Ezekel Alan

This blog is about: cotton candy, cold milo, midgets, mangoes, sex, aged rum – everything but writing my next book

Archive for the category “Stories from my childhood”

The first time they took me to an Obeahman (witch doctor)

Matane cemetery

Cemetery (Photo credit: Bête à Bon-Dieu)

They had already killed my father, and drank his blood, but their thirst was not yet quenched. He was buried in the public cemetery, amongst the poor and destitute, as  there was no space in the Baptist Churchyard, and we hadn’t enough money to buy a plot in a private burial ground. His soul could never find peace in a public cemetery, forever roaming with strangers. This is what they had wanted.

But they were not finished. Three months after he was buried, they also buried one of their own beside him; an old man who had known no love throughout his life, and whose job was now to ensure that my father got no rest until the day of Judgment. They did not put any marks on his grave, though in our minds we had written the words that belonged there: “Herein lies a Wife-beater, Child-Molester, Thief, and Drunk.”

In 1981 when we buried my father I was 11 years old, and I knew the kind of people who had killed him, and the kind of witchcraft they had used. They were not the normal grudging, malicious ‘back-biters’ that we often spoke about, sometimes in hushed tones, sometimes openly. We all knew who those persons were and the petty acts of spitefulness that were their trade. We laughed at them, and jeered them, and sometimes cussed and scorned them in public to shame them for their petty-mindedness. They were irrelevant cockroaches that scampered away when enough light was shone on their deeds.

The people who killed my father were different. They were to be feared because they kept company with death. They never showed their faces, and never left the shadows. They would sometimes meet you on the streets after dark, or come to visit you in your house, but always wore a mask and strong perfume to camouflage the stench of their rotting souls.

They killed my father, my aunt told us, because we had too much life in us, and their spirits were already dead. We were building another room onto our house; my father had bought a bicycle for my brother and often came home with a large bag of groceries. We had a television – the only one in our neighborhood. We were on the waiting list for a telephone. My father’s business was doing well.

So they killed him.

In 1982 they started to come for my mother. She had gone back to work, started a little shop selling snacks, sodas, cigarettes and such, and it was doing well. She was still sending me to school and I was about to take exams.

She started getting sick often, started losing weight rapidly, started having dark and darker blotches beneath her eyes as the evil spirits they sent tormented her nights and kept her from sleeping. On the morning that she woke up in April and vomited a pile of insects and green phlegm, my aunts came and took her away for the day. I wasn’t allowed to see her the night she came back, nor the day after. Three of my aunts took turns staying with her inside the second room that she had completed building.

When I saw my mother again she looked different, brighter – not in cheerfulness but more as though she had a glow around her. She kissed me and told me everything would be fine. I remember this because of how unusual that act was in the tenement yard where we lived.

She started to read her bible often, and every morning and every evening she sprinkled oils and certain powders around our house from two bottles I could never find after she had used them. Whenever I came home from school and visited her at the shop I would see her sprinkle oils from another bottle that she would then tuck into her bosom where it hid alongside the handkerchief she used to wrap the cash she collected from her customers.

My mother remained healthy after that, and we continued to do fine, staying just outside the reaches of severe hardships and poverty. But we always knew that we were being watched from the shadows.

On Sunday July 4, 1982 I learnt that I had passed the Common Entrance Exams and would go to a good school. The news travelled far, to my aunts, uncles, and cousins in Toronto, London, Brooklyn, St. Mary, Portland; to my elementary school teachers who came to visit and congratulate me at home; to the local pastor who also came to visit (without his wife or young mistress); to my father’s spirit in the cemetery, giving him a rare moment of contentment and pride; and into the far reaches of the shadows. I would be the first to go to a good school. I would be the first to get out.

It didn’t take long for something to stir in the darkness. Months later some people said that they had known that something was going to happen because they smelled a kind of stench in certain places or heard a sound like the rattling of hollowed bones when they passed certain corners.

