Monday, November 17, 2014

To A Slave's Ears

To a Slave’s Ears
“As thik as a knife I tell yer
So thik I culdn’ even see mah fist
evn doe it twas only five, maybe six of dem inches
in front of me. You twoldnt believer yers eyes I tell yer.”
Was how Willy always started out his stories.
His smoldering eyes lighting up like the
flare sent up from a ship in distress
It was one of his favorites, though Ra only knew why

“She twas a beaut! The best deser eyes have ever’ seen.
Long cezar planks, freshly oiled. Oh man, she shurned. Yesh she did.
I tworked my elbows to the bone, rubbin’ and cleanin’ her. Spit shine! haha!
Neve’ a bette’ tway to clean a ship’
He’d always wink then, his tobacco stained teeth shining through
his foul breath creeping out and smacking you right in the face
He’d go right along, as if he didn’t notice the stench protruding from his gums

“We twas on er tway to dem islands. With the coconuts and dem pretty black niggas.
We twanted a batch of em dis time. Big money.”
His usual annoying whistle as his eyes glazed over, his mind on the money who would have once had

“But nature had its own ideers. She twas noter happy with us. No sir’ee. Dem twaves camer crashing down on us. Mighty angry twey twere. Dis tway and dat tway. Puppets we twere. Puppets on a mighty fine string. I twas on da ship one minute and der next, I twas in the water.”
He’d always give a dramatic shake here, as if he could still feel the water’s cold embrace.

“I dought I twas a goner for sure. I says, I says to God “Not now God. I is a good man. I ain’t done nuttin’ twrong. I says my prayers and meh Marys and I go to church and I do as der Bible tells me. It cant be my time.” And God up der, he twas a listenin’. He is always a listenin’ and he heard meh prayers.”
Here, he’d pause and cross himself, his wrinkled neck protruding upwards as if he could see his beloved deity looking down at him.

“A big fish came and I kid yer not. She twas’ a large girl. But phew, twas I happy to see er’.  Sleek fins, grey body, black beady eyes like the devil’s own, but I saw no evil in er’. I climbed onto er’ back and down we twent. Oh! How gorgeous da sea twas. All pink, an’ green an’ sand an’ blue. Da fish and I, we dove in and under the sea. The twaves crashing over and on us. Oh but I felt no pain. no sir’ee. it twas’ an adventure. A grand adventure.”
The old man would lean back in his rocking chair then, a crooked smile on his weather-worn face. The fish was always the favorite part of the story for him. He made sure to emphasis it. Made sure everyone knew God had sent the fish to him. Made sure they knew he had been chosen to live.

“Dat fish, dat bootiful, bootiful fish done took me right to dat nigga island. Dropped me off right der on da sand and twaved goodbye to me I twaved back, giddy as could be, but den I done thought to myself and I says to myself “Dat is a might fine fish der.” I done says. “Twould’ be a might shame to see er go to waste.” So I ate er all up.”
He let out a giddy laugh, slapping his knee as if that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard in the whole entire world.

“I twas cold den. And den out of notwhere comes dis damn nigga. Twit dem dum, dull eyes and dat dark, sinnin’ skin. Sea comes and sea looks at me. I look at er’ and we jus sat der, starin’ at eachtwother until sea offers me dis blanket. Now dis blanket stank to da high heavens. And it twas not very goodly made, but I twas cold and very grateful. I lifted my head up and I thanked God for dis nigga and dis blanket. I dun started to peel of mah clothes ya see, to dry em off. Meh boots were full of dat sea water. So full, I twas almost swimming in them!”
He’d cackle once again, this time slapping someone else’s knees. There would always be an awkward laugh in agreement here, though nobody ever found the story as funny as he did.

“I twent wit dat nigga to der village and I tells you it twas nuttin’ splendid. Dirty, it twas dirty an’ smelly an’ filthy.”
Occasionally a cough would puncture his story around this point. he’d wave his hands wildly as his body wracked with the poison filling his lungs. Somebody would take pity on his poor soul and bring him a cup of water, which he’d promptly spit up. Like the sea water that was permanently trapped in his lungs.

“But dey dont know no better dem niggas. I see dem washin’ in der sea, but it done help dem. Dey hav thiser smell to dem. It’s in der blood. but anyways da niggas dey dun fed me an’ gab me sum clothes an’ a bed, if yer could call it dat, to sleep on. And oh boy, did I sleep. I slept me a good long sleep. An’ in der morning dey helped me look for meh ship. But twas nuthin’ left of her.”
A moment of silence as he bowed his head, crossing his chest once more.

“I dun think dey knew we dun gone down. It was’ a long time I was on dat island. I twas almost afraid I twould be stuck der wit dem dum niggas and der big eyes. Muh skin done got darker an’ I twas afraid the devil done got his hands on me an’ twas turni’ me into one of dem, but no sir’ee. God twas not havin’ dat. He sent one of his ship to us and I twas rescued. Da men twere surprised to see meh and I had to prove that i twas white, but dey knew I twas. By how well-spoken I twas’. Anytway we dun herded dem niggas up and boarded da ship. Dey cried and dey moaned, lookin’ at me wit der dum eyes, but I couldnt help em. Twas God’s tway.”
As if that excused any of it.

“Twhen I arrived back at meh home, my wife twas sure glad to see me. Da first thing she dun says to me twas dat “You dun smell like a nig” and dat twas it. She dun kiss my cheek and we twere happy. We had six more kids and here I am today. Tellin’ da story of how a fish saved meh. “
He’d lean back in his chair once again, having his fill of storytelling this time. Sometimes his monologue was longer and more fierce, other times it was shorter. Focusing in on the fish that ‘saved’ him. He always swore up and down that he saw that fish, telling what he perceived to be the same story over and over again, but it was always wrong.

Old Willy’s brain was as waterlogged at his boots
I was the ‘nigga’ that saved him
And I never saw any fish