It was the custom of the old folks in my family to leave a cup of coffee on the side for our ancestors. They believed if they continued to feed our ancestors, they would remained strengthened, since the chief family members were somehow ordained to protect those who were still alive. Looking back, I was about two years old, when I started drinking their coffee. In fact, I also thought they would need help with the large plate of food reserved for them as well. Eventually both, my grandmother and my aunt found out about my innocent venture, so they thought they needed to teach me a valuable lesson. But from what I heard, they were the one who were left intrigued.
I’m told I was four years old when this incident happened. Apparently, for three consecutive days, I was enjoying myself while feasting on the ancestor’s food. Afterward, I would walk outside to yell to the old folks: “Mm-Mm! Gran Do, the spirit said the food was good!” “Gran Do, who was my grandmother thought something was strange. “This is strange!” She said. “The ancestors sure ate that food fast – They usually would send a visitor, or a beggar to ask for some food, or the food would remain till completely dried out.”
Of course, I was too young to understand my grandmother’s concern, so I just kept on eating. But after three consecutive day, my grandmother cooked a dish named “Chaka,” which was a blend of corns, beans, squash, coconut, you name it – it had it! On that day however, while I was eating the bowl of Chaka, I fell asleep, with the bowl right on top of my chubby stomach. So Gran Do who happened to walk inside the house, saw me snoring my heart out. The bowl of Chaka spilled all over my body, my whole face, and my hands were bathed in Chaka. Now Gran Do who didn’t know what to think, decided to call her older sister.
“Now, don’t know what to think of this Sis – You think the child has been eating the spirits food?” She asked auntie.
“Don’t know Sis – Don’t know! But she’s been telling me she ain’t hungry for dinner. I was going to give her a laxative on Saturday!”
We need to find out, before those spirits get angry at the child.” Gran Do said.
“Well! She is family, sure they won’t hurt her, but we can still test her to see if she’s the one eating them food. She loves fish you know, so let’s make some fish tomorrow and place it on the ancestors table again.”
But Gran Do answered: “I will make some fish all right, but will teach her a lesson. Will put all the pepper and the salt I can put my finger on, in that fish – “Have to teach her a hard lesson, or this child is doomed to be too much for us to handle later on.”
“Well, what do you expect Sis. Both on her mamma and Papa side are Moses – Didn’t you hear what the priest said in church? That Moses man from the Big book opened the ocean with his little finger, and killed all the Gyptians? That’s a lot of power for one man. For all we know, he’s probably the one eating all the food through that poor child – The child is unusual, must say!”
“Well – don’t care sis. After I’m done with her, some of that power should leak through her tongue, nose, even her ears, because she’ll be screaming “HOT through her butthole!”
So Gran Do and her sister did as they had planned. In fact, the fish was seasoned with so much hot pepper, that tears dropped from their eyes as they were cooking. Finally, after they served the ancestors the large fish, which they placed on their special table, the old folks sit outside waiting. About half an hour later, I ran out of the house, with the plate of fish, screaming my heart out: “Gan Do, THE SPIRIT SAID THE FISH IS TOOOOOOO HOT – HOT – HOT – HOT!!!”
Both Ma Do and auntie dropped themselves on the floor, as they could not stop laughing. However, since they had already prepared some cold lemonade, they decided to show me some mercy, so they both rushed toward the lake, the direction they saw me take off. But when they arrived there, they were shocked to see my whole body lying flat on the ground, with my head toward the lake, under the water, while the plate of fish was still next to me. When I eventually lifted up my head, it was just to grab another bite, then to dip my whole head under the water again. I continued the same process, till I ate the whole fish. After I was completely done, I sunked my whole body under the water while I rinsed the wood plate which held the fish. The old folks stood at a distance while watching me in action. I finally walked toward them, and when I noticed them, I handed the plate back to then, and said:
“Mm-Mm! Gran Do and auntie, the spirit love the fish, but was a bit too spicy. The spirit said, you can make some more tomorrow!”
“Auntie shook her head in disbelief, then turned to Gran Do to say: “Sis, is she an angel, or a demon? I think we need to place her in a box, send her back to her papa, and have Jonas write a note: “Return to Papa!”
“Ma Do answered, “Are you crazy? The child has enough fire in her to destroy Satan and hell three times over. Besides, whether she’s an angel or demon, with her on our side, should guarantee us a good post in heaven, or hell. “So I say she ain’t going nowhere!!!”
Auntie answered: “You sure right Sis. – You sure right! In this case, let’s make her some more fish tomorrow, she sure liked it!”
“She sure did – But with just a little pepper!”
But tomorrow after I ate the fish, I said “Did you old folks forgot how to cook? The spirit said “Not enough pepper!”
Is that my Foufoune I see?”
‘OMG! It is you Auntie Mango tree! Me said you always wore white, so I always didn’t stop.”
“Who is Me? And yes, I always wear white!”
“You have a blue dress on auntie?
“I do? You sure it’s not white?”
“Auntie, you don’t know who “ME” is? We saw him on our way here, he said he was my uncle!”
