The New Life
The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps
Copyright © 2015 David Alexian
All rights reserved.
This book is dedicated to my darling wife for her patience and to Gordon E. G. Alexander; man who provided much, when there was little.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either products of the authors imagination or used fictitiously.
No part of this book may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise, without express written permission of the author or publisher. Every effort has been made to make this book as accurate as possible. However, there may be typographical errors.
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Shelly Narine, stepped across the kitchen floor. The floor boards hissed. The rubber slippers she wore dragged against it, every time her heels rose. She looked at her husband and four children. Screaming in her mind was how quiet everyone was. She could not remember the last time the girls were around each other without some bickering taking place. Especially during dinnertime, Shelly felt this was always the worst time when they were together. Voices clamored for various parts of the meal; the chicken or end sides of the bread.
It was a bit early in the evening. Much earlier than the family will usually have their evening meal. The dazzling light from the setting sun had just vanished behind the hill. There was a gleam of orange that reminded in the sky. Maybe for about ten or fifteen minutes this spectacle lingered. As the night fully took control of the skies it signaled a time for Kiskadee to recharge. There were no stars to see tonight, the skies seemed lonely; even the orange streak was gone.
Weddings are golden moments. They bring joy, an uneasy anticipation by all involved. On the other hand, funerals are the total opposite. Screeching groans; moans from a beaten weary crowd. Seeking answers and bellowing the lost of a friend. Tonight it was a cross between the two; a wedding and a funeral. It was the return of Shelly’s husband Deo Narine, to not only his family but to the village.
The family had not seen him for twelve and a half years, during the time of his incarceration. All this time he spent on the islet of Centenery, about three hours from the main land. From his family, he lived isolated. Shelly had little means and could not travel freely to see him. Also, the last place that anyone could end up was on Centenery. The local fishermen preferred to venture out into the protected waters of the neighboring countries, than to veer in that direction. But there a father and husband was. Centenery was considered a curse. And even Deo, as much as at times he longed for his family, this was not a place to come near.
So with the exception of the occasional letters Shelly wrote him, and post cards the children made by hand to send him; this was the only contact he had with them.
And now, he sat at the table, a stranger in their lives.
Of their four children, Sarah was just a few months old when he left. Too young to understand what had happened. But her bulging mocha coloured eyes, glazed over, like dew falling from dead mango leaves, the night police came and took him away. It was a showery Friday evening. Shelly remembered as though it was just a few hours ago. Jasmine, the oldest, was a few months over five, she remembered, but had since blocked out the visions of her father being dragged away. That night, about three, or possibly four corvettes came racing to the house. No sooner had you heard the sirens coming from around the bend by the cemetery, they were there.
Deo was not going to run, he was waiting, but something else was on his mind. He was playing over the moments leading up to the incident. But after the scream, the explosion and the smell of sulfur burning, everything else was a blur. One fire fly zipped continuously in front of him, as he sat on the front step of the house. The little insect was spelling something before his eyes. It looked like a name. But to a man with little time counting against his freedom, he could not make sense of it. As quickly as Deo entered one of the cars, the door closed and away he went. He did not look back to see his family, his neck was arched as he peered through the windscreen.
With the cars out of sight and her husband gone, Shelly just stood there, her eyes became a torrent. Encircled by her children and a spot on the stairs were her husband had just occupied, the smell of freshly mowed grass mixed with manure filled the air. A reminder courtesy the car wheels which had just pull out from the front yard.
The evening was serene. Deo now said just about three words to his wife, since walking through the door. The children were quiet too, as if trying to make adjustments in their thinking. Questions no doubt needed to be answered. But who was going to start? Was this even the right time for questions? At least one thing was certain, there was a man named Deo Narine in the house that night. Tomorrow, the village will have the chance to meet him. For men like Deo, probably word was already being spread in the village.
About one hour had passed so far. The time though seemed longer. In a cage, time goes slowly. He became used to this. But just sitting there in the kitchen, Deo began to feel time itself had stopped. Although he was in his house, he felt as though he was invisible to the home. The white and gray striped shirt and khaki three quarter pants was all he came home with. This suit was one of the best he had acquired, keeping clean and worn only on special occasions. Out here, it is just cloths. Cloths if sold could purchase maybe a cigarette or a drink of rum and nothing else. On the islet, men could lose their life for accidentally staining possessions like these.
