Excerpt for Trees Grow Over Fences by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



TREES GROW OVER FENCES


by

Michaellee James



SMASHWORDS EDITION



* * * * *



PUBLISHED BY:

Pegasus Books/Michaellee James on Smashwords


Trees Grow Over Fences

Copyright © 2017 by Michaellee James



All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


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ISBN - [TBA]


Comments about Trees Grow Over Fences and requests for additional copies, book club rates and author speaking appearances may be addressed to Michaellee James or Pegasus Books, c/o cmoebs@pegasusbooks.net, or you can send your comments and requests via e-mail to michaelleejames5@hotmail.com or to “contact us” at www.pegasusbooks.net.


This book is a work of non-fiction. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.



Each experience is an honest teacher. We only fail

when we are not willing to learn.”



A positive attitude is the fuel to an eagle’s flight”

(Michaellee James)



Praise for Trees Grow Over Fences


“This is a very appealing book and it holds the attention from the very opening to the last paragraph. Philip is particularly well drawn, and in fact all the characters stand out in this way. And they all come to life because the story is simply told. I like this book and I was glad to hear Pegasus was bringing it out soon.”— Michael Anthony, author of 30+ books, including Green Days By the River


“An evocative story that inspires individuals of all ages and from all walks of life.” — Dr Randolph Rawlins, MB.BS, FRCS, FRCS CTH/Parent


“Demonstrates the power education practitioners hold over children in the classroom and reinforces the need for children to dream which can be a catalyst towards success. If forcibly establishes the powerful effect of parents belief in their children” Valerie S. Figaro (Headteacher, Inner City of London, England.)


CONTENTS


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four



Chapter One


Philip walked into his new classroom, swinging his shoulders. He pushed the polished wooden desk to one side, slumped into an empty chair and sat like a drooping teddy bear, scowling his face in an awkward protest over the head teacher’s seizure of his kite. He curled his index finger, swept the perspiration from his forehead and brushed his hand against his blue cotton shirt.

I paused for a moment in dismay as my eyes followed the young child across the room, the class register and pen in my hand. Philip rocked his shoulders like a see-saw, slammed both arms across his chest and sprawled his legs, his feet extending beyond the front of his desk.

I continued to call the children’s names… ‘Philip Monroe,’ I said in a soothing tone.

He opened his eyes and stared at me as if to say, you already see that I am here.

I decided to allow Philip some time to calm down, but Philip refused to open the book in front of him. He sat, batting his eyelids and pouting at his classmates, who were not able to ignore him.

I gradually connected with this seemingly difficult, stubborn little boy. I was eager to find out more about him and to let him know that I disapproved of the way he conducted himself during the lesson.

‘Philip! I want to see you for a few minutes during the morning break,’ I told him.

I could see he was not happy about missing part of his playtime. He pushed his lips even further forward, sucked his teeth, and flapping his eyelids once more, he turned his head in the opposite direction.

It was not long after the school bell rang, marking the start of morning playtime. The children stood single-file at the rear of the classroom, which led to a platform that joined a flight of stairs descending into the playground. Philip, eager to start an argument, sprang from his seat.

Standing with his feet apart, he raised one leg and firmly planted it on the floor. The muscles in his upper arms bulged below his brown skin as he clinched his hands in two tight fists that hung at the side of his thighs. He stiffened his lips, and flexing his upper shoulders, he looked towards his classmates.

‘What you all staring at?’ he bellowed. ‘Mind your own business!’

With Philip’s outburst, his nervous classmates glanced towards him and then in my direction, as if to ask for my response.

‘Sit down this moment, Philip!’ I commanded.

He turned around, threw both his hands into the air, flung himself on his chair and sat with his shoulders touching the back of the chair, his bottom hanging off the edge of the seat. I could tell that Philip was far from being settled when he leaned forward, scratched his ankle, tossed his hands into the air and clasped both palms on the crown of his head. I pretended to ignore him, hoping he would calm down.

Meanwhile, I began placing the children’s maths books on their desks in preparation for the next lesson. Having done so, I ambled towards the sulking boy.

‘You seem to be forgetting the school rules, Philip! I am not at all impressed with your behaviour!’ I stated in a manner that left him in no doubt that I was unhappy. In response, he replied, ‘I don’t care.’

‘No, Philip!’ I said even more firmly. ‘This is a new school year, a new class, a new teacher. No nonsense, Philip! No nonsense!’