“Oh! You must mean Mama’s neighbor. But his name is “Put-ME-Down” my girl! “It’s a long story, first come and give me a hug! Cant’s see too well, but can tell, seven of you are standing in front of me?”
“Yes, Auntie. My sisters and bro are here with Papy.”
“Gineer is here too? Oh my! Now I understand what Titletales was saying. She rushed here like a storm, to say “Heaven came down! Heaven came down! “Kill the white goat, wash the mangoes, we need some coffee and bread. “I will go fetch the buckets for the shit and pi!”
“So I answered who is coming?”
“Don’t know auntie, but must be very important people!!! “I’m Just the messenger – Ain’t telling no tales either!”
I gave auntie a big kiss and a hug. As she held and kissed me, she said: “OMG! Just skin and bones – Now Gineer, hope you don’t think you’re leaving today, got to take care of my girl before she leaves.”
Then she asked me: “Foufoune, have you had your laxative this year? Bet you haven’t – Titletales, bring here the coffee, the mango and bread, and go fetch me some herbs and the oil for the laxative. My girl needs cleansing, she’s nothing but skin and bones!”
“Yes auntie!” Answered the young girl.
“Bring the buckets here too, just in case those City folks need to shit and pi!”
“Yes auntie, washing them now!”
We all sit down, as coffee and bread were being served to us. A young man carried two large bags of mango, and placed them before us. After auntie was informed about my school grades, she said.
“Now Gineer, thought you were in the strange land, don’t live there no more?”
“Papy looking puzzled, “Strange land?”
“Yeah! You know, where money is falling all over the ground! Then she turned back to ask Titletales who was sitting on the floor, not too far from her.
“Titletales, what’s Smart-girl new name again? She just came from the strange land.”
“Oh! Her name is American-Now auntie!”
“Exactly! American-Now was sent back here, because she didn’t show the green paper they asked her for.”
“Green paper? You mean the green card?” Papy said.
“I don’t know Gineer! “Where is she anyway? Let me have her tell you her story. Oh! Here she is!”
“Oui auntie. Good afternoon everyone! “She kissed everyone of us, went on to kiss auntie as well.”
“Come and tell these folks why the tall white men sent you back from the white people’s country – You know she’s a business woman now! “Tell them about your business too!”
Amerian-Now was wearing an American Flag top with a jean. She laughed then said:
“I went to the strange land up there three years ago. After the plane dropped us, I saw the cloud, (snow) I realized I did not want to stay there because it was too cold. “You see aallll those clouds up above our heads, they are heading straight to that strange land. It gets so cold over there that, even when I was wearing ten panties, and three stockings, my butt was still freezing. Couldn’t feel my nose one day, and thought I was dying. “Hell! How was I supposed to breathe without a nose? I thought to myself.
While I lived there, I saved auntie Coucou over $100.00 in electronic bill. (Electric bill). “After I told her one day: “Now, why do you need to pay that extra bill for the fridge, when you have a freezer right outside your door and your backyard?”
“Auntie said, “Now we can’t use outside to keep our food freezing?”
“Why not? Leave everything up to me auntie, and I promise you, your electronic bill won’t be so high by next Month.” So I kept all the meat and the juice right under the cloud that fell in the front porch, and they were never spoiled either. “Even when I made my lemonade, I just went and grabbed some cloud, blend it in my juice, and it was so cold, had to soak my teeth in some warm water afterward. Damn! Oh! Excuse me you all for cursing. “I learned a few curse words while I lived there.”
As she turned toward auntie Good-Mercy, she said:
“Auntie, I forgot to tell you that too. “People curse over there like rain falling. They fart and burp on people like crazy too! And, nobody will say a damn thing to them. Oh, excuse me again for cursing.
So one day, I was seating on the train, when that woman kept on burping and farting right next to me. It was so loud, everyone could hear her. So the last “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr,” she did, I turned to her, and said:
“Didn’t your mamma taught you some manners? “You don’t “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” on people like that, and don’t even say “excuse me!” Then she looked at me as if I was crazy. So I said: “Keep on looking at me like am crazy, I will turn you into a cow. You already sound like one anyway!” So that’s when a pretty white lady said to me:
“Which accent is that from?” I answered her:
“Do you see me cooking? Besides, even when am cooking, I don’t use any of the accents you white folks use here; they no good for you. Sometimes, I may use a tiny piece of Maggi, but that’s about it!”
Then she looked at me as if she didn’t understand, one word I said. So another tall black man said: “Oh, she was not referring to the accent, as in seasoning, she wanted to know where you were from?”
“Then why didn’t she just asked me that? Even If I told her we season our meat with lime, and hot pepper, she still wouldn’t know where I was from! Well, I’m from Haïti. It’s on the ground, down there. You guys are up here in the sky, but we are an Island from down there. Everybody started to look at me funny. Finally, I heard one voice asking me: “Did you say, you were from Haïti?”
“Yes I Am Mam!” I answered her.
“And did you just say you were going to turn that woman into a fat cow?”
“Yes I did. If she doesn’t stop “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr on people!”
