Mummy arrived home sometime after noon. When she called for Junior and he did not come to open the gate for her, she shook her head and proceeded to let herself in.
“What a little pickney can sleep!” she mumbled to herself as she unlocked the grille to the verandah. “Junior!”
The sky was growing darker with each passing minute. Thunder rumbled in the distance and the wind was starting to blow. Mummy had not expected to spend such a long time in Halfway Tree but the lines inside the Western Union had been five times longer than usual. It seemed that everybody was collecting money from overseas today.
“Thank God mi reach in before the rain break!” Mummy said as she opened the front door and leaned the umbrella against the doorjamb. “Junior?”
When silence greeted her, she slipped off her water boots and hurried into the house. Since Junior was not napping on the settee where she had expected to find him at that time of day and he was not watching television, she figured he must be in his bedroom sleeping. But when she pushed the door and peered inside, the room was empty!
She made a quick run-through and it became evident that her son was not in the house.
“But you see mi dying trial, Jesus!” Mummy threw her arms up in the air as she stopped in the kitchen and spun around hopelessly. “Mi know say mi tell that little hard ears pickney say him must stay inna the yard till mi come back! Where him could really gone now?”
She ran to the verandah to look out. The place was getting bleak now. Looking towards the nearby hills, Mummy saw that the rain was rapidly approaching.
She turned on the radio just in time to catch a weather update midway through. She listened intently for the next few minutes. The meteorologist said that the satellite imagery showed that the centre of Hurricane Gwen was located some five hundred kilometers east of Morant Point. The system was travelling at a speed of two hundred and twenty kilometers per hour. At that rate, the hurricane was estimated to start moving across St. Thomas and Portland within the next two hours.
Mummy and Junior lived in the parish of St. Andrew, which shared border with St. Thomas. If the forecaster’s calculations were correct, they would begin to feel the effects of the hurricane in a short while and she had no idea where her young son was!
She jumped up horrifiedly and ran out of the house. “JUNIOR! JUNIOR!” she yelled as she flung the gate open and bolted down the lane like a duppy was chasing her. She banged frantically on Ma Lou’s gate. “Ma Lou!”
The rain was starting to drizzle now. Ma Lou stood up on her verandah and looked alarmed at the flustered young woman. “What happen, V?” she asked.
“Yuh see Junior?”
“No, mi dear. A don’t see him from morning!” she replied. “Check round by Romario them yard.”
Mummy sprinted through the lane like an Olympic 100-metre runner, not caring that she was getting wetter with each step she took. She pounded noisily on Sandra, Romario’s mother’s, gate.
“Sandra! Romario! JUNIOR!” she bellowed. When there was no response, she headed down the road to André’s house. His teenaged sister, Pinky, came to the gate with a towel on her head.
“Pinky! Where André?” Mummy asked, panting heavily.
Pinky shrugged her shoulders carelessly as she stretched and yawned like a hungry lioness. “Mi just wake up, Miss V,” she said. “Mi nuh know where that little walk-bout bwoy gone.”
“Where is yuh mother?”
“Moms gone a work…as usual.”
“Yuh hear say Hurricane Gwen coming now?” Mummy asked her.
“It coming for true?” Pinky’s arced eyebrows raised in genuine surprise. “But a thought them did say that it turn back!”
Mummy threw up her hands in frustration. “Turn back what!” she snapped. “See the rain coming down harder…is Hurricane Gwen this! Wi have just one hour before she lick wi!”
Pinky clutched the towel as it slipped from her head. “Lord Jezas!” she shrieked. “Mi have to find André now or Moms kill mi when she come tonight!”
The loud explosion of an ear-splitting thunderclap and something cold splashing on his face caused Junior to jump out of his sleep!
He looked around groggily as he climbed shakily to his feet. The rain was coming down and big droplets were hitting him over and over.
“André! Romario!” He scampered over to his two friends and started to shake them roughly. “Ounu wake up!”
The boys sat up slowly; completely oblivious to the fact that they had been sleeping in a forest and the rain was falling down on them.
“What happen to yuh, Junior? What yuh wake mi up for?” André grumbled, rubbing his eyes disorientated.
“The hurricane a come!” Junior shouted as he grabbed the bag that held the guineps and june plums that he had not eaten. “Wi have to go home now!”
“What!” Romario glared up at him angrily. “Stop talk bout hurricane – yuh don’t hear say it turn back?”
Just then a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating the area in which they stood. André and Romario sprang to their feet, eyes bulging with terror, and grabbed their own bags.
“Geezam-peez!” Romario exclaimed, cowering behind a tree trunk as another roar of thunder boomed above. “It a come fi true!”
“Bongo-natty!” André cried as he dashed towards the pathway.
“Come, Junior!” Romario yelled as he pelted after him.
Junior hesitated before following them. He was wondering how long they had been sleeping. What time was it now? Neither he nor his friends were wearing watches. He had no way to be sure but something told him that his mother had arrived home from Halfway Tree long ago. Instincts were telling him that he was in big trouble. Mummy was going to kill him – if Hurricane Gwen did not do it first!
Copyright © September 2011 by Mandisa M. Parnell