|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 48 - Friday September 12, 2003
|Disturbing Shadows |
by Aiicha Ndiaye
Mama said that she had decided to pass the time cleaning fish. All five children, including my mom were already in bed. Besides, the bouzai (local lamp) was still going and it would not make sense to wet it if papa was not yet home. Papa usually came back from the sea after midnight, since that was the best time to fish.
A little dog walked into the yard so she fed him the gills while she gutted the fish. When Papa came, it was already way past 1 am, but instead of calmly greeting her like he normally did, he instantly yelled at her, Mais Jeanne sa ou ka fait la noh? (what are you doing there?)”
She saw the look in his eyes; it wasn’t one that she had not seen before. She stopped. She looked at the dog. It had also stopped. Papa put down his bundle of fish and sent mama off to bed. He held on to the dog. She knew what was going on, but of course she had not contemplated it before papa had given her the look.
She peeped through a crack in the window while he removed all his clothes, according to custom. He pulled out his whip made out of the dried stretched-out penis of a dead cow. He had had that whip ever since she met him when she was 16 and now she was almost twice as old.
He whipped the dog and though she felt sorry, she knew that he knew what he was doing. The puppy yelped and tried to get away, but he held a firm grip. He just kept on beating.
She said that his sweat-covered body shone in the moonlight. She looked at his naked body running through the yard holding onto a puppy that dragged her husband through the yard as if it were a horse in disguise. It was not. It was a man in disguise!
She said that his name was Roaul; he was a silly show off, who had just messed with the wrong person this time.
Roaul showed up first thing next morning covered in bruises. “Maider! Jeanne! Pardon, moi te ka joue (sorry, I was just playing).” Mama said to my mom years later that Papa saw something that she hadn’t. The puppy was walking back to front! That’s the way to tell when a human being has hidden his skin in exchange for that of an animal’.
I Still Can’t See His Face
I see him as clear as day and it frightens me, still.
In the middle of my sleep, my eyes were just tugged open and there he was standing in the doorway.
I could not breathe. Fear had always made me freeze.
He just stood there, black as the night with no shirt on and some cut-off jeans.
I don’t even know what his face looked like. I held on.
His blackness moved closer.
There were pins and needles all over my body.
My throat was closed.
Mammy came running.
No one was there.
All the doors were locked. She said that it was my imagination.
I know it wasn’t. I was wide-awake while we stared at each other.
But I still can’t see his face.
It was 1965, according to Auntie Brenda's friend.
He was driving home to Riviere Cyrique from a dance in LaPlaine .
He saw this beautiful girl walking down the street by herself and against his better judgment he told himself that she might have missed out on a ride from the dance.
He offered her a ride.
She said no.
She said ok, hesitantly.
He chatted the whole way down and even took the long scenic route, hoping that he might have gotten a kiss.
She did not talk much; she just answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
He did not find that strange.
He got close to home and inquired about hers.
She said that he could stop right here.
He said ok and got really close to her before opening the passenger’s door.
She asked if he wanted to come with her, which stirred his every emotion – she was out of the ordinary.
He opened the door and she slightly lifted her madras to step down.
He noticed, accidentally, She had hooves!
He said that he found out what a heart attack felt like.
He ran into the car and drove as if being chased. He might have taken one breath in between that horrible stop and home.
He was horrified; words could not explain how badly he knew that he was going to die that night. He was so terrified that he yelled out to the whole village when he got close to home. He had to wake everyone because he was afraid to stop the car.
His mother met him outside along with a few older neighbors. She knew something out of the ordinary had happened. He told her that the beautiful woman had hooves!
How could a woman have hooves instead of feet? Was his imagination giving him a run for his behavior?
His mom informed him; “The whole world knows that you do not pick up a strange, beautiful woman at night, especially if she is wearing a long dress.” He did not leave the house for a month.
Be Sure to Bite Your Ten Fingers After Mentioning the Name of a Dead Person – it will keep them from hearing you.
I was fifteen. I loved my granny but I hated the village - so dark, so full of imaginary things and so far from my mammy. Although Mama protected me just as well. Mama and I were in the kitchen talking. They were having a mass for Ma Fanny, who had died about seven years before. I asked why she would not go. Ma Fanny had been her next-door neighbor for over thirty years. Mama said that she never liked that old lady.
“She ruined my life and that of my children out of jealousy. Papa and I were poor but we loved our ten children. That woman insisted that she should help me with the load by taking one of my children as her own. There is no way I could have given up any of my children. I did not care that we all slept in the same room, it made us closer, and it kept us warm.
My children were strong from eating fish and drinking milk because that was what papa got. All of a sudden Annie lost her beautiful voice and the fish refused to come in Papa’s net. After all these years that Papa had been fishing, how could fish suddenly stop coming, in addition, the cows would not give us milk! Things were bad. We felt strange.
The boys could no longer go to school, they had to tend to the garden to make sure that we at least had some ground provisions, by then Papa was being a jackass and staying out late, but not at sea. It was all too bizarre. I went up to town and made an appointment to see this old gardeur (fortune teller).
It was she! She put something on my family, because she was mad at me for having so many children and not letting her borrow one. She was never able to have children because men were afraid of her. She was a man-eater.
They were never too sure what they would come across in that house of hers. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do, I just sat back and watched my children’s lives being slowly and needlessly destroyed.
And when you were born along with the other grandchildren, she tried to lure you into her space too, but Aicha you were always the smart one. You never went too close to her, and when you saw her on the street, you crossed over, so that you would be on her left hand side.
She knew that you smelt her evil, so she stayed away from you, not like Rosa. Rosa was inquisitive, she asked everyone in the village questions and I had to beat her to stay in the house for fear that she too might be ruined. But my sweet grandchildren, you are all fine”
I was curious about the gardeur. I asked if he was still alive and where did he live. She said, “I can never forget that man, he felt so sorry that he did not even let me pay, His name was Monsieur Sec.”
I was shocked, I ran outside and I threw up. That name had rung a million bells in my head. It made me cry, it made me angry, and it made me cry again. He was the dead father of my high school best friend, how could I face her when the school year started?
I had heard that her dad had cursed her family before he died. I had heard that he was mounted to a snake, that the snake had his life, so no matter what anyone did to him, they could not harm him.
But someone had figured it out and had cut the snake in half and he died. Before he died he put a curse on his family because out of four girls, three had gotten pregnant at age 15, and all the girls in my high school blamed it on the curse. I assumed that day that it might have been that one of the girls squealed his identity.
My granny was sorry that she had told me that story. She had never known that Monsieur had children, much less for one as young as I was. She thought that she was enlightening me about the luck of our family, but she had enlightened me about the lifestyle of my best friend’s home-life. I never told my best friend that my granny knew about her father because she had defended the identity of her father forever.