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Romance Coming of Age Contemporary

An onshore Caribbean breeze caressed Skatta’s tattooed shoulders and chunky arms as he snoozed under his ackee tree in a low-slung hammock. The wind had changed direction during the morning and now swept through Little Russia, disturbing the roadside debris. Crumpled manifestos and discarded pamphlets swirled into the air, and the detritus from a fortnight of frenzied political hustings tumbled across the potholed asphalt like hordes of itinerant vermin.

   Most voters reckoned the outcome would be inconclusive and questioned whether they’d ever know the true result. Others argued that despite the polarised nature of Jamaican politics, not much would alter.

‘Nothing ever changes,’ they agreed. ‘They wouldn’t let us vote if it meant change.’

   The sudden drop in temperature was enough to rouse Skatta from his peaceful reverie, and he shivered as he opened his eyes. He surveyed his cluttered yard and snorting, reached for the tobacco tin next to the empty bottle of Uncle Wray. Too bad it was all gone. 

   “No more Wray and Ting, Two-Blood?”

   “We’ve plenty of Ting.” The young man chuckled. 

   “Shame ‘bout dat.”

   “Yuh want more rum?”

   “Nuh worry.”

   Two-Blood was like a son to Skatta and a staunch ally when they’d provided security for the new candidate as she’d strolled through their neighbourhood. Perched on a nearby deck chair in flip-flops and shorts, he was preoccupied with his iPhone. There’d been an endless stream of social media speculation since the election three days ago and untold rumours about the final outcome.

   “Any news, Two-Blood?” said Skatta, crumbling golden strands of tobacco onto a crisp white cigarette paper.

   “Nah, man.” Two-Blood frowned. “They’re counting again.”

   “How many times is that now?”

   “It’s a joke,” he said, shaking his head. “But perhaps third time lucky?”

   “Maybe, so.” Skatta shrugged. “And Missy B’s coming over, right?” 

   “She’s probably got busy or her driver’s over-slept.”

   “Maybe she’s heard?” Skatta drew on his rollie.

   “I’m sure she’d let us know.” 

   They’d both had a hectic fortnight on the Westmorland Parish campaign trail and worked hard to generate support for their party’s new candidate. Missy B was an aspirant from Kingston who’d been chosen by the party leader to represent the capital, Savanna-la-mar and the surrounding countryside including Little Russia.

Skatta liked what Missy B had to say and agreed that the youth needed a strong voice to fight for their futures. Skatta’s opinion mattered in Westmoreland and she needed The King of Little Russia in her corner. Despite coming from another municipality, Missy B had made an immediate impact. She’d won both the hearts of his local community and the business minded folk in Savanna-la-mar. In fact, everyone had fallen for her sassy charm and homespun sensibilities and Skatta loved a winner.

* * *

Missy B had rented a modest apartment west of Savanna-la-mar during the run up to the election and furnished it with the help of her constituents. The kitchen was adequate and boasted a portable two-ring electric hob, a microwave and a fridge that had seen better days. It was sparse but sufficed her needs as most mealtimes were on the road. Dan-Dan, her driver, had invited her for family meals on occasion and she’d returned the favour in the form of fast-food grabbed between ‘meet-n-greet’ appointments.

   Packing bags at the end of a holiday is never fun and leaving Savanna-la-mar with a bitter taste in her mouth was galling. Missy B had faced the might of a campaign hardened veteran who’d played hardball ever since she’d arrived in Westmoreland. His cohorts of zealous supporters had ripped down her posters at night-time and bad-mouthed her at every opportunity. Missy B had suffered his humiliating language and vile assertions during his attempt to secure the seat. He’d sent his trolls out to sniff around in her past and initiated background searches for gossip. After failing to find anything worth mentioning, he resorted to old-fashioned misogyny. 

   In many respects his tactics had been successful, except that he’d failed to account for a younger generation of voters. Those unheard voices, who’d suffered because of the lack of investment, wanted their say. Missy B saw their potential and promised training and intern schemes for a generation who’d given up before they’d got started; beaten down by endemic corruption and a candidate who lacked vision.

