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Bad Man’s Woman

A short story by Austin Mitchell

 

My friend, Elroy Reid was relating to me what had happened between him and his longtime girlfriend, Carline Weston. They had been friends from high school. They lived just a kilometer apart in Keswick. It all started when Carline decided to go to a commercial school in Kingston.

“I told her to take the morning bus and come back with it in the evenings.”

“So what did she say?” I asked.

“She said that she wouldn’t get any time to study.”

“Maybe she’s right. She would have to get up too early in the mornings and come home too late at nights.”

We were sheltering under a shopping plaza as it was raining cats and dogs.

I was getting the impression that maybe Elroy didn’t want Carline to go and live in Kingston. Maybe he feared that she would find some other guy down there.

Anyway, above strong objections from Elroy, Carline went to live with her aunt in Kingston. Elroy swore that he wouldn’t have anything to do with her, but changed his mind when she started coming up on weekends. Elroy couldn’t be happier and they went to dances and parties together. Carline would stay at his house as he had built a one bedroom addition to his parent’s house coupled with a small kitchenette and bathroom. So they had their own convenience.

But it all ended about three months later. Carline would still visit her parents, but it would be every month.

“By the time I hear that she came to the country, she’s already gone,” he told me one day.

That was because Carline would come up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and return the same evening.

He told me that she was working and going to school part time.

Elroy was now operating a shop in an adjoining

district. One of his uncles had recently come from England and bought a thirty acre farm nearby. I understood that it was this uncle who had given him the money to open the shop. Elroy was operating both businesses for him. He bought a pickup and would go to various towns to sell produce from the farm. When he was returning, he would buy things to sell in the shop. He was especially generous to Carline’s parents. He would give them loads of produce from his farm. All in vain I thought as Carline wasn’t coming back to him.

I remembered seeing him one day. He was driving his van with produce to sell in Linstead. As he wasn’t passing, Carline’s parents, Hepburn and Miss Fay’s house, he asked me to take some goods to give them on my bike. Among the produce was a huge bunch of ripe bananas which I took for myself. A month later he gave me the largest breadfruit I ever saw plus two dozen ackees to give his supposed in-laws. We did make a feast of that breadfruit and those ackees. My two brothers and I all agreed that anything Elroy gave us to give Carline’s parents, we would keep most of it for ourselves. This continued for another six months or so.

Somebody told him about what we were doing. He cursed us off. He even threatened to go to the police. We scoffed at that, we hadn’t taken all the things he gave us for his supposed in-laws. So as not to raise suspicions we always gave them some of it. Elroy was stupidly accusing us of causing Carline to leave him. Of course, nobody believed him.

Elroy’s farm was so fruitful that he could throw some tomato seeds outside his windows and be picking tomatoes the next morning. The girls were rushing him, but he ignored them. He believed that Carline would return to him.

I saw one of Elroy’s friends one day and he said to me.

“Butler, I think Elroy is wasting his time hoping that Carline will come back to him.”

“I believe Carline has left him, Vance.”

We were drinking beers in Chappie Chung’s bar in the Keswick Mountains.

“That guy’s too stupid. How can you still love a girl, who doesn’t want to see you again?” I asked.

A girl, Viviene, had joined us. She was an assistant teacher at the primary school. She was short and round. I bought her a soda.

“I thought you and Elroy were going to Kern’s dance tonight, Viviene.”

“Elroy and I, no sir. He still loves Carline. I don’t know when he’s going to get over her.”

Another young lady, Lita, had joined us. She was a clerk at the local branch library. Vance bought her a soda.

“Carline is along with a Don, that’s what I heard,”Lita told us.

That’s what I had heard too.

“That’s what I heard too. But Elroy won’t believe it,” I said.

Elroy did believe it because he started going around with Justine, a practical nurse, at the local clinic.

As he and my entire family weren’t on speaking terms after he accused us of stealing his goods, I didn’t get to ask him any question. I only heard those stories on the grapevine.

***

“I hope Elroy isn’t using my daughter. I have a feeling that he’ll leave her if Carline comes back to him,” Miss Julie, her mother, said to me one day.

“Don’t say that I told you so, but Carline isn’t coming back to Elroy. She’s along with a Don in Kingston.”

“What!” Miss Julie expressed her surprise. She knew all about Dons and their reputation. She had spent her early years in one of those inner city communities. As a matter of fact, she still had relatives and friends living there.

“I knew that girl was no good. Look who she has gone and picked up. My God, I wonder if her parents know.”

“I doubt it,” I told her as we parted. I could see her holding her head in disbelief at what I had told her about Carline. But I was apprehensive that she would spread it all over the village.

My apprehension proved correct when Elroy confronted me in the village square a few days later. He called me a liar and accused me of spreading rumors about Carline. I told him that I had gotten the rumor on the grapevine. He asked me for my source, but I refused to tell him.

***

Elroy was still fooling around Justine. Although he was sneaking around with other women. I’m not condemning him or play self righteous for as young guys we all did it.

