From the Caribbean

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

The good life on a Caribbean Island. Exile, and triumphant return.

FROM THE CARIBBEAN

Last night Lucinda dreamt about the Caribbean island where she had been born and bred years ago, before leaving it to go and live on another island. It must have been the contact of the tree against the window pane that had woken her up, still half asleep she seemed to hear the gust of wind in the coconut palms that grew right up to the water’s edge. On opening her eyes and waking up Lucinda realised the trap she had fallen into. The tree which grew outside her bedroom could never be a coconut palm, anyway the leaves were dripping with rain that had fallen in the night. Lucinda managed to get herself out of bed but not without difficulty. As it was so dark, although it was daytime, she switched on the light and the dream vanished. During the course of the day Lucinda made an effort to remember the dream. But to no avail.

For the rest of the family Lucinda was the link between their past and their present. Her grandchildren were lighter skinned than her. Her face was covered in wrinkles in which the dark eyes, contemplated everything around her with an air of resignation and at the same time giving the sensation of not being present. When she was alone, Lucinda got out old photos of her and her husband Lamour when they were young, before they left their island. There were not many photos but enough to evoke the past and the past of the past. The photos were in black and white, but she saw them in colour.

Lucinda and Lamour would never have left the island if things hadn’t changed that fateful autumn.

The island had a perfect climate. There were rainy seasons when the drops fell like tepid water on the palm trees and the fruit trees, and made a pitter-patter on the corrugated iron roof. Sugar, coffee, tobacco and bananas were grown on the island. Even after many years away from all this, on seeing these products for sale aroused in Lucinda visions of a different world.

 

Every year the islanders were afraid of the rainy season in case it became a hurricane. The ‘bad spirit’ or ‘bad wind’ was capable of destroying a whole year’s work. That year, the last one for Lucinda and Lamour in paradise, was an extremely hot one. The old folk with experienced eyes would look up into the sky, they also kept watch on the animals and the plants to see if they were sensing something was on the point of happening. The subject of the hurricane was spoken about at all hours with an air of fatality as if they were keen for it to come soon.

Lucinda and Lamour, like many newly married couples, still lived very near their parents. Both of them worked very hard to better their situation. Lamour had managed to get a job in the offices of the banana company, and Lucinda worked in a small clinic as a helper with the children. Both their families worked on the land.

Lucinda thought that she had never felt such heat in her life, and the short walk from their little house to the clinic made her sweat profusely. The children were crying continuously and pleading for water. All the electric fans were working but it wasn’t enough to alleviate the heat. And so it was, day after day, a terrible heat as if the earth was going to explode. It was when everyone was used to the heat that the first drops fell. Gigantic drops and the volcanic, dusty earth gratefully swallowed up those first rains. People stood in doorways and windows to welcome the rain.

One night a violent wind started up. Everything was flying and the electricity was cut off. The noise of falling trees, telephone posts ripped out, vehicles overturned and the sound of the wind made everyone believe it was a supernatural power. The hurricane lasted all day and then travelled on to devastate another place.

The damage was considerable and the crops were ruined. The result was that Lamour no longer had a job on the island, but his boss told him that if he and Lucinda were willing to go to Europe then he, Lamour, would have a job over there. As they had no choice, Lucinda and Lamour along with the other islanders left the Caribbean to better their lives.

 

Lucinda preferred never to think about those first years in the new land. The sadness caused by having to leave everything and arrive in a place where the sun hardly ever shone, and when it did there was nothing of the rich gold that bathed the people and the island itself in its warmth. The sky that was so pale and nearly always covered in cloud. Instead of the bright eye-blinding Caribbean blue. Resignation came after sadness. Lucinda put up with a lot, even with the criticism of her children, with just one thought in mind, that one day she would return home to her island. Lamour died, Lucinda lost all hope of ever making it back to her roots.

