[The second verse—the story after First Encounter]
Copyright © 2004 by Colin B. Hyde of Belize
All rights reserved
Their First Day
The early morning sun found them sitting on their little verandah, she in his lap because that’s where both of them wanted her to be. They spoke of many things. They spoke of the children they would have, and how they would raise them. They spoke of the need to expand the house, to accommodate the new ones who would be coming. They spoke about G, about how great a friend he was, and about how much they loved to please him.
After breakfast, Man-we showed My-Ever the box G had left her. A note on a book inside the package said: Make sure you and Manwe read this every day! A note on the sparkling sewing machine inside the package said: Make all the pretty clothes you like, Girl! My-Ever was so happy. She laughed, and hugged Manwe, and kissed him, and they were all that mattered.
She picked flowers in the garden and made a bouquet for the table. A couple of hours before noon he went to the field to collect food for dinner. She cooked. They ate and drank. He took his siesta in the hammock. She took her siesta in the bed.
When evening came she prepared supper. After the evening meal he drew water from the well and carried it to the bathhouse. After she had her bath he gave her his best towel to dry herself with. She waited for him, until he finished bathing. They walked to the house together.
They sat on their verandah awhile, enjoying at the stars. Then they went inside. G didn’t have to snuff out the candle.
The next day they went off on their honeymoon.
Manwe lay on his blanket, listening to the warm waves washing the dark seashore. My-Ever rested in his arms, her head upon his chest, her warm, sweet breath mingling with his own. He could not remember ever feeling so happy.
Later in the night she turned her back to him, curled up like a ball, and pressed her soft body closely against his. He caressed her arm and pressed his face deep into her hair, sucking in the sweet scent of her shampoo. He thought he would not want for anything more in his life and offered a silent prayer of thanks to G, from whom all good things come.
He awoke with birds singing in his head, a cool wind from the southeast blowing in from the Caribbean, and the sun, a red-orange medallion, peeking over the horizon, its first rays shimmering on the sea, all the way to the shore. My-Ever, who had learned to rise at the crack of dawn at G’s school, was at the kerosene stove, turning a silk snapper that was frying in a pan of hot coconut oil. A pot of steaming coffee was on the table, along with hot johnnycake, butter, Dutch cheese, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
It was a period of rapture, this honeymoon, this holiday. They were idyllic days, spent sailing and swimming , exploring caves and forests and river banks, singing and reciting poetry, reading passages from the book, climbing hills and hiking trails, catching lobsters and snappers, and resting under the trees.
On the trunk of a fallen cohune palm in the forest they sat side by side, gaping at the colorful but awkward looking toucan bird, which he called, billbod, because of its enormous beak. They heard the drum roll before they saw the relentless drummer, the ‘father red cap’ woodpecker, drilling into a rotted section of tree trunk inside which resided a meal of succulent insects. They watched, in amazement, the dazzling hummingbird, his wings a whirr as he flapped them to keep his tiny body perfectly still, on a perch of air, while he drank sweet nectar from a flower. They watched, in awe, the magnificent Scarlet Macaw, nesting high up in the tall forest alongside the Old River.
On the seaside they sat side by side, gaping at the fearless pelican as it dove recklessly into the narrowest corners. They watched, in wonder, as the majestic frigate bird glided effortlessly across the clear, blue skies. They watched, in amusement, as the chattering seagulls jostled for landing space where there was more than enough for all.
He wanted to teach her everything he knew about her new world, even about the crabs: how the male fiddler crab had an outsized claw, which he used for fighting, and showing off for the girls; how the hermit crab, which he called, soaja, lived in the shells of dead snails; and how the blue crabs made a tasty soup, which he would make for her as soon as he went back country to gather green plantains for the matilda fut.
