Bet returned to Daytona to Normal School.  Brad went to fix cars in Miami – a chance to leave farm work.  They exchanged letters once. Both wrote short letters – salutary and cautious; both of them checking the waters between them, again.

In February of the New Year, while she studied for first exams, she interrupted the pages of her concentration with this alarming thought:  it was two months, nothing in two months.  She was always regular.

Oh no! Oh God, no!

The doctor did little.  He offered her congratulations, matter-of factly, reading from the file in his grip.  “Good luck, Mrs. Rolle.”

Bet did not know what to think.  She looked blankly at his spectacles, not bothering to correct, that she was Miss Rolle, not married.

She took four weeks to write the four-page letter to Brad.  And she filled the pages telling him about the books she was learning – sharing with him her learning, which complemented his quest for knowledge. One line, however said what he really needed to know, “I might be pregnant.”

Brad read the extraordinary line on the ordinary page filled with her precise and upright letters made in blue India ink.  He had not yet washed his hands.  Car grease fingerprints spotted the envelope.  He pushed the letter into his back pocket, and went to the outside spigot to clean his hands with Tide detergent.

He tried to scrub from his mind what had happened.  This was the second time. This time was the least expected.  But this time was most welcomed.  He was not sure, but his chest warmed with pride.  Then he thought of Petunia and her baby – no, his baby.  He tried to shut his mind up.  He scrubbed the underside of his fingers, but the grimy grease persisted.

The next week, Sunday morning he drove straight past Palm Beach, all the way to Daytona. He told not a soul. He got there with the sun shining and the breeze blowing.

Twice he asked directions before encountering a thin-faced woman at the dormitory house where Bet lived.  The woman fetched Bet, never allowing Brad into the waiting room.

Beatrice expressed nothing when she came to the door and saw him.  She said, “I have to get my shoes. I’ll be right back.”

They sat on a bench to the side of the house.  She smoothed out her skirt.

“Are you feeling alright,” he asked.

“I’m fine,” she answered.  “Certainly, I am surprised to see you here.  I guess you got my letter.”

“Yep, I got it.” He looked at the persistent grime under his fingernails.  “So are you … is it true?”

She smiled a sad kind of smile, as his voiced trailed off, and hers picked up.  “Yes, Bradford, I am about six weeks.  Sorry to tell you like that, you know in the letter.  But you shouldn’t have come all the way up here – I’m okay, you know.”

Bradford scratched the place above his knee where his pants rubbed dry skin.  “I wanted to come. Now I get to see a college, up close … and I get to see you.  I’ve been thinking about you a lot.”

She rested her head into her own arms, supported by her elbows on the back-rest of the bench.  “Bradford, I need to tell you something.  About the baby, you know.  Everything is goin’ to turn out just fine. See I am grown, responsible for myself. I know girls younger than me already raising children.  I guess I’m just starting late.”

He did not expect that.  Breeze blew in his eye like a mama blowing dust from a child’s eye. This was the time to tell her the Petunia story.  No it was not.  He looked at her, head in her own arm, soft voice in his ears.  She was a little girl about to take on a brave job.  Petunia accused and pouted, Beatrice accepted and smiled. And Brad wanted right then to lift her up and take her home – to Miami, no, to Nassau!

But, sitting sideways on the bench, he merely reached to touch her curled arm, but not finding the courage to even grasp her slender, naked fingers.

She still eased out kind words.  “And, this is my last term. I’ll be graduated from here before anyone knows…” then she interrupted herself.  “Oh but Mama and Papa will be so disappointed in me, they done sacrificed so much, and I won’t be able to start teaching at Industrial High they might not hire me anymore…”

With his fingers hovering, awkwardly, above her arm, she sank her head deeper into her own shoulder.

“I’m in love with you Beatrice.”  Where did that come from? He did not know, but he felt grateful.  Grateful, that it was just the two of them, alone, without her watchful father, Ebenezer, looming about.  Ebenezer liked him, but he liked Ebenezer’s daughter.  Grateful he was that her brothers and sisters were far away.  Yet his gratitude made him think of swimming underwater – everything blurry.  Then, out of breath, he would burst through the surface, and swallow fresh air, and blink his eyes open to the expanse of clear blue water and horizons, and to the fishing boat safely rocking in the waves.  She was his ship come in, right there in front of him.  So he felt and meant gratitude, but thought and said, “I’m in love.”

