Hyperion to a satyr

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As the first bead of sweat snaked its way from forehead to nose, Agatha shifted her rimless glasses and stared into the sun. She turned off Halifax Street into Wilberforce Terrace and into Bonadies Supermarket. Agatha walked along the tinned fruit aisle, past the end of the dried goods and alcohol, to the small coffee point tucked in the coolest corner of the store. You couldn’t see it from the street. Only one person in front of her, fiddling in her handbag for change. The man behind the counter wiped his hands on his shirt-jac, raised his eyebrows at Agatha, and kissed his teeth. Agatha’s father made shirt-jacs every day. She recognised the style. He called them guayabera. She didn’t know why.

‘Stewps, you na wan fi make a decision before you get here? Just get out your money and I’ll pour you di drink. Come on na man, cyarn you see I have people fi serve. Dese is busy people, dey cyan wait all day for you. Stewps.’ He raised his left eyebrow and kissed his teeth at the woman, still searching for change. Four more people stood behind Agatha shaking their heads, sucking their teeth. The woman found the correct change, took her tea, and sat down on a raised bench by the open window.

 

Agatha got out a one Eastern Caribbean Dollar note from her purse in readiness and nodded at the man wiping his hands across his trousers. ‘Can I have some tea, please?’ Agatha smiled at him.

‘You na got no change!’

‘If I had change I would give it to you,’ Agatha said holding out the note.

‘Stewps. Put it on the counter dere so,’ he had his hands in his pockets and his face like, ‘Who shit dere?’

The man wiped the back of his hand across his glistening forehead and across his pale blue shirt-jac – the colour of the skies Agatha had seen in postcards from England – before pouring water from a steaming urn into a large steel kettle. ‘Condensed or carnation milk?’ Before she could answer, he poured condensed milk into a metal cup, and swilled the tea before tipping the pot.’ He picked up the note, held it up to the light before putting it in the till and counting out the change. He dropped it on the counter between them, ignoring Agatha’s outstretched hand.

‘Tank you,’ Agatha said scooping up the change into her purse without checking it, ignoring the rasping of teeth from behind the ring-marked counter. She took her tea to the scuffed wooden bench by the window. Generations of lovers had scratched their names. She wanted a piece of sugar cake, but couldn’t face the confrontation again. Kingstown went about its leisurely, sweaty business. Men in shirts and ties, schoolchildren kicking stones, and women with provisions in bags and on their heads crisscrossed in front of her. People said, ‘Good morning,’ stopped to talk, then scurried or ambled on to whatever came next. Faces insolently familiar, unfamiliar, watched through the shop window. Agatha, put down her tea and looked in her bag for the Book of Psalms. She just caught a blur of khaki, shirt-jac, and sandals, as a man with a white streak in his side-parted afro sprinted past. Nobody sprints in the midday sunshine. Agatha’s eyes followed him as he stopped, twenty yards from her, sprinted up a side alley and then thirty seconds later walked back past her to his blue Ford Anglia parked outside the Trans Caribbean Traders hardware store.

 

Coming from the opposite direction, Roslyn ran past the supermarket window in her best dress and white sandals, her straightened hair, earlier in a beehive, now strayed behind her. Her white dress, pristine twenty-five minutes ago, now creased and stained, her sandals scuffed and dirty. As she ran past, a clip fell from her hair to the ground. Noticing or not she kept running. Agatha called out to her, but she didn’t break stride, turn, or stop.

‘Roslyn. Roslyn. Where you going? You just dropped your clip on the ground deh.’ Agatha said as she watched Roslyn pick up speed, until she passed the Butcher’s shop and was out of sight. Roslyn left her tea, and ran back round the supermarket to the front door. Two women with Victorian perambulators were blocking it, discussing the lightness of their babies’ skin and just how knowing they were. Agatha stage coughed and said, ‘Excuse me please.’

