While the wayward boys were making their way down the fearsome incline as swiftly as they could, Mummy and Pinky continued their frantic quest to find them.
Pinky had gone back into the house to fetch a large, red and black plaid umbrella before leaving her yard. This, she used to shelter them both as they scurried from house to house asking everyone whether they had seen the missing boys.
“WHOOO!” Pinky bawled out, grabbing the handle of the umbrella as a sudden violent gust of wind swept it from over their heads and threatened to rip it from her grasp.
They were getting drenched as the rain poured down in buckets and the breeze whipped them vengefully from all directions.
Miss Thelma was locking up her shop and Blacka was giving her a hand. She crossed the road and intercepted them.
“Where the two of ounu going in this storm?” Miss Thelma wanted to know.
Mummy stopped walking and poked Pinky in her rib so that she halted as well. “Wi trying to find Junior, André and Romario! Yuh see them?”
Miss Thelma planted her plump arms on her broad hips and screwed up her face sternly. “But, V, you not easy!” she scolded. “Yuh mean to tell mi say hurricane a come and yuh don’t know which part yuh child deh? How yuh manage make that happen?”
“Miss Thelma, mi leave this morning to go collect the money to buy Junior school things and when mi come back, mi can’t find him!” Mummy explained, wiping rainwater from her face. She was growing more distressed with each passing second. “And Pinky can’t find André either!”
Miss Thelma hissed her teeth loudly and cut her eyes at the young girl. “That a common assault! This ya pickney ya never know where her little brother is at any point in time and she nuh care neither! Dionne will deal with her case when she come home later.”
Pinky pouted as she wrung water out of her skirt tail. “But Miss Thelma, a sleep mi was sleeping when him sneak out,” she whined. “Nobody can’t blame me. Plus him don’t listen when me talk and Moms spoil him so mi can’t lick him neither!”
Blacka finished securing the tarpaulin and came over to them. “What a gwaan, Miss V?” he asked casually.
“Wi a try find Junior them –”
“What! Yuh want to tell mi say them still up a bush!” Blacka exclaimed.
“What yuh say?” Miss Thelma asked with great surprise. “Bush?”
“Yes, Miss Thelma!” Blacka insisted. “Mi see him and André and Romario this morning when mi down a river a carry sand. Them tell mi say them going up pon di hill go pick guinep!”
Mummy whacked Blacka on the back of his head angrily. “How yuh so fool-fool, Blacka!” she exploded. “Yuh see hurricane a come and yuh stand up and make the pickney them gone up inna hill instead of stopping them! Yuh is a mad man?”
Blacka covered his head and darted out of her reach. “A what kinda thing that, Miss V?” he grumbled. “Mi try stop them but yuh know how them hard ears. The three of them just laugh after mi and go bout them business same way! But that was from after nine this morning – mi think them would come back long time!”
Mummy grabbed her head and almost fell to the ground!
Her knees were suddenly weak. Blacka jumped in and caught her beneath the armpits before she could slide to the wet pavement.
“Lord Jesus! What is this on mi!” Mummy bawled.
“Relax yourself, V!” Miss Thelma said gently. “Maybe them soon reach down now.”
“But…the river!” Mummy gasped. “With the rain a tear so hard, it soon come down! Suppose them can’t manage to cross?”
Pinky started to cry. “A true, Miss Thelma! Look how much water on the road already! What mi going to do?”
Miss Thelma hugged her and patted her back soothingly. “Lawks, Pinky…nuh bother with the cow bawling, man!”
Blacka spoke up. “It nuh make sense wi stand up here in the rain wasting time – wi need to go down there and see if wi see them. Mi going to call Redman and find out if him can go with wi!”
Mummy straightened up as she fanned herself with her hands while taking deep breaths to regain her composure. “Thanks, Blacka,” she said. “Mi going to put on mi water boots and raincoat and come back. And I’ll check if Missa Roy can come with wi too.”
Miss Thelma started back across the road to her house. “All right. Ounu make mi know when ounu find them. And be careful.”
Meanwhile, the adventurous threesome was having a difficult time coming down the hill. At that altitude, the effect of the rain was even more disastrous.
Every other minute or so, a bolt of lightning would flash across the sky.
“WOIIEEE!” Junior bawled out. He stopped running and ducked down, arms shielding his head.
