Updated: Feb 19, 2020
by Rae Wiltshire
2nd Place The Guyana Annual 2018 Open Short Story Competition
Ah wake up to me Auntie crying. She face de wet wid tears and she eyes de puffy, puffy. Ah hold Auntie hands and ask she, ‘Auntie Romona wha’ happen?’
‘Ya uncle dead dis marning Tommy.’
Ah turn ma head away from Auntie, dunk it in ma pillow and began to halla. Ah wanted to beat she at hallering. When Ah halla, Auntie start halla mo’ bad and Ah couldn’t leh dat happen, so Ah increase de volume. It was a lot o’ fun. Ah never had so much fun hallering in me life and de best part was Ah couldn’t even geh licks for it. Today hallering was de ting in de house. It wasn’t Auntie alone hallering, de whole family de hallering. Ah coulda hear dem through de bedroom door. Me Auntie start turn me face and Ah couldn’t leh she see me wid no tears in me eyes. Ah tek ma finger put spit on ma hand and dab it under me eyes, before Auntie turn me. When she see me face, me Auntie look at me fuh a li’l while, like she de searching fuh somet’ing. Auntie place she fingers on me cheek and start fuh rub it. She check she fingers and look harder at me. Oh shucks! She woulda know Ah was faking. Nah, but Ah fool she, ‘cause she just place me face in she belly and continue crying. When we come out de bedroom, everybody had dem eyewater and some o’ dem eyes de red, red. Ah feel good dat all a we de crying. Mommy come and hug me and ask me if Ah a’right. Ah seh yeah and den she mek me breakfast. Mommy gi’ me butter and bread. Ah sit down and pick, pick at de bread and try ma best to look sad. When nobody din looking, Ah would put nuff mo’ spit on ma hand and rub under me eyes. But nobody din notice me.
Later in de afternoon, Mommy, Grandmother and me two Auntie began to plan de fineral and Ah was excited ‘cause Ah never went to a fineral before. Ah know dis one woulda be a lot o’ fun. Ah de already went to couple weddings – people in me family like geh married, but nuff ah dem don’ dead too much. De weddings used to geh nuff food and dancing up, plus Ah used to go outside and play ketcha in de grass with ma cousins, Sarah and Bupin. Death to me de seem like a mo’ big thing, so Ah figure de place where de fineral woulda tek place had much mo’ space to play and have fun.
Me uncle de real sick before he dead. Ah din really know it was from wha’ but Mommy and me Auntie seh it was he girlfriend, Smelly Samantha, dat mek he sick. Smelly Samantha is de name Daniel de gi’ she. Daniel geh adopted by Old Mommy – she is me Great Grandmother. Ah gi’ she de name Old Mommy, and she hated dat name so much, but de name stuck and everybody used to call she dat. Ah jus’ din know wha’ fuh call she, Ah had me own Mommy and Ah couldn’t call she Grandmother, cause Ah de done geh a Grandmother, and ‘Great Grandmother’ way too long, so Ah jus’ decide to call she Old Mommy. Old Mommy din cry though. Ah figure nuff people dead fuh she and she din had to really cry. She husband de dead only two years back or so. She and all din like Smelly Samantha and Old Mommy de like everybody.
Ah neva could remember somebody who smell so stink like Samantha. She used to bathe and so, ‘cause a does see when she come out de bathroom, but Samantha used to still smell stink. Ah remember one time barrel de come down fuh we and everybody crowd up in de room and Samantha fumes de bunning me nose bad, bad, bad.
Auntie Romana close de barrel and seh, “a’right everybody out de room, yall too much in hay.” And all a we left. When Samantha leff de house, Auntie open up back de barrel. She seh, “Oh gawd Ah had to close it, Samantha smell real bad, a din able wid de scent. She gat to visit de doctor to figure out wha’ gah she smelling so bad.”
Ah feel bad fuh Samantha and dat night Ah pray to God dat she could stop smell stink and people wouldn’t mind she ’round dem.
Dat same marning, when Uncle Junior dead, Ah de ask me Mommy, wha’ was de thing dat kill Uncle Junior but she seh Ah too small fuh understand. Ah din able bodda she nuff – ‘cause Ah know she wouldn’t tell me. It was some strange sickness dat Smelly Samantha had dat kill he. Ah hear she de talking to Uncle li’l before he dead while outside drinking ma tea.
“Junior, you believe dem ting dem people sehing? You honestly believe Ah could give you dis ting? Meen sleep wid no anti-man,” Samantha de seh.
“But how Ah geh dis ting? Ah never sleep wid nobody else. Man Samantha Ah gon dead, but wha’ Ah gon do, Ah gon dead, so Ah can’ even geh vex, look how Ah weak.”