The two women ignored her and talked about the rudeness of some nappy-headed gyal. Agatha patted down her hair. ‘Excuse me!’ Agatha said again and pushed past them into the lunchtime-thronged street. The women stared through her, questioning her manners and her parentage. Agatha saw the clip, a bow in gold-coloured metal and red plastic, bent down to retrieve it, but it was lost in the surging crowd, kicked about like a tin can on the way home from school. She saw it again. A man in a blue shirt-jac picked it up and pocketed it. Among the crowd of legs and shoes and bags, she recognised Scrampie’s khaki legs and bare feet weaving through the traffic jam of humanity. As Agatha got up a knee glanced her right temple and she fell to the ground, grazing her knee and tearing her dress. Agatha was twenty-three, but she would be in all kinds of trouble when she got home. She could hear the echoes of her stepmother’s homily about pride and the Lord and respect and, words, more words, and fists, the strap she always kept by her side, and blood. Agatha would mend and wash it before anyone knew. The crowd was no more and Agatha rose slowly, trying to get back her wind, trying to focus on breathing, direction, and the road ahead of her. After three attempts, Agatha was on her feet, dusting down her dress, the rip was wider than she had thought and had torn through her slip. Agatha walked up the street, and when she could trust her balance, started out at a light trot and ran, ran past shops and people, past signs and signifiers. Agatha ran towards home. Home for now, but that would change. Wales would be different.

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In the Days of Ford Anglia

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“Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.” Revelation 9:1

 

Father Cuthbert Brown genuflected, crossed himself twice, bowed before the altar, checked his grandfather’s Half Hunter pocket watch, and walked to the strongbox in the choir vestry. He turned the dial, looking about him, until reassuring clicks sprang open the cast iron door. He reached inside, took out a sheaf papers tied with red ribbon, fifty Eastern Caribbean dollars, and an unmarked hessian bag. He looked behind him, not that he expected anyone. He hadn’t opened the Anglican Cathedral to the sinners of St. Vincent, seeking salvation in that mouldering monument to colonialist ideals. Only he had a key. He felt it in his pocket and recalled day the Archbishop had given it to him, his first day, and recited the verse from Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Cuthbert Brown, the man, the priest, the bishop, had always tried to do just that until the previous day when Agatha had asked him about England, and strongboxed memories resurfaced. He picked up the bundle, looked about him and headed up the nave aisle to the burr oak double door, for the first time neither genuflecting nor bowing before either altar. He opened the door, looked about him, locked it, and stood statuesque with the sealed portal behind him.

 

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Pastor Cleeve Robert Evans covered his sewing machine, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes with calloused, bleeding, hands. He struggled to straighten from his eternal hunch over the machine, stood up, looking at the suits about him. Nothing new – all made do and mended. He walked to the front door, noting the time 12:37, and watched as Scrampie ran up the street, in the opposite direction to the Cathedral. He had slung Father Brown’s suit over a low, mossy wall, and was sprinting, looking back every ten strides. Cleeve Evans put his glasses back on and walked up to where Scrampie had dropped the suit, thirty yards from the shop. The shop’s front door open, a light breeze ruffling the serried suited ranks. He ignored the suit, instead he gazed ahead of him at Scrampie who turned again, caught Cleeve Evans’s eye and put in a concerted burst until he turned into Subba Row. Cleeve watched him watching him, saw him turn, then turned himself to pick up the suit, and walked towards the cathedral. He wanted to talk to Father Brown about his last sermon and its references to St. Matthew’s Passion. They were meeting for dominoes and strong rum later that night down Calliaqua. They could talk then. He needed to take him his suit. A car sped past him; a blue Ford Anglia. The driver’s focus was elsewhere, as he almost clipped Cleeve. He stumbled, his knee gave way, and Father Brown’s suit fell to the ground before him.

 

Insight (in mind)

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When he had turned the corner, Scrampie straightened himself up. Out of sight, out of mind, his mother always said. He never wanted to be out of Miss Evans’s mind, but knew that there were more pressing things ahead. The Dancehall would wait, but would Agatha Evans. He had heard that she was going over to England. He would have to be quick. As he climbed the hill, and Pastor Evans’s Tailoring shop skulked into view, he started running, until at full pelt, he dipped like a sprinter reaching the entrance.

