“Rainy Day Duppy Stories #12 & 35” by C.J. Farley
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.
Rainy Day Duppy Stories #12 & 35
by C.J. Farley
Hurricane Charlie was hurtling down on Jamaica, but instead of cutting their yearly vacation short, Winnie’s parents packed her off to her Grandma’s place in the countryside, a tiny town called Change-Your-Life. Actually, the word town was too big a name for this piddling place, which was so small that the bus didn’t even stop there—it just slowed down, like it was passing an accident. Winnie had to hop off and hike almost a mile past a church and a graveyard and up a hill to reach her grandma’s cottage, a squat wooden square spiked with rusted nails that could catch your clothing or prick your finger.
Grandma didn’t have Wi-Fi, TV, or even radio, and since Winnie had forgotten her smartphone charger, there basically wasn’t anything to do but sit around inside in front of a window that overlooked some lemon trees and listen to the old lady spin her duppy stories. Grandma said duppies were spirits that were anchored to earth by rusty nails. When Winnie replied that dozens of duppies were no doubt tied down by all the nails that spiked her hut, her grandma just laughed a weezy, breezy senior citizen laugh and said that an eleven-year-old girl was too young to understand the world, much less the otherworldly.
Even inland, with the hurricane hitting the coast, the weather was too bad to go outside, so Winnie sat inside and suffered Grandma’s stories. But after day three of her scheduled weeklong visit—and duppy tales numbers twelve through thirty-five—the girl couldn’t hide her boredom.
“What makes a duppy story better than a ghost story?” she complained.
“A ghost story is to scare you,” Grandma replied. “A duppy tale is to learn you.”
On the seventh day, the sun came smiling into the sky, the bus took its weekly slowdown, and Winnie went running down the hill to meet her parents. Passing through the front door of her Grandma’s cottage, her T-shirt caught on a nail and she had to pull the entire metal spike out of the wood to free herself. Tumbling down the grassy slope into her parents’ arms, to her surprise she found they seemed even more emotional about reuniting than she did. As they all hugged, she felt her mother’s chest heaving with sobs and her father’s strong arms squeezing both of them tight.
“What’s the matter?” Winnie asked. “I was bored, but it’s not like Grandma didn’t feed me.”
Winnie’s mother began to sputter out something about the hurricane knocking out the phones and blocking the roads when Winnie’s father interrupted.
“You said Grandma . . . fed you?” he asked.
“Yeah.” Winnie smiled. “I ate pretty good. Fried plantains, curry goat, ackee and saltfish . . .”
Winnie’s parents looked at each other.
“Winnie,” whispered his mother, “your grandmother died seven days ago. She was hit by a car when she was waiting for you. Your cousins buried her in the graveyard outside the church down the hill and went to seek shelter somewhere else.”
“We got the news after your bus left,” Winnie’s father continued. “We couldn’t get a message back to your cousins. We’ve been trying to reach you all week.”
“If Grandma is dead, then who . . .” Winnie trailed off.
Winnie went sprinting up the hill, her parents behind her, but when they reached the house, it was empty except for the sound of the breeze wheezing through the rooms and the clink of a rusty nail falling from a girl’s tiny palm.
C.J. FARLEY was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and grew up in Brockport, NY, with stops in Middle-earth, Xanth, Earthsea, and Narnia. Farley’s biography Aaliyah: More Than a Woman was a national best seller. A former editor of the Harvard Lampoon and a former music critic for Time, Farley is a blogger, columnist and senior editor at the Wall Street Journal. Game World is Farley’s first novel for young readers.
—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: Jul 30, 2015
Featured: Music/Popular Culture/Art
- Jonah Sees Ghosts
- Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton–and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush
- Simon’s Cat vs. the World
- Censorship Now!!
- South of the Pumphouse
- Artificial Light
- Copycat: LIMITED EDITION SIGNED PREORDER
- Of Mule and Man
- Animals and Objects In and Out of Water
- The Worst Breakfast
- Bronx Biannual Issue No. 2: The Literary Journal of Urbane Urban Literature
- The Half That’s Never Been Told: The Real-Life Reggae Adventures of Doctor Dread