Friday and as usual Misses Walker continued to taunt Vincent Johnson.
“Spell your name!” she said, smacking her infamous belt against his desk. “I’m not going to wait all day!”
“V-I-N-CENT!” some of the children jeered.
“Standup!” Misses Walker yelled at Vincent.
“Mi not standing!” he yelled back.
“I’m not going to tell you again!” Misses Walker threatened.
Vincent, a second time repeater of grade one, and a labeled class dunce, sat and defied Misses Walker’s command. The cinematic moment was thrilling, but the mystery of what was to follow will forever be remembered, ascending the first graders to instant stardom; most notably Kevin McKenzie who by far had the best version of what happened with a twist making it spicy.
As far as Tanny could remember Misses Walker was always negative about Vincent. Not to mention Vincent’s mother and Misses Walker never saw eye to eye. But after all was said and done all odds seemed to be in Misses Walker’s corner, in her view either you shut up or put up.
Misses Walker got caught off guard when a stone bounced off her forehead; several others zoomed past barely missing. The class rumbled out of control with screaming students running in all directions. Inside of Vincent’s bag was filled with stones, explaining why it shaped irregular, yet not unusual. Earlier Tanny thought he had a soccer ball stuffed inside.
After hurling stones at Misses walker, Vincent dashed out of the classroom never to be seen again, but to be remembered by all those students in Misses Walker’s first grade class that unpredictable Friday morning.
Mr. Bennett came to substitute for Misses Walker.
As the day went on the first grade continued as close as possible with the usual routine.
Mr. Bennett kept asking Kevin McKenzie, “What happened?”
Kevin repeated himself several times, each time the story sounding better.
“Ha-ha-ha… I don’t believe you,” Mr. Bennett repeated, sounding a-bit lethargic.
Like most teachers, Mr. Bennett loved gossip, and seemingly enjoyed Misses Walker’s downfall. After all, Misses Walker used to belittle Mr. Bennett nicknaming him, “school drunk.”
Later in the afternoon, when Misses Walker returned to her class she had a white bandage on her forehead. Her apparel changed to match the bandage: white dress, white bangles, and white pearl looking necklace.
She cleared her throat.
The class became silent.
The instant Tanny spotted Misses Walker’s forehead she began to think about Vincent Johnson. How was such a quiet student driven to commit the unthinkable? At times she even felt sympathetic toward him, not necessarily supporting the outcome, or the circumstances under which it occurred.
RING-RING-RING…! The bell echoed in the background.
The children immediately soared into a frenzy.
“Silent!” said Misses Walker, standing by her desk waiting. “Remember to do your homework, those who want to stay back for extra reading, feel free to do so. Please stand and recite your prayer before leaving.”
The students stood looking at each other, wondering if Misses Walker was in her right frame of mind.
“Thank you Lord for health and strength… Amen!” the students recited their prayer.
Five o’clock that evening Tanny and her classmates left school and began to walk home; no bus wanted to carry them. After more than two hours of walking a pick-up truck stopped to offer them a ride. They knew not to take a ride from a stranger, but to be quite frank, they were desperate. Besides, who would want to kidnap a bunch of rowdy kids?
The driver waited patiently as they crammed into the back of the pickup.
They tapped on the side of the truck and yelled, “Ready driver!”
The pick-up sped away, driving along the stretch of narrow road overshadowed with trees and shrubs on both sides. Tanny listened to the noisy bunch as their voices sprung back from nearby hills. Everything appeared blurry as she tried to focus on trees zooming by, making her dizzy.
With the approach of dusk the sounds of insects filled the air. Tanny closed her eyes and held on tight as the pickup passed a stretch of a gully located on the outskirts of their community.
Tanisha got dropped off first.
“Thank you sir,” she told the kind gentleman. She waved goodbye, glancing over her shoulder as she ran toward her gate. “You coming to my house to play tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yes!” her friends answered.
Tanisha’s mother came out from the house and stood on the patio.
“Thank yuh very much sir!” she told the driver.
“Yuh welcome!” the driver said.
The truck’s engine revved, tires skidded tossing gravel in the opposite direction, before speeding away. The smoke and dust produced had everyone gasping for air. Next to be dropped off: Junior, followed by Carla, Paula, Kevin McKenzie, and finally Tanny.
The truck pulled up by the mango tree located at the beginning of the path leading to her front yard, which stood about fifty meters from the main road. On each edge, close to the grass-path stood colorful flowers and fruit trees, but Tanny could hardly make them out in the dark, except for those the truck’s headlight revealed.
Someone or something stood in the shadow among the overgrown flowers. The figure towered to the sky with a head wider that its body.
Tanny’s head pounded. Her heartbeat increased. A rush of a cool breeze swept across her arms. Goose bumps followed. Drifting on clouds of fear she was unable to move.
She sighed when Grandpa Reuben walked out into the lit area, with a bunch of green bananas balanced on his head.
