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News & Features » May 2018 » “Yuh Must Always Christen d Children” by Xavier Barzey

“Yuh Must Always Christen d Children” by Xavier Barzey

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, loved ones laid to rest don’t always stay that way.

Yuh Must Always Christen d Children
by Xavier Barzey
Cascade, Trinidad; Douen

Miss Meela wailed underneath her broad-brimmed hat as the pallbearers lowered the casket carrying the body of her young child. Just twenty-four months of life before death came upon the home, leaving nothing but remnants of sorrow and despair in the little village in Cascade.

Her wide eyes, a bloodshot red, welled up with salty tears as blankets of raw dirt covered the creamy mahogany casket. When the casket hit the soft soil at the bottom of the grave, her round face bore a sadness that no one in the procession—not even her closest of kin—could take away. One woman placed her hands gently on Miss Meela’s broad shoulders, handing her a fresh tissue to soak up the tears from her swollen eyes.

After the burial, the weeping men and women gathered at the elegant two-story home of Mrs. Jones, which stood proudly at the foot of the shallow hill. She was Miss Meela’s mother, a bold woman, one of strength and grandeur. Her demeanor was fitting as she walked across the room with her back straightened, demanding in an arrogant tone that the attendees respect her home.

No one paid much attention to her. Their worn faces and stiff lips creased in concern as their eyes fixated on Miss Meela. She sat and leaned her head back deep into the suede sofa in a dreamlike daze, as though she was separated from her astral body. She was a woman of thirty, buxom with a pretty face, full lips, and expressive eyes.

Miss Meela was not her usual lively self—everyone with a sensibility to her current state knew it was best not to disturb her. There was a strange silence brewing in the crisp air as everyone seemed to be communicating with each other surreptitiously.

Weeks passed since the burial, and the village banter grew stronger than before. They spoke about Miss Meela’s affairs in hushed tones behind closed doors and wired fences. They would often turn their heads, pretending to be occupied, when Miss Meela walked by, unbeknownst to her that she was the topic of discussion.

 One neighbor whispered, “Poor thing, I hear that she ain’t baptize d child.”    

Another woman wended forth from her porch to the gate at the end of her yard, joining in on the conversation. “Yes,” she declared with a forlorn look on her face, “d child spirit roaming and now we have to be careful with we kin.”

Soon after a shaky voice uttered, “Yuh must always christen d children from birth, that is the way.” As heads turned, they saw Tanty Eunice walking toward the gathering, holding a cane to support her heavy-set frame.

“Yes true,” they replied in unison, agreeing with her.

“She bred the baby from ah illegitimate relationship. Now child father gone, she baby dead, and the child will end up like d douens in d mountains,” Mama Tilda declared.

Tanty Eunice was concerned. She too relinquished a premonition on the intrusive crowd, one that foresaw terrible images of grief-stricken men and women pressing their hands to their bellies, bawling for their children who had disappeared in the high perilous hills of the valley.

In the middle of the gossip, a sudden quiet erupted from the crowd when they soon realized that Tanty Eunice spoke a certain truth that they were all unwilling to face.

The neighborhood hid beneath their plastered smiles. Parents were scared that a douen could lure their child into the thick mahogany trees where they would be lost forever. So the village sought an obeah man to rid the valley of evil spirits. He soon departed, just as fast as he had come, leaving the scent of sage in the air.

Miss Meela too had found solace in his deed as a sign of good faith and peace for her well-being. The air was light as they rejoiced in praises. Now all would be well.

Fast-footed children were free to play to their little hearts’ desires. But that night, when the valley stood still, a tiny voice was heard coming just a few yards away from the houses.

It was vague, but soon became clearer, calling a child’s name. “Nathan! Come play, Nathan,” the voice declared. Mama Tilda rushed into the living room where Nathan sat and covered her hands over his lips before he could respond. “Shh!” she whispered. “Doh answer.”

***

XAVIER BARZEY is a writer born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. She earned a degree from her studies in English literature and a Bachelor’s degree (Honors) in media and communication. Her two children’s e-books entitled Colors Colors Everywhere and How Many Animals Do Your Little Eyes See? are available on Amazon. In her spare time she writes letters which have been published in the Trinidad Guardian and the Express newspapers, sharing her views on the state of affairs in her country. She is currently working on a book of short stories that brings light to the folktales within Trinidad and Tobago.

***

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: May 10, 2018

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



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