She stretched from her slender neck – what a splendor!  With her head erect, and in full beauty, she showed him wistful eyes, and said nothing.

“I want to marry you.” His voice gargled, and then grew confident. “I know you care for me; I know that, but you a college girl.  I never did think you would want to marry, but I know better now.  You might be more educated, but you nice, not stuck-up. We suit each other, and I am goin’ to better myself.”

Now the adrenaline pumped. Now he confidently grabbed her fingers. He threw caution to the wind.  Then, he thought about Petunia, but he pushed that thought aside, and looked at her pretty neck.

Her eyes looked his way again, and gazed at him for the first time.  “I do not want you to marry me out of obligation.  I know you want to do right, but if I marry a man, it got to be more than because I got his baby in my stomach. But, I just don’t want that.”

Listen here, I never tell no woman I love her before I tell you” You the first one.  You know why?  For every man, there is one woman God put there for him. You that woman, especially for me;  that is the God’s truth, Beatrice.”

“I believe you,” she spoke out of her posture.  “I have feelings too, for you.  Otherwise, I would not have let you … you know … I’m not that type of girl.  But, I’m an American, and you will have to go back home to Nassau.”

He had displaced that thought during the rush of exuberance.  Good God Almighty!  What about Petunia?  What about Georgia?

“I can stay here and work, and we can save enough to move back home – to Nassau.”  He said that, but he felt like a drunkard, lying about his drinking.

“I don’t know a thing about Nassau, except what Papa tell me, and he not even from Nassau, he from Bimini or one of those – what you call them – Out Islands. And look at all the Bahamians coming this side to work. How will you support a family, how will you get a job; if you had to come over here to work, how are you going back there to find work.  Ain’t no jobs over there, Brad”

He was close to her, close enough to whiff in her Florida Water. She had sprinkled herself right after he showed up by surprise.  “Okay, I’ll stay here and work.  I don’t care.  I just want you for me; you are the one for me.  Where we live, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

She laughed.  “You island boys like to take a chance. You just like Papa, driving my Mama crazy, taking a chance, and talking about crossing that bridge when you get there.  You’ll are crazy – and you’ll in my blood. I guess that’s why I feel good about you.”

He gripped her wrist. “You see, you see, God put us together.”  He looked into the very clear eyes of this woman, and said, “You crazy like the rest of us.  You are the same blood as us – you just born on the other side of the water.”

Brad glimpsed a glint of fire, a sparkle, in her eyes.  He thought briefly, dead quick, about the girl in Nassau.  “I’ll deal with that matter later,” he resolved.

He slipped his palms over hers, and shifted his knees to the grassy ground.  His smile grew magnificent, as his mouth opened slightly.  “Bet do you love me enough to marry me?”

“Yes,” she answered.  Now the sparkle filled her eyes, and they glimmered with wetness.  Of course, she did, what else could be stirring inside her innermost belly.

The duck pond behind them reflected the afternoon sun, which slid from the obscurity of dirty graying clouds.  They felt the warmth of the fresh sun.  Her neck relaxed. His head leaned into her body. They absorbed the new energy, and both felt the resonating vibrations deep within.


Outside Mother

Oh Lord, I hollered to my Maker.  What is this generation coming to – these now-a-day children do more foolishness than the law allow. 

Look what that Bradford boy done gone and do to my baby child.  I should have been a man.  Back in my day, any daddy what worth his name would have him and her before the Preacher before God could wink. 

But that no accounting husband of mine must be afraid; but no, he ain’t afraid of nobody, and if you give him a couple of drinks, he’ll speak his sober mind. It’s something else that doesn’t make him stand up for Petunia.  And I know, I really shouldn’t fault him.  Really I have to take the full blow for whatever happens to her, my first baby child.