She had to learn how to fend off nuisance insects at the beach. Some of them had become quite pestiferous in certain habitats. Raking the beach every morning was sufficient to control the sandflies. Thinning the mangroves, just enough to let the breeze through, and putting vegetable oil and hog fat in the crab holes near where they camped, were sufficient to keep away the mosquitoes. Burying the inedible parts of small game and fishes they caught, was sufficient to keep away the house flies and the doctor flies.
She was the study; he was her guide. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t teach her; nothing he wouldn’t share. Well, on the last, almost. He steered her away from all human contact. He would share her with birds and crabs but not with his friends, who, yes, were all male.
One early evening on the Old River, a strong current caught a raft they were on, pulling them over a small waterfall. He startled awake from his siesta to find they were drifting past a hut in a clearing in the forest. My-Ever was all inquisitive, wanted to know who lived there. He told her that it was the home of an evil old Duhende who, if he saw her, would turn her into smoke. She became very scared and held on to him tightly, and made him promise never to take her by that place again.
That night, after they had supped, and bathed, he played his guitar, sang songs, and recited poetry for her. They were all sensual, darts dipped in a vial of love, launched from Cupid’s bow, straight to his lover’s heart. When she came into his arms their passion was surreal. After, as they lay spent on their bed under the stars, he held her close to his body, until her breath was a whisper, the murmur of a happy heart in the land of dreams.
Manwe loved gazing at My-Ever’s sleeping form. He could not get enough of her stunning beauty. While he was awake he kept watch. Not even an ant could come near her. Of course he knew his love for her was strong. But that night, as he pulled the blanket to shield her body from the chill, he realized that his love for her was stronger than strong. That night he knew he loved her—even more than himself.
After a long day sightseeing on the coast and the river, and a night of romancing, sleep was not long in coming. Soon he was snoring. A lone deer on his way to meet his lover came upon this scene of sweet, sweet love. He could not but smile and smile, seeing them there, wrapped up in their blanket, in innocent slumber.
The life of sweet love, tender love that enraptured and melted his heart and enveloped his mind in a syrup of bliss, went on and on. And all the days through, while he and his marshmallow heart lay in this syrup, he dreamt—of slaying dragons and conquering worlds—of rich prizes and golden trophies—of vast kingdoms and great palaces—and all he would do for her, to please her heart and make her love him always.
Ai, it is so, oftentimes, that when one seemingly has everything, couldn’t possibly want for anything more—trouble comes galloping on a horse. Sometimes it is sickness. Sometimes it is money worries. Sometimes it is because of the heart.
The hour to return home was drawing nigh. Maybe it was the sweet sadness of looming departure why, when he was alone, he increasingly found himself wondering, with apprehension, about what tomorrow would bring. Would the new, beautiful life go on like this forever and ever? Or would storm clouds come and make his world cold again. He prayed, with every fiber in his body, for the sun’s warm, energizing rays.
Too soon, the last night came. That night, as she lay sleeping in his arms, her warm, sweet breath was no balm for his rapidly beating heart. He lay there in the dark, his conscious absorbed with his trouble. He wandered to a time when she wasn’t there. He remembered how empty life was then. He understood his anxiety, clearly, that he needed her, desperately, to be his, alone, for always.
The moon vanished behind the hills, dragging its pale light behind it. The drapes of darkness, following closely in its wake, drew shut. Sight gave way to the sounds of silence.
The soft moan of the wind in the boughs above and the swash of the foamy waves as they rolled up the sandy beach then receded to the shoreline, played on the backdrop of his mind. The songs of the coast were a cooling drink for a thirsty body, soothing for a disturbed soul. Soon, mercifully, he was asleep.
The urgent morning spilled over the distant horizon, awakening them from their repose. All that breathed bowed and prayed. My-Ever bowed and prayed. Manwe, dutifully, also bowed and prayed. But this morning he was not completely sincere because he thought G’s sun unfair with its unsympathetic haste.
It was traveling day. There wasn’t much to carry—just a few items of clothing and bedding, their little kerosene pump stove and pots, and some food. He placed their stuff on his horse. He climbed on to the back of his horse and she climbed onto the back of her horse, and they were off.
