“Viv’s Revenge . . . Or How the Douen Came to Love Herself” by Debra Providence
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, Debra Providence shows us what’s under the Douen’s skin.
“J’Ouvert morning is when the angels and demons dance,” Papa had said. His words were on a loop in Viv’s head as she made her way through the crowds on Back Street in Kingstown. Daylight had caught the night, melting dark tendrils until they turned gray. Their dance was such that you couldn’t tell if day was coming, or if night would stay.
“Somebody had to be you and you are it.”
It was only at J’Ouvert that she could be her “it” and Viv was playing herself like she meant it—jumping and winding her waist, rubbing herself against the oily jab jabs, and trying to erase images of Bill grinding behind another woman on Soca Monarch night.
She had taken a risk Friday night in the mas tent, telling Bill about her family, about her Papa and all her sisters. She let him see her skin, her real skin. She watched his face morph from disgust when he saw what she could do with her flesh to horror when he saw her feet. She fell ill waiting for him to return her calls.
“Forget him,” Paulette had said. “He wouldn’t have gotten you—us—anyway.” Paulette had smiled her sympathetic smile, which was really the “you too hard ears” smile.
“Well, I just wanted to share for once,” Viv frowned, still smarting from Bill’s rejection. She stared at a bowl of buttercup petals and a plate of aloe gelatins that Paulette had prepared. Viv stuffed the petals into her mouth and tried to swallow without chewing too much. They were beautiful to look at, but not that great to eat. She preferred anthuriums. Anthuriums tasted the way honey should taste. But the buttercups were what she needed; she had dried herself up crying over Bill. Yellow pigments surfaced to her brown skin, spreading in fat blotches. After the buttercups came the aloe. She glanced at Paulette, who smiled with her annoying older sister serenity. Viv groaned and slurped the translucent gelatin.
Somebody had to be you and you are it. Papa’s voice drummed in her head. The fat, yellow splotches on her skin were visible in the gray morning light. With her green tube top and shorts, she looked like any member of the painted J’Ouvert bands that were en mass on the streets of Kingstown. Viv leapt in the fore-day false light, gyrating when she landed, tossing her head, her plaits whipping across her face. She was not minding anybody and she was not on anybody’s mind, except for one stray policeman.
“Hey, pretty green girl,” he hustled over, trying to keep up with her danse macabre. His voice barely reached her through the din. “Your breasts bouncing nice in that top.”
Viv eyed him. He was a lean fellow in his Defence Forces jungle camouflage, scarcely in his twenties. She slowed to a jig. “What you say?”
“I say I want just the breasts, nothing else.” He leaned in, bringing his mouth to her ear. “They look like mangoes when you jump like that.”
He reeked of spirits. Still in her jig, she grabbed her breasts and sank her fingers deep into their fleshy bases. She wrenched them from her chest, first right then the left—which took longer because it was slightly larger—and presented the camouflaged officer with two perfect imperial mangoes, slathered in gouts of blood and mucus.
The policeman froze. He stared at Viv with her bloody hands outstretched. He stared at the mangoes, their green skins gleaming even through the red. He turned to see if anyone witnessed what he was sure he couldn’t be seeing. “Jab Jab Nation” was blasting from a nearby truck. People were jamming to the music. Nobody noticed him or the wild girl in the yellow paint.
“Here,” Viv thrust them at him. “What you expect, silicone?” she snapped.
His eyes were fixed on dripping patches of red on her chest. Viv stuffed the mangoes into his pockets and wiped her hands down front of his uniform.
“Can’t please people,” she muttered and resumed dancing until she reached the Memorial Hall. Paulette was waiting for her.
“Had fun?” Her voice bore a hint of amusement.
Viv grinned. Paulette missed little.
“You know he got off easy.”
Paulette smiled. She glanced at the new imperials sprouting from her sister’s chest. “Yeah, I know. I don’t think Bill could’ve managed you at all.”
The tendrils of night were retreating. Dawn had taken over, for now.
DEBRA PROVIDENCE is from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. She has published fiction and poetry in POUI: The Cave Hill Literary Annual and Sable Lit Mag. Her work has also been featured in an anthology of Vincentian women poets and visual artists titled Seen and Heard as well as Coming Up Hot: Eight New Poets From The Caribbean.
Posted: Oct 20, 2015
Category: Duppy Thursday | Tags: Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago, flash fiction, short story, Caribbean Literature, short fiction, Duppy Thursday, duppy, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Douen, Debra Providence, Viv’s Revenge . . . Or How the Douen Came to Love Herself
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