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Beggars, leeches and heartache

Published:Wednesday | June 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By George Davis

The man readies himself. Every time he has to return to the community in which he grew up, he has to fasten his temperance out of fear that something may happen during the visit that may cause him to let it slip.

He looks on the dresser at the $7,500 he has counted out to give away and anger boils in him. The anger, frothing up his alimentary canal, leaves him feeling almost as he did some years ago, when, as a boy, he ate far too many coolie plums. That bit of gluttony must be taken in context as he was simply replacing the bellyful of a proper meal with the small plums picked from one of the few fruit trees that nobody in the history of the world has ever climbed.

The man recalls the number of aunts, uncles and adult cousins he had living around him, yet none of them ever asked about his health, his nourishment or slipped him a 'ting' to top up his lunch money for school. Yet here he is, taking $7,500 of his hard-earned salary, money earned by busting his gut on all but two holidays for the year, to give to strangers who pretend they are relatives, and relatives who may as well be strangers.


With Mama having collected her monthly due from Western Union a day earlier, the man parcels out the money in $100 notes. This is the kind of ridiculous level he has to go to ensure that those who beg him when he drives up to the community will get some, but not all, of the dividends in his wallet.

He was once 'taxed' by one of those with whom he grew up as a child on his last visit. Stupidly, he had opened his wallet and made visible two Shearers and three Manleys. The beggar's eyes lit up and he started to relate stories about the level of famine, disease and death plaguing his household.

Such was the rawness in his entreaties that the man couldn't but part with one Shearer and a Manley. Having given away $6,000 to a strong, healthy human, who had never held a steady job in his life and had no intention of so doing, the man certainly learnt his lesson. He stashed $1,500 in each of his four pockets and planned to keep the other $1,500 in his vehicle. In this way, he would be able to go to a pocket and the beggar would only see fifteen $100 bills at a time. He or she couldn't reasonably expect to get all 15 and so would settle for between four and six of the notes without complaint.


The man got into his car and drove to the community. There were a couple of friends there whom he wished he could tell of his pending arrival. But he dared not. They would broadcast his coming and soon what seemed like the whole neighbourhood would be lurking in the vicinity of his mother's little house, waiting to intercept him at a strategic point after he had parked his car at the top of the road and walked down into the narrow lane.

As he drove into the area, he surveyed the faces of some of those he passed sitting on the 'endz' and saw among them several relatives. They never grew him. Not even indirectly. They contributed not even a cent to his education. No one ever thought of helping out with a khaki shirt or even a 'ganzie' to take PE in.

No one helped his mother to buy from Serv-Wel one of the kerosene oil-powered stoves that were all the rage in the 1980s so she could provide him with a meal when the rains came and soaked both the wood and the outdoor fireside where the cooking happened.

Yet, now that he's working, they want to jostle with the taxman for the privilege of residing permanently in his pocket.

So many who've worked to escape the struggle can identify with this tale. And so many others who approach them like predators sit and wonder why they don't come back to the foundation community often enough.


George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.