands in his pocket and turned away from Peter, leaving the bar.
Toney looked at Peter. His both hands, palms opened, moved closer to his chest. His eyebrow closed in to each other.
Peter though will have no curious question. “And, please, am…,” he waved his finger.
“Yes you, Toney. Don’t ask me anything about the man’s past. Just leave it alone. No one around here wants to remember. You hear me stranger?.”
Toney awkwardly moved the right side of his face. He shook his head as a child being scolded for an unlawful act.
Peter attempted to walk away to attend too another customer, when Toney called out to him. “Peter, I am looking for work, do you…, or do you know of anyone who needs someone to employ? I am good with my hands.”
Peter stopped, held his hands over his mouth, then tilted his head as he close one eye. “Well I needed someone to help around here, but already contacted a person. Actually, she is expected today, come to think of it, haven’t seen her yet though.”
Toney nodded and gave a little smiled. “Well if you hear of any opportunities let me know,” he said and turned to leave the bar.
“Oh, wait,” Peter jerked his index finger in the air, signaling Toney.
“Yes,” Toney stopped, clasped his hands behind his back and bended slightly forward.
“You know, Mr. Chin Soo Chow asked me a few weeks back, if I knew any handy man. At the time there weren’t any willing to take the job. But I really didn’t hear him say anything about finding anyone.”
“Alright, I guessed that’s good news then. I will check him out sometime this morning,” he smiled.
Urging Toney to go see Mr. Chin, right away, he waved his palms at him, then pointed, allowing Toney’s head to follow in the direction of his hands. “He is next door, he owns the grocery store.”
Toney, became spirited, thanked Peter and headed for the door.
A young, tall, gorgeously looking woman entered the bar, passing him on his way out, he nodded at her and proceeded to push the swinging doors and exited.
He brought his steps to a halt, turning. Behind him he heard Peter vocalized something. As he tiptoed over the swinging door, he saw Peter moved from behind the counter and stood in the middle of the walk way.
“Men, stop what you’re doing for a moment, and yes, Dennis that means you too,” Peter said. He was quite assertive. So much so, that every man in the bar stopped, raised his head and listened. “Let me make this very clear—.”
But before Peter could continue, he was interrupted by Dennis.
“My goodness, Peter, who is that sweet girl?” Dennis yelled, while he rose to his feet.
Some of the men chuckled.
Peter quickly made his voice overpowering once more, “Yes about this girl,” Peter suspended his words for a few seconds to glance in the direction of Dennis, “Dennis, I think you should remained standing, because when I am through with what I have to say, you will leave. I will see you tomorrow, not today again but tomorrow, right!”
Dennis appeared to ignore Peter, pulling his stool closer to him to sit back down again. The stool made a scraping noise against the rustic floor.
About twenty, or so, men were in the bar. With horrid stares on their faces, they turned to look at Dennis. His body arched to sit.
Peter’s toes itched to move in Dennis direction.
There was a silence, overshadowing the bar’s misty air.
Toney, still stationed at the door, heard an influencing tone from the other side of the bar.
“Dennis, you heard the man, we’ll see you tomorrow!” The voice, assertive as well, but friendlier than Peter’s.
“That’s find Zig, I was leaving anyway,” Dennis responded.
Peter came back into the conversation, appearing to not be overly sidetracked by what had just happened. “Now this is Candy, she’s my niece. She’s now staying in the house just right around the bend, after the cemetery. I think most of you will have remembered my older sister, Miss Joanna, who lived obliquely opposite the primary school.”
“Oh, yes man, I remember her, Miss Joanna, boy. I for one sorry she gone,” Zig said nodding.
A few men chattered quietly among themselves about what Peter’s sister had taught them at school.
“She will be our waitress from today, she is to be respected and I ask that she shows each of you the same. So are we are clear?”
Like a choir after the orchestra played the introductory piece, the men harmoniously bellowed, ‘yes’ to Peter’s request.
Peter now focused his attention on Candy. He hugged her tightly, and kissed her on the forehead.
Dennis made his way out of the bar grumbling something to Toney as he brushed passed him.
Toney chuckled to himself. Unto the streets, he entered the blazing sun and glorious light which emanated from the heavens, upon Kiskadee village. As he walked in the direction of Mr. Chin’s grocery he squinted, trying to adjust his eyes to the brilliant light. By now the sun was directly overhead.