   Missy B couldn’t take everything with her. But what to take? She’d got all her note books, a couple of pamphlets and a “Time Come” t-shirt emblazoned with her official image. The photo-shoot wasn’t much fun, but everyone in the parish loved it. 

   ‘She’s so slim and looks young despite her years,’ they all said. 

   Twelve weeks after her first walkabout and that fixed smile picture still annoyed Missy B. Her husband and friends back home would laugh and tease her, but no-one here was bothered. She was a breath of fresh air in a district where the public were jaded by overt corruption and a system that guarded the public purse like a rottweiler with lockjaw.

   Missy B’s husband, Phil, had said she’d be swimming with sharks and he wasn’t far wrong. She had to give it her best shot to stand a chance. The campaign was something Missy B had to do for herself as much as for the people. Phil admired her ambition and given the opportunity told his wife to follow her guiding star. He’d hold the fort for as long as it took, and who knows? Maybe they’d both love living in Savanna-la-mar. There was no shackling Missy B. She arrived like a hurricane and exploded like a hand grenade of fragrant petals.

   Outside Missy B’s bare apartment, a familiar car horn beckoned her. Dan-Dan, pointed at his watch, but knew better than to hurry her along. She was a woman who took her time and had a particular way of doing things. She waved from the window and he acknowledged her with a nod, and rolled himself a cigarette. 

* * *

Little Russia was silent when Missy B’s driver pulled up outside Skatta’s home in a whirl of dust and grit. She waved at him from inside the Camry as Dan-Dan opened the passenger side door. Skatta recalled Missy B’s first walkabout as she tottered towards him between the stacks of car parts and piles of scrap metal. He’d escorted Missy B during her first week in Savanna-la-mar and suggested they visit the Old Fort by the harbour. Skatta had held her dainty hand in his mighty paw as she’d clambered up the stone steps to the crumbling ruin and remembered her forlorn expression as he explained its history. She’d sighed as he’d related the sad demise of the once proud eighteenth-century monument. However, there was a bright sparkle in her dark eyes when he mentioned its last days as a restaurant, before the business collapsed. 

   Skatta had said it was a missed opportunity and she suggested restoring the Old Fort and advertising it as a tourist attraction. Surely, an inspiring scheme to rebuild the pier and harbour could generate jobs and work for eager young hands? The idea was a vote winner for sure, but more than that, their plan had longevity. The Old Fort could help rejuvenate the town and generate both wealth and self-esteem. 

   Skatta grinned as Missy B produced a bottle of Uncle Wray from her bulging shoulder bag and accepted it without reservation. He recalled their ambition to renovate the harbour and Old Fort, smiling at the prospect of working with her on future projects. They’d both agreed they needed to mobilise the parish’s disenfranchised citizens to combat the nepotistic council whose only motivation was profit. 

   Dan-Dan honked the Camry’s horn and pointed at his watch again.

   Two-Blood wished Missy B a safe flight as she wandered back through Skatta’s yard. When Missy B reached the Camry, Dan-Dan opened the door for her. She turned to wave a last farewell and they set off with a tyre squeal that belied the impending time. 

   Skatta returned to his faded hammock and shuffled into a comfy position.

   “Do you think she’ll be back?” 

   “Maybe so,” said Skatta, opening the bottle of rum. 

* * *

The brooding clouds overhead were leaden in colour, and struggled to contain their ominous burden on the way to Montego Bay Airport. Missy B hauled on her jacket as she alighted Dan-Dan’s Camry outside the terminal and handed him a wedge of folded notes. Smiling one last time, he hopped out of the vehicle and carried her single case to the rotating glass door. The lights inside the terminal flickered as distant rumbles rattled its glazed façade. Behind the taxi rank, a row of unyielding palm trees strained to remain upright like troops holding their line under severe artillery bombardment.

   Milling passengers formed staggered queues in front of the check-in desks. Their faces paled as an announcement over the airport PA alerted them to their status in no uncertain terms.

   “The nineteen-thirty flight to Norman Manley International Airport has been delayed until further notice.”

   Missy B smiled as she left the crowds behind and headed for the taxi rank. Kingston could wait. There was going to be a big storm in Westmoreland. This was no time to admit defeat. The election was still being contested. It was time to return to Little Russia.