He sat still, shoulders slouched as he focused his glance on the floor. His dark, curly hair slid forward and covered his forehead, leaving his eyes barely visible under the thick lens of round metal-framed spectacles. Intending to ease into a conversation that would be less reprimanding, I began, ‘I would like to know why you feel that it is okay to conduct yourself in this manner.’

Pulling a chair from a nearby desk, I sat directly opposite him.

‘Why did you refuse to open the book?’

Philip remained silent. He seemed to be struggling to tell me something, something I felt I already knew. The little, ten-year-old boy slowly turned his gaze towards me and stared into my face, half-hoping that I already knew and half-daring me to find out.

Rising to the challenge, I leaned forward, whispering.

‘You cannot read. I know you cannot read.’

He wriggled his bottom on the chair like a swimming duck, rolling his eyes across the ceiling.

‘You don’t want me to know that you cannot read,’ I continued, ‘but that is okay. That’s okay, Philip.’

He bowed his head and fidgeted with the leg of his wrinkled baggy trousers. Then he turned his wrist and slowly moved his hands towards the sides of his face and extended his fingers over his forehead to conceal his eyes.

A teardrop made a dark blue spot as it landed on his shirt. He placed his two index fingers beneath the lens of his glasses and rolled them over his eyelids. Overwhelmed, he could no longer contain his emotions and burst into a fit of sobbing. I felt a hard lump pressing against my throat; a watery cloud seeped across my eyes as I struggled to keep my eyelids from blinking. I could not cry along with Philip. Professional ethics would not let me do so. I was, after all, his teacher.

However, at that moment, I could no longer ignore my memories of pain, embarrassment, brokenness and the sense of failure I felt when, like Philip, I could not read at the age of fourteen.

I placed my hands on Philip’s shoulders as I tried to keep my voice from cracking. I swallowed to get rid of the hard lump that stifled my vocal chords.

‘Don’t cry, Philip,’ I whispered.

Raising his head, he stared into my eyes. As I studied his face, he had evolved into a wonderful little boy, a little boy bent on creating an invisible shield to hide his pain and insecurities—but also a little boy who wanted to be able to read.

‘You are wonderful and intelligent, Philip. You’re a champion!’ I told him.

I told him the same thing my father used to tell me. As he turned his head towards me, it seemed he wanted me to confirm what I had just said.

‘You are a wonderful and intelligent boy!’ I repeated. I told him that he was full of possibilities, and there were so many things he could do that he had not already done. I assured him that being able to read was just one of those things.

Philip nodded his head, slightly twitching his pink lips to form a discreet smile.

‘You do not need to hide behind your tough attitude,’ I continued, ‘You could choose to overcome your situation by settling down, by working hard to change.’

When he pretended it did not matter, I felt he had put up his ‘invisible shield’ again.

During his remaining months at primary school, I formed a bond with Philip. Every morning, he came to school early, stood outside the classroom door and popped his head through the doorway.

‘Do you want help, Miss?’ he asked.

‘Yes, Philip, thank you for asking,’ I would reply.

I remembered how, unlike my other classmates at primary school, I was never asked to do a task. I had wanted so much for my teacher to ask me to help, because it would have gone a long way towards making me feel I could do something useful.

I sensed that Philip was somehow seeking the validation that I never had. It was the confirmation I longed to see on the faces of my teachers—even if it was not expressed in words. But perhaps my agonising sense of failure and low level of self- esteem did not allow me to do so.

I understood Philip!

Sometimes as I looked at the boy, going about his little classroom jobs, I was amused by how he performed the tasks with the seriousness of a paid employee, wanting making a statement for promotion. He was so eager to make a good impression. I could not help but notice that he was also aware that he had to leave when it was time for me to attend the morning staff meetings. He knew exactly when he needed to join the other children on the school yard.

Half of the school term had passed, and it was the beginning of a new week. The staff meeting had just ended, followed by the loud sound of the school bell. I walked briskly towards the courtyard. As I approached the doorway leading to the playground, I could see Philip walking alongside the line that his classmates were forming.

‘Get behind each other,’ he politely instructed.

I was certain I was beginning to see a boy who was gradually settling down. I recall one occasion when I took the class to their regular Wednesday morning visit to the school library down the hall. Philip chose four books and walked towards the large cushions that lay on the blue-carpeted floor. Holding all four books close to his chest, he knelt and sat on a green spongy cushion.