Sometimes, Lord, I think, it ain’t fair what pain a woman gets to bear.  You know, ‘specially when men like Bradford plant their seed and try to take off like a hound dog.  But look like Brad not running – his parents must be shame.  At least they making him support her and the baby – even though I never hear ‘bout any proposal.

I still can’t stand that boy’s mother.  She thinks she is it, but she just a salty foot Inagua girl who left her husband to take up with that foreign boat captain.  She knows he supposed to marry Petunia, but she think her boy too good for my girl.

But I didn’t get no better when I was pregnant with Petunia.  At least Petunia still get to see Brad, and he still help.  I got it worse; because I never seen Petunia daddy since that sunny day I got hot in Whale Cay.


Brown Skin Gal

She had the smoothest and clearest skin – like the Indians.  No, not the Indians and Cowboys, the Indians Columbus couldn’t find?  No, not them – and not the West Indians, either.  In fact, she had no kind of Indian in her, because she is a Bahamian.  And that is that But, boy, she had some smooth skin!

She was the one he met at the dock after his Pa fired him off the mail boat.  He remembered her – she was the one who kissed him on the “Rocky Road,” which was planned to one day pave new residential developments in Nassau. Children should know to come straight home from School, but some of them stopped to “spin the bottle.”  The kiss was sudden and brazen. Yep, how could he forget.

The fisherman in the docked dinghy already had her Four-shilling note for the fish she was buying.  The man in the boat scraped rough scales from a Grunt Snapper.

Brad was just back from Inagua, working on his daddy’s mail boat, delivering grocery and mail to that remote southern Out Island.  That was not what he wanted to do after finishing school, but that was what he had to do.  But, he could not take the stress and cussing from Captain Collins, his daddy.

 “You think you entitled,” he heard the British Guiana man yell.  “Well no one ever entitled me – I had to carry my weight.  You better clean out that hole.  As long as you work on this boat, you do as you are instructed.  Or get the hell off.”

Brad got the hell off.

Now here she comes (what was her name?), from the other side of the hill, come to buy fish.  She leaned into the dinghy to get her grunts; her bosom leaned against the frail fabric of dress.  She had matured from womanish to woman. He watched.

“You buy enough for me?” he teased.

Well, I’ll be ___, you asking me for fish and you work on a boat.  You shoulda bring me some.”  She showed even white teeth.  She strung the straw through the mouth of about a half-dozen cleaned fish, looped the rest of straw around her middle fingers, prepared to walk home with a  string of fish

“I just quit the boat.”  That came out involuntarily.  He saw again the angry image of the man everybody called Captain Collins, never by another name.  He pushed back the image, and also the tear that rose like a flowing tide.

“How could you quit, and your daddy is the captain?” she asked, sort of, as she walked away from the dockside.  She glanced behind, as if expecting him to follow.

He hopped ahead to reach her side.  “You still livin’ on East Street?”

“Chile, daddy ain’t goin’ nowhere.  He could buy some land real cheap on the other side of Wulff Road, where they pushing the trail back south.  But he say he born on East Street, and that’s where he ga’ die.”

“But if he go south, it will still be East Street.  It will be East Street South.”

“Yeah – that don’t mean the same for him.  He born on the real East Street.”  She poked his side and winked.  “You know what I mean, Bradford Collins.”

He followed in her eye the twinkle and invitation for sweet casual talk.  “Well, I guess I’ll have to come and move you out of East Street.”

“You trying to propose?” She laughed. “You better quit jiving. How many women you have? Probably, one in every island.”

“Do want to go to the Cinema on Saturday?”  Just like that he asked her to go to the show – well, well.

Her plump behind pushed ahead as they climbed to the top of East Street Hill.  This was part of the ridge that ran the northern coast of the island. Town was on the north side of the hill – Bay Street; and on the south side was where colored folks lived – over the hill. At the top of the hill, she looked back and smiled on him.  Then she leaned back to walk down the hill.

He gazed at the firm in her calf muscles.  Then he glanced up at a tree full of guineps.  He jumped sudden and grabbed a bunch of guineps. Couple fell on the hot asphalt road.  Biting into the skin of one, still on the bunch, he tasted the gelatin coating of the inside seed.  Yep, these were sweet.  He broke of a few for him, and gave the bunch to her hand that had no fish.

