SHORT STORY Nine Night Bal­le­rina

Jamaica Gleaner - - ARTS&EDUCATION - Paul H. Wil­liams Con­trib­u­tor

IN­NER-CITY SPAN­ISH Town com­mu­nity. The dark lanes and the ‘dead yard’ were busy. It was the wake for the com­mu­nity ac­tivist who was killed in broad day­light by the area don, ‘Jim Bum’. No­body in the com­mu­nity had seen Jim Bum since then.

Peo­ple were ev­ery­where. And so was ten­sion. No­body talked about the mur­der. They knew the po­lice were among them, and pos­si­bly, Jim Bum.

In the ac­tivist’s yard a Ku­mina band from St Thomas played. Around it, a cir­cle of peo­ple danced. They were dressed for a dance, not a Ku­mina wake. Among them was a tall, well­toned young wo­man in a bright or­ange, shoul­der-length wig, which had a bang that stopped just above her eyes.

She wore a black, body­hug­ging, long-sleeve blouse; black, an­kle-length tights; or­ange flats; and a bal­le­rina’s tutu. Or­ange lip­stick gen­er­ously cov­ered her thick lips. Her am­ple bo­som rose above a very flat torso.

The Ku­mina drums beat hyp­not­i­cally. The danc­ing was spir­ited. From time to time, white rum was sprin­kled into the crowd. The can­tor called, and the peo­ple answered.

At mid­night, a big, white hen, which had been tied up all night, was doused with kerosene and set afire. It flew into the air in a fiery ex­plo­sion and then fell back to the ground. It flut­tered vig­or­ously un­til it moved no more. By­s­tanders looked on in amaze­ment.

The can­tor sang, and peo­ple answered. The drums played. The shak-shak shook. The grater scraped.

“Moon a shine a Bay Road. Moon a shine a Bay,” they sang. The ‘bal­le­rina’ danced, but her eyes were all over the place. Rice grains from a white enamel basin were tossed into the air. Some peo­ple scur­ried.

A fat wo­man wear­ing a ban­dana head­wrap whirled and twirled fran­ti­cally. The bal­le­rina is in front of her rock­ing to the Ku­mina rhythms. Around and around they went.

“Moon a shine a Bay Road. Moon a shine a Bay Road. Young gal tek it go gi solja. Moon a shine a Bay Road.”

The white fowl is long dead. Peo­ple avoided it like the plague. But the fat wo­man left the Ku­mina cir­cle and went back and forth over it.

Then, there came a wail from the Ku­mina cir­cle. It seemed to have come from the bal­le­rina. She was on her toes, jump­ing and mov­ing her hands as a real bal­le­rina would.

The fat wo­man left the re­mains of the hen and re­sumed her po­si­tion be­hind the bal­le­rina, who was now danc­ing faster and loosely. She at­tempted to leave the cir­cle, but the fat wo­man held her around her waist. The bal­le­rina ut­tered an­other eerie wail.

The fat wo­man grabbed a bot­tle of white rum from the can­tor, poured some of the liquour into her mouth and spewed it into the crowd. Drops of it fell on to the bal­le­rina’s wig. A look of be­wil­der­ment took over her face as she rocked from left to right, right to left in front of the fat wo­man.

Cell-phone cam­eras were now

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