Shuffling the four books in his hands, he held one before his face, looked at the cover and placed the other three books beside him. His chest and tummy shuddered as he shifted again and stretched his feet out, pointing the tips of his dusty unlaced trainers towards the ceiling.

He lifted the book with one hand, and after examining the back cover, he opened it and began to turn the pages. It was a book that I knew Philip would have difficulty reading. Nonetheless, he slowly turned the pages, though he could not read the words.

He was turning the pages! Philip began to turn the pages!

I observed him with a sense of joy. I knew that Philip’s journey towards becoming a reader had begun, as now he was choosing the books he wanted to read. He was opening them for himself. Although I knew he was not able to read all the words on the pages, it was sufficient to know that he wanted to be able to read. He was positive. He had a change in attitude, and from my own experiences at school—that action marked the start of a positive, upward journey.

Later on that day, I sat in the staffroom during my lunch break, reflecting on my childhood. I remembered the exact moment when I, myself, decided to ‘start turning the pages’.

Over the ensuing months, I spent a lot of time helping Philip. I tried every single approach to reading I knew. It was like starting from the valley and hiking up to the side of a steep mountain. I understood Philip’s journey, because I started from that same ‘valley,’ and there was a welcoming sense of accomplishment when, towards the end of the academic year, Philip started confidently sounding out letters to read simple words.

But time did not wait on Philip. Like always, the seconds, minutes, days, months and years travelled on. Finally, the last day of his time at primary school arrived. I looked over at Philip, sitting on one of the shiny benches in the Assembly Hall.

I did not see his mother among the parents who were seated close to the stage. I did not expect to see her, though. She had to be at work, and I knew that it broke her heart to be away. She could not afford to forego any of her wages, which is something she confided to me during the previous evening.

Yet as I looked at Philip, he seemed so much more confident, so much more responsible. For a moment, I was overcome by a wave of sadness because he was about to leave. I was concerned that he was going to enter secondary school with a level of achievement that was way below national expectations for a child at the end of the primary school stage.

However, I felt reassured when I considered that Philip was gradually awakening the dormant abilities that slept within him. I was consoled by the thought that, although there would be difficult moments at school, his growing confidence would see him through, and it did not matter how incremental his achievements were along the way, he had the ability to succeed.

My thoughts returned to the present as I scanned the pale, cream-coloured walls that enclosed the Assembly Hall. The entire place seemed to be transformed into an art gallery, with the writings and a kaleidoscopic exhibit of coloured paintings and drawings that showcased the talents and skills of the leaving cohort.

After the ‘Leavers’ ceremony began; applause echoed through the school and the children sang their final song that they rehearsed for many weeks. Then the ecstatic sound of the piano fell quiet. The Headmaster stood up, surveyed the room and delivered his closing speech.

Walking along the side of the Hall, I made my way towards the class. My attention was focused on Philip. Our eyes knitted and he stood, waiting for me to reach him. He smiled as I approached—and this time it was not a twitch of the lips as it was on the day we spoke in the classroom. I returned his smile, and positioning myself beside him, I held his hand and knelt low enough to look directly into his face, into a pair of watery eyes that peered back at me through his spectacles.

‘Try your best, Philip, I whispered. Your best will always be enough. Your best must be that you learn to read very well, because you can do it, Philip. Do you hear me Philip Monroe! You can do it!’

Philip nodded in confirmation that he understood what I was saying.

The Assembly Hall was empty by then, save for the classroom assistants, Ben and Elizabeth, who stacked the long lightly-varnished benches to one side of the hall. Then they dismantled the much-admired displays that had graced the wall a few minutes earlier.

I released Philip’s hand, watching as he walked towards the exit door. He stopped, turned around and waved ‘good-bye.’ Once more, mixed feelings resonated within me, but Philip was moving on, and unlike the time when I attended school, he was entitled to a chance at secondary school.

Advancing towards the end of the Hall, Philip disappeared from the doorway. I walked towards the window overlooking the western side of the yard and watched him go past the fence, towards the school gate. The yard was enclosed, with iron bars that stood vertically, spaced four inches apart. It was a fence that was meant to make the children feel safe and protected. As he went beyond the fence, the lump returned to my throat. He was no longer in my charge.



Chapter Two


‘Don’t put your mind on that child,’ concerned villagers and well-meaning medical professionals would whisper in my mother’s ear as she carried a baby in a woven straw basket. Born prematurely in the absence of today’s medical advancements, this tiny frame of a child was often seriously ill and was not expected to survive infancy.

