“Lobo” by Richard Georges
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, Richard Georges show us that not all is as it seems in Tortola.
by Richard Georges
Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Lagahoo
Gus sipped lemongrass tea from a foam cup. It was still dark. His secondhand truck idled outside the market as four men clambered into its tray. This was where he picked up workers for the day—mostly men who came to the island at night in quiet boats. The men clutched grease-stained paper bags and chattered loudly between bites of johnnycakes and various patties. Four men got into the truck’s tray. Gus was expecting five.
Mostly, the men traded payday drinking stories in the rattling truck, only pausing to hiss through their teeth at girls on the road. The only quiet one was the carpenter, Lobo. Gus pegged him as Dominican, but he’d never heard him speak. Lobo didn’t talk, and the other workmen didn’t talk much to him. Pointless to ask them what happened to Lobo. He leaned out of the window.
“Ay! Where Lobo?” Their chatter stopped.
“Ain’t know, boss!”
“Lemme check for him then.”
Where it mattered, Gus had no complaints. Lobo worked quickly with few mistakes, and this kept him in steady service. The others took work wherever they could get it, but as far as he could tell, Lobo only worked with him. This was strange. Work on the island was often hard to come by. The windowless buildings that cast shadows throughout town were proof enough. But last Friday as he walked towards the truck, Miss Zelda, an old lady in the market, had shouted at Lobo. Miss Zelda had one good eye, which she could barely see out of, but she knew the things too many had forgotten, like what boiling bush could clear a cold or the bad blood from a wound. But those who knew also said that Miss Zelda knew how to protect you from more than sickness. Lobo seemed surprised when she called out to him, and almost ran to jump into Gus’s tray.
Friday Lobo worked as he always did. Quick and quiet. His woodwork remained impeccable. But today Lobo was late.
Gus turned off the engine and climbed out of the truck. The stall where the men bought their food was bustling—johnnycakes cackled in oil, various patties shone golden behind the glass, and the two ladies in the booth moved constantly as the crowd shed and gained bodies. But Lobo was not one of them.
Gus made his way to Miss Zelda’s stall. It was open. A small table held bunches of mint, lemongrass, thyme, and other herbs tied with string. A cup like the one he was drinking from in the truck sat on the ground next to her empty folding chair. Steam rose from it like mist.
He thought he heard a muffled scream coming from behind the wall of the stall. Gus knew there was a narrow space there between the market and the next building, just big enough for an open drain to make its way to the gutter. As he peered around the corner, he wondered why what he saw did not shock or scare him.
Miss Zelda was there, pressed into that narrow space, a rivulet of blood crawling over her forehead to her cloudy eye. She was mouthing something inaudible, the wrinkles of her neck pulled taut as Lobo’s teeth tore into her flesh. Lobo did not stop, he did not look at Gus, his hands kept Miss Zelda pressed against the wall, draining her life.
Gus screamed. Lobo let the woman fall and turned toward him. He seemed almost gray in complexion, his mouth in a snarl, lips and sharp teeth stained with red. A low hiss escaped from his throat before he let the old woman fall to the wet ground. He ambled up the wall like something not human until he got to the galvanized roof of the market. He glared at Gus, then seemed to screech. His arms seemed to turn to black wings against the sky.
Gus leaned over Miss Zelda. She had wiped the blood from her face and was now dabbing her neck where she had been bitten. Her good eye, the one with the bright brown pupil, was transfixed on him. She looked puzzled, annoyed.
“Why yuh stop him, boy? You ain’t know Lagahoo must eat too?”
Then she smiled.
“Is arright. Go bring me meh tea before yuh go. I go catch myself right here for now.”
RICHARD GEORGES is a writer, editor, and lecturer in the British Virgin Islands. His poetry has appeared in Smartish Pace, sx salon, Barrelhouse, The Caribbean Writer, and Wasafiri. In 2016, he won the Marvin E. Williams Literary Prize from The Caribbean Writer. Richard is also the cofounding editor of Moko, a journal of Caribbean arts and letters.
—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: Jun 23, 2016
Category: Duppy Thursday | Tags: Caribbean, flash fiction, short story, Caribbean Literature, short fiction, Duppy Thursday, Tortola, Lobo, Richard Georges, British Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands, Lagahoo
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