Mummy and Junior were sitting together on the settee one night in August watching the news on television.
It was the hurricane season and Mummy had been anxious, fretting constantly that Jamaica would be hit by a storm before November came to a close and the danger was averted.
Junior felt the hand, which his mother had draped around his shoulder, tighten as the weather report began.
Just as Mummy feared, another storm was brewing and was fast approaching the Caribbean basin. The meteorologist announced that if the system continued on its current path, it would become a threat to the island within a few days.
“Lord, have mercy!” Mummy closed her eyes and put her hands on her head. “Jesus! Please don’t make it come here!”
Junior was ten years old and he had never experienced a hurricane. Mummy had often told him the story of the last one that had come while she was pregnant with him.
“Hurricane Pansy! That was a terrible storm, Junior!” she would say. “A whole heap of rain and breeze! And light went away for nearly a week!”
It had been a particularly trying experience for Mummy because of her physical condition. At that time, the house had a zinc roof and she had been living alone. Junior’s father had departed to Canada on the farm work programme a couple months earlier.
Mummy had always been independent and a bit of a tomboy. She believed that women should be strong and capable of helping themselves without relying on men. So if there was work to be done in the yard, Mummy did it. If a tree needed pruning, Mummy pruned it. If the house needed painting, Mummy painted it.
And, of course, when the news had come about Hurricane Pansy barreling towards Jamaica with her powerful Category Four strength, there were things that needed to be done in preparation for it. In the aftermath of the formidable hurricane, water had been disconnected for more than a week because many pipes had sustained damage and the supply Mummy had stored had run out after five days. Luckily, Hope Town, the community in which they lived, was situated a short distance away from a river. Mummy had had to carry buckets full of water for bathing and dishwashing purposes.
“Mi say Junior, it was a pity yuh wasn’t able to see yuh mother chopping down tree limb with her big belly!” Miss Tiny, one of his neighbours laughed as a group of them congregated in the lane two days later after the weather report confirmed that the system had developed into a Category Five hurricane – Hurricane Gwen – and was heading straight for the island.
“Ehhh!” Ma Lou joined in. “And she did want to climb up on the house top to batten down the roof too! But mi had was to put mi foot down, man.”
“Yes. But Veronica was very determine!” Mr. Roy said. “Even when mi volunteer to do it, she still insist that she never need no help!”
“Then mi have to ask her if shi want to lose the baby!” Ma Lou exclaimed, patting Mummy on the shoulder. “That was when she come to her senses.”
Mummy laughed and hugged Junior around the neck. “Yuh hear them, Junior? Them never stop meddle in yuh mother business yet!” she joked.
Mr. Roy nudged her playfully. “So what happen? Yuh don’t want yuh neighbour them to care about yuh?” he asked.
Mummy rolled her eyes and ignored him. “Anyway!” she said loudly, moving away from beside Mr. Roy to lean on Ma Lou’s gate. “They say that Hurricane Gwen is going to be wickeder than Pansy, yuh nuh! Mi just glad that this time around mi won’t have to worry about the housetop.”
Junior’s father, Brian senior, had been able to make quite a bit of money by working on apple orchards in North America. He had sent remittances over the years and Mummy had been able to pay to have extensions done on the house. The zinc roof had been replaced with a concrete slab one over five years earlier.
“Yes. Thank God for Daddy. Don’t it, Mummy?” Junior said.
“Mm hmm! Him work hard to make sure that wi can live comfortable,” Mummy agreed, patting her little boy on the head.
“Good thing say most of we have slab roof now!” Mr. Roy reinforced.
“Yeah. Is only poor Papa P we have to worry about now.” Miss Tiny was concerned about the ninety-two year old gentleman who lived beside her.
“Him still have the little piece of zinc roof what leak like strainer when rain fall!” Ma Lou shook her head sympathetically.
“And him worthless daughter, Jean, refuse to fix up the place for him!” Miss Tiny hissed her teeth irritably.
“The worse thing is that she have money can do it – look on the big house what she and her husband live in up the road,” Ma Lou said.
“A so them young people stay, man! So stop acting like ounu surprise,” Mr. Roy told them.
“Roy is right,” Mummy declared. “Most of these young people nowadays don’t care about the bigger heads.”
The forecast was that rain would start to fall later that evening and continue straight back to the following afternoon.
Mummy looked up as the place got shady. A huge grey cloud had covered the sun and billowing black ones were moving speedily across the sky.
It was a Saturday. She had gotten her salary the previous evening but because the rain had been drizzling she had jumped into the first route taxi that came and headed straight home. So, Mummy had not gotten the chance to go to the supermarket.
“Listen, people!” she spoke up as she continued to eye the sky warily. “The rain setting up and I need to go to Liguanea to get some grocery and storm supplies. So, I’m going over to change and hurry up and go to come back.”
Ma Lou started walking towards her door now. “Wait, Veronica! Mi need some tin things. If mi write the list and give yuh the money, yuh could get them for mi?”
“No problem, Ma Lou,” Mummy took Junior’s hand and started off up the lane to their house. “Just get it ready till mi come.”
“I can come with yuh, Mummy?”
“Yes, Junior. I going to need yuh to help mi carry the bag them.”
When Mummy and Junior arrived at the supermarket, there was a small crowd gathered at the entrance.
“Lord, have mercy!” Mummy gasped and lifted her hands to the sky. “This is what I was trying to avoid. Wi not leaving here for now, Junior!”
Copyright © September 2011 by Mandisa M. Parnell