Easter was rainy and we had to keep all our festivities indoors. The cricket match planned for Easter Monday was rained out. We had to be content with playing board games like dominoes, ludo and checkers. We managed to borrow two table tennis boards from the local high school and staged a tournament. In the night we had a huge dance where two heavy weight sounds from Kingston clashed. So that was how we spent that Easter.

***

As far as Elroy was concerned, things came to a head that August. Carline’s uncle, Stanley was a promoter of dances. In fact, that was how he made his living, when he took a break from operating his taxi. It was he who had put together the festivities in Easter. So Stanley had placards printed advertising his dance that Independence Day. There would be a cricket match followed by the dance as two heavy weight sounds would clash. One was from May Pen and the other was from Port Antonio. We understood that both sounds had a huge following. The cricket match and dance would be held on the grounds of the local high school.

Stanley and Elroy were mortal enemies. I wonder if I’m exaggerating. It all happened because Stanley, although in his late forties still considered himself something of a ladies man. He had fathered six children, but only two with his wife. He had this girl whom he was sending to school. She was doing a six month cosmetology course. One day in late May he had just driven off his taxi with a load of passengers when he saw her getting into Elroy’s van.

I took another drink of my beer. We were in Diana’s beer joint up in the Keswick Mountains.

“After I let off my passengers, I drove to her school, but everybody I asked said that they hadn’t seen her.”

I took some more swallows of my beer. Stanley was half way through his beer.

“When I saw her later that evening, she told me that he had taken her to pick up some things.”

She said that she came out there and didn’t see my taxi so she begged him a ride.”

Dorene, the girl he was talking about was around twenty five years of age. She had a five year old son living with her.

“So what do you plan to do?”

“I’m watching the situation. Right now she’s depending on me. If I find out that she and Elroy are friends, I’m going to drop her,” he said as he finished his beer and left to do some more trips.

In June, Stanley and Elroy nearly had a confrontation over Dorene. In July they had a punch up and persons had to part them. Stanley swore that he was going to do Elroy something bad if he didn’t leave his woman alone.

And so August came around and we couldn’t wait for Independence day and the festivities. The day would fall on a Monday. So at last the day arrived and we all attended the cricket match. It was being played between our local club players and a team from St. Mary.

After the match was over we all returned home to get dressed and head out for the dance.

We went to the dance in our best clothes with our girls.

We paid our fare and went inside. Surprisingly, neither of the

gatemen were known to us. One of my friends, Washy, said that

they were from Kingston. Both men had long knives in their

waist and had bandanas tying their head. They were both smoking marijuana cigarettes and drinking roots drinks.

By ten o’clock the dance was almost full. Things were really

nice. The two deejays on the mikes were belting out some great lyrics. They were Howie and Kong. Drinks and food flowed as

patrons streamed into the dance. The two deejays kept the dancers

on their feet with some lively music. Kong was playing the better set, although Howie wasn’t far behind.

At around eleven o’clock I was outside urinating when I saw

three vehicles drive up and stopped. Some well dressed men and

women came out of them. Carline was among them! A tall man

with a gold tooth in the middle row of his upper jaw, had his arms

around her waist. This must be Zacky, her reputed boyfriend and the Don of the area where she lived. He looked to be around thirty years of age. Carline was about twenty three years of age, two years younger than both Elroy and I. Carline was wearing a jeans pants, a white blouse and matching sweater. She was wearing high boots.

She was even more beautiful than when I last saw her two years ago. She and her boyfriend were wearing matching felt hats.

I must say that even in those days I had always admired her,

but somehow she had always preferred Elroy. I don’t know why. At six feet I was two inches taller than him. I was better looking than

him too. Although we were both slim men, women were always

telling me that I had a good body.

Anyway, I was behind them as we all trooped into the

dance. Elroy was dancing with Justine. My girl and I were

dancing nearby. I could hear noises from outside. Sometimes it would be the gatemen arguing with patrons. Other times it would

be the crown and anchormen slamming down their cups on their tables.

About an hour later I heard Elroy and Carline arguing. He

had apparently confronted her about bringing her man to the dance. He was also irritated that she had refused to dance with him.

“My boyfriend and I are here. You have a girlfriend Elroy,

go and dance with her.”

“So is this the way you’re treating me? Look what I’ve done

for you. You’re very ungrateful.”

“I’ve never begged you anything yet, Elroy. Most of the

things you used to give my parents, just stayed there until they were rotten and had to be thrown away. What didn’t spoil and got rotten, they gave away to their neighbors.”

I couldn’t help smiling. Imagine Elroy thought that he was

helping Carline’s parents when all he was doing was making a nuisance of himself.

Zacky had now returned with his and Carline’s drinks.

“What happen, babes,” he greeted Carline before giving her

her drink.

“Hey, guy!” Elroy shouted and rushed at Zacky.

Some of Zacky’s crew members held him.

“Who is he, Carline?”

