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​Monkey Business, Family Tree

THE ODD CROOK OF their heads — both tilted sharply upward, at the same angle — made me turn from the cricket to see what the dogs were looking at. Then I heard the squawking: making noise was all the birds could do, like the sufferers of Morvant/Laventille.

An egg-stealing monkey in the tree!
Better to scare a murderous monkey away than watch West Indies monkey about on the field, I thought, but the monkey jumped down and ran away before I reached our gate. The birds settled on their nests again; if he’d got their eggs, they’d still be flying around, squawking, but in grief, not desperation.
I did my best bird whistle, hoping they knew I was on their side. What more can a parent ask for, but that their children survive each day?
I watched them for a bit, wondering what it would be like to have someone nearby who could scare my monkeys away. How good an idea is God, who takes every shock away from you, like some almighty ground wire.
On TV, English players cheered; another West Indian had chucked his wicket away.
But how much resistance can you expect a man to build when he leaves an empty cricket ground only to reenter a hermetically-sealed, isolated bubble he’s been trapped in for six weeks already? Yes, they should have tried harder — but only they know how hard they had themselves been tried.
The best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity. Take some “Yeets” in yuh mother-ass, a Trini might say.
Is rain in they mother-ass tonight, Trinidad’s definitive weatherman, Robin Maharaj, said, in July, 1994, and it was rain in all our ancestors’ body parts for us this week (but not enough in Manchester).
The birds’ chirping stopped. The mother bird sat in peace. Her eggs might yet hatch.
From my adult son’s bedroom window, gleeful laughter erupted. If you added his and his girlfriend’s ages together, they’d still be ten years younger than his mother. They hadn’t seen one another in two months. We hadn’t seen them for the week since she arrived. What a wonderful world when all that matters is the beloved. I envied them their youth, like I envied the believers their God: theoretically.
Not for the first time since all this madness started, I thought of my own father.
He went at my age, 62, and I know today how young that is to die. My mother, at 85, is sharp as tacks, and, one way or another, she always kept my father on his toes. If he’d lived, he’d be 89, and, hopefully, as mentally keen as she. (But, pushing 90, for every Ulric Cross or Ann Pires, you can find a thousand Donald Trumps or Rudi Giulianis.)
I’d been thinking about my father since my own children returned home, fleeing the fatal negligence and incompetence of the Brexit Vote Leave government currently breaking apart the United Kingdom.
My father would probably be more of a hindrance than a help today. He would likely be frail; regular exercise just wasn’t part of his life, if you don’t count raising a heavy glass of Johnny Black to his lips. He could not lift a finger to put up hurricane shutters.
But he would be here.
On the night of July 27, the 1990 coup, the last major emergency of his lifetime, I had been trapped in Port of Spain, had watched barefoot Muslimeen “soldiers” sneaking up Pembroke Street to “liberate” the State Gaol. The next morning, my father came from St Anns to drop me as near to Petit Valley as my mother would allow before getting back home fast, to protect her.
If he were alive, today, he would need protecting, too.
But he would be here.
And I might be laughing in bed with my girl, too.
For better or worse, I’m in the frontline of the bloodline now.
I didn’t even feel the depth of the sigh that left me until it was all gone.
I walked back inside, turned off the West Indies’ suffering in Manchester, and went to check on my people.
From an upstairs window, I looked down, now, not up, at the tree the monkey had threatened.
A bird landed on its nest.
The smile spread on my face like the joy in my heart.
There were three little birds in the nest, mouths open, eyes shut.
“Papa!” called my 22-year-old daughter, from the bedroom she’d vacated five years before.
“I’m right here, darling,” I said.
BC Pires is one for the birds.

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