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News & Features » January 2020 » “The Catch” by Kavita Ganness

“The Catch” by Kavita Ganness

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, a boy wishes for the best catch in the Caroni River . . . 

The Catch
by Kavita Ganness
Mama D’Leau, Caroni River, Trinidad

It was Mama who bought Lal his first mask. That was more than twenty Carnivals ago and now he had developed a great fondness for wearing them. He wore different masks to suit his moods and today he felt bold and ferocious. Today the river would be his prey, and so he wore his gold-painted lion mask.

He was a strange sight in his red boat. His thick, long hair was tied in a neat knot, and his long-sleeved coveralls was soaked with citronella oil. His head and ears were covered with a red bandana and a pale blue scarf gifted to him by his Mama, was draped around his neck for good luck.

While other fishermen went bare-skinned to the river, he could not. His blood was sweet, Mama had said and ever since he was young; he had to be covered at all times for bloodthirsty mosquitoes would flock to his flesh. 

It was one week and he had caught nothing, but his heart was full of hope, his pocket was full of coins and his mind throbbed with Mama’s instructions.

“Beta, make yuh wish when yuh reach de deepest water . . .”

“Ah wish for ah big catch, de catch of meh dreams!” Lal shouted as he threw a handful of coins into the Caroni River.

The emerald waters became his wishing well and the boat bobbed with the strong swing of his arm. He heard the flamingoes and ibises as they cackled and flew away. They floated like petals of pink and red flowers before disappearing into the darkness of the mangrove. The sun was sinking. The capybaras were grunting and foraging. He had to go home, but he did not want to return to Mama empty-handed.

Every day for the past week, he had caught nothing. He blamed the moon. He blamed his country, Trinidad, and her unpredictable rainy season floods which had washed away most of the fish into the Caribbean Sea. He blamed Chan, another fisherman whose nets were always full with wriggling, fat fish.

The white egrets which hovered on the water’s edge like pale ghosts gave him courage. It was still early he told himself, but there was no fish to be had—just sleeping snakes hanging from the mangrove branches and shy baby crabs peeping from behind mangrove roots.

Lal heard a splash and saw the back of someone’s head partially submerged in the water. No one in their right mind would swim in these murky waters which teemed with caimans. When he looked around, he saw that there was no other boat in sight. He realized with fear that the egrets had disappeared and the sun had gone down. His mouth became dry and his urine became a heavy weight between his legs. When he looked again, the head in the water had disappeared. The full moon was already up. 

He heard a splash, and when he turned around—he saw the grey eyes of a woman staring at him. She rested her pale arms on the stern of the boat. Her long, golden hair dripped with dark water. She smelled like fresh cascadura blood and the scent made his mouth water. She slid her torso unto the boat with ease. From where her navel should be—there was the thick coil of a snake’s tail. He gasped and yet his stomach roared with hunger. 

He could see her glossy, scaly scutes as her thick tail twisted in his boat. In his pants, warm urine gushed. She looked at him with unblinking eyes and smiled.

She said in a mocking tone, ‘De catch of yuh dreamssssssss . . .’

Her long mane was matted with green mangrove pods and leaves. She took out her golden comb and flicked it though her hair. Small snakes scampered from her tresses. He realized what she was at once. Mama D’Leau, Mother of the River. The sweetest cutlass fish.

His mother had prepared him. He pulled off his mask and his bandana. His long, black hair spilled down his shoulders. Mama D’Leau gasped to see his silky hair and her comb fell from her fingers into his boat. Lal picked up his cutlass and in one swoop he cut her body in half. In another swoop, he hacked her head off. He threw her beautiful head and her delicate arms into the shadowy waters. Mama would be pleased. There would be good broth tonight and she would have a golden comb for her silver hair.

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KAVITA GANNESS is a literary and visual artist from Trinidad. She has a BA in communication studies and literatures in English from the University of the West Indies. She is pursuing an MFA in creative writing at the University of the West Indies.  She has been published in Generation Lion Magazine, The Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, She SEX Prose & Poetry Sex and the Caribbean Woman, as well as Susumba’s Book Bag, The Caribbean Writer, Moko Magazine and the Poui Cave Hill Journal of Creative Writing

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Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Duppy Thursday flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jan 2, 2020

Category: Original Fiction, Duppy Thursday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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