A Fateful Day
It was their meeting day, their time to discuss the planting and the harvesting, and to make other plans for the future. Today, as per usual, work progressed apace. Someone remarked that Manwe appeared a little jumpy. He told them he’d been having, ehm, sleepless nights. Mid-morning they paused to eat plastic cake and drink coconut water. By lunchtime the day’s business was done.
He had something to tell them. He was waiting for the appropriate moment—to tell them that he was getting old and he wanted to go away and see the world. Yes, this was farewell—he was handing over—they would have to find a new leader. Of course he would send them postcards. Of course he didn’t need any of them to accompany him.
It was powwow time—time for gamboling about like young horses on succulent grass; time to play games; time to eat barbequed mutton and pork; time to play music on their guitar; time to drink a little berry wine.
In the afternoon one of the boys flogged a cricket ball out of the park, way over the bushes. My-Ever was at home because Manwe had warned her that it was the time of the month when an evil old jaguar roamed the earth searching for food to eat, and it was safer for her to be indoors. She was taking a beauty nap in her bedroom. A little snake that lived inside the casing of the walls in her bedroom was also taking a nap.
The ball smashed through the trees and hit the house. It rattled the walls. The little snake woke up and crawled out of its hiding place. My-Ever also woke up. She opened her eyes and saw the snake. She fell out of bed and bumped her head on the floor. She got up and raced out of the house.
The boys, searching in the bushes for their ball, were astounded when they saw her. Yes, she was the most adorable thing any of them or anyone had ever seen!
Poor Manwe. He tripped over himself a dozen times explaining all about her, a hundred times explaining why he hadn’t brought her to meet them, a thousand times explaining why he was the only one allowed to wash her wound and console her. Poor Manwe. He could not, not invite her to spend the rest of the day as the first lady at their games.
Ah, the games. Before, no one cared who won. Now everyone wanted to look good, everyone wanted to show off, everyone wanted to be the best man—in front of her.
For My-Ever, it was all innocent fun. When the handsome young fellow bowled Manwe for duck, she clapped her hands. When the strong youth dumped him on the seat of his pants in the wrestling match, she laughed. When the agile youth faked left, and went right, left him standing in his socks, then slammed the basketball through the rim emphatically, she jumped off her seat and applauded.
When they stopped for refreshments, they all crowded around her. Oh, she was so vivacious, and so delighted by their attention.
Manwe wasn’t thrilled. As the evening wore on he became more on edge, more discomfited about her being there, and being so happy about it. He refused a drink of water she poured him. He hollered at one of the boys on his team who fumbled an opportunity in front of goal. Then oh, oh calamity—he snapped at her when she chided him for his harsh words.
It was like the away team had scored at the buzzer, switching a glorious victory to a bitter defeat. The games stopped. The boys, who had never seen Manwe flustered before, the boys, who had never heard him raise his voice before, stood in stunned silence, while poor Manwe, whose only crime was his desire to totally possess the sometimes capricious bird, stood there on a very slippery slope—at the bottom of which was nothing nice.
The boys returned to their districts. Manwe shared abrazos with each of them before they left. When the boys were all gone he put his arms about My-Ever, but there was a strain between them. They walked home in silence.
Sometime that night they kissed and made up. The episode at the powwow appeared to be behind them. But inside Manwe there was a haunting. Oh, he was so close to carrying out his plan. If the ball hadn’t hit the wall, if My-Ever hadn’t awakened and seen the snake, they’d be in some distant place now, far, far away, where he had no rivals.
The days went by in his world—one after the other. For the most part they were as sweet as when she’d just arrived. But as the time drew nearer for their next meeting they became more and more like those before G gave him her—those days when he was lost—those days when he was an empty shell—those days when there was an ache below his heart that gnawed at his core, leaving him raw and broken.