“How you ga’ take me to the show, when you out of a job?  Remember, you just quit the boat.”

“That ain’t your business, girl. You just get ready.  Here, these some sweet guineps.  They sweet like me.”

Now that he was walking even with her, he noticed that perspiration dampened the underarm of her dress.  Her teeth were so white, framed by such brown skin, as she bit into the green skin of the stolen fruit.

“You tief these people guineps, an’ put me in partner with you.” She laughed. “I hope you don’t tief no money to take me to the show.  You done make me a receiver.”

“I gat money, girl.  I don’t steal.” He thought, Mama would give me money.

The marquee of the movies loomed ahead –  “Now Showing.”  As they slowed, he looked at Clark Gable leaning into the remarkable lipstickedy face of a lovely actress. Just below his moustache, her mane of golden hair seemed to sway in a breeze. The smell of buttered popcorn wafted in the air.

“Well, I want to sit in the balcony, Bradford.  Are you goin’ to buy balcony seats?

“Sure, baby,” said Brad.

That girl was Petunia, who was to become the other woman. That was the one he took to the cinema.  Then he took her back to her house, but he did not take her inside. He took her outside, in the outhouse, while the door was locked from inside.  That is how it started with that Petunia girl.

Week after week, he took her to the show, and in the outside toilet.  And they thought nobody noticed.  They was doin’ it so slick and quick.  He acted like he had to go to the toilet, then she would sneak around back, and he would let her inside when no one was in sight.  They never took off any clothes – they were so quick – because it was just a li’l bit.

But every little bit hurts. It was not too long, one Saturday night, when she ran from her seat to the inside toilet of the theater.  She heaved and threw up, and she knew something was wrong.  They left before the end of the show.

Walking home, along East Street, she told him, “You know, I missed my time of the month.”

They passed a forest of bushes and trees, a vacant lot, which was a landmark for the side road that led to her Papa’s house.

“What you trying to say, Petunia?”

“That my time of the month is not comin’.  Don’t you know what that means.” Her nose flared.

“I know what you mean. I’m not stupid.”  His mother had just explained what it meant a few weeks ago.  He really did not know before.  He knew women got pregnant from sex, and they had babies. No big bird brought a baby.  The women got big and bigger, then the midwife came, and there was the new baby.  “Are you sure you big, girl,” he asked.

“Listen, Brad, I know you is a man, and don’t understand these things, but I never miss. I am regular.” She laughed, but it came from her outer voice, not from deep inside. She was not amused.

“What you planning to do?” His voice also echoed from a hollow place.

They had reached the banister of the outside porch.  She held onto it, and sat herself on the porch steps. She hung her head. He could not hear the sound she made, so he asked her to say it again.

She raised the pitch of her voice. “I said, Papa will kill me for sure. He alread treat me like some outside child – and he so mean when he get to drinking.”

“He not ga’ kill you.  You his flesh and blood.”

“Well you know, Mama found out about us – you know. She say, if I get pregnant, I better learn how to take care of the baby.  Say she gotta work, and can’t raise no before time children.”

“Well you need to go to the nurse, cause you don’t know for sure.”

“Then everyone will be calling me “Dyna,” a hot woman.  My name will be gone.”

“Well if you expectin’, you expectin’.”  Brad had pushed a piece of straw from a coconut palm leaf between his teeth.  A piece of popcorn got stuck.  “As long as the baby is mine, I will support it.”

She whirled back at him.  She heaved, but repressed the nausea.  She sucked in her breath and her snot.  She was silently crying, but she spun around, right close to his face.

“What the frig you mean by that?” she asked.  Then, without waiting for an answer:  “What you mean if it is yours.  Who else own you think it would be.  Just because I live on East Street, and we don’t have much money like your family, you think I’m bad.  Well you the only who could be the daddy, cause you the only one I gone with.  And I thought you was different and decent.  Boy, I shoulda listen to what Mama tell me – now, I ga have to raise a child by myself. And Papa done told me he’ll kill me if I go get pregnant, ‘doin’ all that freshness with you’. “ Her body leaned into the porch banister.

