A Postcard From Paradise by Beth Merindah

The rain and sun make everything sweat and quiver; the plants, tar roads and women’s bare thighs, that are fat and glistening with perspiration. The rainforest grows dense and casts dark shadows on cinder block homes. Trees and vines copulate and choke one another: blushing Ixora flowers gasp for breath between green razor blades, palms spew up purple banana flowers, canopies drip golden Datura trumpets and in the underbrush Lantana knit webs and burgundy Sorrel bells bloom. Everything is humid and sticky and drips. Jamaican mummies mop their necks and brows with rags they keep in apron pockets. Everyone is passionate and boasts that they will murder you and make love to you, before the pale moon sinks into the sea and the mandarin sun rises. Men swing machetes and women wind wide hips down to the ground and slap their thighs together.

“Whoooooooweeeee” Maisy whistles at the Manchester Mountains. They don’t answer her.

We can’t hear the radio over the rain. White spears of lightening scream in a slate grey sky. Storm clouds shake. The sky dehisces and spills its’ belly to the mountains. Heavy sheets of rain wash roads into caramel coloured currents that sweep chicken bones and Appleton rum bottles out to sea.

Maisy and I are sitting inside her house when we hear knocking on the window. Cammy, one of the neighbours, is standing under a banana palm. She is using a plastic scandal bag as an umbrella.
“Come outta di rain before you dead”

“Yes ma’am”

She runs to the door.

“Why you choose fi stan up inna de rain and you know seh you coulda come a mi door”

“Sorry Ma’am”

Cammy moved from Mudtown last year and is still shy around us. She holds up a plastic bag, “A sum tamarind mi did bring fi you ma’am”

“Sit down ova deh so, ah mi will bring you some tea” Maisy orders.

Maisy snatches the bag of tamarind from Cammy. She sets to cracking open the pods and sucking on the fruit. Chewing on the seeds and mumbling: “Mi want some sugar fi put pon dem tamarind ya, Lard dem sour!”

Maisy pours Cammy a mug of chicory coffee. She sucks her teeth and makes a fuss that the tamarinds are too sour; but doesn’t stop eating them.

The rain eases, we take our coffee onto the porch and nest on white wicker furniture. Cammy tells us that seven children died in a bus crash that morning, on their way to school.

“You know seh doe wa accident ‘appen dis mawnin doe. Wah school bus crash and a seven pickney mi ‘ear seh dead. Dem eye burst open, ah mi seh di whole a dem teeth lick out”. She holds an imaginary melon and thrusts a fist down at it. “The whole a dem head sink in”.

I feel like I’m drowning. I feel like I’m deep in the ocean and I’m trying to swim to the surface. But I don’t know which way the surface is because the water is so black and so deep. Maybe I’m swimming deeper down?

‘Lard ha’ mercy’ is all that we can say.

We sit in sorrow-drenched silence and watch the rain wash our cola bottles and plastic bags into gutters. Our waste is carried into the mangroves of Black River, on the tails of crocodiles. It is taken to the Great Morass marshes between Long and Bloody Bay, to be pecked at by West Indian Whistling Ducks, as they sing grave songs. Plastic bags float with jellyfish blooms, breathing salt water between their silken tentacles, to be swallowed by sea turtles. Golden Boa swallow soda bottles and cigarette butts are collected by butter back crabs and taken deep below the sand.

‘Lard ha’ mercy’ is all that we can say.