Another clap of thunder rented the sky. It was so powerful that it felt like the entire hill was shaking under the effects of an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. Romario grabbed onto André and Junior, pulling them down to the ground.
“Oh, God! Oh, God!” Romario was saying over and over, shaking his head and flashing his hands wildly. He kept looking up towards the heavens like he thought the sky was about to fall on them.
“How you trembling so, Romario?” Junior asked in a timid voice as Romario squeezed his arm a little too hard for his liking. “Ouch!”
Romario’s hand slackened but he did not let go. When another bolt of lightning lit up the place, he yelped like a wounded puppy and flung himself down on the bramble-covered ground. “Mi fraid a lightning! Gee-eeee-eeez!”
They had grown up hearing that lightning was more likely to strike a person when he was standing under a green tree. Since they were in a forest, they were acutely aware of the potential danger. It was the last place they wanted to be. André and Junior comforted their big friend and then they both helped him get back to his feet.
“Come, Romario! We have to hurry up!”
The rain started pelting down. The trees were still very close to each other in the section through which they were now passing and they were being sheltered to an extent but enough rain was filtering through to make them quite wet.
The ground beneath their feet was getting muddy too. With each step he took, Junior felt the rubber soles of his old Reebok sneakers sink deep into the moist soil. They were trying to move fast, Junior out in front but the going was rough.
Junior made one determined leap over a small tree that had been beaten down under the pressure of the downpour and was lying across the track. But when he landed, he slipped on a loose patch of wet dirt and stones! Before he could realize what was happening, he had lost his balance! The next thing he knew, he was tumbling, head over heels, down the hillside!
He screamed as he felt his little body crashing uncontrollably through the undergrowth. As he got his bearings, he fought desperately to stop his speedy descent down the steep precipice by trying to grab hold of the little shrubs around him. But, each time he managed to seize one, it uprooted and came loose in his fist!
André and Romario were racing pell-mell after him now, shrieking hysterically as they went.
“Hold on, Junior!” Romario bellowed.
“WOOOIIIIIIEEE!” Junior continued to bawl as his body collided with the limbs and branches of saplings and debris that had washed down the hillside in the recent heavy rains.
Just as he thought he must soon be at the bottom of the hill and would most certainly plummet into the river below to his death, he crashed headfirst into something solid!
“OWWW!” he howled, grabbing his head and wincing in pain. He dared to open his eyes to look around. He had rolled into the trunk of a huge mango tree and come to an abrupt halt!
The insistent pain at the front of his head made him reach up to touch his forehead. When he lowered his hand, he saw that his fingers were a bright crimson – he was bleeding!
Moments later, André and Romario appeared beside him.
“Geezam-peez, Junior!” Romario exclaimed as his eyes landed on the gaping gash on his friend’s face. “Yuh head buss!”
Junior rose shakily to his feet, reaching out to hold on to the bark of the tree to balance himself. “Mi know. How it look?”
“It don’t look good, my youth!” André exclaimed, as he began to rip off a piece of his t-shirt. He pressed it on the wound. “Hold this down.”
André was a cub scout and, in the face of adversity, his training seemed to have kicked in.
“Don’t move!” he ordered. Junior looked up at him in surprise. The boy was totally transformed – like a completely different person. It was as if alien beings had possessed him!
André rested his hands on Junior’s shoulders now and pressed gently. “Just sit down back – yuh have to stay still for a few minutes,” he instructed.
Romario shifted impatiently as he looked up at the sky. All three of them were drenched to the skin now as they had reached a part of the hillside where the trees grew sparsely. Looking down into the valley, he saw that they were almost at the bottom. He could see the river flowing below and listening keenly he realized that he was able to hear it rumbling loudly.
He knew that that could only mean one thing: the river was in spate – it had come down!
“André!” he said. “Wi can’t wait.”
“Why?” André demanded.
“The river come down! Look!” Romario pointed at the muddy waters rushing by below and André gasped loudly.
“Lord God! Wi DEAD now!”
Junior clutched the piece of fabric more firmly to his forehead and scrambled back onto his feet. “Mummy going MURDER mi now!” he bawled.
Romario trudged off in the direction of the pathway. “Ounu come!” he commanded. “Maybe if wi hurry up wi can still cross.”
Copyright © September 2011 by Mandisa M. Parnell