“Listen here, I said I’ll take care of the baby  – if you really having a baby.  I know how to get a job. I just want to be sure you ain’t trying to put me in no trick.” As he spoke, his eyes caught a movement in the twilight.

This middle aged woman entered the yard with a straw basket, heavy with Saturday groceries, balanced securely on her head.  Yes, Petunia’s mother approached the porch.

The woman was gazing at her daughter.  The daughter lifted her head and gazed back. Brad noticed the shiny sweat on her forehead, and the focus of her eyes.  He felt and watched the mother quicken her steps.

“What’s wrong with you girl?  What you cryin’ for?”

Brad answered, even though he was not spoken to, “She’s pregnant.”  Then he picked at his teeth with the piece of straw.

The older woman looked at him.  He saw a distance and reproach in her eyes.  Then he remembered what he had overheard her say one time – “his Ma is the Inagua woman who took up with that foreign boat captain.  You know she left her husband for him, left him in Inagua.  Now she in Nassau, livin’ with him, she think she such a big shot, but  she jus’ a salty foot gal, no better than the rest of us.”

Now he felt all the trouble in the wall had hurdled the wall he hid behind. He had hid from those eyes, but those eyes had X-ray vision, and, now, they had no expression, and they faced in his direction.

The voice carried no emotion. “I know she’s pregnant.” Then her full face turned toward her daughter.

In back of Petunia’s house, this rich white man had built this giant wall.  It separated the poor from the rich, the colored from the white.  Brad felt a separation like that – and he was the poor one.  The huge wall was the shoulder of Petunia’s mother that reached out to embrace her child. It was the back of her graying head.

Once, for fun, he had jumped the white man’s wall. He landed on the other side, and wanted to stay. He did not, could not. He stole an orange from one of the trees, then leaped the giant stone-wall and barbed-wires back into the weedy bushes of Petunia’s yard.  In her yard, he thought, “I don’t belong here, but I’m supposed to be here.”

Now he was on the backside of  a shoulder, cold to him, but warmly embracing her child.  He thought, “I’m supposed to be holdin’ the mother of my first child.”

This is what the story was with Petunia.  Her Papa never did put her out, never tried to whip her, none of that foolishness.  The mother would have left his drunken behind.  She told him so, and meant every word. After all she went through for that girl, you all just don’t know.

The daughter, expecting her child, did move out anyway.  She went to her Grandma to live.  But just before the baby was due, she moved back home.  Her belly was big and taut like a Junkanoo drum, and her nose spread out like twin bugles.

They had stopped going to the show. They had their own reality. Sometimes he visited the grandma’s house, sit in the old women’s yard under the dilly tree, on the backside of an old washing tub.  He was learning the mechanic trade, working odd jobs, making a few shillings here and there. When he didn’t work he stopped by to visit.

It was a cool February night when the baby came. Petunia felt the pain in her mother’s house.  Her younger brother was sent racing to the midwife.  The nurse came quickly, washed her hands with Dettol solution, and delivered from the girl turned woman (despite her screaming and thrashing) a healthy baby girl.  The scale that the nurse bought showed eight pound, five ounce.

Brad came the next day.  He was there all day.  Everyone in the British colony had a day off for mourning – the King of England was getting buried.  They let Brad hold the baby, his baby.

He watched the children play – no school.  They played “Rounders.”  One child knocked the spongy red ball way over the giant wall; the other scaled the wall to retrieve the ball.

The mother screamed, “get down from that wall before you break your neck.”

Brad laughed to himself.  “That’s little children,” he thought, “They always want to jump a fence.”

Petunia’s mother even smiled his way, he could swear it was a smile.  Great God Almighty!  She offered him a white and red-trimmed enameled plate chock full of  Peas and Rice and fried fish, with a tablespoon stuck under the mound of  rice.  He ate with the children on the front porch.  He felt at home.

When the baby got big enough to eat food, the young parents, though no crazy Papa made Bradford marry Petunia, they moved into a rented clapboard house.  The landlord was a Bahamian lawyer, a friend of Mr. Collins, Brad’s father.  They were in a new world, soon to get married, but they never did.  They just lived together with the baby girl.