Ah feel li’l good Ah neva sleep wid Samantha, or a anti-man, ‘cause a din wan dead. Ah din really know wha’ was a anti-man, but me en tink Ah sleep wid one. Ah feel a anti-man, mus’ be one a de junkie in town and da is why Samantha does smell so stink. Ah tink was de stinkness kill me uncle, dat had to be de ting – but de ting is, me uncle neva smell stink, so Ah li’l confused, but Adults does confuse me sometimes. Maybe Samantha din sleep wid a anti-man and is nah she mek he geh sick.
But me en know, Adults does confuse me nuff. Like Mommy and me Auntie de planning on beating Samantha if she come to de fineral, and Ah know dey woulda never wan’ me plan to beat nobody. Ah hear dem talking in de kitchen. Ah di’n wan Samantha come: she might’a de spoil de fineral and so Ah pray to God dat Samantha din come.
Later in de night, me uncle Joshua come and he seh how he hear Ah behave bad dis marning. Ah feel proud dat he hear duh: it felt good fuh behave bad. And he start sing a song, “Dance fuh me, nah, dance fuh me nah, dance fuh me nah,” and so Ah start dance up and geh nuff attention.
But den Ah see Smelly Samantha, and as soon as she enter de house Me Auntie Romona and Mommy start cuss she and like Ah de frighten fuh Samantha but she run out quick. And when she pass we, me uncle seh, “Dat girl deh is a good Judas.” Ah din even know wha’ was a good Judas; Ah jus feel real bad fuh Smelly Samantha.
When de fineral time come, Ah mek sure dat Ah look good. Shirt de tuck in and everyt’ing. When we reach, Uncle was in a box. He di’n look so much like me Uncle though: he look like somet’ing else. Ah thought we went at de wrang body, but everybody de crying over he, so Ah guess ya does change up when ya dead. Ah was jus’ looking ’round at everybody face and Ah de smiling a lot, Ah was at me fuss fineral and Ah know Ah wasn’t going to forget it. But it wasn’t ‘cause it de fun or anything like dat, it was jus’ boring, jus’ nuff crying and suh. Ah thought it woulda be mo’ fun. Ah set me expectation too high musdbe. Ah couldn’t even pretend to cry and to be sad, all Ah had was a stupit smile pun me face. We family friend, Sharmona, saw me and she keep staring at me. Is like she couldn’t understand why Ah de smiling, and so Ah stop smile, and Ah try not to show emotion. De fineral wasn’t really like wha’ Ah de expect: it was jus’ a chokey square space, couple dead bodies in boxes and families de crying. No li’l chirren din running ’round, and dem di’n had no grass to play ketcha. In fact, if ya de run outside it was a good chance a mini-bus woulda collect ya and scramble ya brains pun de road. Some mini-bus would slow down and de people would peep in to see who dead. Is like dey de fascinated with people dressed in black and crying fuh dead people. Ah din understand why dey had so much fun staring in though. It wasn’t a fun place to be, but adults like do weird tings. One o’ de weirdest tings was everybody de spraying a setta pufume over de dead. Nobody don’ smell dead people, so meeno why dey need pufume. Dead people don’ go out. But Ah guess people wan’ mek sure dey soul smell good before dey go to God, but wha’ if dey go to Satan? Ah wonda if Satan like de same pufume as God. Ah tink when Ah dead, Ah wan’ me family put ice in me box. So if Ah go to hell, Ah could cool down li’l bit. Me’en wan’ pufume dat could raise up de flames. Me and Bupin used to spray pufume pun Daniel lighter, so Ah know wha’ it could do. Plus de pufume was hutting up me head and Ah couldn’t wait fuh di fineral to finish. De next day at breakfast, everybody de mo’ relax and suh.
Auntie Romona seh, “Well leh Ah give y’all this joke, nah. So de marning when Junior dead, Ah go in Tommy room and when Ah wake Tommy up and tell he dat he uncle dead, de bai start scream, and so dat mek Ah feel terrible, so Ah start cry mo’ harder, but when Ah turn de bai face, it dry, dry, dry.”
And everybody start laugh. Ah laugh too. But Ah din laugh ‘cause it was funny, Ah de jus feel shame and all dat attention mek Ah wan’ cry, so Ah ask to go to de tailet. Ah tek a seat and jus’ so Ah start crying. Auntie Romona come and see me crying. ‘Is now de death ketch ya nah bai?’ she seh. Ah shake me head and seh yes. Auntie check me cheeks wid she fingers and smile. Dis time, Ah know Ah fool dem fuh real and nobody could’a laugh at me again.