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Book 1. The Birthday Party

The Birthday Party…

Today is the day that my brother Lonnie (The Great Tanasha) “thought” was his birthday.

Things fell apart completely when Lonnie and Larry were still very young (4 and 6 respectively) and one of the many things that went by the wayside for Lonnie was which day was his birthday.

When the fit hits the shan you had to hold on to any thing you wanted to save, like “who’s your daddy, what’s, your name, Habla Ingles?, which grade are you in, where did you sleep last night, and your birthday. But Lonnie didn’t know that and any way he was only four” when the fit really hit the shan bigtime.

Larry, Lonnie, Mud, Anibal (Chicki) and I were living at 252 B Bournefield, with her new husband Norris Wilson, fortunately, Gale was in the states. Anibal was a friend also from Bournefield who lived with us much of the time because of difficult circumstances at his own family’s  pad.

Norris was a Jamaican from Montego Bay, who had come up to The V.I.. looking for work. He was an accountant and the Hotels were always looking for people with bookkeeping skills. Norris was also quite a good dancer, a romantic letter writer and a heavy drinker. He was subject to very dark moods in which he would sit alone in the kitchen rocking back and forth with his head in his hands crying while he listened to Clyde McPhatter’ “Lovers Question”. We got along fairly well until one night in 1961, it was perhaps his 39 or 40th Birthday

Mud and Norris had decided to have a “Birthday Party”, they got some rum and invited Norris’s friend “Ed” a fairly jolly hardworking fellow also from Jamaica, and Philippe a very sweet painfully shy Spanish fellow who stuttered to the point of complete unintelligibility in two languages. Philippe stocked shelves at Happy View, the little shop just up the road.

The other guests were Mud, my friend Tutsie, Anibal (who as I said, lived with us) and me. Larry and Lonnie had been put to bed and were sound asleep by party time.

Why that short a guest list, I don’t know, why those two fellows? My guess is Ed because he was Norris’s only friend from home, and Philippe because he was not a threat to Norris where Mud was concerned.

 Tuts and Anibal and I were 15 but had been drinking like, and with adults since we were 13 years old. It was not unusual in the islands for that to be the case. We drank together, here there and everywhere many times before.

If white folks are describing someone they might say well, she has blond hair and brown eyes or blue eyes, in the islands, folks referred to skin color or tone in very much the same way. The expression “a little lighter than me or a little darker than me”, is often an important part of describing someone. While talking to Norris and the rest of the guests, I (who was fairly tan) said in describing someone “he’s a little darker than me” and in an instant or less Norris had flipped his wig. He grabbed one of the living room chairs and swung it up over his head and then brought it crashing down on mine. Screaming all the time “you is a F**king white man! You is a F**king white man! Wha de F**k you know about that!”

The back of my noggin was split and streaming blood, Mud was screaming “Oh My God”. While I was trying through the dizziness to identify some sort of face saving response, Philippe (with no stutter in his thinking) had the presence of mind to fly through the front door, down the road and into the night.

As Mud and them, rushed me into the bathroom to get a look at the damage, a raging Norris showed up waving a foot long carving knife, and screaming “Ah gon kill im! Ah gon kill im!” In that instant Tuts slammed the bathroom door and flipped the eyehook. The knife came flashing through the door jamb and started slamming up and down against the hook. In two seconds it was undone. I was still stunned and stupidy and thinking I should fight, but Tuts (with his whole body flung against the door and keeping it from flying open) Anibal and Mud all flashed at once on the narrow little window high up on the wall above the tub, as the solution.

First Anibal flew up and grabbing the center post jammed himself through, then Mud climbed up and through (all this while Norris is flinging his six foot, 180 pound body against the door and bellowing as only the truly flipped out can) by now I had realized that this was what you call F**k City and if I didn’t want to get pummeled, sliced and stabbed to death in the next minute, I’d better get the F**k out of here too.