Something had moved, and the wait had begun.

Sometime in the second week of July my eldest aunt rushed to convey a message to my mother in the middle of the night. By the next day everyone had heard. The pestilence that walks at night was coming.

No one told me what was happening, and much of what I know I found out months and years later. But I knew we were all waiting.

The first strike was not long in coming. The morning of Tuesday, the thirteenth of July, was grey. Ominous clouds tormented the sun and gave cover to a vicious rain which fell hard and pounded shards of silver into the powerless ground. From the depths of the shadows that morning, they threw a harpoon right through the center of my heart. They killed Tommy.

I was a little older then, old enough to love, and I loved Tommy. He was my best friend. (Tommy’s story is told in Disposable People.)

His blood was dripping from the sides of their mouths, but their thirst was not yet quenched. That was only the beginning.

I was the chosen one; they wanted me.

Months later I learnt that one of them had gone to St. Thomas, and another somewhere on the South Coast to awaken spirits that no force of nature could stop. It was rumored that a baby’s grave was found dug out in St. Thomas, and the grave of an Indian woman in St. Elizabeth. Depending on which one reached me first, the Baby Duppy* or the Coolie (Indian) Duppy I would be dead in either a week or a month. If both arrived at the same time, I could be dead within a day.

My grandmother had no leaves that could protect me. There were no barks of any tree that had powers to stop what was coming. My mother’s love, while comforting, was not shielding. The spirit of my father may have been strong enough to guard against one of those evils, but not two, and certainly not the two most horrifying coming together. There might have been shelter inside a church, but I would have had to live there without ever leaving, because those evil spirits had nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, and would wait for me at the gates, for however long it took.

I would be dead before the end of August. My mother knew, my aunts knew, everyone knew. No one told me exactly what was happening, but I sensed it; I sensed a darkness coming from afar, coming towards me, coming for me. I stayed close to my mother who didn’t go to work anymore, and who prayed much more than before.

I never learnt whose idea it was, but before July ended it was decided. We would not wait. There was an old man who had the powers to stop what was coming. The research had been done, all the elders had been consulted, my aunts abroad who still wore their charms of protection had called a neighbour’s house and spoken with my eldest aunt. It was decided. He was the most powerful, and the only one who could stop the two evil spirits that were coming from different directions and drawing closer. He lived in a small village about 3 miles from Vere in Clarendon. We could not wait another minute, we would go to him.

Note: * Jamaicans refer to ghosts or evil spirits as ‘duppies’.
I’m sitting here on my patio, thinking back on the early days and all the times and for all the reasons I was brought to see a Obeah man. Now I must go back to writing the second novel. Almost 3/4 way through!
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I saw a black man kill a black man, and I watched, like it was t.v.

I need to be honest with you from the start. I like the plain beauty of the naked truth, but I much prefer the delicious sweetness of a big fat lie. Fat lies, like fat people, have often gotten the raw end of the deal, but not from me, I really like fat lies. The chubbier the better!

Anyway, I am telling you this so you know that I have not always been honest.

Today I will be. Honest.

Today I will tell you something that is 99% true.

This is 99% true: in October 1980 a black man wearing an orange shirt killed a black man wearing a green shirt in a yellow bus in front of me, and I watched while standing beside my brother. Seeing that event did not f–k me up any at all.

Let me break this up a bit for you so that you can understand which parts are true, and the 1% that isn’t.

October 1980 – General Elections were being held in Jamaica. True.

The only people wearing orange shirts were Socialists (PNP); the only people wearing green shirts were f—king assholes (JLP), according to my old man. True.

socialist latte

We were Socialists. True then, and still is.

I had a dog named Ruffy at the time. True then, no longer.

I could only watch the killing because I was a child of 11 years old and wasn’t old enough to do anything about it. True.

If I could have done something about it I would have helped the first man kill the second man. True then, but no longer.

