The Jacaranda Tree

Lango Deen's Easter story, The Jacaranda Tree, was first published on Facebook in 2010. 

Easter flowers are blooming bright,
Easter skies pour radiant light,
Christ our Lord is risen in might,
Glory in the highest!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ our Lord is risen in might,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

He woke up early. Lay on his back for a while, and then fumbled for his wireless. He kept the volume down while SLBS made its static early morning call signs.

Then there was a creak from the next room.

His wife was stirring.

As it went quiet again, the muezzin’s salat cut through the darkness. He sat up, moved to the edge of the mattress, and let his feet dangle over the tall brass bed high up from the linoleum floor. He reached for the wireless but he didn’t want to wake his wife so he turned off the knob.

The muezzin’s call to prayer grew fainter, as the burly, retired Public Works employee walked out of his bedroom.

Through the small parlor to the back, his calloused hands coaxed loose, tired, cranky, creaky bolts that guarded the back door. Once open, he sucked in the outside air. Wood smoke and dried fish hung heavy in the dawn as he stepped through the yard bordered with herb, sour sop and bread fruit trees—all the time chewing on his gum stick.

Back inside the house, he fired up the two-burner kerosene stove in the pantry and put the kettle on.

He poured ogi into a saucepan and turned to pick up a spoon.

Just then, his wife mumbled his name as she limped by, slowly, painfully.

He watched her negotiate the steps. First, placing a foot forward and then its connecting, aching hipbone down with a jerk.

“We’ve grown old together, my classmate’s daughter and me,” he thought. Eyeing her with the concern of a man looking across a span of forty years of marriage, three children, and six grandchildren.

But his old school mate had yet to see him as a son in law. She still pined after the man who was made a first-class nurse at Connaught and never came back to marry her daughter after he got transferred to a new clinic at Waterloo forty-one years ago.

Today, he was off on his annual visit two miles away.

When the kettle started whistling, he picked it up off the stovetop and poured its boiling water into a big enamel cup filled with loose Lipton tealeaves. He set the kettle down, picked up the cup and strode to the front of the house.

He placed the cup on a table and opened the row of windows—dropping each trellis screen gently back into place once he had pushed out the heavy wooden shutters.

Next he turned the squeaky key in the front door and pulled on the knob.

Across the road, next to the preacher’s house, he saw Bode was already setting up his old iron last.

He must remember to pay him for resoling his shoes. Bode had taken them to his employers on Pademba Road.

They looked like new when he wore them Easter Sunday.

“It’s a pity Bode’s younger sister, Dodo, gives him so much lip,” he thought, as he leaned forward and peered down the narrow tarmac street.

There was a small group of children with buckets and jerry cans at the standpipe he helped install many years ago, before most of them had been born.

He straightened up and walked back in to have his tea and ogi as he listened to the morning radio.

Slightly more than an hour later, he was dressed in a white button down shirt tucked neatly into his cable grey trousers. He slapped on some talc at the back of his neck and knocked on his wife’s bedroom door to tell her he was off.

He could hear his wife talking to the woman who came to rub her down in the morning.

Noh tay o,” she appealed.

Ah dae go kam jess noh,“ he assured her.

Mornin’ o, Pa Kola,” Bode said. “Yu, yu, yu see, see, see ow, ah fix da soos foh yu!” he scatted like a gun.

Ah tell yu, ole boy, ehn yu gi am good sole. Nah im ah werr yestaday foh go robe Easter.”

He slipped Bode his dash and moved along the path that ran past the mosque. A group of worshippers lingered outside. He caught Baromi’s eyes and she called out.

Pa Kola, morning’ o,” said the statuesque digba cheerily.

Unu morning o, fambul dem,“ he said, glancing up to greet her.

They asked after each other’s health, about wives and husbands, children, grand children, and the great grand children.

On his way again, further down the path where the corn grew thick, a smile crept over his lips. The quarrel he had with Baromi was over, he thought. The village headman had made peace. Besides, he thought wryly, he couldn’t be angry with Baromi. She could have been his wife if only she had wanted this Krio boy.

He walked slowly. He didn’t want to break into a sweat. Since those German buses had stopped running into Murray Town, people walked a mile or more to Wilkinson Road to board poda-podas.

Past Sosoliso, he picked up his pace as he caught a whiff of stale beer and rum. A teetotaler all his life, he always felt drink was the road to ruin. He was proud he had never been a drinking man.

Well, except for his nightly cap of Schnapps he had taken to like religion after his wife moved to their daughter’s old bedroom.

Ahead, he could see where the dusty road hit the tarmac.

Once at the junction where Murray Town met Wilkinson Road, he stood on the kerb and watched poda podas cruise past. He walked a little way up, past the supermarket opposite the Mobil station, past the police headquarters on the roundabout, and the deserted bus stop, which no one seemed to use.

By this time he was sweating.

He stopped, pulled out his big white handkerchief, and wiped his brow and the back of his neck. Then he started up the hill. He would rest once he got to Nan’s, he thought. She couldn’t get about now.

Like his wife, hip pains kept her almost house bound.

She used to be quite a traveler when she was married to the white factor and traded piassava.

Halfway up the hill, he took a slight rest. From the distance, he could see the jacaranda showing off its bright purple flowers.

My, how that tree had grown. The last time he was here its beauty was hidden from view. It was good to see youthful spirit had pushed for freedom above the wall, which wrapped itself around the house where Nan lived.

He made out Nan’s husband on the porch.

Ole boy, ow unu do dae?” he called out, as he got closer.

Ah kam luk unu yai tidey,” he said as he lifted the latch and stepped through the gate, casting a glance at the purple treasure that’d sprung forth from the tiny seed he gave Nan so many years ago.

Noh tek wan moh step kam insai ya,” bellowed the man on the porch.

Ole boy, nah mi Kola,” he said with a half laugh. “Ow, yu noh noh say nah mi?

Ah dey tell you,” the voice demanded again. “Not wan step moh!”

Incredulous, the Murray Town visitor inched forward.

Ah kam visit, ole boy. Nah wetin apin?” He implored.

Then he heard the sound.

It’s Easter Monday, he thought, even more bewildered. He tried to speak but the pain in his chest was too great as he sank towards the foot of the jacaranda tree.

Copyright 2016

Lango Deen's Easter story was first published on Facebook in 2010.


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