Paradise Misplaced

‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven…”

John Milton – Paradise Lost

Sly

Agatha smoothed her skirt, as she rose from the stiff backed chair, and smiled again at Sister Gillian Gayle of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Nursing Employment Agency. ‘Tank you very much. I mean, thank you very much. I will see you next week when I come back for the interview. Thank you.’

Sister Gayle looked up from the tooled, leather-bound diary and held out her hand. Agatha waited, looked at her smiling, took off her glove again, and shook her hand. ‘Goodbye, see you next Thursday at 10.30,’ Sister Gayle was still smiling, but was looking past Agatha to her next appointment.

‘Goodbye. Tank you very much,’ Agatha grasped the burnished brass handle, tutting. She could see Roslyn looking back in through the windows smiling at her, eating peanut sugar cake. Agatha stepped out into the humid air and the unhurried bustle of Main Street.

‘You did here about Merlene and de pickney she had in bush up Buccament?’ Roslyn’s wide, uneven teeth lipstick smudged behind a broad smile.

‘Why you na tell me a dese ting happen so?’ Agatha Evans said as she struggled to avoid the minibuses screeching along the pockmarked highway.

‘Me did tought you did know,’ Roslyn Jones said holding Agatha’s arm, smudging her Sunday best dress with sticky fingers. ‘Dem say she fat like she daddy, but no-one even know who she daddy is from time.’

‘What she did call the pickney?’ Agatha Evans looked across at the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals, standing together for centuries; divided for eternity. The child could never be baptised in either.

‘Me tink she did name she Roberta, so we know who de farder muss be so.’ They stood again by Big Lloyd’s Butcher shop, where Agatha had waited an hour earlier before her interview. The cow’s head, with its maudlin eyes, had gone.

‘Dat could mean it Robert from Chateubelair or Bob from Calliaqua, or…’ Roslyn stopped and looked at the Cathedrals, before looking sideways at Agatha. Agatha reeled as she thought of the stories whispered, shouted about her father. Shouted at the Rum Shacks late at night, when he would reel around the mountain, homeward; three petit quarts of Mountain Dew firing his belly. All of it could wait and she would be leaving soon. She wanted to say goodbye, but knew there were too many ahead of her to start then.

 

‘Anyway, when you have to go back see Sister Gayle?’ Roslyn said, holding Agatha’s arm tighter as they retraced their steps up Main Street. The sun was at its apogee, but not a bead of sweat glistened between them.

A man of about twenty, in an ill-fitting, much-worn, off-green khaki suit, without shirt or shoes, stumbled past them, turned, and lent on the crumbling wall, by the crumbling verge of a road not resurfaced in Agatha’s memory. ‘Good morning Miss Evans. Anudder lovely day for you,’ he said, reaching higher up the wall for support.

‘Every day is the Lord’s Day and every day he blesses us,’ Agatha said, turning again to speak to Roslyn.

‘Every day is the Lord’s, so you wan come wid me fi de dancehall on Saturday night. We can celebrate de Lord Almighty in dancing,’ he said, still not balanced, but now more upright.

‘Scrampie, what are talking about dis stupidness wid me for?’ I did tell you yesterday, as I did tell you from time, I not going to no dance, no picnic, no film, no nuttin’ wid you.’ Agatha looked down at him, raised her eyes, kissed her teeth, and faced away from him again. ‘Anyway, me father is expecting you in the shop ten minutes back.’ Scrampie, looked at her turned back, but had no comeback, so sauntered up the street whistling.

 

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