Mon | Aug 20, 2018

When pickney bad, dem bad

Published:Wednesday | September 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Juliet wept into her $50 rag. She had just returned from the Matilda's Corner Police Station. She had rushed there after hearing that Kevin had been locked up. Kevin. That boy, whom she felt no pain giving birth to, had caused her all manner of aggravation since he was expelled from her canal.

Despite all she had done to give him better opportunities than his four older siblings, Kevin was far too consumed by the rebel, the troublemaker, the criminal, to take heed and walk the straight and narrow. Juliet, after 17 years of denial, was now convinced he was the devil.

Yes, she loved him. As any mother would a child, especially the wash-belly. But she had grown to loathe him passionately in specific moments. Indeed, at times, when she saw a reflection of his father in his eyes, she would shudder and rue the day, nay, the very moment, when she spread her legs and allowed Satan to take her.

Juliet was not uneducated. Indeed, she had shown promise in school, making fair use of the little her parents could give. Her mistake was breeding at the wrong time. Her five trips to Jubilee had come pretty much at the time when she was poised to get a break. And as she cried on the back step of her two-bedroom house, she wondered what might have been had she managed to land in America before her belly with the second child started showing.


Juliet had fought valiantly trying to escape the fate. But repeated failures caused her sometimes to wonder if the gossip of her neighbours was true, that given the quality of the children she produced, her womb was a cursed chamber.

But Kevin. Kevin was a case by himself. He was a talented boy who seemed to excel in rabble-rousing. He had character. But that was sullied by his flair for the unlawful. This was the boy who was good enough to pass his GSAT for one of the top 10-ranked schools in the island, yet bad enough to be kicked out after being caught by police, 'locking' a 9mm pistol in his school bag.

Kevin was the boy who was good enough to get a medal in the parish Spelling Bee championship, yet bad enough to steal every single cent of the partner money she had been presiding over as banker. He was a boy good enough to teach his eldest brother how to read, but bad enough to douse the same brother with hot water as he slept, for eating one of the dumplings left in his plate. Kevin was a boy good enough to at times be the apple of her eye, yet bad enough to have set all her best clothes alight, after she refused to stump up the cash for him to buy a $100 bag of weed.

All of that Juliet could live with. But murder? She didn't want to believe it. But knowing him and knowing his exploits of the past, she believed, with every fibre of her being, that as claimed by the police, Kevin had shot and killed the young accounting clerk who had just taken out the new Honda through an NCB loan.


Where did she, and so many Jamaican mothers, go wrong she wondered? How many more days' work was she to have done to provide for him when he was settled and appeared to be taking school seriously? How much more of her dignity was she to sacrifice, just so she could buy him the latest gadget that he said would have kept him off the streets?

Juliet asked God aloud to heal her soul of the burden and to provide comfort to the army of hard-working Jamaican women, like herself, who had birthed boys who grew to be a menace to society. She heard many blame government for not doing enough for idle youth in the country. But she knew the truth. She knew that the government could spend Bill Gates' fortune and still have the problem of crime, committed by far too many young men. She knew that when pickney bad, government policy can do nothing to straighten them out.


George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to and