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Monday, April 16, 2012

Morning Murder, a short story


Something heavy hit the zinc fence hard in the yard next to Prong’s bar across the street.

Pi! Pi!

Two shots, two flashes of light.

Then dead silence.

And darkness.

A shadow moved through the door of the zinc fence out onto 6th street in Greenwich Farm and then was gone like it never was.

I had been up to the window in a flash, peering through glass and through the julie mango branches from the first creak of the zinc gate across the street, my wife just now only slightly stirred in her sleep, feeling my absence from her side. I heard her nephew move in the bedroom next door.

“Kenny?” I whispered.
“Yes, John?”
“Somebody get dead”
“Yes, man, seem so”

It was that time of the day when it is technically morning but it is darker than any hour of the night. It is the time when your worst imaginings seem as real as your last breath, when nightmares creep over your fence, and the yard dogs huddle together for safety on the verandah outside of your door.
It was that time of day in Kingston ghettoes that the only ones about were duppies or worse, gunmen.

Since this was 1981 and with general election war time recently finished, the JLP and PNP were sorting out certain movements which would still be felt 25 years later. Here in Greenwich Farm we were just a short walk down the train line from Tivoli, the JLP bastion of power, but PNP was strong here and even WPJ had headquarters up on South Avenue.

But now, one-and-a-half years since the election that ended Michael Manley’s Democratic Socialist dream and ushered in Eddie Seaga’s capitalist reality, politics was starting to take a back seat to the more stark realities of  turf, influence, extortion and something new into the mix for the first time in Jamaica, cocaine. Tribal war started to become a lot more brutal now it was fueled by coke.
Or as one local sage said to me “Guns deh about still, and shot mus’ lick, Massa John.” It was these "runnings" I had come back to Jamaica to document for a US newspaper.

Greenwich Farm had the geographic advantage of being  walking distance to the sea, the wharves, and Customs piers. A lot of the youths in the area used to deal in goods that fell off trucks coming from those piers, and that included staple commodities like flour, rice, cooking oil and gasoline.

“Kenny, you see anything?”
“No sah, me just hear the commotion”

I was still pressed into the corner of the room protected from any possible stray retaliatory bullets by the concrete at my back.

Kenny had now come through the connecting door and joined me by the windows facing the streets.
Both of our eyes strained to see.
My wife started, awake now.
“Wha happen, eh?”
“Just stay there, darling, something g'waan cross the road.”

The light was starting to creep in slowly, softly, as if it too were afraid of being heard or noticed, and all was dead still, almost as if the whole of 6th Street was holding its breath.
“John, yuh did see anything?” Kenny ask.
“ Boy, I hear zinc bang first, then me did see the two flash from the gun, then one man come out a de yard and gone toward Second Avenue. Since then, not a thing.”

Now, I would never admit to anyone outside of this house that I saw anyone or anything at all. It does not pay to admit seeing certain things in Jamaica.
A white Toyota Corolla arrived and pulled up outside the zinc fence  across the way. Three police, one with a big gun got out and went into the yard. They were in the yard for some little while but came out, one of them pulling a lifeless body by its heels. This was unceremoniously left in the dirt parallel to the road outside the zinc door to the yard..

People now started to arrive in their ones and twos, mostly women in curlers and yard clothes, drawn by the blue lights of the police car or by their curiosity about the early morning’s deadly sounds. Kenny recognized someone in the small crowd that had gathered and went outside. He came back in a little while to report:

“Is Danny”
“ Is Danny, from up further ‘pon 6th Street.”
“The youth ?” Danny to my knowledge was not yet 20 years of age.
“Yes man, dem seh dem shoot him over some thiefin’ business”
“What? There’s plenty thief roun’ here who don’t get shot...”
“Dem seh Danny did thief from the wrong local man”
“Oh, I see...”

Still, the police had been on the scene BEFORE anyone else had discovered the body, and since no one on this block even had a phone and they knew right where to look, too, I mused inwardly.
Recently a young, albino recording artiste, or “deejay” named Yellowman had put out a single called “Operation Eradication”. It detailed the exploits of an actual squad of police in Kingston whose brief was to “eradicate” troublesome “criminals” who had in brutal reality now outlived their political usefulness since the very tribal electioneering had ended and new lines had been drawn and scores were being settled. The single was banned from radio airplay, but played day and night on every rum bar jukebox across Jamaica, including the one right next to the yard ironically where Danny’s body now lay.

Danny’s remains laid there in the gutter of Sixth Street until the sun was well up and the ambulance came to carry him to the morgue.

Copyright Donald Callum 2006

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