The End







March 09, 2024 04:56

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17 comments

S. E. Foley
20:33 Mar 25, 2024

I like how this is a seed that could (or maybe is) a whole novel. I feel these guys, and the political game is a great subject for endless material. I hope you find time to develop this into something bigger.

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Howard Halsall
20:44 Mar 25, 2024

Hey S.E., Thank you for reading my story and sharing your thoughts. I reckon you’re right about politics and the games that our representatives play to obtain power and hold on to it; they’re a devious bunch of individuals. There’s definitely scope for a larger project..,, I’ll give it some thought because you have s good point. Take care HH

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21:46 Mar 12, 2024

What a shame you missed the deadline, Howard! Great story. I had no idea where it was headed. That's the trouble with a prompt that says how a story will start. Anything can happen after that. Vivid characters. Love your opening sentence! Dying to know what Missy B will do next. Seems she is happy about staying, despite the impending storm.

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Howard Halsall
23:08 Mar 12, 2024

Hello Kaitlyn, Thank you for reading my story despite its absence from the contest; time seems to evaporate some weeks wouldn’t you agree? A poor excuse, but better late than never. And “Yes,” I agree with you about ‘opening line prompts’ - they’re so nebulous that they swiftly become a literary can of worms; or should that be ‘can of words?’ (Now that’s an idea for a future prompt) Often, I find it’s helpful to have some context for a short story, but I suppose that’s the challenge. Suddenly it all revolves around finding that structure, d...

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04:07 Mar 13, 2024

Thanks Howard. I agree. The 3000 words need a lot of thinking about. Each story has its own challenges plus the factor of writing while handling a busy schedule.

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Wally Schmidt
17:15 Mar 10, 2024

The scene setting you did here was incredible. Had me swaying back n' forth wishing I had a strong rum cocktail in my hands

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Howard Halsall
00:02 Mar 12, 2024

Hey Wally, Thank you for reading my story and sharing your thoughts. It sounds like you were swept away by the experience, which is music to my ears :) Take care HH

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Daryl Kulak
17:21 Apr 09, 2024

Good story, Howard. I liked the descriptions, the scene. You've inspired me to write about politics myself!

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Howard Halsall
22:39 Apr 09, 2024

Hey Daryl, Thanks for reading my story and sharing your thoughts. I’m pleased you enjoyed and flattered that it has inspired you to write about politics too; it’s an intriguing world to explore. Go for it!! HH :)

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Mary Bendickson
13:45 Mar 10, 2024

A Caribbean vibe. Thanks for liking my flood story.

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Howard Halsall
00:05 Mar 12, 2024

Hey Mary, Thank you for reading my story. I missed the deadline so I appreciate you checking out my latest submission :) Take care HH

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Mary Bendickson
20:52 Mar 16, 2024

Two stories in one. Does there need to be a separation here? Thanks for liking my fable.

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Howard Halsall
22:17 Mar 16, 2024

Hi Mary, I missed the deadline again due to a daft time zone miscalculation so I uploaded it and attached it to my previous story anyway…. My time is constantly disappearing and often I find myself chasing my tail….

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Alexis Araneta
12:21 Mar 09, 2024

Howard, this was brilliant ! I wish you entered this in the contest. Either way, such a breezy flow to this. Great descriptions, as usual. Lovely job !

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Howard Halsall
00:07 Mar 12, 2024

Hey Stella, Thank you for reading my latest story despite not being in this week’s contest. I’m pleased you enjoyed it and appreciate your positive feedback. Take care HH

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Trudy Jas
05:41 Mar 09, 2024

You go, Missy B! Why didn't you enter this? technical problems.? Island time, my mon? Ah, ya. no problem, mon. better luck next time. Eerie. :-) Eh, mon! ya no talking ta me? got sam ganga? eh?

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Howard Halsall
00:15 Mar 12, 2024

Hey Trudy, Thank you for reading my story and sharing your thoughts. I don’t suppose a Jamaican tale could ever arrive on time…it just wouldn’t be natural :) Anyways, I’m pleased you enjoyed it and took the time to comment. Hopefully I’ll return to U.K. time for my next submission…. Take care HH

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