AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
from Les derniers rois mages
Justin, Spero's father, had been one of those children who seem to be in mourning for the mother they buried at childbirth. Moreover, Djere, his Papa, was so taken up with writing his Notebooks that he paid him no more attention than he did the paint peeling off the walls of the house on the Morne Verdol or the ever darker spots on the ceiling made by the water dripping from the roof nobody repaired rainy season after rainy season. Fortunately there was Hosannah, his grandmother, who treated him like the apple of her eye. She dressed him in velvet and silk poplin with wide sailor collars triple edged in blue. She fed him chicken fillets and creamed mashed potatoes. Never breadfruit or dasheen, none of those basic foodstuffs the poor have to make do with as an accompaniment to their codfish and salt pork. The neighbors jeered at all the trouble she went to, for the child made no progress at school. It was obvious he'd end up like his father who was bone idle, his mind muddled by his constant swilling of rum and that nonsense about a royal ancestor and exile in Martinique. Some people were only too quick to blame Hosannah who after having spoilt and molly coddled her own son was now doing the same with her son's son.
Constantly hearing Djere churn out his nonsense at the Cerf-Volant, a rum shop at the bottom of the hill where he was one of the regulars, some smart alecks had nicknamed him Wise Man Djere, a name that was later passed on to his son. At Epiphany on January 6, a golden paper crown was placed on his head and he was obliged to buy a general round of rum or absinthe. He complied with the money that Hosannah stuffed into his pockets and recited pages out of his Notebooks that nobody listened to.
Justin could not bear his father. Throughout his childhood he had wondered why he didn't have a Papa who on weekdays went off to work with his lunch tin at the d'Arboussier factory like everyone else and on Sundays dressed up in a white starched drill suit. Why did Djere just sit at the dining room table, dipping his pen into a glass inkwell, scribbling and scratching from morning to late afternoon on pieces of paper, and in the evening when he was drunk telling stories that nobody could make either head or tail of? He could not bear his grandmother either. Hosannah was a sad-looking black woman, a genuine beast of burden who worked and worked and worked. Insensitive …