Manwe was a good man. His goodness came not from fear of hell or what some people might say about him. His goodness came from the fact that he was a real good guy, one who loved his G and his duty. But there were no charts to guide him through these consumptive, jealous waters. Just a short time ago he had known ecstasy. Now the tide had turned back, back to a period when he was a man mired in misery.
G To The Rescue—Again
G looked down and saw—and he worried for him. Manwe was weeding his field when G passed by in his Bermuda shorts, a sleeveless shirt, old sneakers, a small canvas bag in one hand, and a knapsack on his back.
A smile as bright as May sunshine lit up Manwe’s face when he saw him. “Boy am I glad to see you, G!”
“Same here, Braa,” G said, wrapping him up in a bear hug that almost took away his breath. “Care to guess where I’m going this afternoon?”
“Look in my knapsack,” G said, taking it off his shoulders and setting it on the ground.
Manwe eagerly loosened the string lock and peered inside. “Wa, diving mask and fins! Wee, yu going to the reef, G!”
“Yup,” G said, “I have my mind set to eat conch soup tonight. Have most of the ingredients in the other bag, but I still need the conchs and a bit of ground food.”
“Well you come to the right place for the yampi and the cocoyam and the plantain and the camote and the cassava,” Manwe said.
“I know that,” G said. “You wouldn’t happen to have a little bottle of wash-down too?”
“Of course,” Manwe said.
“Just teasing,” G said. “You know I never leave home without my supply.”
Manwe shook his head from side to side, his eyes bright with a mischievous glow. “Tell me something, G. All you do these days is drift about?”
G smiled. “Mostly,” he said. “But don’t envy me.”
“No envy here,” Manwe said.
“Good,” G said, “cause I already done my chores. You’re on your six days now. And you got a ways to go yet. But between the sweat drops you should be having fun. No other planet is anything like this one, Manwe. None. You are living on the Crown’s jewel.”
“I bet life is a bed of roses on your planet, though,” Manwe said.
G nodded his head gently, up and down. “Yup!” he said, a smile a mile wide on his lips.
Manwe turned his face skyward. “I can’t wait to get there,” he said.
“Don’t be in too much a hurry, Braa,” G said, wagging a finger playfully in Manwe’s face. “You got your work to do. But another time for that. I’m certain you have other things to talk to me about. Spit it.”
“What?” Manwe said, taking a step backward, a look of mild surprise on his face. “Everything’s cool, G; everything’s cool.”
“Really? No snake causing trouble in your neighborhood?”
“Snake?” Manwe said, a perplexed look on his face, “I haven’t seen any snake.”
“Just checking,” G said, “because you’re in a down mood, fellow. You damaged or cut down almost half of the plants you weeded this morning.”
Manwe scratched his head. “Shucks, G. You know everything.”
“Talk to me, Manwe,” G said.
“I really hate to complain,” Manwe said, “don’t want to be ungrateful—not after all the gifts you gave me—not after all the counseling about how to handle my candle. And I definitely haven’t forgotten how when things went really low for me—when I didn’t want to live anymore—how you picked me up and sent me—her.”
“I remember,” G said.
“Well, for a while it seemed my days were drifting on air, G, for a while it seemed that nothing could go wrong. My wine bottle then was filled with giggly. But things have changed; things have changed. Now when I drink from my wine bottle I feel so sad I want to cry—I can’t control her, G.”
“Control her? You need to control her? Why?”
Manwe sighed heavily. “I don’t want her to leave me, G.”
“Leave you? Are you serious?”
“G, all those other guys, when they saw her it was like they were mesmerized—it was like the children meeting the Pied Piper. And she was enjoying it; oh, was she enjoying it! But every smile for them was a dagger in my heart. Once again I was in that sinking hollow, spooning butter in my coffee. I don’t want her to leave me, G.”
“Come on, she’ll never leave you. I trained that girl myself.”
“I believe you, G. But you know what would make me rest easier?”
“Go on,” G said, “cough it up.”
“G, this might sound crazy but—but it would make me feel better, a lot safer if you ehm—made up some more girls. You know, so that each of them could have one of their own.”
