Authors: Anthony C. Winkler
Tags: #General Fiction
I was shocked by this ill-mannered question, but for the sake of argument I asked her to explain.
She rolled her eyes and sighed and said that if I were a staunch Christian and desired to live hoodless in heaven, I had to fill out this form, checking off the hoodless box, and then travel to Kingston after the ministry had notified me of an appointment with a licensed hood remover. On that said day my earthly hood would be painlessly removed, leaving behind not even a scrap of pubic hair—everything shaved clean. I asked what if I were a woman, and she replied that in such a case my pum-pum would be caulked by a licensed pum-pum caulker.
With that, she sullenly flicked the form across the counter. I made no move to pick it up.
“Nobody troubling me hood,” I mumbled.
She chuckled and looked pleased as she put away the form. “Boy, Jamaican man just love dem hood, eh? Even in heaven, dem don’t change!”
And she winked lewdly at me from where she perched on the counter stool, floating on a tube of roly-poly batty flesh.
Where would I sleep? What would I do? Where would I work? How would I occupy my days?
Just this morning I’d had clear answers to these common questions, but now that I was dead and in heaven, I had to wonder.
Miss B returned to her reading while I stood around in the shop feeling useless and out of place and wondering what was supposed to happen next.
I cleared my throat. “Now what?”
“You dead and reach heaven. Enjoy yourself,” she advised indifferently, her frizzy head ducked deep inside the open paper.
“How? Doing what?”
“Whatever you want!”
“Nothing happen today like it say in scripture. You don’t even look like an angel. Angel not supposed to be so meaty.”
“I am not a damn angel!” she growled, peering up crossly at me and sounding vexed. “I am a Jamaican! If you want angel, you have to migrate to America and join sheep heaven.”
Since I was getting nowhere with her, I looked around at the dinginess of the smelly shop, the slapdash jumble of bakery items and canned goods that cluttered the rickety shelves, the dirty coil of wooden counter behind which she sat reading, and felt a sudden urge to bring order and discipline to the mess.
Strolling to the far end of the counter, I impulsively began restacking the goods and dusting the shelves, trying to do so as quietly as possible so as not to disturb Miss B. But it was impossible, for she was sitting right under my nose as I worked.
“You dead to come dust off de shelf of my shop and restack me goods without permission?” she growled, peering up from her newspaper.
“No. Dat is not de reason I specifically dead. But I owned three shops on earth before I dead. And I don’t like idleness.”
She stared at me long and hard. Finally she scowled and returned to her paper, muttering under her breath, “Rass man just dead and reach heaven and him come take over me shop! Boy, negar duppy really have gall!”
But even as she grumbled she became engrossed in the paper, which I took as her permission to proceed.
I found a rag and began to scrub and wipe the shelves until I could see the grain of the wood. Then I stood on a crate and repacked the tinned goods neatly by type, restoring order to disarray and clutter.
Some customers occasionally wandered in while I worked, many of them exchanging idle talk and afternoon pleasantries with Miss B as they helped themselves by reaching over the counter and plucking canned goods off the shelf with no payment or accounting other than a cheerful, “Put it down in de book, Miss B!” before they sailed out of the shop, laden down with merchandise.
One woman tried to grab a tin of bully beef out of my hand as I was stacking it on the shelf, but I held on firmly and refused to give it up.
“Miss B,” she cried out, playing tug-of-war with me, “will you tell dis damn man to leggo de tin o’ bully beef!”
“Give her de bully beef,” Miss B muttered, hardly glancing up from her paper.
“Not a backside!” I roared. “First de goods must stack. Den customers can purchase dem. Plus, I don’t see no money in her hand!”
Miss B glowered at me before climbing down off her stool, stomping to the shelf I was stacking, extracting a tin of bully beef, and handing it to the woman, who put it in her purse with the usual chirp, “Put it down in de book, Miss B!” as she disappeared out the door throwing me a dirty look.
“Woe, Baps!” my parson bawled. “Dis is rampant Manley socialism!”
After I had finished cleaning the shelves and restacking the goods, I stood aside and admired my handiwork.