Copyright © 2017 David Alexian
All rights reserved.
He came back onto the main street and continued walking westward, passing a few houses and small shops along the way. On his left, there were more structures along the length of the road, but on the right, there were punctuation of small gardens, farms and empty lots.
He saw a bar. The sign stood imposing. Written in a style he had once seen in a cow boy movie on an old black and white television back on Dow Island.
Toney saw a crowd of about fifteen or twenty men, surrounding five others. The five sat around a small circle, metallic coloured table, on weathered stools, frantically engaging each other. They slammed on the table little white wooden blocks with black dots on them, lining them up in a formation.
The crowds cheered louder as Toney approached, making a pathway for him. He hesitated to join the space now created for him. But the noise infectious. Cries like that of a coliseum. Encouraging any who will venture in the centre. He moved in cautiously, rubbing his toes against the inside soles of his shoes.
“No one can beat you now, Lamont,” a voice shouted from behind Toney’s head. It startled him.
A few more then joined in the chorus shouting the name, “Lamont…Lamont…hail king Lamont.”
A dejected looking East Indian man got up from his seat at the table. He tilted his head to one side, eyes fired red. He looked at the men sitting under him. He said nothing, just stared. His eyebrows seemed to join each other over the crease in his forehead. He panted. His sideburns dripped with sweat.
For a moment, the crowds too grew quiet and backed off from the two men as if to give them space. This was no longer a game. Feelings were hurt, and the man standing wanted nothing more than revenge.
Toney felt compelled to stay. He thought for a instant, if trouble were to erupt he will be in the very centre of it, and so, he should move away. Yet flirting with danger, as if to prove himself a part of this new world, he stood his ground.
Still, the man standing said zilch. His breathing became shallower and his palms made tight fist. The rest of his body stood motionless.
Pushing his way into the little crowd came another man, a little over six feet tall. Although, to Toney he looked more like seven feet—and Toney was five feet eight inches. He was well over three hundred pounds. A giant of a man. A white apron hung silly around his neck; his belly pushing it aside as he moved. He came to the table and stood, towering over the now quiet throng.
“Lamont, you good, you really good at this domino game,” the man shook his head left to right as he spoke.
“You could say that again,” Lamont said.
The man seemed to pay little attention to Lamont’s words. “Everybody just cool it.”
“They better,” Lamont said, as he finally got to his feet. “Like people around here don’t know who is me or what?”
The large man fold his arms, turning his attention to Lamont. Although his folded arms looked more like him resting his forearms over a dinner table; his huge belly. “What is there to know, tell me, please?”
“Like this washed out old barrel confused,” the man who just got to his feet continued.
The little crowd giggled and a few chattered among themselves.
“I think you should hush now,” the large man said, pointing sternly.
All went silent once more.
Lamont eyeballed the man speaking to him.
“Are you serious, boy,” the massive man slowly removed the apron from around his neck, placing it over the table. He moved in closer to Lamont, pushing the table to the side. He now stood between Lamont and the clenched fist man.
“Come son,” someone from the crowd pulled Lamont from the centre of the commotion.
“No, please, leave the lad.”
“Come on Peter, you know how stupid youth can be,” the man holding Lamont by the hand said, as he took him away.
Peter now turned his frame to the East Indian man, who at no time moved an inch; except to narrow his eyes lids, fixing his attention on Lamont better. “Now Deo, welcome back. But a lot has changed around here. Lamont is a man now, still loud, but changed. So is Zig, Jah Jah and Dennis,” he pointed at the other men who were still sitting.
“Let me be the judge of that,” Deo said.
The man continued, holding the attention of the onlookers. “And you will be. Now, come inside everyone, one drink for each man, it’s on the house. Deo is back, remember guys, Kiskadee village is changed.”
The crowds moved. A few men left, including Lamont, but the majority moved in the direction of the bar’s swinging doors.
Deo stepped away from his chair. He looked at it momentarily. He became pensive for about a few seconds. But shook his head as if to say he was satisfied with how things turned out this morning. He tucked his shirt back into the waist of his pants; loosened, as he rose quickly from his seat during the altercation. He dusted himself, cleared his throat and presented a smile.
His eyes now fixed on Toney. “And you are?” he said, nodding childishly.
“Toney, Mr. Deo.”