My father, my brother, my mother, my unborn sister, my dog, my toilet, my mango tree, my cousins, my uncles, my aunts, my right and left toes, my gungo peas plants, my everything, were all Socialists. True then, not as much now.

If my cousins could have helped the first man kill the second they would have. True, and they did.

If my brother could have helped the first man kill the second one he would have. Here I must be honest, I genuinely do not know, as I have never asked my brother his real thoughts. Moreover, I know from watching Law and Order that the mere fact that my brother was shouting “Kill him! Kill him raasclaat! Kill de dutty raasclaat Labourite!” is only circumstantial. He could, in a court of law, contend that he only behaved in that manner to fit in with his environment and that he did, secretly, support and vote for the Jamaica Labour Party. Who knows?

The second man was on a bus that was full of Socialists coming from a political rally. True, but I still wonder how the hell a Labourite found himself on a bus full of Socialists during Jamaica’s most violent general elections.

Me and my brother were standing on the roadside watching the motorcade driving through our ghetto. True.

When the bus in question was driving by where we were standing, I saw the second man struggling with all his might, and with panic in his eyes, to escape through a window of the slow-moving bus. True.

While the loudspeakers on top of the lead car in the motorcade were blaring “We a go lick dem with JAMAL! We a go lick dem wid de Free Education!” everyone at the back of the bus was shouting “Hold him! No mek de bomboclaat Labourite get way! Hold him!!” True, I found myself shouting this too.

My cousin, Cookie, who was close to me, looked like she wanted to pee based on the way she was jumping from foot to foot with excitement. True.

While the second man was trying desperately to squeeze himself out of the window, the first one was on his back stabbing him over and over again with an ice pick. False! Liar, liar, pants on fire! I had to throw that lie in there, just for fun. The person stabbing the second man with the ice pick was actually a third man, he was also wearing an orange shirt.

The first man, who we have just established was not the one with the ice pick, was somehow beneath the second man, with a rachet knife, slicing his belly open. True.

It was the cutting open of the belly, and not the stabbing with the ice pick, or the punching, or the kicking, or the stones, or the hits with the pieces of wood, that killed the second man. Uncertain!! Right here is where I have told myself a big fat lie for over thirty years! I have always told myself that it was the cutting open of the belly, and the falling out of the intestines through the window, in front of me, that was the cause of death. But, from watching CSI and NCIS, I realise that sometimes what you think is the obvious cause of death, isn’t. The man might simply have been scared to death, like one of those CSI victims I saw once. Or it could have been the kicking and punching. I really do not know what, or who was the cause of death.

Seeing this event did not cause me any psychological problems later in life. True. I think the things that screw you up are the ones that shocked you when they happened. This didn’t. At 11 years old I already knew how the world worked. And killings weren’t unusual or shocking in my world. Its like going into a strip club – you know the girls there will spend more time at the table with the Japanese men, and less time at the table with the African men. This is just life. Prejudice, killings, stealing, adultery, etc. were all part of everyday life. They caused me no nightmares.

So, there you have it, the real version of what happened. I am deeply thankful to Law and Order, NCIS and CSI Miami for helping me to analyse those events.

English: Titlecard for Law and Order: Special ...

Image via Wikipedia

Note: if you are interested in the things that really screwed me up, please check out my novel, Disposable People, which is inspired by true events.

I am not a duck!

Duck

Image via Wikipedia

I could easily have done so, but I was very careful not to explode. This is partly because I had read once about a certain volcano that had remained dormant for centuries before it exploded and, when it did, changed climatic conditions for the whole world. The sun was not seen for weeks! Many plants and animals perished! I did not wish to change the whole entire world at that point. Also, I was quite tired from a long flight and couldn’t muster the energy to explode.

These are the reasons why, with restraint, I calmly explained to her that I was not a duck.