Their world extended from the south side of Wulff Road, on the new part of  East Street, north, to the sea docks, in town. When they moved it was Summer in Nassau, but the way time flies, Winter would soon come, and the baby would soon walk.

He worked as a stevedore now for three pound and ten shillings each week.  He always could find a job – and he was never lazy to work.  That was one thing even Petunia’s mother admitted about him.

Their new world was surrounded by a bigger world.  Their world was a tiny concentric, but one with widening circles.  The Great War was finished.  Clouds of radioactive dust settled over Japan.  Allied forces looked toward a new sunshine, as the dark menace of Germany was dismantled into a divided country.  Yet Britain became weary, even though the darling Elizabeth would be coronated Queen Elizabeth II. Therefore, the United States received the baton to lead the human race to a new world order.

The waterways of the world became ocean routes for leisure travel again.  Those fortunate ones from the temperate zone escaped gray winter snow, and jumped on the hotel-sized cruise ships, destined for the tropic sun. It was good to play again; it was time to settle your nerves, because the war had unsettled everyone.

The new routes converged onto Brad and Petunia’s world, or around their world. The young couple found hope.  They too had been thrust into the war of life, and now found hope in peace.  Maybe these sunshine lovers would spend some money in tropical Nassau.  Brad spoke excitement everyday.  He unloaded the freight boats, and watched the cruise boats unload elegant sunshine seekers who flaunted Yankee Dollars at wide eyed natives.

But his excitement waned.  First he heard the rumor.  A week later he learned the rumor was true – the shipping company was laying off stevedores.  His name was on the list. The next day they sent him home.  His little baby girl – Georgia – had grown two conspicuous front teeth, and she was just learning to walk.  He deflated.

“Maybe I can work construction at one of the new hotels they starting to build out west.”  His thoughts came to a dead hush.

“How come they cut you loose?” Petunia asked.  “I thought your uncle was the foreman.  What kind of family you got.” She rocked the baby, without looking at him.

“Not ‘cut loose’ girl, laid off, just for a while. Don’t you know the difference between ‘cut loose’ and ‘laid off’?  They’ll call us back when the winter season come, and when the hotel business pick up again.”

She raised herself up, and rested the sleeping child on the bed, crossways.  “You the one don’t know the difference – because they the same.  They goin’ pay you while you “laid off,” huh?

He gave no answer.  She was right, but he had hope.  He expected his final three pound-ten shillings envelope.

She was right too, about the saving. He did never open that Post Office saving account. But, when she had told him, he said he was the man.  He gave her one pound-ten shillings every week.  He kept the two pounds to throw away on Haitian liquor at the Last Chance bar, next to the dock.

He was wrong to drown his future in the bottle, and she tried to make it right.  One time, on his payday, she showed up at the bar with the baby on her hip.  That showed him up among his friends.  That was the first time he slapped her down.

“Don’t try that mess with me girl,” he cried. The half-empty glass was in his hand.

He was wrong too about hitting her, just because she was right.  And being the man and hitting her did not make him right.

That is why he said nothing when he realized that “cut loose” and “laid off” was the same. He just stayed silent and thought about his fate, an old rum bottle, plugged tight, full of mistakes and empty with good times that were gone, drifting without direction, beyond the Nassau dock.

He looked at her smooth wet forehead, her pretty brown skin.  Then he looked down at the raised bronzed veins of her hands, as she shook out a big towel to cover the baby.  He thought to himself, “While I was gone, loading those ships, she has stayed home and minded this baby, all by herself.”




Lake Okeechobee is covered with algae because sugar water from the farm factories makes it eutrophic – too much fertilizer, too much algae.  The lake is unseen and separated by weeds and palmettos and pines and mosquitoes. It is far away. The sun is fading, yet it peeps through tall pine trees and above water hyacinths, because it is still brilliant. Florida’s forest, if Florida can claim a forest, is still illuminated.  In its weedy crevice, in a dirt pathway is an unusual shadow. 

