“La-La Land” by Kevin Jared Hosein
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, Pepperpot contributor Kevin Jared Hosein delves into the mind of La Diablesse.
by Kevin Jared Hosein
Men is stupid creatures, you know. Anyone ask, tell them La-La say that. Sometimes I wonder if this diet of machismo and testosterone killin’ me—if it cloggin’ up the arteries of this blackened heart. I en’t never eat no man, though—I drink them up. The hunt is always the same. I lure them into the coppice and up the craggy mountain trail. A flash of a leg here, a twirl of a dress there, and the deal is done. I thinking either I get too good at this, or the men get even more stupid.
When they realize La-La is really La Diablesse, though, party done! They bolt helter-skelter through the darkening backwood and down the rocky outcroppings, then they fall into the ravine and drown. Their final words and thoughts get sapped into the water, making it sweet-sweet. The water know to bring it to me so I could drink the gurgles and the screams.
I collect the sweet water in bottles. I tie strings ’round them and dangle them from stalactites in my cavern. I listen to them clink and chime. What a lovely sound—it make La-La sleep easy. Have a piper who does push a wheelbarrow and collect bottles from the side of the road, making stopovers at the nearby village. If I ever run outta bottles, I just swoop down and snatch some from him. Sometimes I stick ’round to hear him cussin’ at the villagefolk, talkin’ bout how his salary gone. Other from that, I get restless if I lurk too long. Men suck their lips at me—it make La-La’s ears bleed. Each whistle is like a shrill screech.
Last month, though, I find myself spendin’ more and more time in the village. I took interest in a girl I start to see ’round the pub. A child. She come outta nowhere—a wanderer! And the girl was belle of the ball. The same old stupid men who was whistlin’ at La-La was whistlin’ at her now, men who hang their tongues like dog during the act. All manners of lowlifes who probably never been inside of a woman without havin’ to pay.
And they paid well for the little girl.
The proprietor of the bar sell her for a good price every night. Had a room put aside upstairs for the services, scented with ginger incense and gummy with grime. And even though it disgust her, she woulda go cockeyed from orgasm with every one of them. Poor thing couldn’t help it.
Since this girl had come, the ravine went sour fast-fast.
I had to get rid of this girl. Wasn’t much I coulda do. I just hang ’round the bar and looked for the ones pissin’ the most. I leaned over the pool table, archin’ my back for them, nipples puffy and sweaty against my vest. But they hardly take an interest. The bar was too well lit, too loud. Even the strongest puncheon couldn’t hide wrinkles like mine—La-La is a hundred years old, you know! The kinda seduction an old demon like me could offer now is only suited for warm, silent darkness—’round a corner, beneath the glow of a streetlamp, in a beaten grove where the agoutis take cover.
This bar thing en’t gon work, I knew. Not this way.
But I had an idea. One day, I sneak up to the room upstairs the bar while she was in the middle of it with a customer. Clutchin’ a beer bottle, I open the door slow. On top of her was a burly mustached man. Stubble brushing against a feigned smile. Hairy belly pressed against jutting bone. I smash the beer bottle against his crown and then wring the broken glass into his back. The girl leap up and scream, claspin’ the greasy blanket to cover her body, jammin’ her bottom against the wall.
I went up to her, grabbed her face, and scream, “You en’t see me yet!” before I vault out the window and scamper back into the forest.
The man survive the injury. I drink him the other day. Nobody press charges because the girl was underage. She disappear after that, though. And now my bottles is filled and clinkin melodiously in my cavern. Oh, the lovely echoes. Sweet-sweet water flowin’ through the mountain again, teeming with gasps and grumbles and gurgles. This forest is truly La-La Land again.
KEVIN JARED HOSEIN currently resides in Trinidad and Tobago. He is the 2015 Caribbean regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his entry, “The King of Settlement 4.” In 2013, he wrote and illustrated his first book, Littletown Secrets, which was named the best children’s book of 2013 by the Trinidad Guardian. He is also featured in collections such as Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean, Jewels of the Caribbean, the upcoming Peekash speculative fiction anthology. He was shortlisted twice for the Small Axe Prize, in 2014 and 2015. His poem “The Wait is So, So Long” was adapted into a short film, which was awarded a Gold Key at the New York–based Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. His novel, The Repenters, published by Peepal Tree Press, is being launched at the 2016 Bocas Literature Festival.
—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, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—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: Feb 11, 2016
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