“Ah! Drop the Mr., is Deo for you,” he chuckled. “Well, you heard Peter, come in and take one with me, Toney boy.”
Deo, tapped Toney on the shoulder, and gently nudged him to the opening of the bar door.
“Well, okay…why not.”
“It’s nice to see what Peter and them did with this place,” Deo looked at the eve of the building and to the side.
“Well, it doesn’t look too bad.”
“Toney boy, not too bad, you should have seen this place before. This place was a real work of art. A lot used to happen right here, a lot.”
“I guess every place needs to change, and even the people who live here.”
“If is one think, you right about that. Alright, let we come out this sun.”
Copyright © 2017 David Alexian
All rights reserved.
Toney and his son walked along the dirt track leading away from their house. As they did, they got a better view of the cedar, yellow maple and teak trees that surrounded the landscape.
That moment was quite enlightening for Toney. It gave him a special view of where things were. He visited the area a few times before, to meet with the gentle man who sold him the house, but never then were able to have a good look at the landscape. It seemed that each time they met were at evenings, leading into the night.
As the two continued walking, the ambiance was as new to Jason as it was to Toney.
About ten minutes into their calm stride, the dirt road tapered off. Forming beneath their feet were stones neatly crafted and laid as a puzzle piece to each other, forming the bigger picture; the main road.
Donkey carts and a few horses exploded onto the street. There were probably two or three cars parked lower down, closer to a corner leading out of the village. People hurried, passing each other. Some persons with friendly greetings, others just went along.
In the distance the sound of children could be heard laughing and a distinct one screaming the words, “Nah, nah you out, mom, he not playing fair!”
As Toney and his son approached the first shop, there was an old man selling ground provisions.
“I could get you a nice price for a few pounds on the yams or cassava, stranger.” The old man spoke up, while he rose to his feet.
With that, Toney turned and cast his eyes along the street, and noted dozens of vendors on either side of the road way. He then gave a chuckle, rocking his head back and fought a bit.
Jason looked at his father, squinted his eyes but said nothing. He had seen this look on his father’s face many times before. It was the look that came with some type of realization.
Toney was so busy for the entire week getting all things ready for his family to leave Dow island, that he did not realized that the day was Saturday. Had he remembered, he will have suggested to Merry that she came along and get some dry goods for the family. She was the one that was better at this.
Toney looked at the track behind and wondered whether he should send Jason back to call her. But then again, a quick thought filled his mind. Merry is never the one to forget things like this and most have known the day, but opted not to remind him. In that way, she could get both men out the house and do her decorating in peace.
The streets, converted into a market place had people up and about trading or just meeting each other. Some, it seemed, used the time to bring their children out to relax and play with their little friends.
Toney and Jason left the old man and proceeded west. As they made their way along the hectic street, persons called to their attention, the prices of tomatoes, onions, water melons and other items.
On the main street, to the left hand side, about fifty meters inside, a dead end road appeared. Closer to where the two stood, a small sign hung sideways against a bamboo pole, ‘Help Wanted—Tool Sharpener’.
The two approached the main entrance at the front of the structure, which was partly constructed of wood from the ground to about two feet up. The remaining portion was partitioned with wire, giving it an appearance of that of honey combs.
Toney opened the door and entered the structure. His son followed about an arm’s length away.
Although the main street was noisy, yet it didn’t seem to make its way down to this workshop. The two continued making their way a little further inside.
At the right hand side of the room stood a tall pale coloured man working at a table.
Copyright © 2017 David Alexian
All rights reserved.
That morning, Merry made the family breakfast; eggs, cassava bake and cocoa tea. After breakfast, she took the dishes away from the table and started sweeping the kitchen floor. Jason returned to his bedroom. Toney on the other hand, went to the corner of the kitchen for a pair of booths and headed into the yard.
From outside, Toney called out. “Merry, I am going to take care of the dogs before heading out to look for work today.”
“That’s wonderful. I’ll finish doing some unpacking in here.” She smiled from the corner of her lips.
“I’ll see if I can get you some more rods for the curtains, while I am out today.”
“Yes, that will really be wonderful. Thick, strong ones though.”
“I’ll see what they have.”
“Just make sure the quality is good.”
“I will take Jason with me, perhaps he might find some type of work he likes.”
“That’s a great idea, nothing to hard though, he is my one son.”