I began by expounding on the fact that I had only a few hours before taken a flight in a man-made craft, which I would not have done had I, in truth, been a duck, for ducks have their own, more natural means of transporting themselves from one place to the next. Given that we were still at the point, I thought, where information would help to clarify things, I also informed her that I had purchased a pink perfume for my wife on the said craft, because I had seen this perfume cleverly advertised with a beautiful woman who had curved her body quite elegantly and seductively around the perfume bottle. Again, I asserted, a duck would not have purchased a bottle of perfume on the impulse created by the allure of a woman.

I then went further, to share with her the hitherto unknown to anyone else secret that when I came off the flight I went to a man-made toilet and indeed hung my shirt over the window as I had suspected that a flock of birds I had seen earlier before might have been following me and could have chosen that precise moment to fly by the window and satisfy their inter-species curiosities. And that while hanging my shirt, I glanced outside and what came right at me was the utterly novel thought that the clouds have never looked like grapes to me at any time in my life. I therefore did not proceed to pee but to reflect, on the nature of things.

These actions, taken by me, a self-regulating man with the power of thought, should have been indisputable evidence of the fact that I was not a duck, for a duck would not and could not have done such things or had such thoughts.

However, having gotten to this point of my reasoning with her, the most dreadful of things happened: she giggled and asserted, again, “You are a duck!”

The next 10 seconds could have determined the fate of the world. Much could have happened because it only takes a simple second for life, which is curved like a ball, to roll one way or the other.

I could have shouted or, worse, I could have written her a sentence! But I stopped short of this life changing course because in that moment I recalled how many lives have been lost because of words written. The simple act of taking the pen and extending your mind through its point has caused so many pointless deaths. I was quick to spot this potentially fatal course of action, so I stopped.

Instead, I simply said, “In the last few days I travelled across the mid-western states, the south and the west coast of the USA.” This is what I told her.  It was then that I recalled the time when I had fallen in love with a fish.

From: Reflections on what was going through my mind the last time by wife was arguing with me over some issue I cannot now recall, by Ezekel Alan.

People think the life of the well-off is all glamorous

Sure, my wealth may have been marinated and slow cooked and yours only stir fried, but don’t go thinking that my life is glamour and nothing else. You would be so wrong on that!

I know this girl…well, actually, I am in love with her. But she ain’t no goddamn good for me! I know her type alright, I have met many like her before. And I have fallen in love with each and every one!

This girl, all she wants is her skin to become as smooth as a marble column and, perhaps, to eventually wake up looking the same way in the morning as she does on an afternoon after she’s been to the spa.

But this girl ain’t got no money to afford her chosen lifestyle – her last money tree was only a bonsai. So she comes to me. The well-off. I saw her coming and wished I could take a time out from falling in love. But I just can’t help myself!

We dated for six days before one morning she called me, at 3 am in the morning, to go whale watching off the Jersey shore.

I immediately jumped out of bed and put on my bright polka dot pants – I don’t only want to be trendy, I want to set trends and anticipate styles that are on their way back. I also found my snake-skin pointy shoes, which I thought had been lost, like my sinning soul.

I went through the back door, not sure why, seeing that I live alone and my old lady and old man were long dead. I jumped the wall.

On my way I saw a big cat sitting in front of about six puppies and, about 20 feet away, a big dog sitting in front of about eight or so kittens. I wasn’t sure what it was I had stumbled on, but a hostage trade came to mind.

A man was out walking a baby. It might have been his child as he wasn’t running and the child looked relaxed. The baby saw me, and silently said, ‘I want a search, mister!”

I mumbled to myself, “Just try it!” I was by then completely fed up with the lack of justice from the police and the constant harassment. I was entitled to my weed! Those haters had already taken so much from me that, on some days I had to go on top of my roof to smoke so that I could get really high off the little weed I had left! Sometimes I would weep to think of all the good quality weed they had taken from me, a well-to-do person. And to think I was the one holding up public moral in the neighborhood! I was so depressed on some days I think.