As I was up and on the way out, the last thing I saw was Norris come bursting through as Tuts literally flew, with one step on the tub, from the door up to and then through the window.

Now we were all out side, but only feet from the kitchen screen door, which is where Norris would be in moments. We turned and fled into the jungle, along a natural rain gut, and eventually came out of the bush close to Tuts’s house. Tuts’s Father Charles, kindly drove us all the the emergency room where six or eight stitches  closed the wound.

However, there were no stitches to close the wound to Mud’s psyche and soul.

After we got back down to Tuts’s house, Mud asked if I could stay the night with them .They said yes and she and Anibal went back to Bournefield, he to his parents house (a comparative island of calm this night) and Mud went home. Norris was not there, Larry and Lonnie were somehow safe and asleep, and she contemplated her life.

 In the morning Tina, the maid (yes we had a maid even though we were as poor as piss ants, she was needed to take care of Larry and Lonnie.) came rushing up to Tuts’s house to say that Mother had tried to kill herself, she had slit her wrists and blood was all over the place. Tina had found her and called the ambulance. As this was a school day, I had to decide, whether or not I would be attending classes, I thought perhaps not today,

I went down to the house, more than a little shook up and tried to formulate some idea of what the heck I was supposed to do next. I decided I’d better go see Mother and see what if anything I could do to help this situation. I, for whatever reason, put on my shades and my beret and the oddest mismatching shirt and pants that I could find and set out to the “crazy ward” to see my Mother. When I got there and was admitted to her room, the first thing that I noticed was that someone had “walked” footprints all across the ceiling. I didn’t get what kind of loco psychology that was, but then again, things are different in the Islands.

Me poor Mudder dear was so tired and so so sad. Her wrists were neatly wrapped in clean white bandages, which looked cool and crisp and were the only thing in the world that seemed to be down right orderly and under control

I told her that the boys were ok they were with Tina, at her house.

After a few moments, Mud asked me to go find Norris and tell him what had happened and where she was.

I must say it was a frightening prospect, I weighed 85 pounds and though I knew my self to be next to invincible, last night had put a small dent (or crack) in my confidence. However, I was very used to doing things that I was afraid to do, in those days, it was a way of life,

Mud thought that Norris might be staying with ED at a rooming house up in Savan  

 Savan was then, and is now, a classic 300 hundred year old West Indian ghetto. Tightly packed shanties, crowded by ancient wooden row houses with oddly tilted tin shacks containing a jukebox and some rum bottles in between, You walk in the middle of the street for your own safety. Everybody knew (and so did I) that with out debate, Savan was not a place for white people.

 So I was feeling somewhat stressed as I searched deeper and deeper into Savan for Ed and the unknown rooming house. I was being given some sort of grudging respect for having made it this far. I did have my beret pulled down to my eyebrows, my collar turned up to my beret, and my super shades jammed on to seal the deal. I must say, in defense of proper and careful costuming, that while I was clearly a white boy, I was also clearly not a tourist, and obviously crazy.

 Some bar flies recognized me as “the white  juke box boy“ one of those kids who sang at the top of their lungs with our ears jammed up against the booming speakers while having our brains magnetically massaged and rewritten, at every opportunity by every juke box, in every juke joint around, And yes I had visited the juke boxes in more than half of these joints but that was different because, it was night, we were drunk, and as everybody knew, you were safe when you were singing

Still, it’s only God’s grace and the kind compassion of the broken hearted for the broken hearted, that got me to Ed’s door.

 This is not cool, is what I was thinking, as I knocked on the door. Who’s there? And I said “It’s Scott” Ed opened the door quickly, and just behind him stood Norris, de steamed and deflated to the bone, freakin’ pitiful.

Ed saying “abba abba abba” as I spilled out my message and prepared to flee. Norris echoing “abba abba abba” and before you knew it we were in Ed’s car and headed for the hospital to see Mud.

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