My immune system was very weak, and because of my fragile state, my parents kept me away from school as a means of minimizing the risks of contracting infections that could be devastating or fatal to me. As a result, I never played much with other children, and I was not sent to nursery school like my siblings.

I was extremely shy and nervous, but my mother and father’s presence gave me a sense of strength and security. This strong attachment to my parents was even more noticeable when I started primary school. I felt like there was a big empty space inside me whenever they were not around. It was particularly true of my mother, whom we affectionately called ‘Mummy.’


Somehow, I always liked having my mother within sight. I remember watching her one morning as she walked to our vegetable garden across the road. Upon reaching the gardens, she bent the branches of the swaying pea trees, broke off clusters of pea pods and threw them into a basket. Satisfied with her harvest, she stooped, picked up the filled basket, rested it at the side of her waist and wandered across the road and into our front yard.

My mother’s dark, wavy hair dangled over her shoulders as she sat on a short wooden bench that kept the entrance door from the porch to the sitting room ajar. She dipped one hand into the basket of green peas that she placed in front of her and separated the peas from their pods.

Looking over the porch bannister, I spotted Lydia and Joseph, my elder sister and brother, in the front yard. Joseph knelt and picked up some pebbles, playfully flicking them at the trunk of the plum tree that stood at the bank of the concrete drain that stretched alongside the house.

Lydia stopped digging into the dirt with a piece of guava stick and looked up at Joseph.

‘Ah going to tell Daddy you pelting stones!’

I thought of going downstairs to join them, but I held one leg up with my hand instead and hopped to the place where my mother was sitting, parking myself on the stained wooden floor beside her.

Rising, I sat on my heels, pressed my index finger towards my thumb and tweezed a small piece of green leaf from her warm wet neck. Then reaching sideways, I dipped my hand into the basket, took a handful of peas and placed them on my skirt. From time to time, my mother threw handfuls of green shiny pods into a round, white enamel bowl.

After a while, no pods dropped into the container. Wanting to see what was keeping her from filling the bowl, I looked up. She was sitting still, cupping pea pods in one hand while the other hand hung loosely over the basket. It seemed she was deep in thought.

What is she thinking about? I wondered.

Mummy leaned her head towards one shoulder as she gave a modest smile, while I returned a hearty grin.

‘We spent a lot of sleepless nights with you,’ she said. ‘I came home from work one day and I saw your father leaning over your bed. His fists were on the mattress as he was gazing into your face and crying. Your daddy was crying so much that the upper part of his shirt was soaking wet.’

She stopped talking and swallowed—so hard that her windpipe rolled beneath her pink skin. She did not tell me why my daddy was crying. She said nothing more.

I was the third of ten siblings, and we lived in a small village called Indian Trail, which was in the Central part of Trinidad. If you ever visited our village, you would have seen our house, built on a slightly-raised piece of land overlooking a wide dirt track that led to the place where my mother’s parents lived.

You might have thought of our house as a humble home, with its walls constructed from the trunk of the bamboo plant and the roof made of interwoven leaves that formed a thick covering. It is likely that you also noticed the light-brownish windows with their triangular bamboo-woven patterns, hanging loosely on their hinges, requiring that they be opened and shut with care. Perhaps you even might have figured out why the light, flowered curtains had large outstanding knots.

You would have walked upon the narrow village road and most likely admired the landscape that rose into hilly areas, tapered off into plains and sometimes dipped steeply to form deep hollows. You might also remember that, directly in front of our house where the landscape dipped, there was a dirt track. Looking over the road from our house, you could not have missed the brink of the slope, with patches of tall bamboo plants, half-blocking the splendour of the fiery red blossoms that set the hilly landscape alight.

You would have seen the side of our house, where the branches of a soaring tamarind and mango tree over-arched to provide a welcome shade from the heat of the furious mid-day sun. It was there that we played doll house, mimicking the lifestyle of the village. Under those trees, we sometimes ate our ripe, juicy mangoes that had just been blown off the trees by the gentle breeze, or sometimes forceful wind gusts.

It was from under the shade that I often admired the bees and butterflies as they hovered around the scented petals of the bright yellow sunflowers and lady slipper flowers. I was always eager to join my cousins when they ran after the butterflies and grasshoppers, but somehow the swift creatures always escaped me.

I now wish that we had taken pictures of our house, because you will no longer see our first home. When my parents built a two-bedroom house made of bricks and mortar, we left our little dwelling. Our new house was built right next to the place where our old one stood. Though the new one only had two bedrooms, there was still much more space, as the sitting room was large, and so was the kitchen.

