Jan 27, 2020 News
“IT Look like yuh girl ain coming, tonight,” the stevedore said, before putting the bottle of Banks ale to his lips.
Michael remained silent, trying to mask his irritation. It was the third time that the man had commented on Lucille’s absence. What was more annoying was that it appeared that the man was right. He glanced at his watch for the second time in five minutes. Ten o’clock already.
He had not wanted to be seen entering the Ritz in daylight, so, from home, he’d gone to the Metropole Cinema to kill time. Two pretty girls had sat next to him. The one closest to him had seemed intent on flirting; touching him now and then and asking inane questions about the movie plot, which he had hardly followed because his thoughts were elsewhere.
There was a short blackout during the second flick, but it was still a bit too early when the second movie ended, so he had stopped for a snack at Demico House.
Now, here he was at the Ritz, dressed up and with a gift in his pocket and the girl wasn’t there. She was not in her room—so, where was she? That was the first thing he’s asked the barman, who had looked at him, emptily, and shrugged. Without being asked, the stevedore claimed that he had seen her enter a shiny black car about two days back. He hadn’t seen her since. Was she with another lover? He pushed the thought away and glanced at the sparse crowd. A woman with an intricate corn-row sat at a table, closest to the punch-box. She sat with a prostitute he’d seen on his previous visits: a sulky-mouthed woman of about thirty, with a low Afro and dressed in tight red pants. She winked at him. He glanced away in annoyance.
For some strange reason, the prostitute that they called Abby, (after the demon-possessed Abby in the exorcism movie, the stevedore claimed), had been pestering him almost as soon as he had entered the Ritz. She had tried to bum a beer and punch-pox change from the stevedore, while staring at Michael with open curiosity. Michael had been in a good mood then, so he’d bought the beer and given her a dollar in twenty-five cent pieces. But as the night wore on, she became a pest—returning to Michael and the stevedore, babbling inanely, teasing Michael (“what this lil boy who ain lose he mother features doing up hay?” ), dancing up to him suggestively.
“She dig yuh,” the stevedore said, grinning. “Yuh could get dat easy, easy.”
But he was too disappointed by Lucille’s absence to be flattered by the prostitute’s attention. He finished his second beer, collected the stevedore’s empty bottle and returned to the bar. This would be his last one and then he was going home. The barman gave him a friendly nod. He opened the bottles, pushed them across to Michael.
“Like yuh girlfriend ain coming back tonight,” he said. “Matter of fact, I thought you and all desert me.” The barman leaned forward, grinning. “Ah see Abby giving you a hustle.” His eyes shifted and he grinned again. “She coming now.”
Michael heard the slapping sound of sandals, then felt Abby’s thick-bodied presence at his side. He flinched as her voice blared in his ear.
“Is what you going on with at all, Desmond?”
The barman gave her a half-puzzled smile. “What you talking about?”
“You mean is beer you got that lil boy drinking? You know you could get lock up fuh that?”
She emitted a burst of laughter, collected two beers from the barman, winked at Michael, then returned to her seat. Michael watched as she whispered something to the prostitute with the cornrows.
Michael drank the last of his beer, placed the bottle on the counter, and headed down the corridor to the urinal. His legs felt heavy; he felt light-headed. He sighed, relieved himself, and had just zipped up his trousers when he heard a soft footfall. He turned. The prostitute with the cornrows was staring at him.
He frowned. What did she want?
She leaned forward and said: “Room three.”
“Room three. Yuh girl just come back and she in room three.” She sniffed. “They renovating she room. Desmond tell me to tell you.”
He felt a burst of elation. She had not deserted him. In his head he heard the lilting voice: I will wait for you, Mi-kal…
He tried to suppress a smile as the prostitute watched him. She was smiling, too, but there was nothing friendly about it. “You should still give me friend Abby a shot. She like you.”
To heck with you and Abby. “Where is room three?”
“Third room from the corridor,” she snapped. “On yuh left.” She turned abruptly and headed back down the corridor.
He felt his heart thumping as he walked down the corridor. He came to the door. He rapped. “Come in,” she said softly. He pushed the door, and stepped in a darkened room. She lay entirely covered beneath the sheets. He removed his windbreaker, and as he reached the bed, he heard a suppressed giggle, and a rattling sound as someone padlocked the door from the outside. Then the woman on the bed removed the sheet, and he gave a yelp of surprise as he stared at the prostitute, Abby.
For a moment he just gaped, catching a glimpse of large breasts and wide hips. Then he took a step backwards, but she was already off the bed, pressing herself to him, gazing at him with a mixture of lust and contrition.
“Ah sorry, handsome boy, ah sorry.” He got a whiff of marijuana. “I just need to be with you.”