OMG! Auntie, everybody started running to the next section of the train. I had the whole space to myself!
“When I realized it was because they were afraid of me, I laughed and thought to myself: “Shuut! If I had that much power, I would have turned them into $1,000.00 bill, not a cow!”
After she laughed herself to tears, she continued: “And people from the strange land talk very different from us too. One day a guy asked me “What’s up?” I turned and looked at him. “What’s up?” You asking me? You should tell me what’s up. You are the one from the strange land up in the cloud, aren’t you? I’m from the Islands, way down there!”
That was the day, I was on my way to the store to buy some oil to cook for auntie. When I got there, guess what I saw? Some yam, and some mango, plantain and avocado for sale. But those damn things were so expensive, they were asking over $1.00 for one mango.
“You mean, a whole green Dollar? I would never eat a mango again!” Screamed auntie. “We sell these things for two pennies, and the strange people are – “Oh! Maybe it’s because they have to plant them in the cloud. Do they taste the same as ours?”
No Auntie, they get them from Jamaica. I don’t think they know how to plant them in the strange land. The avocado was even more expensive. So I took one, and went to the lady who was doing the ringring with the little machine in front of her, then asked her: “Are you crazy? Why are you charging a dollar for each mango? That’s too expensive. In my country, I shit and pi on those stuffs. I can even get you some for free, but you guys will have to pay for the plane ticket for them.” Suddenly, everybody started laughing. I didn’t know what was so funny either. So, the pretty white girl answered me:
“Please go speak to the Mager, at custom service.”
Then Papy said: “You mean “the Manager, at the Customer service?”
She answered as if it did not matter:
“I guess so Gineer, but I said what I heard. So when I went to custom and asked for the Mager, they answered: “Who?”
I answered, “I want to speak the the Mager, at custom service!”
But, thank God, he was standing right there. He turned and looked at me. Then, heaven came down!” I could hear my heart beating;“Bip-Bip-Bip,” and almost fell out of my chest too. “Never seen a good looking white boy like him before. But, he had a strange name. His name was John. So after he kept on saying, “Can I help you?” I finally came back to myself. Because I was already thinking of all the cute children we could have together. So she turned toward auntie to say:
“Now, auntie I know you taught us to keep it sealed till we get married, but I tell you auntie, I wouldn’t wait till I get married with him.”
“I can see why? Because when he came down here to check our lands, at first I thought he was God, and I’m not interested in no man either.” Auntie answered while laughing.
“He came to Haiti?” My father asked.
American-Now answered “That’s what I’m trying to tell you all, Am a business woman now! But first, let me tell you what I told him about the mango when I finally answered him. I said “Now sir, my name is Smart-Girl. I cannot understand for the life of me, why are you asking me to pay so much for these mangoes? In my country, we have over 20 acres full of them. In fact I use to shit and pi on them, when I was a little girl. And my little cousins are still running butt naked all over our land, shitting and piing on them too. Then, I squeezed the mango right in front of him and said: “And those mangoes are not even good quality either. No-no! For god’s sake, where are you getting these crap from?” So when I was done talking, the Mager was staring and smiling at me. My heart went “Bib-bib-Bib” again. Then he said, “You seem to know what you are talking about. Where are you from?”
“I was embarrassed to say I was from Haiti. I didn’t want him to start running like the others did in the train. “So he said: “Are you from Haiti by any chance? “I have a good friend who’s from there as well!”
“Yes, I sure am!” I answered him smiling. While in strange land, they called what I was doing “Flirting.” Because I really, really liked him.”
“Well, they ship them from Jamaica.” He said.
“Are you serious?” I yelled at him. Those things are shit and neat quality, they no good! “In that case why don’t you buy them from Haïti – from my family?”
He smiled, then he said, “Here’s my card, let me check the head something, gelation and custom, and I will get back to you. So please leave me your phone number so I can all you.”
Pappy interrupted her again to say: You mean “Regulation and custom.”
“That’s probably what he said. But, he said something about a head too. I didn’t know what he meant by that. Was it a cow or chicken head? I thought the white man didn’t believe in voodoo? So that was my only concern about the cute Mager.
So Papy answered, “No. He was referring to Voodoo. He meant he had to follow up with upper Management.”
“ I still gave him my aunties phone number and address.” And when I walked away, I realized my but was shaking : “Vip – Pip – Vip- Pip, Boum – Boum!” I turned to look at him, because I was embarrass. But, he was still looking at me! Hihiho!”
“You all know the end of the story. “He came down with another fat looking white man to buy some land from us. Now we ship some stuff back to them, including some coffee. But you know what? I have to thank the big tall lady standing right in the ocean. Her name is Hattan.”
“Papy looking puzzled, then said: Who?”
“You don’t know her Gineer? You lived in the strange land, and you don’t’ know the Mother of the strange land? She’s a tall, green lady standing in the ocean She’s holding some fire in her hand!”
“Oh! You mean in MANHATTAN?”
“Now Gineer, when I went to see her, she didn’t look like a MAN to me. And the people from there even said she was a woman, not a man!
To be continued