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Book 1. Hulahulacancan…

BOOK 1. Hulahulacancan…

 Tanasha, was a beautiful child. Mud was in the hospital for over two months with toxemia and other complications.

 Gale and I were teenagers by then and with no supervision (Howard was either nowhere to be found or in the VA hospital in Puerto Rico) we were all aver the place with all kinds of people at all hours of the night. Friends of Mothers would see us and send us home. But by the next night of course, we were at it again.

When Mud got back home, she observed that men and boys (but mostly men) were flocking around Gale like hungry seagulls (or in the case of the Islands, booby birds) absolutely no pun intended. The seagulls in St. Thomas are boobys, they roost on little Saba just off shore. But the ornithology is beside the point; the point is that Gale was creating quite a stir everywhere she went because she was such a knockout looking chick. (No bird pun intended here either)

 In her sweet naiveté she was really killin’ em.

One morning (after she had gone out the window the night before and was caught by Mud) she put Mothers most spectacular cancan slip under her skirt (actually the thing had a hula hoop in the hem) and headed off to High School. (Gale and I had been the only white children in the public school system since the first grade, and her attractiveness was often remarked upon, other remarks about her were often directed to me, but that’s another story)

The first minor difficulty was in getting the hula hoop cancan extravaganza to fit through  the bus’s front door. It wouldn’t. The only way in was to squeeze the skirt, Cancan and Hula-hoop together from the sides so that it approximated an upside down taco and completely exposed her fore and aft. I have never been so proud and relieved that someone else’s underwear was clean, as I was that morning. Starting with the popeyed google eyed bus driver and the popeyed google eyed market women already on the bus. Not to mention the hoard of popeyed  google eyed children and male relatives who had materialized out of nowhere and were now determined to get on this bus also, no matter what. I am quite certain they would all have noticed even the tiniest smudge or tear, as there was simply no where for such a thing to hide.

I of course, would have liked to have been anywhere but there. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to dive headfirst into the stone lined gutter, and pretend that I’d accidentally dashed my brains out. Diving beneath  the wheels of the bus seemed like a good idea or alternativly  in front of any passing car or truck. But in reality I knew  in my soul, that I had a much higher calling,  a much greater responsibility had been thrust upon me by my father in our last moments together in NYC. He’d  said “It’s up to you now Scottie, You’re the man of the family now. You have to take care of your Mother and your sister. Don’t let anything happen to them no matter what”.

I knew that my job was to protect my sister from any untoward advances, glances, looks and remarks, that tripping and diving headfirst into the open gutter to pretend I was dead or unconscious would be cheating. Smacking the biggest, toughest popeyed googler so I’d be killed instantly was the cowards way out, and If I knew anything, I knew that I had to get and  be, and stay cool. Cool and nonchalant until by the grace of a loving and merciful God, this day would be over. And that’s when the riot on a bus arrived at school, and she had to squeeze that skirt together and get off the bus, Oh my dear lord.

That was perhaps the first  and only time ever, that I saw the tiniest flicker of compassion flash across the faces of even the most cruel, most racist bully boys in the school, as they realized my pitiful, pitiful situation. They knew that I, the skinny little white boy, was obliged to defend my sisters honor in any and all circumstances, but good God awmighty they knew that this one, this day, this one was a long gone, lost cause.

And then she had to walk up the up the stairs (we’re in the tropics the blasted stairs are all open and outside) to her second floor classroom and that is when the real riot began…

Fortunately we were only 20 or 30 feet from the principal’s office and all of the office staff came pouring out to see what was going on. When the principal got a look at Gale’s hiney wrapped in pink, just a few feet above her head and the popeyed google eyed screaming, pointing, panting, hooting, hollering, laughing, and lusting mob all around… she did the only thing that  she could have done to solve the situation.

Remember that every student present at Charlotte Amalie High School that morning had been raised in an educational system that practiced strict and aggressive corporal punishment, Yard sticks and rulers across the noggin, whacks and whippings by the score, so when the popeyed google eyed principal bellowed “Whey me belt! Bring me, me  belt!” Everyone knew what she was talking about and knew also, to run like hell.