The front stair gave entry to the porch and another stair came from the outer wall of the kitchen and grounded at the back of the house. At times, I liked to sit on the steps and look at the white fluffy flower that covered the top of the sugar cane plant.

It was in our wooden and concrete house that all of us, except for Ansil, my youngest sibling, spent most of our formative years. Extending the two-bedroom house to make more bedrooms was hardly an option. Therefore, the large lounge became part of our sleeping area, and at night we would often hear Nanny say, ‘Close all yuh mouth and sleep!’

I remember one night when Nanny started her usual storytelling. She told us a story about some children who were taken away by some deouns (superstitious folklore character). Joseph also told us a story, but he got crossed when Lydia told him, ‘Ah think you make up that story.’

Speaking softly, Nanny asked Joseph to ‘bring a cup of water from the kitchen for me, please.’ I thought that Nanny only wanted to stop an argument between Joseph and Lydia though. I remember how Joseph became very embarrassed when everyone realised that he was too scared to go to the kitchen.

We loved the scary folklore the best, especially tales of jumbie and deouns. There was much humour whenever any one of us became too scared to leave the story listening group, even to fetch a drink of water from the kitchen. It was even a little scarier when the wind blew out the flame from the Flambeau and left the room in darkness until Nanny, our great-grandmother, found the matches and lit the wick again.

Nanny cared for us during the necessary and frequent absences of our parents—absences that I never failed to notice. I hated the absence of my parents, but I appreciated and embraced Nanny’s smiles of love and approval. Whenever my mother was working, it became normal for my siblings and me to fall asleep next to each other without seeing either of our parents for the whole day. I remember how I would sob often at nights before I fell asleep.

Feeding us was always my parents’ priority, and they worked hard to provide for us. Even so, there were rare occasions when six crackers and a cup of tea or a bowl of thick parched flour porridge were our supper. But one of the things we all remember about our father was that he hardly ever returned home without a bag of goodies for us in his hand. However small, there would always be something for us in the bag, even if it meant bringing back a part of the lunch he had taken to work that day.

Often as we slept, we would smell my father’s cooking. He would awaken us to eat with him—even if he knew we were not hungry or if he was not satisfied with the quality or quantity of our supper. This was because my mother could not prepare our supper due to her work schedule on some occasions. I believe my father just wanted to see us awake before he left for work, which was always at five o’clock each morning.

Mr Shorty, the village shopkeeper, knew my father well. He kept a book with the regular food supplies my father often bought. Every two weeks, the shopkeeper would prepare the items from the grocery list. My father also had an account that we could use to order supplies when my parents were not at home. My father would pay off his accounts at the end of the month when he received his salary.

Across the road from our house was our vegetable garden, which our parents loved tending. My mother would tell us to go get some root crops such as cassava, eddoes, and dasheen or green bananas. We had a small poultry and pig farm, and we took turns scrubbing and feeding the pigs.

Usually my father or Joseph raked the stale grass that was always mixed with the pigs’ filth, throwing shovels full of smelly waste over the walls of the pen. This made for a slushy pile just between the pig pen and our much-loved plum tree. I valued that pile of mush and found it to be a great escape for me whenever I did not want to go to school, which was often, if not all the time.

As we grew up, we were used to borrowing each other’s clothes and shoes. Our having to ask one sibling to return home on time because his or her shoes were needed so that another sibling could go out was a common occurrence. I remember one day when I borrowed Lydia’s shoes to go to a fun fair with Joseph. Both Lydia and I could not go at the same time, because there was only one wholesome pair of shoes.

Joseph promised Lydia that he would walk me back home halfway through the funfair so that she would get a chance to attend also. However, Joseph and I conveniently forgot that Lydia was waiting for her shoes. When we got home, Lydia was still dressed and sitting barefooted on the front steps.

She was cross, very cross. To be truthful, I felt badly and I thought that Joseph did also, but that did not stop us from getting into trouble with my parents. They were quite disappointed that we did such a thing to Lydia, and so were we.

Sometimes though, I felt certain that the disparity between the erosion of the heel of the shoes on our feet and our gait was telling that the shoes belonged to someone else. All through the fun fair, I tried to remember to keep my steps steady so I did not end up with a twisted ankle.

I also remember that my younger brother, Anthon, used to crumble newspaper and stuff it at the front of Joseph’s shoes so that his heels would not slip out from the back of the shoes as he walked. However, we never felt that we were disadvantaged.

