Dark Days in Port-au-Prince (Part 1, Roxane Gay)
To celebrate the release of Haiti Noir 2: The Classics, edited by Edwidge Danticat, we asked contributors from both of our Haiti Noir volumes to participate in an exquisite corpse style story—a serial story in which each participant builds off of what the previous participants have written—to create an original piece of fiction with a decidedly dark tone. Check back each Friday through February 7th for a new installment of this six-part short story with sections from Roxane Gay, M.J. Fievre, Ibi Aanu Zoboi, Katia D. Ulysse, Josaphat-Robert Large, and Edwidge Danticat.
This first installment of Dark Days in Port-au-Prince comes from Haiti Noir 2: The Classics contributor Roxane Gay.
Elsa had the gentle rise of a growing baby in her belly and a sharp anger toward the baby’s father, Gilbert, in her heart. He sat across from her at their small kitchen table, his head in his hands as he tried to explain why he couldn’t take a job at the new garment factory that had recently opened in the north. He didn’t want to leave his family. He knew nothing of clothes. He couldn’t spend all day hunched over a sewing machine, working his fingers to the bone. He didn’t want to leave her. He didn’t want to leave their child. This last thing he said, smiling softly and reaching for Elsa’s hand.
She threw a worn stack of bills at Gilbert and jabbed her finger into the table. “Always excuses with you and still, we owe so much to so many.”
Gilbert shrugged then sat up, trying to add some steel to his spine. “I will take care of you. Don’t worry about how.” Before Elsa could respond he stood, leaned over to kiss her warm forehead, and then disappeared into the night.
As he walked along the dark and deserted street, Gilbert whistled—a sad little song his father used to sing at the end of a long day of work. He was going to make something happen. He had to. And then Elsa would stop scowling at him all the time. She would stop turning her back to him in the narrow bed they shared and making idle threats about leaving him for a man who could keep his word and take proper care of a woman. “I can keep my word,” Gilbert muttered.
The bar was nearly empty when Gilbert slouched in and took a seat next to two of his boys—Sylvain and Jean Pascal. They barely looked up from their drinks. They too had difficult women waiting for them at home, where difficult meant women who expected anything at all. They weren’t bad men but sometimes, they didn’t quite know how to be good.
For months, Jean Pascal had been talking about a plan. In his head, it made sense. A great big cruise ship, the Madrigal, came into port every ten days and there was money to be made—all those Americans who could afford to get fat and drunk on a boat of all things. If they could sneak onto the boat while it was in port, they could make something happen. That was as far as the plan had gotten but now, Gilbert brought it up, newly motivated by his disgruntled woman.
“Maybe we could rob the casino, like in Ocean’s Eleven,” Gilbert said, thoughtfully, rubbing his chin.
Sylvain snorted. “And make our getaway in a wooden sailboat?”
Gilbert ignored his friend. “Hear me out. I know a guy who works for the cruise line.”
“You are making absolutely no sense,” Jean Pascal said, “But, let’s get serious. We need to meet with this guy you know.”
ROXANE GAY’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, the New York Times Book Review, and more. Her novel An Untamed State, which grew out of the story that appears in Haiti Noir 2: The Classics, will be published by Grove/Atlantic in 2014. That same year, her essay collection, Bad Feminist, will be published by Harper Perennial.
Read Part 2 of Dark Days in Port-au-Prince here.
Posted: Jan 3, 2014
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