Under the Mango Tree
In Nineteen Eighty, poor people couldn’t stop talking bout young Natty Fidel and the newspapers couldn’t stop writing about him. The capital city was a barrel of gun powder with a slow-burning fuse, and the people of the city squeezed their eyes tight and corked their ears.
The Under The Mango Tree was little more than four gray, cinderblock walls, with a fifty-five gallon drum grill planted outside the back door. Inside was a vinyl covered bar counter with a sink behind it. In one corner, a beatup jukebox offered 45’s, selections from an era that had slipped away-the time of Desmond Dekker, Sam Cook, and The Mighty Sparrow. Overhead, a bare forty-watt bulb with a pull chain hung precariously, a threatening hangman’s noose.
A ruby glow snaked from behind the counter where the owner was bent over stocking the freezer chest with beer and stout and Malta. She pretended to ignore the two plain-clothes regulars huddled at a table by the juke box. She was a single mother of two and still attractive in her early forties. Her hands and feet were calloused and her heart tattered by pieces of shattered dreams.
Mid-day approached and she methodically prepared for the after-work, happy hours. Friday evenings were typically her busiest.
The bar was a skip and jump from the city’s East-side police station and so it was like an officers' clubhouse. And so, in the surrounding ghettos it was known as the “Babylon Bar”.
Rising from the freezer, the owner wiped her hands on her apron and scooped up two plastic containers on the way out the back door. A minute later, spices dripping on embers sizzled and popped. Roast fish aroma wound through the door tantalizing the two men drinking at their table.
“Ms. Lorna,” shouted the older one-the detective sergeant. “I telling you, your hand coulda resurrect Christ. I need two piece a fish.”
``Coming deh, Mr. Pruitt.” This one was a killer, f’real. He was manatee large and deliberate in his movement. When he explained things, his voice was bogged in impatience.
Ms. Lorna scurried back outside and in few seconds flashed back behind the counter with two fire-hot fish in brown paper.
“And bring a next round,” the younger detective added, waving a long arm. He was a light post with a razor-bumped face.
Miss Lorna answered. “No problem!” and threw a pan of ice in the sink behind the counter. She ice-picked it and fixed two more rum and coconut water. Tossed a splinter of ice in her mouth, savored the coolness, and dabbed her forehead and neck with her handkerchief. Then she pressed her lips into a smile and went over to serve them their fish and drinks.
“So, where in the hell this little careless girl could gone?” the detective sergeant was inquiring. “Must be with the boy.”
Lorna placed the fish, then the drinks on the table and cleared the empty glasses.
The younger man snatched his glass and swirled the drink around. “She mussy left Town and gone out to the country.” He removed his nine-millimeter from his side and thrust it beside his food and drink.
Lorna wrapped a glance around gun and shuddered. Flashed a plastic smile then spun on her heels. As she retreated to the counter, she could feel the young detective’s eyes burning her backside.
“Is a week now nobody see this girl? You think she with the boy?” she heard Detective sergeant Pruitt ask. Before the young detective could answer, Pruitt slammed his hand on the table, jumping the man's gun . “Damn these hooligans! Running ‘round town like some leggo beast. I’m telling you Owens, is the politicians making them feel like they important. Me and you know where the guns coming from.”
Young detective Owens nodded in agreement. He stroked his gun metal and could barely conceal a twinkle in his eye.
Pruitt continued. “You can believe this? The gangs, they have better artillery than we. And still, the police force supposed to clean up this mess?"
Smirking, Owens leaned toward his supervisor and lowered his voice.
“Mr. Pruitt, I know where the boy going tonight,” he said, and then leaned back smugly.
Pruitt’s eyes riddled holes through him.
Behind the counter, Ms. Lorna strained her ears and threw her eyes down on a spot on the floor...
">(To be continued)
12th November 2009 by Kaya Omodele