My mother always told us that we were her ‘riches.’ We felt complete and content among ourselves within the family. This contentment did not lie in the physical things that we had, but in the love that knitted us together.

My mother and father always stressed the importance of us caring for each other.

‘Don’t empty your gut and fill it with straw,’ she frequently said, meaning ‘don’t replace our true selves with something that was superficial and flimsy.’ She explained that the express meant ‘blood was thicker than water’ and ‘the welfare of each sibling must take a central place in each of our lives.’

My mother was a strong believer that charity began at home. She always used the words, ‘Inside of our house, we discipline you with love so that you would have no cause to be disciplined by the law—they will not do it with love.’

We were not allowed to use our then-humble status as an explanation or excuse for complacency. My parents’ philosophy was especially true in light of the fact that within our society, education was one of the central pathways to upward social mobility. Our parents encouraged us to tap into our own strength and innate abilities in pursuit of our dreams, and in doing so, to remember to embrace and support each other as siblings.



Chapter Three


I clearly recall when, at the age of five, my father took me to the town of Couva during the summer holidays. In preparation for the trip, my mother washed my blue and white polka-dot dress the day before. While taking the dress off the washing line, she knelt, whispering in my ear.

‘You wearing this dress tomorrow! Daddy like to see yuh in this dress. I will use Lydia’s two pieces of blue ribbons on your hair.’

I could feel my tongue peeping through the space left by the missing teeth of my lower gum as I hopped and chuckled with excitement. I liked Lydia’s blue nylon ribbons, and I was happy that I was going to wear them. Lydia always looked very pretty when she wore those ribbons.

When it was time to get dressed in the morning, my mother parted my hair and tied each side with the blue ribbons, leaving my brownish curly hair so that is was brushing lightly on each side of my cheeks. Joseph entered the sitting room with his hand neatly fitted inside the front of one side of my pair of black shoes, with my white socks resting on his shoulder.

‘Yuh have to learn how to put your shoes on. Every time yuh put them on, left to right— ah going to show you again. The buckles have to be at the outer side of yuh foot,’ he said. Joseph and Lydia always showed me how to do things right.

Lydia was sitting with her feet crossed and twisting her toes with her fingers.

‘No sense sulking!’ Mummy said to Lydia. ‘Yuh left your shoes on de step. Yuh know that Hero would chew them!’

I did not like to see Lydia looking sad. I was very fond of Lydia, so I was sorry that she did not have another pair of footwear so that she could come with us. Joseph and I also had only one pair of shoes, and I was glad that he was a thoughtful brother who always helped me take care of mine.

I was excited about going to Couva. My father got dressed in a white shirt and black trousers, with a pen clipped to his shirt pocket—just like he did when he was going to work.

Standing on the short grass beside the road, waiting for a taxi to take us to Couva, Daddy sighed as I squinted up at him.

‘It is Saturday morning,” he said, looking down at me. ‘Plenty people going to shop in Couva; we might have to wait long for a car.’

But just as he finished speaking, Mr Selwyn hooted his horn as he pulled up in front of us. My father breathed a sigh of relief as we got into the car and headed off on our drive to Couva.

As we passed our neighbour’s house, the branches of Mr Joey’s cherry tree brushed the top of the car. Mr Selwyn was trying to drive past a black and white cow that was tied with a long nylon rope to the bamboo patch on the other side of the road. It looked like the same cow I saw Mrs Franklyn taking up the day before.

Further down the road, Mrs Franklyn stood under a galvanize donkey shed in front of her shop, waving her hand, but Mr Selwyn did not stop to pick her up. I was not sure why he just kept on driving—even though there was still one empty seat. I felt that it could have been that Mr Selwyn was still upset with Rupert, Mrs Franklyn’s son.

A few days earlier, Rupert was pelting a mango tree and broke the windscreen on Mr Eddie’s car. I heard Mr Eddie telling my father and Mr Selwyn that Mrs Franklyn said that she was not going to pay to fix the car because the car should not have been parked under the mango tree.

She also said that no one could say for sure that it was the stone that Rupert pelted that broke the windscreen. She said that it could just as well have been a falling mango, but people were always blaming Rupert. Mr Eddie said that he had to take the car to the garage, and the result was that instead of having three taxis in the village, there were only two. Mr Selwyn told Mr Eddie that he should tell Mr Franklyn instead of his wife.


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