As Deo sat in the kitchen, his mind tried to make sense of what his sight beheld. The table in front of him seemed different to when he sat there the last time. It appeared bigger. Probably because of the size, when compared to the one he had in his prison cell. Either way, it felt strange. The six chairs around the table were worn and unsteady; their previous light brown colour had now taken on a dark grayish shade, lightened by the constant scrubbing and polishing. From where he sat, he saw the kitchen sink propped up with two pieces of wood. Wood Shelly must have fastened to keep the tattered stand from crumbling to the floor. The kerosene stove was blackened and choked by the soot. A shade highlighted on the few cooking pots, hanging from four inch nails, driven into the wooden wall.
He cocked his head to the side, surveying the room. Placing his elbows on the table, he exhaled.
He had always longed for his freedom to be with his family, but now, he felt as though the distance they had was what his family needed. His thoughts raced. Much the same as the night he was taken away. He wanted to get away from them. Thinking, maybe it was a wrong idea to be let go from a secured place. A place he had control over. Perhaps the judge was wrong and that he was not a rehabilitated man. At that moment, he wanted to return to Centenery. To the place where he hid behind stone walls and prayer someone his life will end. But even behind bars, new travelled fast. And without saying a word, it was understood that Deo Narine was to be touched by no one.
Now, the house was a wooden ‘L’ shaped structure with three rooms; two ten by twelve bedrooms and a ten by ten kitchen area. The average size of most houses in the area. The toilet and room for bathing was outside. This too was the same for a number of other people in the neighborhood. The community was simply designed, and the people had a view of not having too much bothered them.
Since Deo was gone for years and Sarah, at the time was still a baby, she shared the bedroom with her mother up to that point. The other three girls shared the other bedroom. Each night the girls enjoyed staying up late, talking to each other about hair styles, the eligible young men or clothing which they saw in old catalogs swapped with other girls in the village. This night though was to be different. Without the girl’s mother barking at them to go to bed, they willingly left the table for their respective rooms.
As Deo sat at the table, Shelly cleared the dishes, removing the children’s, then his. He eased back into his chair, as if to allow her sufficient room to reach his plate, and then, just kept looking at her. Shelly could not remember her husband being this quiet, but under the circumstances, she continued doing the same.
After a few more minutes, Deo sluggishly got up from the chair and made his way to a small wooden window in the kitchen; a window he recalled building just before his incarceration. A gentle smile enveloped his face, as the nights air struck him. Reaching into his pocket, he took out a pack of cigarettes and reached over to a box with matches near the kitchen sink. He shook it, listening to the sticks crashing into each other. He then placed a cigarette to his lips, lighted the match and leaned into it. There was a silence, so much so that he could feel it in the air, heavy. He looked from the corner of his eyes at his wife’s piercing gaze. He recognized that much had changed since he was gone. He blew the match out and crumpled the cigarette in his hand, but the pack he returned to his pants pocket. He chewed on his thumb nail for a few seconds. Deo looked at the thumb, while playing around with a piece of the nail in his mouth. Then spitting it through the window, he scratched against his two day old beard.
“Sarah, she sleeps with you?” A whisper broke the silence.
Shelly released the grip she had on the kitchen towel, used to dust the bread crumbs into a plate she held at the corner of the table. She straightened her back and turned to him. Just shaking her head at him, then looking down at the work she was doing.
“Sarah, our daughter, Shelly, I don’t know her…twelve years is a long time.” Deo’s eyes glazed as the lamp’s light in the centre of the table beat against his face.
Shelly moved closer to him, as if to hug him, but stopped short. He looked at her, hesitated, but then threw his right hand around her neck, pulling her closer to him. As Shelly cried softly against his chest, he turned his head and looked out through the window and into the dark distance.
“I wanted to surprise you and the children.” He said. “They told me that I was getting out today, to start over, anew.”
“I have waited for you. Thanks for returning, this is a family again.”
Deo just held his wife as they both looked outside into the darkness.
About two miles away from the Narine’s family, Toney John had just finished his dinner. He had bread and corn soup. Today he moved into his new home with his family. Dow Island was not going to see them again. The two day boat journey to this island’s port and five hour donkey cart ride to Kiskadee village, was a plan that Toney saw played out in his mind many times.
Merry, Toney’s wife, was busy putting up the last of the curtains in the dining room. Humming a tune to herself, her smooth hands worked like that of a surgeon.