Anyway I got to the beach, and met this girl, gave her a spliff and together we watched the other people there pass their babies to the whales who played with the kids before handing them back to the parents. The game was called Whale Baby Handling. One whale actually handed me a baby thinking that it was mine! Can you believe that?

amy Whale, breaching, Stellwagen Bank National...

Image via Wikipedia

Soon, this girl of mine start nibbling my ears and giggling. Rubbing my tummy, kissing my cheek and all that. And I just had to give her my wallet. I got so fed up with myself four days later!

I got my own problems, I can tell you that!

What I got for #&^%$%(* Christmas

Merry Christmas

Image via Wikipedia

My boss gave me two days off over the holidays, and I am taking 15 minutes from that time to ask the following questions and make the following wish:

Questions:

  • If what I got for Christmas was a spa certificate and when I went a very attractive masseuse gave me a nice rub down BUT wouldn’t allow me to, in return, also rub her down…did I receive a GIFT or an INJUSTICE?
  • If what I got for Christmas was the smallest Christmas bonus I have ever gotten (because of the %$#@*& recession)…did I receive a GIFT or the 43rd REASON I do not like my boss?
  • If what I got for Christmas was the IPad2 and I already have the IPad…did I receive a GIFT, an UPGRADE of a gift, or just a camera?
  • If what I got for Christmas was an envelope with US$30 in it and I am over 40 years old, did I receive a traditional Jamaican GIFT or another REASON I won’t be visiting that cheap aunt next year?
  • If what I received for Christmas was a miniature replica of a Ferrari and not the car itself…did I receive a GIFT or did someone stick their hand up my &^%$ and smile at me?
  • If what I got for Christmas from my boss was a card with a photo of him with his family…did I receive a GIFT or the 44th REASON not to like him?
  • If what I got for Christmas was a metal watch from someone I have, many times before, told that I do not like %$#&^*()$#%^ metal watches but rather leather…did I receive a GIFT or a REASON that could legitimise violence?
  • If what I got for Christmas was yet another ^%$*& book…did I receive a GIFT or a REASON to tell someone what I really think about her?
  •  If what I got for Christmas was a Starbucks gift certificate… did I receive a GIFT or an ACT of laziness?

Wish

I would like to wish the three persons who gave me gifts I wanted a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and everyone else can #@%$*&^% off!

By the way, I have now finished reading Room. Rating – Very Good.

The things that go on upstairs

When a man that everyone thinks is mad insists “I am not mad”, more often than not no one believes him. They say he’s mad and doesn’t know he’s mad.

I am mad, and I often say “I am mad,” and yet, more often than not, no one believes me. People say, “You are a mad man,” but they mean it in the good-natured way. And they laugh with me. And when they laugh I see their white teeth, sometimes stained brown with coffee, and dirt, and evil, and deception, and sorrow, and the mildewed teardrops of a crying universe.

Laugh

When they laugh I see their brownish teeth

On a good day I will also see their tongues, forked, like the devil’s, and I will hop on it like a train and go where it takes me. And by then I no longer see my friends while they talk and laugh with their wide open mouths.

By then, I am comfortably ensconced inside myself. I’ve gone upstairs to visit with my mind and chat about old times and the passing of the seasons.

Perhaps it is in this sense that folks could be correct: I am aware of my own madness, which perhaps means I am Acceptably Mad. I know I have left their world, and I know exactly where I am – even if I don’t know how to get away from there.

I am also aware of these facts:

I read a lot, sleep a little, and have sex far less often than I would want to. I dream rarely, but nightmare often; I eat a bit, exercise a bit less; eat mangoes in haste, but I pee slowly. This latter is only because of age. When I touch myself, it is my toe that I touch, because it feels like the part of me I am least acquainted with for being so far and remote.