In seconds there was only me standing helplessly down below and my big sister Gale   red faced on the stairs in her clean pink undies. The Principal took the  hulahulacancan,  folded it in quarters and stuffed it into a paper bag. The ladies (The Principal and Mud) were remarkably restrained in their verbals, (Gale did catch high holy hell for ruining Mud’s fancy slip) but I suspect that they knew the lesson was learned, that Gale didn’t need any more talking to.

I guess you were supposed to know enough to wear a sack full  of can cans under the hula hula slip. I’m glad I never went out with Mud while SHE was wearing that thing. Good Lord God Awmighty!

Gale began to see a Taxi driver named Dollars, Or rather, an adult (more than likely married, as is the custom among night prowling Taxi drivers) started parking outside and honking his horn until Gale came out to chat and kiss.

 Shortly after this, Mud sent Gale up to the states to see if Frankie could rein her in. Gale was only 16, but she looked like Sophia Loren and Gina Lollabridgida rolled into one. Within a month she was dancing at the Lemon Twist Lounge in Miami. Her phony ID said that she was 21 year old Edie Isle; Gale was Edie, to fully half the people that knew her, for the rest of her life.

When I am in the Islands, no matter what the occasion, the question is always the same…”Whey Gale Meson, Whey Gale?” and the follow up question is always… “Boy, do you remember de day when…”

One of the truly great mysteries of life is how my beautiful wild child sister Gale, managed to hold on to her virginity until her wedding night. She said she did, and I believe her

Further, that she would grow up to be the essence of respectability, living quietly in Middletown Pennsylvania, where she raised two daughters and served as the President of the local friends of the library for over 25 years…

On that Edie thing, lemme say that Gale was known as Edie to fully a whole bunch of people, because another fairly large group knew her as simply “The Cat” which I will explain in time…

When Mud married Howard we moved from half of a little house, “owned by Frank Prince” at the bottom of “China Man Hill” (The more than semi-official address),To a house “dey by de numbah one hole and the numbah two tee” (also more than the semi-official address, and definitive directions) on the Herman E. Moore golf course.

This little house had been the original passenger terminal for the Pan AM clippers in the 30’s and 40’s before the military build “Bourne Field” the Marine Corp. airfield that would eventually become Harry S. Truman Airport and now Cyril King.

 No doubt these are romantical sounding addresses to some of you, and while Gale and I did enjoy our physical surroundings and our exotic way of life, we were starving hungry 90 percent of the time.

It’s was like Mud had no concept of the priority of food in the house, or the priority of moola for children’s needs. I/we loved her, I/we knew that she loved us, but God awmighty, we were starving hungry, almost all the time. Further, our shoes almost always had one or more flapping soles, once the lady next door, out of pity, got Gale a new pair of glasses, as the ones she wore everyday were cracked and scotch taped in the most pitiful way.

That was when  Gale and I learned to use water rather than milk on our breakfast cereal, and where we slipped in to the neighbor’s house to steal something to eat from her icebox.

The upside, is the local folks (adults and children) saw clearly that we were real, (rather than rich and privileged things that behaved in strange and unnatural ways) and were for the most part protective and compassionate towards us

.This is not to say that we got a pass from the racist comments and remarks causally and habitually directed towards whites and the local French people known as Frenchies. Cruel and hurtful names that stung and humiliated, (“White Rat!” “Stinking Whitey Cheese!” Cha Cha Balahoo!) Still, somehow we knew that this was tit for tat , because our own racist white people were so ever stinkin’ mean.

As we got older, we realized that all we had to do was look at the news to see what the latest wave of resentment would be related to, we could see it coming… I wondered, “Don’t these friggin’ white people know that when they do these cruel and crazy racist things that it reverberates through the world, and somewhere, someplace, kids like Gale and me catch hell for it”?

Congress Men, Senators,  leaders of the free world! So called respectable, smart, good people, as stupid as sin. It was rough…


  1. May 28, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Hehe I’m actually the first comment to this great writing?

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