“Night Class” by Andre Bagoo
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, Andre Bagoo has a late-night encounter.
by Andre Bagoo
Trinidad and Tobago; Douen
The Mayfair was over, the lights turned off, the bran tub emptied, the decorations taken down and locked in cupboards safely. The bouncy castle stood still, awaiting the workmen who would remove it tomorrow. The gates to the schoolyard were shut, and the sentry assumed duty.
No one saw the boy in black. He hid inside a cabinet in the horror house until the last of the crowds had gone. When it was completely dark, he slipped out of the school and into the yard. From a distance, he looked at the guard booth. He got closer, peeping through the iron louvers of the small concrete shed. A bright lamp glowed, but the sentry was asleep again. He reclined in his comfortable chair. A portable radio was on and dreamy voices from another country drifted into the night.
Back inside the school, the hungry boy broke into a storage room. (The principal could never explain to the PTA why stocks disappeared.) A fridge was full of unsold ice cream from the fair, kept as a treat for the students the following week. His dinner that night consisted of two courses: first chocolate, then orange pine. The feast done, he lit a candle so he could read. He liked fire.
The school was next to a cane field and was in a part of the valley where a shallow stream filled with water crabs flowed.
When a voice on the radio laughed, the sentry awoke. He stepped out of the shed to have a smoke. After he extinguished his flame, he noticed the light coming from the school. He picked up his flashlight and walked into the yard. The closer he got to the building, the brighter the light became, as if the glow was his fear, his sense of something evil. He looked through a broken window and saw the child seated next to the candle. He doubled back as though he had seen a douen.
“What the jail is this!”
The sentry ran to the front entrance, unlocked the door, went in, and turned on several lights. The school was not large; it would be easy to find the intruder.
“Boy, don’t be playing the ass with me here tonight.”
The child did not have time to find a proper hiding place. In panic, he scurried to the side of a big cupboard. Suddenly the classroom felt too small. He regretted letting his guard down. He heard the sentry come in. Then a light ignited and they saw each other.
“What you doing here?”
“I get lock in.”
“You get lock in? What is your name?”
“Dalit, where you from?”
“I from Vistabella. But I don’t live there again.”
“You living here?”
“Six months now. You does real snore.”
“Where your parents?”
“My parents don’t want me. Because of Jesus. Tell me your name too nah.”
The sentry thought Dalit resembled his son who was living in Germany with his mother. He looked at the boy’s face carefully, as though seeking the outlines of someone he had not seen in years.
“My name is Mr. Rodney.”
A voice came from the guard booth.
“Don’t tell them about me! I have nowhere else.”
Mr. Rodney thought for a while, then said, “Stay here, I coming back.”
No one was in the booth. The radio signal had spiked because the clouds in the night sky had cleared. Mr. Rodney looked at the sleepy road. It stretched for miles in the moonlit countryside. The night wind carried distant cries. The shallow stream flowed louder. How could someone live here so long beneath his nose?
Dalit was not there when Mr. Rodney went back. He searched the other classrooms and the storage room and the office. Then he thought of his son and it occurred to him where to look.
The workmen found them in the morning, sleeping arm in arm, as though they were king and prince and the bouncy castle their palace.
ANDRE BAGOO is a poet, writer, and journalist working in Trinidad. His second book of poetry, BURN, was published by Shearsman Books in 2015.
—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: Aug 18, 2016
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