Lucinda’s children had forbidden her to speak about the Caribbean. She kept it all in her heart. With just one word or a name and she was able to recreate her past that had now become her reality, her refuge. The trees in her new country were poor in comparison with those enormous trunks that grew up to about thirty or forty metres high. Everything over there was enormous, the mountains whose peaks were covered by clouds, the springs that gushed forth from the sides of the hills and mountains. But above all, when she was in her mental refuge where no one could enter, was when Lucinda thought most about Lamour. He had been a good man, a good husband, a good father, and now that she felt nearer to death her thoughts were of Lamour.

 

One day when she was passing by a florist’s Lucinda saw some orchids. Over there in the Caribbean, she thought to herself, they grow among the trees, but here they have to cultivate them. She had thought about getting a charter flight and she had made a reservation to that effect when she fell down in the kitchen. Her children told her she was prohibited from washing the kitchen floor. They considered it to be her fault that the floor was wet and for slipping over. The time spent in hospital passed quickly but something other than a bone had broken inside Lucinda. The accident had opened her eyes to cruel reality, that she was now an old woman and her return to the island was an impossible dream.

“I’d love to go back to the island and die there,” she had said to her eldest son, Earl. But he paid no attention to her words.

The dream was the only thing she had left.

Drums, fire, colours, the hidden practices of the islands. Only an exclusive group would attend these meetings. Lucinda knew a woman who had been bewitched by another. Lucinda had never had anything to do with the spirit world. Although she believed in it in some ways.

“Death is coming for me,” Lucinda thought. Her daughter-in-law had declared to Earl that Lucinda looked grey instead of brown. Earl had said to his wife that the Caribbeans lost their colour when they were about to die. It was then they knew that she would die soon.

“I want to go back to being a part of nature, I don’t want to die here, I’m not from here,” she had told her son.

 

The tree was brushing against the window. In her half-asleep the thought passed through her head that she had to shut the window. She got up and crossed the bedroom. At that moment a bird with enormous black wings flew by below the window. Lucinda caught hold of the window to keep upright and the leaves of the tree touched her hands. She felt herself condemned because the manchineel had touched her. The tree that puts fear into the hearts of the islanders because of its poisonous properties. The people called it the poison tree, or the tree of death. That cursed tree had touched her.

Lucinda had died before the expected time, and they cremated her as they had Lamour.

 

Earl couldn’t believe his eyes when he returned from the crematorium. He saw his mother in her rocking-chair. She was smiling at him and told him that he had to take her back to the island or she would not be at peace while she was in a foreign country. Earl took no notice of her just the same as when she was alive. But Lucinda dead, was much stronger than when she was alive and she would appear when he least expected her. One night while he was listening to music, Lucinda’s voice spoke to Earl telling him that it was high time he took her back to the island. He thought that this had happened due to tiredness. Another night Lucinda appeared in the window to warn him that the sooner he took her back the better.

With his nerves on edge Lucinda’s son went to see an island woman who was an old friend of his mother’s. The woman told him that it was wiser to do as Lucinda said. Meanwhile she gave him some infusions to calm him down. Without knowing how he was going to explain all of this to his wife, Earl made the arrangements to return his parents to the island. When his wife found out, she said it was a waste of money and that he was mad even thinking of doing it. But Lucinda’s son remained firm and didn’t back down. He knew that if their remains were not taken back, he would never have a moment of peace in what was left of his life.

 

Something coursed through his body when Earl set his eyes on the island for the first time. The bright blue sky above the mountains, the luxuriant vegetation, the heat, and then the people, who reminded him of his parents, made him feel he had returned to his origins, an organic world he had always felt if not seen.

Lucinda and Lamour’s ashes were scattered in the small garden in the cemetery beneath a dazzling sun. A light wind caressed his face as if to say, “Thank you, Son.” Flowers soon began to sprout from where the ashes had fallen, flowers that gave out perfume at night. His first idea was to stay awhile on the island to be near his parents and look after the flowers. Once the island had recuperated one of its long lost fruits, it was loath to let him go. Earl had returned to the womb, an immense womb that is all the Caribbean islands.

At last Earl identified himself with his parents and his roots. He wrote a letter to his wife telling her that he was going to stay there to be near his parents. What he didn’t put in the letter was that he had gone home.

His wife, of course, didn’t answer. But Earl was unaware of this.


Submitted: February 11, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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