“The boy almost a man, he could more than do a little hard work.”
“Honey, please, it’s Jason we are talking about.”
“Maybe it’ll toughen him up some more.”
“Maybe, a cleaning job then.”
“We’ll see what they have when we go out there, we’ll see.”
The house was about three metres from the ground, on poles. On one of the poles, Toney had the dogs tied with about seven feet of rope each. In that way, the dogs could freely move around. Back on Dow Island, they were not accustom being shackled.
Toney untied the two dogs, and went to the other side of the house. Jason’s room rested just above his head. He could hear his son ruffling through some bags, and assumed he too was unpacking.
He looked at the track leading from his home and into the distance, where is disappeared. He kept his gaze there for several minutes.
“Toney,” Merry called out.
“No, I just didn’t hear you.”
“Haven’t left yet.”
“Okay, that’s fine,” she said.
“Vic, what did you get Blacks into?” Toney whispered, cleaning mud splatter on Blacks fur. When he was through, he turned his attention to Vic. He noticed Vic, who had walked around him by then, with something red on one of its front legs. “Did you hurt yourself boy?” Toney asked as if seeking to have an answer from Vic.
Merry placed her head through the opening of the kitchen window, “Don’t forget the curtain rods today, please.”
“No, I remembered,” he lifted his head. He held the dog’s leg and examined it closely, “No, okay, it’s not yours!”
Toney stood up. He placed both hands on his hips. He looked at the dog’s fur, but there was something else he observed. There was a smell on Vic, one that was not common to Toney.
“You said something to me?”
“No, no, just to the dogs.”
“Are they okay, love?”
“Yes, they are fine, just checking them out,” he said. “Okay, you know what, let’s get you cleaned up.”
Toney washed the blood from the dog’s foot and returned them to a pole under the house.
He went to a barrel with water to the back of the house. Using a small bucket, he dipped and poured on each hand. He returned the small bucket to the barrel of water. From his pocket he retrieved a piece of polyester cotton, material his wife tore form a ragged curtain and fashioned as a handkerchief. Folding it in half, he vigorously dry his hands. He had grown accustom using the sides of his pants to wipe his hands, soiling the area close to his pockets. But after receiving a stern warning from his wife, he started making good use of the cloth given to him.
“Jason,” Toney called out, “join me outside, let’s go look for work.”
There was silence in Jason’s room.
“Son, your father is speaking to you.”
“Son, please, go outside and meet your father.”
“He could go without me.”
“Son please, right this minute, go and join your father.”
Jason came out of his room sulking. His mother walked towards the front door. Her son made his way into the yard. His father had already set foot in the track.
Copyright © 2017 David Alexian
All rights reserved.
In the bedroom, Merry waited on him. She believed he was through taking care of the dogs, however, hearing the sound of his blade, she got out of bed.
“What’s wrong, Toney, what is going on?” With a shriek in her voice, her head pushed out from the doorway; Merry gazed at her husband. Her forehead creased.
“The dogs are missing!” He responded, sounding as though moaning the lost of a dear friend.
“They will return my love, you have trained them well!”
Sternness filled the room. “Merry John, it is my duty to take care of my—.”
Before he could finish, Merry said, “Take the lamp in the kitchen dear, go, bring them home.”
He turned to look at the forest outside, then to the floor. A few seconds after, with the machete firmly gripped in his hand, he turned to her. By this time, she was fully in the corridor between their bedroom and Jason’s. A bed sheet wrapped around her body, one hand held the two ends together, the other clinched her belly.
Toney raised his chin, and made a step towards her. She moved one step back. Moving her hand from her belly she braced herself against the wall.
“I have to do this.”
“They will come back,” she shrugged.
“They are still knew, I can’t take that chance.”
“I am sure they are outside in the yard somewhere just having fun.”
“I called, they are not here.”
“Go, we love you,” she gave a dismissive wave.
Toney slowly turned from her, grabbed the lamp and disappeared through the door.
Merry moved towards the door and pulled it in.
A slight drizzle now lashed against the roof.
She whispered, “Toney, I love you.”
She did not see herself sleeping that night until her husband returned.
As she walked away from the door, to the corner of her eyes the rains started entering the half shut window over the kitchen sink. She went over and pull it in.
Copyright © 2017 David Alexian
All rights reserved.