I also think a lot:

About cold milo, sex, cotton candy, books I have loved (I really love you Angela’s Ashes, I genuinely do) and, of course, my toes and each of their emotions.

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

The range of emotions of my toes

But, more than all of these, I think about kids. Kids whose Disappointments and Despairs I would like to steal while they sleep, and slip Hope and Possibilities beneath their pillows – although, in truth, the kids I often think about do not have pillows.

I am now scheming. Watch me scheme: scheme, scheme, scheme, scheme. Aha! My madness, my beloved madness, has led me to the secret hiding place of a Plan to help some of these kids. “Hello Plan, I mean you no harm, I have just come to talk…though I should let you know upfront, that I have every intention of using you.”

Next: The Plan.

The old stuff inside my closet

Deutsch: Kleiderschrank um die Jahrhundertwend...

Image via Wikipedia

I went to have a look around an old closet this evening before turning in for bed. I am not sure what inspired the sudden curiosity, but somehow I found myself standing in front of the closet just looking at it. The first thought that crossed my mind was how we sometimes surprise ourselves with the things we find when we go looking through the old ‘stuff’ that we’ve left abandoned for years.

When I opened the closet a pile of old clothes immediately came tumbling down. Of course, there was also the cobwebs, cockroaches, and the stale smell of mustiness. I have to confess that none of this was really surprising.

I did find something surprising however: when I reached up to pull the string to turn on the light inside the closet, you wouldn’t believe the size of the secret that fell on my head!

This one was from a long time ago. I had stuck it inside that closet when I was 23 years old, and left it there for nearly twenty years. Not once had I gone to check on it.

I guess some things get easier and some harder with time. I’ve practiced lying to women for over 20 years, and that has gotten much easier with time. I have practiced peeing for over 40 years, but that seems to be getting more difficult. You just can’t tell with these things I guess.

I know that I haven’t practiced much, but I do find it very hard to face some of the things I have done in the past. I’m not sure whether more or less practice is needed.

Anyway, when I was 23 I hadn’t fully formed the habit of lying. My Lying was still in its infancy, hadn’t yet formed strong teeth and bones. That Lie was one of the young, difficult ones.

I have often wanted to talk to someone about that Lie.

But.

I no longer have a wife.

One thing I know is that it is hard to have a man-to-man talk with your daughter. I don’t have any sons, just 12 daughters. Lie! I don’t have 12 daughters, just 4. Lie again! See how easy that was? I am a liar! That’s something my mother didn’t know, but my 1st wife knew a lot about.

Anyway, I was saying that sometimes I yearn for a man to man talk, but in the absence of a son, or any close friends, I often resort to talking with my dog. I have a male dog, a real macho male dog that is like a brother to me. Maybe I’ll go feed my dog and have a real man-to-man chat with him about some of the things I’ve done.

I have bigger demons to wrestle with today!

6:30 am

Move! Get away from me! Y’all stink! Y’all are filthy and disgusting! I hate you, all of you! Leave me alone! I can’t believe I gave birth to you nasty, stinking repulsive creatures! Leave! I don’t want any of you near me! Repugnant!

6:45 am

Please thoughts, please come back. I didn’t mean what I said. I was just tired and frustrated. Of course, you are all my thoughts. I promise I will never disown you again or speak to you like that. Please come back.

7:00 am

It is only 7 am and I am already completely fed up with myself!

Bloody hangover still lingers.

Had to pee on my own leg to get warm water in the shower!

Nothing on the table for breakfast!

No luck last night picking up a woman who could make breakfast!

I am totally fed up!

Went outside just now and most of the clouds had left, but one lingered behind.

This one put on a dark menacing face. The ‘you are unwelcome here’ look. The “I am going to rain on you if you come outside look.”

I said to cloud, “Are you threatening me?”

Then I punched it in its face!

It went away.

Next time cloud, just pass on by, and leave me the hell alone.

Now I have bigger demons to fight!

English: [detail].

Image via Wikipedia

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