Sat | Feb 24, 2018

Nine Night Ballerina

Published:Sunday | October 30, 2016 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams

Inner-city Spanish Town community. The dark lanes and the 'dead yard' were busy. It was the wake for the community activist who was killed in broad daylight by the area don, 'Jim Bum'. Nobody in the community had seen Jim Bum since then.

People were everywhere. And so was tension. Nobody talked about the murder. They knew the police were among them, and possibly, Jim Bum.

In the activist's yard a Kumina band from St Thomas played. Around it, a circle of people danced. They were dressed for a dance, not a Kumina wake. Among them was a tall, well-toned young woman in a bright orange, shoulder-length wig, which had a bang that stopped just above her eyes.

She wore a black, body-hugging, long-sleeve blouse; black, ankle-length tights; orange flats; and a ballerina's tutu. Orange lipstick generously covered her thick lips. Her ample bosom rose above a very flat torso.

The Kumina drums beat hypnotically. The dancing was spirited. From time to time, white rum was sprinkled into the crowd. The cantor called, and the people answered.

At midnight, a big, white hen, which had been tied up all night, was doused with kerosene and set afire. It flew into the air in a fiery explosion and then fell back to the ground. It fluttered vigorously until it moved no more. Bystanders looked on in amazement.

The cantor sang, and people answered. The drums played. The shak-shak shook. The grater scraped.

"Moon a shine a Bay Road. Moon a shine a Bay," they sang. The 'ballerina' danced, but her eyes were all over the place. Rice grains from a white enamel basin were tossed into the air. Some people scurried.

A fat woman wearing a bandana headwrap whirled and twirled frantically. The ballerina is in front of her rocking to the Kumina rhythms. Around and around they went.

"Moon a shine a Bay Road. Moon a shine a Bay Road. Young gal tek it go gi solja. Moon a shine a Bay Road."

The white fowl is long dead. People avoided it like the plague. But the fat woman left the Kumina circle and went back and forth over it.

Then, there came a wail from the Kumina circle. It seemed to have come from the ballerina. She was on her toes, jumping and moving her hands as a real ballerina would.

The fat woman left the remains of the hen and resumed her position behind the ballerina, who was now dancing faster and loosely. She attempted to leave the circle, but the fat woman held her around her waist. The ballerina uttered another eerie wail.

The fat woman grabbed a bottle of white rum from the cantor, poured some of the liquour into her mouth and spewed it into the crowd. Drops of it fell on to the ballerina's wig. A look of bewilderment took over her face as she rocked from left to right, right to left in front of the fat woman.

Cell-phone cameras were now focused on the ballerina and the fat woman, who held her around the waist as she moved boisterously. The chorus had changed to "A wonder where the McKenzie gone".

Then the ballerina let out a deep, manly scream. She shook her head vigorously. The fat woman held her waist tightly. With one big flash, the orange wig flew off the ballerina's head and landed on to the ground between the two drums.

The music and singing stopped suddenly. And people stared incredulously. For, in the glow of the single bulb under the tarpaulin, Jim Bum's bleached brown, sweating face glistened as he laid his possessed head on to the right shoulder of the horrified fat woman, his mother. Then the police moved towards them.