Miss B, who had gone onto the veranda to gossip with a neighbor, waddled into the shop, peered at what I had done, and led me to a small back bedroom where she said I-could-spend the night, adding that she had not asked for my help and that she had been perfectly content with her shop before I interfered with it. I nodded politely and refused to be drawn into a senseless argument and, instead, stepped out onto the front porch of the shop, intending to take in the cool evening air.
The rickety veranda on which I stood was perched on the edge of a narrow country road that looped around a slab of mountainside before slithering down a steep curve. Ridging the distant twilight skies was a lumpy green mountain range dotted with cultivator plots and scattered shacks whose windows sparkled with yellow lights. Smoke uncoiled from a woody pleat somewhere deep within the mountain and was braided into lazy, twisting tresses of good hair by a soft breeze.
The evening was lovely as I strolled the one narrow street past rows of shops and small dwellings, bidding the occasional villager, “Good evening.”
Soon I was rambling the gathering dusk down a country lane while groundswells of guinea grass crested and glistened in tree-lined fringes on either side of the narrow road. A recent sprinkle of rain had fallen and the scent of cleanliness and freshness wafting off the earth made me feel lighthearted.
When I returned to the shop, Miss B was gone and the premises deserted.
I retired into the back room, took off my clothes, and lay down in the bed listening to the peaceful night sounds drizzling against the window.
The day had been long and trying. Dying had taken a lot out of me, and I felt quite drowsy.
* * *
No bed is sweeter than one in a Jamaican mountain village, and it took me no more than a yawn before I dropped off into a refreshing slumber.
And it seemed no more than a twitch before I awoke from a dream of being ridden by a rampaging hippopotamus. I was squirming and wriggling to squirt out from under hippopotamus oppression when I opened my eyes and found myself pinned under fatty Miss B naked atop me and rumbling wheezily like a leaky steamroller.
“What you think you doing?” I sputtered.
“Grinding you,” she grunted in my right ear.
“I tell you I want a grind?”
“Want it or not, you getting a grind.”
“Fatty woman don’t turn me on!”
“Dis is heaven. Every woman turn on every man. All woman have to do is jump on and the table spread and ready.”
“I not spread! I not ready!”
“You well spread. And you plenty ready.”
As Miss B spoke, she was humping up a jamboree and her wriggling and jiggling was so powerful that I soon found myself clinging to beefy batty for dear life until the two of us exploded simultaneously on the bed with a noisy bellowing, after which she collapsed atop me with a juicy hiss that blew down my earhole and clean out my big toenail.
A moment of restful silence followed during which we moistened each other’s neck string with damp breath in the darkness.
“Dis is de first good ride I ever get from a fatty,” I praised her, panting for breath.
She sighed and shifted, causing a watery mound of cool, naked beef to slush atop my body.
“I going do it again!”
“You mad? I done for de night.”
“In heaven man don’t done until woman say so.”
“All dis riding going make me feel like a donkey!” I managed to sputter as she renewed the jiggling.
She scoffed. “You don’t see donkey yet. You soon see donkey.”
My first night in heaven Miss B gave me twenty-five superduper grind before a frothy morning light curdled against the window of the small room. After time number twenty I heard myself gasping, more from shock than from real fatigue, “You right! I didn’t see donkey yet! But I see donkey now!”
Miss B chuckled and started up on lap number twenty-one.
The spate of super-duper grinding went throughout much of the morning, and at one point with Miss B grunting like she was getting clubbed, a woman from the village entered the store and cried, “Miss B? You back dere? I want some flour.”
Miss B bawled out brazenly in my earhole, “I grinding Baps, Cynthia. Serve yourself.”
After a delicate hesitation from the shop, the customer answered with a mirthful cackling, “When you done, I can grind Baps, too?”
“If anything left when I finish!”
“Dis is heaven, Miss B! You know it never use up here, you know you never use up here, even after all sisters share it! Hallelujah!”
“Glory be!” Miss B blathered her agreement into my ear, heaving tirelessly.
I grumbled that she was giving me a bad name in the village, that I was one man who didn’t broadcast my conjugal habits to the general public, but Miss B advised me to hush up and enjoy pum-pum in heaven, and even as she said this, she made me bawl out loud and lusty with sheer joy over her juiciness, which caused the sister in the shop to chortle her congratulations, “Yes, Sister B! Dat’s a good one!”