“Thank you sir,” Tanny told the driver, walking toward Grandpa Rueben.
Grandpa Rueben rested the bananas against the mango tree; he strode past Tanny as he went and stood by the driver’s side of the pick-up.
“Thank you sir for dropping home my granddaughter,” he told the driver.
“No problem man,” the driver replied.
“Have a nice bunch of bananas,” Grandpa boasted. “Let mi get it.”
“Alright, I’ll wait.”
Grandpa darted toward the mango tree and retrieved the bunch of bananas; he used one hand to swing it back and forth ‘til he reached the pick-up. He placed the whole bunch in the back of the truck.
“Have some yam growing,” he told the driver. “Come back next time.”
“Alright, I’ll do that,” said the driver. “Real pleasure helping out.”
“Tek care,” said Grandpa Rueben. “And thanks again!”
Tanny and her Grandfather waved goodbye to the kind gentleman as he drove off. Every now and then two red lights at the back of the pick-up penetrated the darkness.
Grandpa Rueben and Tanny walked toward the house. The dogs wagged their tails and jumped around them.
They took off their shoes before entering the patio.
“Tanny is home!” Grandpa Rueben alerted the rest of family.
From the patio they entered the living room.
The living room and dining room were crammed into a small area. A dining table rested in one corner. A red couch, with a feel of velvet, was shoved against the wall opposite the whatnot. A mahogany center table, stocked with books and figurines, stood next to the whatnot.
Tanny went and turned on the small black and white television resting on the top shelf of the whatnot.
“Goodnight Auntie,” she said, to her mother.
“Goodnight Tanny,” Elaine answered, from the midst of her room. “I was worried. Did you miss the bus?”
“A man gives us a ride home in his van,” Tanny explained. “The buses don’t want to carry school children. We walked almost two hours, me foot ’em hurting.” She went into her grandparent’s room. In the room two beds lie opposite each other, one for Grandma Carm, the other for Grandpa Rueben. “Goodnight Grandma,” she said.
Grandma Carm was in bed tucked away for the night.
“Good night Tanny!” she replied. “You look tired from all that walking.”
“Yes Grandma, mi tired.”
“Your dinner is on the table,” said Elaine, from her room.
Tanny finally entered her mother’s room, which they shared. That was if Tanny wasn’t tucked away under the blanket beside her grandmother.
Elaine was busy putting away clothes in the closet. They were happy to see each other. They both smiled, exposing the gap between their upper front teeth— somewhat like a family emblem that dominated their genes.
“Watch out!” Elaine warned, “The iron is hot.”
“Oops,” Tanny jumped to avoid the iron that was resting on the ironing board before the dresser.
After taking an outdoor bath in a pan filled with cold water, Tanny went inside and got dressed, before heading into the living room to eat her dinner.
At the dining table Tanny sat and recited her grace— thanking the lord for the food. Afterward she ate the meat— slowly chewing away at the bone.
“Yummy,” she said, indulging herself with the scrumptious treat. “The food taste real delicious,” she complimented her mom.
“You’re welcome,” Elaine said softly. “I’m glad you like it.”
On the patio Cur stood by the half opened door peeping in at Tanny. She is Tanny’s older cousin, and practically raised by Grandma Carm and Elaine. She was more like an older sister to Tanny.
“Me left piece of meat for you,” she said.
“You can have the dumplings,” Tanny told her.
“Thank you,” said Cur, on her way to the table. She jammed a fork into the dumpling and began to bite away at the outer edge until it was all gone.
Somewhat similar to a barter trade Tanny used to gave away her food in return for all the meat she could get.
“I heard what happen at school today,” Grandma Carm’s squeaky voice echoed from her room.
“It’s not me,” said Cur, getting edgy, “A lie ‘em telling on me.”
“I’m not talking to you,” said Grandma Carm. She paused for a few seconds, and afterward began to lecture. “When I was younger I had to respect the teacher. We used to get whipping, but we never hit them with stone.”
“Jesus peace you’re in a lot a trouble,” Cur told Tanny excitedly, “You lick the teacher with stone?”
“No,” said Tanny to Cur, “Vincent Johnson is the one who hit Misses Walker with a stone.”
“Ho’ yuh so miserable mama?” Elaine asked her mother. She had just finished packing away clothes and was preparing to go to bed.
“Mek mi tell yuh something,” Grandma Carm responded. “Any children that hit their elder will never prosper by the hands of God; bad blessing will follow ’em for the rest of their life!”
“Mek she stay,” Elaine argued, “She soon get high pressure. Some of the teachers are too cruel… most of the time they abused the children for nothing.”
“Yes, come beat mi too!” said Grandma Carm to Elaine.
Everyone pretty much ignored her knowing she will calm with time.
News traveled fast, especially in nosey communities where a person would run several miles to spread the news to another community. Like a teacher got whipped by her own belt, a police station got robbed, or a thief got stoned to death were considered important news. While the spreading of news was consistent, the degree of exaggeration depended on the carrier.