G laughed, “Ha, ha, ha, ha.” He laughed so heartily his cheeks almost touched his brows. “Made up some girls—ha, ha, ha, ha,” he laughed again.
“Please, G,” Manwe said. “I know you can.”
“Of course I could, “G said, “of course I could. But I don’t wanna. I won’t. Look, you, my friend, are first man. And My-Ever is first woman. You and she will be the daddy and mommy of all nations.”
“All that sounds good, G, but it doesn’t solve my problem.”
“Rest easy,” G said, “I’ll take care of them.”
“Yes!” Manwe said, punching his right fist into his opened left palm. “I don’t hate those guys, G, but it will be a blow for peace when you—you—what will you do with those fellows, G? Send them across the ocean on a boat?”
“Not,” G said.
“Then you’ll─neuter them?” Manwe said.
“Now that’s a little rough,” G said. “Naa, I’ll probably take them to Gronk. Or, and this is my wager, I’ll have them join Roly at my grand folks’ house in the country.”
“Whoo!” Manwe said, clasping his hands before him tightly. “Thanks, G. I am breathing a lot easier.”
“Good for you,” G said, “good for—you.”
“What is it, G?” asked Manwe. “You aren’t happy for me?”
“Of course I’m happy for you,” G said. “But our little discussion has got me thinking. Oy, I had all the evidence before me but I believed that by training her personally I could undo the mischief of Roly.”
A very disappointed look set on G’s face. “Yes. I left him to watch the batter for me, just a moment, and that little bungler put too much brown sugar, and too much spice, and to top off the granddaddy of all slip ups, threw a habanero in the pot. You see what we got? Wow, if her daughters are anything out-a-this world sweet and saucy like her—wow!
Ai, I was fooling myself, thinking I could smile and all affairs of the heart would be on easy street. Hoo, her daughters will inherit those genes. Oh my, there’s going to be trouble—lots of trouble. My-Ever’s daughters will make a gaping wound that will suck their very souls, leave an empty space, a void inside them that only they can fill. Her daughters will take their little hearts and relocate them to their throats. And leave them there. Their smiles will loosen screws that hold knees that I put together. Yay, and if it happens that a youth can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t sleep, barely breathe—then it’s time for him to run for his life. Just to hear her name—the smell of her perfume—her—”
“G! G!” Manwe called out, for he was glowing a somber blue and was about to lift off to places on high.
“Aw shucks, I was tripping out just now,” G said, returning fully to his earth body. “Come on, we have to get a hold of ourselves, man. Otherwise the whole shebang will go up in smoke. You’ll have to teach your boys how to ride it out, how to take it on the chin. If the worst comes to the worst, yes, if the day comes that she says it’s over, tell them they are to be grateful, tell them they are to thank her for sharing her gifts with them. And when they’ve recovered some, they must not be afraid; they must take their chances again. Tell them to pass on the wisdom to their boys. And their boys are to pass it on to their boys. And so on.”
“Sounds good the way you say it,” Manwe said, “but knowing what I know I wouldn’t put my stock there. They will mess up, bad. A broken heart will cause them to do a lot of crazy things. It’s mission impossible, G.”
“Whoa,” G said, “a woman is not a man’s validation. I am. Look, she will choose how she will choose. If she chooses a fellow’s lucky bee of a rival over him, bully for the rival. But that doesn’t make the rival the best; that makes him who she chooses. Of course it must hurt. Well then, that’s when a man has to, well, man up. Now, some cassava and camote and yampi and coco yam and two finger-a-plantain to help strengthen my soup.”
“Ground food coming up,” Manwe said.
G smiled dreamily. You could see the stars dancing in his eyes. Then his mouth split wide, until it reached his ears. Manwe felt warm all over.
G put the yampi and cassava and camote and coco yam and the two finger-a-plantain Manwe got for him into his sack, slung it over his shoulder, waved bye-bye, and headed down to the coast. When he arrived there he changed down to his bathing trunks, waded into the sea, and gathered a few conchs. He then returned to the beach to make his stew.