“Number twenty-four! I going for me quarter century!”
“I taking de flour. Later, Miss B! Enjoy de grind, Baps!”
“Thank you!” I managed to blubber politely, and just then Miss B rubbed up vigorously against me and I discovered to my surprise that she had a belly button.
“How come you have a belly button and I don’t?” I asked curiously, sinking my thumb into its squishiness.
“You grow it back up here. When you belly button ripe and full, you ready to born again.”
“Born again? Why born again?”
“After you in heaven for a set time, you must born again to control de population and give anodder man a chance. You return to earth to live and dead again, den you come back up for another stay. Dat’s how heaven run.”
“But how long you get to stay up here? And how you know when is you time to go back down? And where dem send you down there?”
“How me fe know all dat? All I know is what I hear. Dem say when you time come you go back inna whichever baby borning in whichever part of de world, is dere you go.”
“Even if de climate cold? Like, a man like me who love warm breeze, me could born again inna Iceland, or one o’ dem cold place?”
“Hush up, man! You asking too much question.”
“But me no want born again in no cold climate!”
“Dat not you worry right now, for I going for number twenty-five.”
In the days that followed I learned a lot about the village of heaven in which I now resided contentedly as a newly arrived duppy.
The shop was perched on the slopes of a green mountain daily awash in freshening breezes. I dwelled in a land where the sun shone bright but did not burn, where the deep cool nights were bejewelled with starlight and the mountain air always tasted sweet.
Yet the village also had the usual customs, habits, and sights we know and love on earthbound Jamaica.
So village dog was properly mauger but not mangy; village donkey brayed crossly but did not kick down children at garden parties; village busha reigned over hilltop but could not work black man to death in the hot sun at a thiefing wage; and village sister backbit every reputation in the district but was not compulsorily ugly.
Heaven is also a land where you can look exactly the way you wish. You can transform into any shape, form, or color you prefer, can crimp you eye like a Chiny, straighten your hair like an Indian, bleach your skin like a white man, or turn as scrawny as a mosquito.
One day the subject of Miss B’s big belly came up, and I asked her bluntly why she continued to resemble a breeding Red Poll cow when she could just as easily look like better, but she growled that she happened to love herself black and fat, which was why she hadn’t availed herself either of government bleaching or thinning. She boastfully declared that she liked being beefy, loved her jelly belly, and was perfectly content to perch on her stool and float on a tube of batty fat. She challenged me to say that a fatty wasn’t a comfortable, smooth ride and better by far than any bony woman, and I mumbled that certainly, much positive could be said in favor of womanly beefiness. She glared at this wishy-washy answer and I muttered sheepishly that being no expert on female fattiness, I wasn’t the right one to ask.
She flew into a tirade and demanded to know if she hadn’t made me come fifty-five times last night. Could a bony woman have accomplished as much? I said with dignity that I didn’t see how such a thing was possible.
“I practice fatty power!” she cockadoodledooed.
I had thought Miss B was brazen and rude in her ways, but I soon found out that in heaven there is no shame, expulsion, or favoritism practiced on the human body, no apartheid of bodily parts such as we have on earth where a woman will earnestly declare in public, “Cross me heart!” but will sooner dead than say, “Cross me pum-pum!” But that is exactly what a decent woman might spontaneously avow in heaven, where pum-pum and hood worship in church as respected members of the congregation.
One day Miss B announced that she wanted me to attend church with her on Sunday. I objected that since I was now in heaven, I was in no further need of churching, but she replied that reaching heaven had nothing to do with church—Jamaican people just loved to jump up in church on Sundays and would continue to do so even if they were in hell. She informed me that she liked going to church on Sundays; furthermore, next week I was going, too.
True to her word, the next Sunday Miss B hauled me off to a village church.
The service commenced with a hymn, to which I contributed a dutiful croak. I was right in the middle of singing “Rivers of Babylon” when, to my horror and astonishment, Miss B reached over and wantonly patted my crotch like a parson feeling up a collection bag to see if it was fat.