Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » February 2019 » “The Mighty Kwapo” by Kristine Simelda

“The Mighty Kwapo” by Kristine Simelda

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, The Mighty Kwapo takes the stage and pays the price of fame . . .

The Mighty Kwapo
by Kristine Simelda
Kwapo

Kwapo can’t remember the words to the song, but it doesn’t matter. These days the show is strictly burlesque. He wears a shimmering green tracksuit to cover his disease-ridden skin. Artificial legs stuffed with kapok dangle from the seat of his pants, and goggles originally meant to enhance night vision conceal his empty eye sockets. 

The sound of a fly buzzing around a mound of false hair piled atop the head of a female groupie catches Kwapo’s attention. He falls off the bandstand and tumbles into the audience. When his tongue darts into the woman’s ear, she swoons. His gullet swells as he chews and swallows. The crowd explodes with laughter while he smacks his sticky lips. 

“Kwapo! Kwapo!” they chant.

Tink, Whistler, and Gounouj, the other members of Kwapo’s island genus, used to harmonize in a tight little band. They called themselves The Leptodactos, and were most often booked to warm up more popular groups. But Kwapo, aka Mountain Chicken, eventually grew discontent. Why waste time fooling around with small fry when he possessed all the necessary elements—voice, stage presence, and personality—to succeed on his own? So he ditched his comrades and became the island’s first amphibious calypsonian. 

His debut calypso, “One, two, three! Spriggy, spriggy, dee!” went straight to the top. The way he jumped across the stage with his eyes bulging and his mouth gaping open was nothing short of sensational. But you know how it is in the Caribbean. Hubris and jealousy are like vinegar meant to spoil the soup. The other frogs were green-eyed with envy and decided to teach Kwapo a lesson. They made a deal with a nasty soukouyan who lived in the forest to cast an Obeah spell meant to cause him grief. “Bubble, bubble. Give Mighty Kwapo trouble,” she recited while she stirred a pot of ashes mixed with God knows what. 

It wasn’t long before Kwapo’s singing voice disintegrated into a pitiful croak. After that, the tendons in his back legs gave out so he could no longer leap. Next, his skin peeled off in long, flakey strips. Finally, he went blind. Yet admirers didn’t seem to mind his handicaps. In fact, they loved to watch him stumble around on stage. It was comforting to know that another sentient being was struggling just like they were. 

“Yeah, man. Did all you see when Kwapo toppled into that frying pan of hot oil in the food tent next to the stage? It was really great!”

And so, the magic spell the witch cast had the opposite effect. Instead of holding Kwapo down, it propelled him further into the limelight. Although he was a physical wreck, he had more followers than ever. 

When Tink, Whistler, and Gounouj complained, the soukouyan scratched her filthy, lice-infested head. “The only way to stop him is to make him go extinct.” 

The other frogs were hesitant. Crippling was one thing, but extinction was forever. “We’ll get back to you,” they said as they quickly leapt away.

Meanwhile, Kwapo’s reputation for absurdity spread island wide. It was standing room only at his pathetic stage shows. His manager, an invasive species of frog from Cuba, suggested he should make a video—a compilation of all his humiliating performances—and launch it on YouTube. Good idea! International fans couldn’t wait to buy Kwapo-endorsed merchandise like green T-shirts, roller skates, and sunglasses online. 

“Move over Kermit,” the Cuban gloated. “The Mighty Kwapo is the most famous frog in the pond!” 

But Kwapo missed the old days of harmony, even though he was pretty sure the smaller frogs had conspired against him. What good was fame and fortune when you had no friends?  He dragged himself into the forest and consulted the same wretched sorceress for help. 

“Have a seat,” she instructed. 

Kwapo eased his chapped bottom onto a nearby toadstool. 

“Hmmm,” she said. “Why not put together a frog leg cookbook? Then everybody can enjoy a taste of Kwapo.” 

So said so done. The cookbook was a grand success, and Mountain Chicken became the national dish of the island. Yet at what cost? The toadstool the witch tricked Kwapo into sitting on was poisonous, and he became terminally ill. 

The other frogs gathered around his deathbed. “Farewell, my brothers,” he croaked right before he went extinct. 

Mighty Kwapo fans were devastated, of course, but not for long. The Cuban immigrant had taken over the Leptodactos, and nobody wanted to miss the brand new show.

***

KRISTINE SIMELDA was born in Dayton, Ohio (of all places) and has resided on the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica for the past twenty-five years. Although she has worn many caps during her lifetime—daughter, wife, mother, artist, florist, horse trainer, gallery manager, and restaurateur—she currently lives on a smallholding on the edge of the rainforest where she writes, farms, and feeds large dogs. While living in “paradise,” Kristine has written three adult novels, a novella, and two novels and a collection of stories for young adults as well as numerous works of published short fiction.

***

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.
—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: Feb 21, 2019

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



Featured: Black Interest