He felt a brief rush of lust, but then pulled free and glared at her; angry at the prostitute, angry at her friend, angry at himself for being so easily fooled.
He turned to the door. He pulled it, found it locked.
“Marilyn lock it from outside,” she said. She had come over to him. “Doan vex with me. The minute I see you I just wanted to—”
Someone rapped at the door.
Abby sucked her teeth. “Who is dat?”
Someone laughed softly. “Wha happen, Abby, ah interrupting something?”
Abby sucked her teeth again. What yuh want, Marilyn?”
The woman outside giggled. “Yuh rival outside.”
Lucille. She was outside and he was—
Outside, the prostitute giggled again. “One of them chaps ask fuh you, and I say that you with that cute, high-colour boy that you was troubling. Ah think she hear me.”
I will wait for you, Mi-kal. An image of the girl sitting in their corner came to him. He turned to Abby. “Tell yuh friend to open this door.”
She tried to press against him again. He pushed her back hard.
“Tell yuh friend to open this door now!” He could feel his face becoming hot, a sure sign that he was losing his temper. She glared back at him, and he held her gaze until her eyes shifted away.
“Open the door, girl,” she said. She turned to the wall nearest to the hallway and shouted. “Ah done get what ah want.”
He felt his face getting hot again. The room was near to the hallway. He could hear music from the punch-box. That meant that maybe the girl had heard Abby.
“I glad fuh you, girl,” the prostitute at the door yelled back. He heard the door being unlocked, laughter, and footsteps hurrying away.
And now, what? Go past the giggling prostitutes and explain to the girl how he’d ended up in another woman’s room? Then maybe end up at the centre of some nasty confrontation between Abby, her friend, Marilyn, and Lucille?
No…it would be best to just leave. He took out his kerchief. He wiped his face. He took a deep breath, headed for the door, shifted his eyes away from the grinning stevedore, then headed down the stairs, heart heavy with a guilt that he told himself he shouldn’t feel.
Abby came out of the room at the same time that Lucille was heading towards the bar for another cider. As the women were about to pass each other, Abby swung her hips to the right, knocking the girl off balance.
Desmond slammed a hand on the bar. “Hay, Abby, humble yuh self, nah!”
Abby glared at the girl for a few seconds, sucked her teeth, then headed for the punch-box.
In all, Abby thought, as she headed down the brothel’s back stairs, it hadn’t been such a bad night. For one, she had almost gotten in on the bitch’s man. For another, she now had a real customer: the big ‘Government man’ who now waited on her.
He was over fifty, and had come up the stairs about eleven-thirty. According to street gossip, his regular visits to Lombard Street’s brothels had caused him to lose favour with the Comrade Leader. This had led to him being relieved of his position as a Government Minister.
Abby had slept with him a few times before. He was an easy-going customer who would pay a little extra to get freaky.
She didn’t mind his rules. For him, her bathing before they got together was a must. As she headed to the bathroom, she remembered the first time he was in a room with her. “Please have a bath first my dear,” he had said in that loud bass voice.
The bathroom was a crude, concrete structure in the hotel’s back-yard. There was no shower, just a galvanized bucket that you filled at a tap in the yard.
She paused at the bottom of the stairs, feeling the beginning of unease as she surveyed her surroundings. The yard was sunken, easily flooded during heavy rainfall. A huge silk-cotton tree leaned its weight against the southern fence. A full moon threw shadows around the four corners of the backyard. To her, the concrete bathroom, with its door-less entrance, reminded her of the old, moss-covered mausoleums in Le Repentir Cemetery.
It was just about a month ago, that a prostitute named Anita was almost gang-raped while going to this same bathroom at night. Since then, the girls would only go there in pairs, and sometimes with their clients. She half-turned to go back upstairs to ask Marilyn to accompany her, but then recalled that Marilyn was in the middle of a short-time hustle. And if she, Abby didn’t move fast, the horny old fare-picker upstairs might get impatient and go with somebody else. She couldn’t afford to lose out on him, when she only had three dollars in her purse.
Sighing, she headed for
the bathroom, which lay about twenty feet away. She picked up the galvanised bucket at the entrance, then stepped gingerly on to a line of crookedly laid boards that led to the nearby tap. She shooed away a toad from the tap, filled the bucket and returned to the bathroom.
Darkness hemmed her in as she stepped inside; and again, she found herself thinking of a mausoleum. She cursed Desmond silently as she unwrapped the towel from her waist. Some people really cheap. He could have at least put in a light bulb. She hung the towel and underwear on the rack that someone had rigged up in the bathroom, cursing again as her brassiere fell. Shit…she should have been younger, or high-complexioned; then she could have been at the Penthouse, or Pakaraima, instead of this kiss-me-ass place.