Jason, their sixteen year old son, held a stick in one hand and a small dull Swiss knife in the next. He held the knife firmly in his hand, its handle wrapped with a piece of cloth. The knife, his father had given to him as a present, over five years ago. Occasionally he brought the two together, scraping the blade against the wood and blowing off the dust that gathered on his hands. From time to time he looked at the stick, lost in thought. Like a scared bird in a trap, he sat on the step, exhausted. His ears listened to the sounds in the distance, familiar sounds of animals, but in an unfamiliar place. Toney looked at him through the opened door, he knew that his son had left much behind. To Toney, he had made the best decision for his family. As a father, he was not about to leave anyone behind. He told himself, what he experienced as a child at the hands of his relatives, was not going to be that of his family.
This home was an investment. It was not in the best of condition, a little over twenty years old since being constructed. Toney knew his way around as a carpenter and had great plans to rebuild it someday; making it more comfortable for his wife and son. He looked at the watch around his wrist, one he had bought a few hours earlier.
“Well, its late people, time to jump in bed, and hit that reset button.” His wife chuckled as he said those words.
“One more minute, Toney, I need to make some more curtain rods. Where are the rest of the strings I brought inside this evening?”
“I will go to the shop tomorrow morning and get some real curtain rods for you dear. But now, sleep time. I will be in soon, after feeding the dogs.”
“Jason, you heard your father, go wash up in the barrel outside and go to bed.”
Jason pretended to not hear his mother for a few seconds, but jumped to his feet as his father rose from the table.
“Here boys, it’s getting late. Where are you?” Toney called out to the two dogs.
Standing outside, the woods played him a festive song. He felt a sense of newness, and purpose to his life.
Back on Dow Island, Toney had three dogs he used for hunting. When he was about to leave, he sold the lead dog to another hunter. He did not need it anymore. But more so, he did not want to cripple it. It was getting old, and knew the forest back on the island better. It was the best hunting dog he ever had. Buck was its name. Buck was used to train the other two dogs, Vic and Blacks, who came on the journey. Vic was the youngest, and always had to prove his position in the pack.
Toney whistled loudly, piecing the cold air. He expected his dogs to respond. Yet, for several minutes, could hear nothing other than the forest creatures whistling back. Some distance around, he saw a few houses. There, light beamed from their windows, like eyes, but not enough to provide any help to him.
At that moment, under his breath, Toney reminded himself of the vow he made. No one will be left behind to fend for themselves, and that included his dogs, now a part of his family.
Many nights in the past, Toney’s dogs alerted him to dangers on the hunting trails. Once, Blacks even placed himself between a venomous snake and his master. Itself it offered as a sacrifice, so its master could escape death. Remembering this, Toney went back into the house, placed a slipper on his feet, took his machete out of the case and headed back to the front door. From inside the bedroom, Merry waited on him. She believed he was through taking care of the dogs, however, hearing the sound of his blade, she got out of bed.
“What’s wrong, Toney, what is going on?” With a shriek in her voice, her head pushed out from the bedroom passage way; Merry gazed at her husband.
“The dogs are missing!” He responded, sounding as though moaning the lost of a dear friend.
“They will return my love, you have trained them well!”
Sternness filled the room. “Merry John, it is my duty to take care of my—.”
However, before he could finish, Merry said. “Take the lamp in the kitchen dear, go, and bring them home.”
He turned to look at the forest outside, then to the floor. A few seconds after, with the machete firmly gripped in his hand, he turned to her. By this time, she was fully in the corridor between their bedroom and Jason’s. A bed sheet wrapped around her body, one hand held the two ends together, the other clinched her belly.
Toney dropped his chin, and then made one step towards her, she moved one step back. Then, moving her hand from her belly she braced herself against the wall.
“Go Toney, we love you.” She gave a dismissive wave of her hand.
Toney turned away from her, grabbed the lamp and disappeared through the door.
Merry, now moved towards the door and pulled it in.
A slight drizzle now lashed against the roof top.
She whispered, “Toney, I love you.”
She did not see herself sleeping that night until her husband returned.
As she walked away from the door, to the corner of her eyes the rains started entering the half shot window over the kitchen sink. Merry went over to pull it in. Then stopped for a moment to admire the curtains, even attempting to set it right; for the gentle breeze disturbed her frills.
Jason on the other hand, had his bedroom door closed in tightly, sealed from the world outside. Perhaps he had fallen asleep.
Kiskadee can be a wonderful place to live. It is a small village on an island in the Caribbean. Life there is generally simple and serene. But in the middle of this little world, there exist an uneasy feeling that this is not one of the happily ever after stories. And so, this village sets the stage for a family reuniting and another immigrating. Be prepared to keep guessing throughout this book, and of the series! This book is part of the series: The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps.