“Daddy Bats is Not Coming to Save You” by Justin Haynes
Akashic Books is proud to introduce a new flash fiction series, Duppy Thursday. Though we’re based in Brooklyn, our location envy of the Caribbean is evident throughout our catalog. One aspect of Caribbean literature that appeals to us is the integration of folklore into contemporary stories—a perfect example being Jamaican author Marlon James’s debut novel John Crow’s Devil, which we published to great critical acclaim in 2005. Whether it be the spider Anansi, the devil woman La Diablesse, the Soucouyant, Mama Dlo, or Papa Bois, these mythical beings have injected life (and death) into the literature of the region. As with our other flash fiction series, we challenge you to tell your story in 750 words or less.
This week, Justin Haynes takes us to an orphanage in Trinidad, where one child’s mother might not be completely human.
Daddy Bats lives with you in a one-bedroom flat in Belmont—until today. This morning, Daddy Bats flicks the cold from the corners of your eyes, and just after Radio Trinidad announces the day’s deaths, he marches you between lively trucks and horn-blowing super saloons up the hill to the orphanage.
“Don’t worry, son,” Daddy Bats says as he kneels before you. “Is only for a few days. Then I will save you.”
Saga boy Daddy Bats only buttons the last two buttons on his shirt jack. His chest flashes brown and hard. When you ask why he’s leaving you, Daddy Bats says he’s “entertaining a red ting for a few nights.” He needs all of his strength so she doesn’t kill him. Daddy Bats notes that you are ready to cry. “No tears!” demands Daddy Bats. He thumbs away the single tear and introduces you to Miss Belasco.
Miss Belasco acquaints you to the other children. She is not pleased to see Daddy Bats. Her belly is calabash big beneath her dress. Later, the children tell you that she’s holding one of Daddy Bats’s babies for him.
When you showed Daddy Bats the tail that started growing from your backside a month before, he pulled back like he had seen a Douen with two feet turned back to front. “It’ll go away,” he finally grinned.
It got longer.
So now, one month later, your tail tucked between your legs, Daddy Bats walks you across the street to live with zigaboos and liars.
At the orphanage, six children claim that they are Daddy Bats’s castoffs too, and this almost leads you to blows with all thirty-five orphans. “Liar!” you say as you swing on a fatty bully, and Miss Belasco drags you away and hugs you to her chest, and you hear the heartbeat of Daddy Bats’s next baby.
Why believe these zigaboos? Look at them!
Darrian—serious K-foot from rickets!
Adele—big buckteeth like a Minshall mas!
Kierran—poxy legs for days!
But they’re all brownskin like you. And two have the same eggshell cracks in their chins, just like Daddy Bats.
Darrian, wobbling from east to west as he walks north to south, delivers you to the mattress beside his. Pee-pee wrinkles your nose. “Don’t worry,” he says. “A woman does clean it up.” He whispers, “A La Diablesse.”
You see why he thinks that. A long skirt sweeps low to cover her possible cow foot. A black fowl-thief hat shrouds her face. Her skin conjures jasmine. But this is no La Diablesse; this is your mother. Her eyes dilate upon seeing you. She scours the orphanage’s floors, disinfects pillowcases, plunges two-two down overflowing toilets. Here’s the truth: under her long skirt lies a stump where her leg was shorn off in a motorcycle accident on Tragarete Road at three a.m. one month earlier. The accident stole her tongue and all of her teeth. Years later, someone reveals that she was clinging to Daddy Bats’s hips when they took the skid and that he was thrown clear and unhurt onto a pile of grass cut by the ten-days workers around King George V Park.
How she survived is every orphan’s favorite guessing game. Adele says she traded her soul to the devil, and you feel your tail twitch in your pants.
A month earlier, Daddy Bats had told you that she had died. No tears!
That night, after the other children are asleep, you look out the window and see Daddy Bats’s flat in darkness. Hearing shuffling, you spy your mother through the keyhole, undressing next door. Removing the fowl-thief hat reveals a face scarred with cricket ball stitches. Unfastening her skirt shows the stumped leg connected to a cut of wood. She reaches back and unfastens her skin slowly down her spine and legs. She releases one leg, and the skin folds to the floor like fabric. Exiting her skin, she flashes into bright light, and she’s gone.
Tomorrow the children’s whispers will scurry like cockroaches washing over your legs the night before. They will say the soucouyant took Daddy Bats, sucked him dry.
Your mother will not return to mop pee-pee. She will have streaked across the sky to Manzanilla or Toco or Mayaro. But you will remain at the orphanage for another dozen years, your tail lengthening, wrapping around your leg like a macajuel, wetting your mattress nightly with tears while Darrian continues to baptize his mattress with pee.
JUSTIN HAYNES is a U.S.-based, Trinidadian-born writer. His short stories have been published, or are forthcoming, in various journals, including The Caribbean Writer, The Notre Dame Review, and Paragraphiti. He is currently an assistant professor of English at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, where he teaches creative writing, African American literature, and Caribbean literature.
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a Caribbean location and incorporate some aspect of folklore, whether centrally or tangentially.
—Include the location and the referenced folk tale or figure of the story with your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Duppy Thursday are typically posted 2–4 months after the notification date.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Sep 3, 2015
Category: Duppy Thursday | Tags: Trinidad, Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago, flash fiction, short story, Caribbean Literature, short fiction, Duppy Thursday, soucouyant, Daddy Bats is Not Coming to Save You, Justin Haynes, La Diablesse
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