“A little guy I used to know up here. It’s over two years now

since I last saw him.”

“So all of a sudden I’m a little guy,” Elroy protested.

Zacky grabbed him.

“Hey guy, you know who you’re dealing with?”

“Zacky, don’t bother getting yourself into trouble.”

“Elroy, where I live, I have to have a bad man protecting

me. I am a bad man’s woman. You’re just a little boy.”

Zacky pushed Elroy away from him.

Elroy literally flew out of the dance.

I ran out of the dance a few seconds after Elroy.The two

deejays were now in their element. There was no sign of Elroy. A man called Zeb came up to me.

“He’s gone for Strats and his gang. Says he’s going to hire

them to beat up Zacky and his crew.”

Strats was a known bad man in these parts. If you wanted somebody warned off or given a good beating you could always

recruit him. Of course he charged a fee. I had once hired him to

beat up a guy who was fooling around one of my girlfriends. A few days later I saw the man, his body was covered with bruises and his right hand was heavily bandaged. I gave Strats a bonus as the man stopped fooling around my girl after that.

I recognized some men who had come out of the dance as belonging to Zacky’s crew. They were armed with all sorts of implements. It was obvious that they were looking for Elroy. Stanley had also come outside too. He was armed with a short machete. A light drizzle had begun. Stanley was swearing after Elroy. He was threatening to make mincemeat of him if he mashed up his dance.

Stanley was soon joined by his younger brother, Neville.

“Where is the boy, who wants to mash up the dance?” Neville asked. He was liable to become a raving lunatic when drunk.

“Elroy has gone for Strats and his gang,” a man named Duffus shouted.

“Any man who mash up my dance, is going to feel something tonight,”Stanley warned before returning inside.

I returned inside, as did most persons who had come outside.

I was inside dancing with my girl some twenty minutes later when I heard shouts from outside the dance. I ran to have a look.

Strats had arrived with his crew. Elroy was with them.

“A man disrespected my brethren. He has to come outside and deal with me,” Strats declared.

Zeb had come outside of the dance as did Stanley and Neville.

“Strats, are you trying to mash up my dance?” Stanley

asked.

“A man in the dance beat up my friend. We want him to come outside and deal with us.”

Neville turned to Elroy. Elroy had his arms folded against

his chest.

“Elroy, it’s you who caused all this trouble. You saw Carline

with her boyfriend and you got jealous,” Neville accused him.

Clearly he wasn’t as drunk as I had at first thought.

Still Strats insisted that Zacky come outside for them to

beat him.

The dance was still continuing as the soundmen were

oblivious as to what was happening outside.

Then, before anybody knew it, we heard some heavy

explosions all around.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

“Gunshots!” persons shouted and we all rushed for cover. I

ran inside the dance, I saw my girlfriend and we ran and hid behind a wall.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

The gunshots continued. I thought it was Zacky or Strats’

crew who were firing the shots. After about twenty minutes peace reigned. I returned outside, but there was no sign of Elroy or Strats and his crew.

“It’s Jumpy who was firing all those shots,” Zeb said.

I realized that Jumpy had been firing the shots in the air to

calm things down. I had seen him in the dance, dancing with a girl an hour or so ago.

This wasn’t the first dance that he had shot up.

People were streaming out of the dance. There was still no

sign of Elroy. Stanley and Neville had also come out of the dance.

Both men were cursing Elroy, the police constable and Strats and his gang for spoiling their dance. The dance was now half full as several patrons had gone to another dance a mile away.

I didn’t see Zacky and his crew or Carline inside the dance. However, when we got to the other dance we saw them there. There was still no sign of Elroy, Strats or his crew. Zeb said that maybe they realized that they couldn’t beat Zacky and his crew so they had given up that idea.

Persons were alternating between both dances as they realized that it was Jumpy who had been firing all those shots.      

A week later I saw Stanley. He said he had lost close to ten

thousand dollars on the dance. He had lodged a complaint against

Elroy and Strats. He had also complained to the Sergeant who headed the station. However, the Sergeant said that Jumpy’s action was justified as he had prevented a fight and possible bloodshed. He couldn’t do anything about Elroy and Strats as they had done nothing physical to impede the progress of his dance.

Epilogue:

Elroy and Justine broke up soon after the dance. He is now

along with Dorene who left Stanley after she finished her cosmetology course.

Eight months later, Carline had a baby for Zacky. She moved to another inner city community after he was shot and killed six months after she had her baby. She is now along with the Don from her new community.

Dorene is running one of Elroy’s two wholesales. He converted both of his shops into wholesales as he felt they would be more profitable. He had also given her father a taxi to operate and they would share the profits. Stanley knew that he couldn’t match that plus he didn’t want to get into trouble by beating up Elroy for taking away his woman from him.

There were plenty of young girls around willing to offer favors to any man willing to take care of them. He didn’t have to look very far before finding a first year student nurse from a nearby community to take care of.

 

 

 

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