Twilight approaches.  Clouds sandwich the sun like the insides of fresh-baked bread and red herring.  Wind rustles the pine.  Needle leaves drop on the metal roof.  Breezes cool the evening woods.  A gleam of sunlight flashes in the rear-view mirror of a blue Plymouth sedan.  The car is out of place and pace – eventide interrupted – for even the crows have folded their wings in final prayer as dark tranquility creeps.

The sedan bounces furiously.  Long toes with polished nails curl and grasp the window glass of the opened rear door.  Squat toes grip sandy soil; another set sticks into space.  Legs tense.  Lean and soft muscles embrace broad and hard muscles. Both legs glisten with sweat from great effort.  Guttural screams disturb the silence.  Darkness is still to come.

Currents of wind are attracted to the enmeshed bodies in the back seat.  Breezes cool the pores of the male’s back, but he notices nothing. The wind cools as the sun gives light. They belong to the forest.  The “Great Spirit,” caretaker of these woods, breathes out the wind, and the sleepy vision of the “Spirit” is red like setting sun.

Mists of sweat escape and mingle with female fragrances, and perspiration and perfume mingle with scents of pine.  The Florida backfield is permeated with a never-before, and never-again, essence – spirit like.  The male body stiffens.  The red toes of the woman follow her curling legs. She embraces and pulls the firm folds of his behind toward her vortex of creation.

He groans. She screams. The herring sun slips from the sandwich of clouds.  The dirt road darkens.  Man and woman cling to each other, aware of only loud breathing and quickened heartbeats.

The night again belongs to the natives.  A tiny squirrel scoots down a tree and disappears into the darkness.  The owl hoots into the silence, and a cricket sends his plaintive cry into the night.  The Plymouth withdraws slowly from the scene, leaving a pollution of carbon monoxide smoke and tire trails, earthquake to a nest of red ants.


When Brad dropped Bet back to her West Palm Beach house, the waning half-moon glimmered.  He left without daring to come inside.  She waved bye, he drove on toward Miami. 

The door closed silently and sneakily on her behind.  On the outside an artificial Christmas wreath, blinking electric candle in the middle, hung by a nail.  It was the evening of New Year’s Day.

She went straight to her room and sprawled on the flowery bed spread.  Maybe she did not kiss a goodnight peck because he was still with her – in her.  Yet she would not see him again.  Tomorrow, she would get in back of the Trailways bus to Daytona.  Christmas vacation was over.  She did not think too much about anything.  She just rolled her lankiness onto the bed and wrinkled the flowery bed cover.

Papa Rolle, in the back room, fiddled with the phonograph, the kind you didn’t have to crank, his Christmas present to the family – to himself, really. The record played Auld Lang Syne, as the diamond needle found its grooves. The choir sang.  His daughter listened, and without knowing, or caring, tears escaped and rolled onto the embroidered sheet.

Inside of Bet, something moves.  The New Year’s hymn floats into the night – into the Spirit. Creation listens.  Songs of rejuvenation pays tribute to tradition. New life seeks recent death, which seeks old life.  The annual cry of uncounted souls bridges the entire race. Tonight melancholy souls gaze at a half-moon reflection of the sun, in a star-glittered sky, each star a sun in its own galaxy.  Life reached for more life.

She hears music from an inner listening ear.  The female alto brings Auld Lang Syne to a climax, and the choir of mixed voices brings it to a close.  Static repeats itself as the needle scratches empty grooves.  The squeak of Papa’s chair opens her outer ear – and she is now aware of the heaving in her lungs.  This is the sound that separates inner from outer ear.

Bet let her tears flow like a gentle rain on a hot day.  Like a mystic on a carpet, she arose from the bed.  Now she could smell the black-eyed peas.  She noticed the ruffling curtain against her opened bedroom window, and felt the cool wetness against her cheekbones.  Brad was far from her; he had gone into the night.


Brad drove south along the Dixie.  He was not thinking of the other woman now, nor did he really think of the present one.  Instead his mind was at peace.  Someone was praying for him.

His mother – an Inagua woman – told him that; “this is the peace from above,” she said.  “People can pray so deep for you, your mind would just go rest awhile.”

