“The Pappyon Caper” by Eleanor Simon
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, Eleanor Simon forms an unlikely friendship through Haitian art and music.
At the Airport
The airport was abuzz with travelers. After a year of performing for audiences who shouted “yes” to their Haitian music, Pappyon, Neg Mawan, Yatande and Zilibo—known as The Haitian Cats—were going on vacation. They were thrilled to be going to Haiti, their motherland. Eeeehaaaa!
Their first stop was Jacmel, home of Haitian art, including papier-mâché masks. Pappyon ate all kinds of Haitian food sold in the market place. She was letting herself get fat, but she felt great. She felt happy.
Pappyon had found her Haitian roots when she learned to drum. She practiced in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York to perfect her skill, befriended her drummer friends—Neg Mawon, Zilibo and Yatande—and formed her band.
Now, The Haitian Cats were having fun in the sun. Pappyon sat under a banyan tree and snacked on some fried plantains. She could feel the cool breeze and mist from a nearby waterfall. She thought she saw three dolphins swimming under the sun, but realized they were actually Neg Mawon, Zilibo and Yatande. They were quickly joined by two dogs who called themselves Pierre and Pascal, and they all swam together.
Pappyon thought of her best friend, a dog named Homer. To his friends, he was Homer Habibi, but she nicknamed him Bibi. She promised herself she would surprise him and give him a call. She dozed off and when she awoke who should be watching her and her fried plantains but those two wet dogs.
Bibi missed Pappyon too, and called her that night to warn her of Pierre and Pascal, two ruffians who grew up on the wrong side of the Jacmel streets. They were planning on stealing some papier-mâché masks and sneak them into Pappyon’s duffle bag without her knowing. When she arrived in New York, their buddy, a dog named Rufus, was going to steal them and sell the masks on the black-market. Bibi knew Pappyon should be aware of them.
Pappyon, still listening, said to herself, “Aren’t those the dogs I met earlier in the day? Didn’t they say their names were Pierre and Pascal?”
She became even more alert when Bibi told her Pierre and Pascal were also looking for Pappyon because they heard she was plump and they like to eat plump cats. She remembered how they were looking at her and her fried plantains.
The Haitian Cats were known throughout the world, and, by popular demand, were asked to play at a Jacmel fair.
Pappyon, though, told her band what Bibi warned her about. She had on her sleuth cap and was ready for action. Pappyon did not like injustice and she always vowed to uproot it in any way she could. She also knew the band was a perfect target because while distracted on stage, Pierre and Pascal could perform their trickery. All four band members were very watchful for these two.
Meanwhile, Pierre and Pascal were having second thoughts. They were liking Pappyon and The Haitian Cats more and more. Because they were homeless and only had each other, they started to consider as The Haitian Cats as family. They really didn’t want to hurt them but couldn’t think of any other way to survive than to carry out their plan.
The Haitian Cats’ show was a success, even more so when they spied Pierre and Pascal lurking around Pappyon’s duffle bag and placing the stolen goods in it. Pappyon, with Yatande close by, tiptoed behind them with two newly bought leashes, and quickly secured the dogs to bring to the police.
Pappyon was ecstatic. Not only did they apprehend the criminals, caught red-handed, but she knew she would not be on their dinner plate.
Pappyon was sad. She wished these two dogs could understand that their crime was wrong. They didn’t think of the damage they were doing to themselves. Instead of stealing the masks, they could have been involved in creating the masks.
Pappyon questioned Pierre and Pascal, “Did you ever ask for a job making masks?”
“No,” Pierre and Pascal said with downcast faces.
Neg Mawan had a friend, a director of a papier-mâché company, who was opening up a workshop for the homeless to create beautiful masks. Pierre and Pascal immediately said yes to this job. What seemed to be a bad day for them turned out to be the best day of their lives.
Pappyon was very happy to be a musician and a sleuth. Two of her nine lives were spoken for.
ELEANOR SIMON has recently retired from the Jersey City Board of Education and in her spare time discovered what fun it is to put her fantasies on paper; to draw from all of her memories of her cats and dogs that brought her such joy in her life for her story book inspiration. She has studied Haitian dance for almost twenty years and Haitian drum for about five years. It has become part of her life and she has also incorporated these experiences into her stories.
—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: Oct 15, 2015
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