‘Boy, you late again,’ Pastor Evans said, looking up from his sewing machine, checking the clock above the front door. ‘How many times must me tell you that you start work at midday? Twelve o’clock. So, me does need you here at twelve, boy. Twelve. You hear me? Father Cuthbert Brown did need his suit thirty minutes back. I told you yesterday. Take it up the cathedral, now, and come back straight. I have something I need you fi do for me,’ Pastor Evans pointed at the brown checked suit he had made before Father Brown had left for England. It fitted him properly then.

‘I did see your daughter at de Nursing Agency, just now.’ Scrampie said, standing by the door; suit in hand, but disinclined to move.

‘I haven’t got time to talk about Agatha, and you ain’t got no time to tink about she. She na tinking bout you, Jacob,’ Pastor Evans said and waved Scrampie off again.

‘Who say I was talking about Agatha?’ Scrampie said and was gone, back down the road to the Cathedral.

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 ‘That boy sweet on you Agatha,’ Roslyn said, watching Scrampie as he swayed into the road, but righted himself before a Blue Ford Anglia clipped his right leg.

‘That boy born doltish, me na bodder wid him no more. Stop smiling at me like dat so,’ Agatha said as she checked her reflection in the shop window and laughed hard.

‘You never did answer my question,’ Roslyn said looking at her wristwatch. ‘When you next have to go back to the Agency?’

‘Me seeing she again nex Tursday at half-pass-ten, but me have fi get me tests and dem and go to the Passport Office first. You have to do the same?’ Agatha relaxed Roslyn’s grip and looked back at the disappearing Cathedrals and the retreating St Vincent and the Grenadines Nursing Employment Agency, her ticket to another world. Her passport to Wales.

‘Yes. Me too, I’ll see you then. Wait, I’ll see you at Church on Sunday. Is your farder preaching? I have fi meet my mudder, now, in the market we need pick up some provision. Bye. See you Sunday morning,’ Roslyn released her hold and, without looking, crossed the road again.

‘Yes. Bye.’ Agatha Evans stood on Main Street, she would continue up Granby Street, and into Halifax Street. Who were these people they named roads for? Roslyn continued to duck in and out of Main Street’s traffic. ‘Do you want to meet up for a cup of tea before we go in…’ but Roslyn couldn’t hear her. She waved, nothing came back.

Agatha could hear Roslyn cussing the driver of a Ford Anglia as she reached the other side. Ford Anglia man, stopped, gestured at her and cussed her stink. That a man would cuss a woman so close to the Cathedral amused Agatha greatly. As he drove off, she thought she recognised him, but couldn’t think from where. It was the white streak, in his side-parted afro, she had seen somewhere. Forget about it and it will come back, she thought, as she took a last look at the Agency and trudged her twisting path home.

Wake me up when September Ends

“We know that in September we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” Henry Rollins

Pinch, punch, first of the month – no returns (unless you really feel like it, and if you do, please be my guest).

T.S. Eliot said that April is the cruellest month (I always struggled with the Waste Land and Thomas Stearns Eliot for that matter), but for me it has always been the bittersweet, crepuscular encroachment of September that jolts my soul back to reality after the summer’s reveries. School starting, nights drawing, leaves falling, cold enshrouding  ,shadow-forming September; the start of the long road to winter. The end of the golden road to unlimited devotion. It must have felt like this in San Francisco, as 1967 rolled in to 1968 or as Hunter Thompson said in the extraordinary Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

To ready myself for the joys of September to come, I thought I’d share with you all some of my favourite September songs, please feel free to add songs that mean as much to you.

PeaceLoveLight,

David Sylvian – September

Wistful simplicity

The sun shines high above
The sounds of laughter
The birds swoop down upon
The crosses of old grey churches
We say that we’re in love
While secretly wishing for rain
Sipping coke and playing games
September’s here again
September’s here again

The Field Mice – September’s not so far away

Captivating, mellifluous fragility

Green Day – Wake Me up When September Ends

Stone cold classic

Earth Wind & Fire – September

They’ve got da funk

Big Star – September Gurls

The never-ending genius that is Alex Chilton and the song that started the train of thought that started this post.

Have a beautiful day and a beautiful September