He would sit on the cold stone kitchen floor.  His daddy, captain of the mail boat, would be gone – sometimes for over a week.  Then it would be just them two – him and his Ma, and no Pa.

But, in fact, right now, if Brad could see past the ocean horizon, he would see some cumbersome diesel boat chugging through slightly choppy waves, ten feet above the coral rock.  Right now, his Pa, like him, is a nighttime traveler.

Across the waters, Captain Collins peers ahead, as he handles the huge steering wheel. However, he knows where the boat is going without seeing.  He has done this trip so many nights.

Both son and father meander their vehicles through a comfortable night.  Each glance at the gleaming moon in the sky.  The water vessel makes a wake, which gushes and ripples into nothingness; it would not reach the nearest land.  The car engine rumbles, the Plymouth alone on the highway with its lone driver, trudging toward the city.  Night crickets wail, like a refrain, pleading with the wind to carry their song out to sea.



It was bitter London cold, and his scanty-soled boots scraped sidewalk snow.  They called him “The Hobo,” but his name was what he called himself.

He was thinking the king had died – King George’s funeral – a state occasion.  He was visualizing the series of religious processions and coffin-pretty speeches.  Later, he would imagine and explain the circumstance of the pomp to Betsy.

She alone listened, and thought so much of him.  He could recite all the kings and queens, beginning from William the Conqueror.  Because he was not from England she was even more impressed.  She was white, English, and almost illiterate.  He was black, from the colonies, and took it for granted to know, because he was drilled with Royal Reader exercises since his starched cotton shirt preparatory school days.

She, completely homeless, had a past that remained a mystery.  And though he knew history, he too had a past mystery.  The pages he opened for her were only superfluous and diverting subplots.

An expanse of ocean and an elapse of years had obscured the dark storms, which had blown him to cloudy England.  The drizzled wet coat and his droopy posture contrasted with those starched shirts of his youth, yet he still showed sharpened faculties.  He wished for another layer of clothes.

He approached Downing Street.  He walked around a snorting horse, harnessed to a carriage, with no riders.  However, many riders and carriages would be coming soon.  The king had died, and there was going to be a grand funeral in England.



Even when Christ walked on earth in the east, Griots from Africa (back then it was known as Ethiopia) crossed the ocean to the west. Terrific winds blew their hand hewn ships to the “Land of the Great Spirit.” They lived and loved with the westerners, later to be called Indians. These Ethiopian Griots knew of the sadness and gladness of the straight hair, red-skinned peoples of the land, later to be called America. When they returned to Ethiopia they made legend with charming stories of this remarkable continent beyond the Great Sea.

The people who worshiped a God they called “Great Spirit” had their own version of storytellers. They tell us of shrines built to honor their majestic dark-skinned visitors. The worlds of the west and of the east grew toward each other for centuries. The songs and tales carried back and forth along the equatorial winds of the Atlantic Ocean. Some modern westerners even insist that the Christ walked on earth in the west.

More than a thousand years went by after Christ returned to heaven. A new society of the east grew in numbers and knowledge. They developed in the continent of Europe. And they too learned of the great continent beyond the ocean through their navigators like the ones called Columbus and Vespucci.

They too came to this “Land of the Great Spirit.” But they came like conspirators in the night, planting flags, staking lands and seeking gold. Thus, they could not live and love with the western peoples because conspiracies destroy the foundation of friendship. But their voyages have also become legend.

Now each of the people who came has a story. The red-skinned ancestors of those ancient Americans still mourn to the slow rhythm of drums, singing their regrets as to how their beloved lands were lost. The pale-skin ancestors of the ancient Europeans, on the other hand, still enjoy the moving pictures, called “Westerns,” that show, in magnificent color, how their prized west was won. And the dark-skinned ancestors of the ancient Africans still stretch out their hands and wait wantonly to rule the earth again, which some believe will happen just before Christ returns to walk on earth again.

Time keeps moving on. As it written and told, the European conspiracy to win the west was realized. Again, they conspired to win the world, and the world was won.

Now these custodians of history – African Griots, Storytellers of the so-called Indians, and the Europeans who make moving pictures all join in a newer world. This is a world where east meets west, but many of us don’t know east from west.