Abby stepped further into the darkness, until one of her feet touched the wooden pallet that the women stood on while bathing. She groped around in the bucket for the plastic bowl. She could just wash her face, spray on some perfume, and who would know the difference? But no…maybe she wasn’t high-coloured and good looking, but at least she was clean. But she would make the old fucker pay dear for sending her to bathe at this time of the night. She would ask him to stay till day-clean, and hustle some twenties from his wallet while he slept. God knows she needed the money. Desmond was right. It was time she stopped wearing this red pants … time she bought some new threads, and underwear, and maybe some Ambi for her complexion.
If only she had threads like that highfalutin bitch. She splashed more water on her face as her thoughts turned to the girl. She had hoped that the girl would have reacted when she’d pushed her, but the whore had looked so cool, that she’d felt like scratching that white face; but maybe she’d gone too far in chucking her; she hadn’t really meant to do that, though she’d been waiting for the girl to as much as pick her teeth. Instead, the girl had just smiled and walked away.
She lathered her breasts. She didn’t know why, but the girl’s presence at the Ritz disturbed her. There was something wrong, wrong, wrong about her being there. There was something wrong about the girl herself. Where did she eat? Where did she bathe? Who was that man who picked her up in the black Morris Oxford now and then?
Abby shook her head, trying to chase away the unease that had returned. She lathered her body quickly. Her hands lingered between her thighs, and now she found herself thinking about the boy;. Why did she have this stupid weakness for these high-coloured, mixed race men? If only it was the boy who was waiting for her upstairs.
Her eyes were closed when she felt someone breathe lightly on the nape of her neck. She gave a yelp of surprise and looked around, half-expecting to see some raving manic standing behind her.
Unconsciously, her hands flew to her breasts. She locked her thighs together.
She stared outside. Nothing unusual in the moon-lit yard; but now she felt her gaze being drawn to the silk-cotton tree near the northern fence. And now she sensed that someone was standing there and staring at her with a mixture of mirth and hostility. Not a sex maniac. Something worse.
“Who…who’s duh?” Her voice echoed in the tomb-like structure. She thought of screaming, but her throat felt locked off. Then it came to her…a faint, unpleasant odour that she knew she had smelt before. Oh God, she knew that smell…but it couldn’t be…
Yes it is, yes, it is, you ugly whore, a cold, amused voice in her head answered, while the thing she couldn’t see continued to stare at her.
What was the psalm that Auntie Carla had told me to say in the presence of evil?
“The Lord is…the-the-Lord is my Shepherd…”
Oh Christ!—ah can’t remember anything else!
She had to get out of here quickly, or they’d find her dead in the morning!
Oh lawd—oh Gawd!
Whimpering, she grabbed the towel from the rack, feeling at the same time for her panties…oh shit, what had happened to her panties? She gave up her search, stumbled outside, still feeling those hateful eyes, but nothing leaped out at her from the silk-cotton tree, so she ran to the brothel, sinking in mud, stubbing a toe on a stone, but now she was pounding up the stairs and clutching at her unravelling towel, reaching the top and leaning to the open door like a sprinter trying to breast the tape first.
Later, with the politician snoring at her side, she stared at the ceiling, still thinking of that smell that couldn’t be, because it was the smell, akin to frozen and slightly tainted meat, that had stayed in her clothes, that time the police had taken her to the Lyken Funeral Home mortuary, to identify her murdered mother. She’d brought the smell home. It was in her clothes, her hair. It had lingered even after she’d taken a bath. It had mingled unpleasantly with the perfume she’d sprayed on herself.
In the end, unable to sleep, Abby smoked a marijuana joint. But that smell of her long-dead mother stayed with her. It stayed with the memory of that staring, invisible thing that had entered the bathroom, silent as smoke, breathed its stench on her neck with playful malice, and, for some reason, had apparently made off with her underwear…
(Taken from the supernatural novel Kamarang by Michael Jordan. Book design and illustrations by Harold Bascom.)
GREAT NEWS FOR FANS: Copies of the illustrated edition of Kamarang will be once again on sale from this Thursday at Austin’s Book Store.
The author can also be contacted for autographed copies on +592 645 2447 or by email: [email protected])
Kamarang (Kindle and paperback) is also on sale on Amazon
The only savior of Guyana.
Oct 03, 2023SYDNEY, Australia – Hayley Matthews led the West Indies Women’s cricket team to a record-breaking victory by orchestrating the highest run chase in women’s T20 international...
Oct 03, 2023
Oct 03, 2023
Oct 03, 2023
Oct 03, 2023
Oct 03, 2023
By Sir Ronald Sanders (The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.