First he cleaned the conchs, pounded them with a stick, and placed them in a small pot of water he had over a fire. Then he prepared the ground food and the vegetables. He placed these in a big iron pot that was set over another fire.
When the pot with the conchs started to boil he took it off the fire and threw out the water. He then added the conchs to the pot with the ground food and vegetables, and seasoned it with salt and black pepper and sweet pepper and oregano and onions and garlic and thyme and habanero—and things.
Next he prepared the roux. He added flour and water to a frying pan with a little coconut oil, and stirred it till it was dark brown. When the roux was done he placed it in the big pot. Then he hauled himself under a nearby grape tree to await his feast.
Late that evening a soup began to simmer on a desolate portion of the beach. And a most glorious soup it was promising to be too! It gurgled in the pot—rich, and dark, and confident. Bubbles waltzed from the heart of it, through thick little chunks of carrots and coco and plantain and potato and yam and okra and conch and green beans and various vegetables, ‘til they popped free, saturating the air with the breath-taking aroma of thyme and oregano and onion and garlic and butter and sweet pepper and hot pepper—and things.
After G had had his bellyful, and his wash-down, he patted his stomach, burped, and made to leave, but the soup held him down and his glow machine wouldn’t go. Sleep was heavy upon him and he surrendered under a nearby bush. The conch soup sat well in his tummy, so well that he dreamed—sweet dreams—of the sons and daughters of Manwe and My-Ever—making beautiful music. Hmm, when he awoke and made to leave, this time he wasn’t hindered. This time his glow machine practically hummed.
Well, and thank goodness for Manwe and My-Ever, it was all grape leaf for them, downwind sailing for that pareja after G’s visit. Yes, theirs was a romance for the ages. They had their book to guide them. And since G whisked those fellows off to somewhere, it was only him and her, and her and him, and their offspring, until their time came to be with G in Bliss.
Unfortunately, the wind was not always at the backs of their children, and their children’s children. And that’s all because that arrogant Verdeman came around with his stupid problem, and that dratted Roly couldn’t remember the simplest instructions. Ai, those two bums—if not for them it would have been a stroll in the park, sweet memories and sweeter tomorrows for us too.
Instead, like that day on that lonely field, until forever, we poor offspring of Manwe and My-Ever travel a bumpy road, clutching at happiness, stumbling every so often into the abyss of despair. We struggling flies, trapped in a spider’s web, praying for a magic wand to keep her devotion. There isn’t any.
A lone pelican glided effortlessly through the air, the tips of its wings almost touching the sea. A dog scratched his neck, yawned, rolled over, and went back to sleep. Overhead, billowy clouds drifted aimlessly to destinations unknown.
It was late evening now, and a few early stars were already peeking from around the clouds in the darkening skies. G sat in the rocking chair in his bedroom, his head sagging heavily on his chest. He ached for the good old days. And to think he’d thought he had problems. But, he had done his best. And his intentions, as always, had been pure.
“Maybe if I hadn’t kept so much sugar and spice in the house,” he whispered to the wind.
“Maybe you should take a peek through your window,” the wind said.
“Why?” he asked.
“Just go and look,” the wind said.
Down below, a pale yellow balloon filled with helium, or something, rose free above the trees, its righteous silvery light teasing the mysterious darkness, probing the secret places. A young man struggled to find the right words to say to a pretty girl sitting beside him on a bench in a crowded park. A cloud came up, obscuring the moon. He pulled her to his bosom. The scent of orange blossoms was very strong now.
We know (after reading First Encounter) that life without a mate didn’t work out for first man (Manwe) on earth. So G (God), with a little unsolicited help, went and cooked up a very special girl for him. The night they met was special. But one night does not a life make. What happened the day after, and the day after…Was it smooth sailing, or did an evil snake enter the picture and bring misery into their lives?