The Green, Green Grass…
In Siparia, the little Trinidad village in which I spent the most carefree days of my life, there is a story about one of my contemporaries nicknamed “Banana”. While the origin of the nickname is lost in time, space and alcoholic mist, it is said that Banana, a noted cyclist, was in some kind of local trouble, the exact nature of which also is unknown, and decided to “cool off” on the Venezuelan mainland which is just across the Gulf of Paria from Trinidad.
He is supposed to have paid a considerable sum to Boysie Singh, the notorious pirate of the Gulf (later hanged on circumstantial evidence for the murder of Thelma Haynes, dancer) to take him across the short stretch of water and deposit him safely in Tucupita, Venezuela, where he was sure to find some respite from his problems with Trinidad law enforcement.
One dark night, he met Boysie Singh at the appointed place and they set out in Singh’s pirogue (fishing boat) for the mainland. What Banana did not know is that Singh had no intention of taking him to Venezuela. Singh decided instead to save the gas and drop his boatload of Banana at the coastal village of Oropouche in South-Western Trinidad. Banana, fortunately, did not have much money on him and that probably saved his life, since Singh’s “passengers” generally never reached their destination.
Banana reached his journey’s end just before daybreak. He had been warned by Singh to remain in hiding during the daylight hours, because if the Guardia Nacional found him they would kill him, so he crouched in the bushes on the marshy beachfront waiting for nightfall.
He could hear the fishermen conversing to one another in English, but Singh had warned him that it was a favourite trick of the Guardia to speak English to lure illegal immigrants out of hiding and then pounce on them. For a long time, Banana refused to succumb to the increasing hunger, thirst and homesickness that beset him.
As the Banana Boat song says, “Day daylight and he wanna go home.” Banana watched the people around come to their boats, take out food, water and rum, eat and drink heartily while he was starving. Finally, he could take it no more. He emerged from the bushes, confronted one of the locals and said firmly, “Ah wanta ah breadah.”
Not much is known about the reply of the Oropouche boatman and his colleagues who were drawn to the scene, but it is understood that poor Banana eventually got his “breadah” with lots of humble pie and derogatory remarks about his intelligence.
I was thinking about Banana a few weeks ago when I tried to start up my Toro lawnmower. I figured if Banana was around and took one look at my yard, he would say, “Muchas gracias.”
Recent rains had caused the formerly brown and drooping stalks to sprout and expand to such an extent that I wondered whether rainwater contained steroids. Needless to say, every jungle has its Tarzan, and my Jane decided it was time for me to stop being a swinger and become a cutter chop-chop.
For the most part, the grass did not put up much resistance after I made a slight adjustment to the blade. Taking it out for a much needed sharpening, I had not filed away the fact that the curved side of the blade, which looks like a double ended scimitar like the ones favoured by Arabian jugglers out for your jugular, is at the top. I am generally Sharp enough myself to remember these things, but my Sony disposition undergoes a considerable change, when I have to do chores not of my own choosing, while there are sports on television or any other excuse, regardless of how remote, for staying indoors in front of the tube.
I eventually and somewhat petulantly turned the blade right-side up and made hay while the sun beat fiercely, mercilessly and unrelentingly down on me. However, there was one area that defied my Saracen blade and my lion heart and sent the blood rushing to my Templars.
Fortunately I had read most of the very funny works of Erma Bombeck and was, if not prepared, at least aware of what to expect in suburbia. In 1976 Bombeck had written, “The Grass Is Greener Over The Septic Tank.” Folks, it is true with a vengeance. The grass over our septic tank is greener, longer, tougher and more deeply rooted than corruption in Trinidad politics. They are not Walt Whitman’s gentle leaves, but different species altogether.
With their Estoques or sharp blades out, their banderillas at the ready, they taunt the lawnmower with mocking cries of, “Toro! Toro! Toro!”
I sharpened cutlass numero uno – a short weapon ideal for hand-to-hand combat. Just in case the fighting became too bloody or I needed reinforcements, I did the same with my machete.
My Nepalese kukri remained inside since if I unsheathe it I must draw blood and my Sony Bravia is LCD not plasma so that the only option might be mine. No way, Jose, I said to myself. I am catching my grass enough already to add any self-inflicted wounds to my already suffering psyche and physiognomy.
With some little difficulty and not without a substantial struggle, I was able to disarm and decapitate some of the monsters, enough to form a reasonably large pile. While I was engaged in armed combat, my children had, in the meantime, set up shop in the shade of the neem tree which dominates the backyard and were busy “studying”.
However, when they saw the horses just outside the back fence, all thoughts of study ended and they rushed to pet the poor creatures which were staring hopefully at them. Full of the pride of conquest, I suggested they take the fresh, green grass to the horses. They did. A grey, pregnant mare was the first to respond. She even allowed herself to be petted and then fed. The other, a brown stallion, eschewed the grass initially, but then his diffidence gave way to hunger and he partook of the succulent sweat of my brows.
As I watched the two horses munch contentedly and my children beam confidently, I realised that as Macbeth said, I had “scotched the snake, not killed it”. The leaves of grass had gone but the roots remained, something like the attempts to weed out corruption in Trinidad.
The Integrity Commission falls apart but the corruption continues. I suppose this must be some kind of deeply-rooted philosophic parable. However, my thoughts were more mundane. Perhaps I could make a deal with the owner of the horses to let them come into my yard and deal with the green, green grass of home. It would be an ideal win-win solution.
The horses would be happy, the children would be ecstatic and my wife would have some much needed manure for the plants that are not in the vicinity of the septic tank.
*Tony Deyal was last seen commending this Bombeck line for a wide range of psychological applications, “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.”