Some Feet Not Meant for Shoes - Novel Excerpt
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A kind of steaming conch bisque is served round the table and all of us pick up our spoons and begin to eat. Conch is a chewy sea snail that’s cooked various ways–tonight it’s in a tomato base with lots of cream, almost like a thick Manhattan chowder. Fabian only rarely eats conch, Falcon never. So much then for the real St. Lucia.
“Pass around the rolls, would you please?” my husband asks, snapping his fingers to get my attention. He and the printer are telling shark stories. Each, it seems, has quite a few in his repertoire, but my husband hasn’t seen a shark in years. It’s the same way with musicals and jazz singers. Rack ‘em up, he does. “When I was a young scientist...”
When it seems as though we are all finished, the waitress, she collects our emptied bowls and used silver, stacks it all up neatly on a big tray placed on a stand. She sets clean, shiny spoons beside the plates–mine, Vincent’s, the printer’s, his wife’s, the two blondes’. I watch as she skips over Fabian and Falcon, as she ignores them completely like they are not even seated at the table. It is a stunning move, and I whisper to Fabian: “Doesn’t that bother you?”
“It happens all the time,” he answers. “Locals are unwelcome here, or at almost any other tourist place along Reduit Beach,” he says soberly. “Hotel security guard throw us off the sand right over there,” he says, pointing. “We talking. That all we do, we talking.”
Falcon closes his reddish eyes, shakes his head yes, yes it’s true. “Some black better than other black.” He crosses his arms, sits up rigidly in the chair.
That there is little humanity in L.A. doesn’t surprise me. To find it lacking here, though, it does. I expected something better but I don’t know why. Whites show contempt for other whites, so why should blacks behave any differently. Well they should behave differently, but why I assume this I don’t really know. I suppose it has got something to do with the suffering.
“We like aliens in we own land,” says Fabian, pulling at his Nike cap. “We have calypso about it.”
“Yeah man, we do we do,” says Falcon, sipping bottled water from a short glass with ice. “Calypso was written by a teacher from St. Mary’s College. That is Derek Walcott’s old school. Do you know the Lucian poet Derek Walcott?”
“I have read him, yes,” I say. “Didn’t he not so long ago win the Nobel Prize?” I remember reading about that in The New Republic. I may even have clipped the article. If I didn’t, well then I will. I have access to past clippings on my computer at work, through Lexis-Nexis. I will do it, I tell myself.
“He did,” says Falcon proudly, “five years back.” He raises five fingers, “for literature. Woman, you should listen to speech,” he tells me enthusiastically. “You might never say again you love the Caribbean.” He stresses the word love as though to mock me.
“Did I say I love it?” “You did,” Falcon tells me, shaking his head up and down. “More than one time. Many more than one time.” It will take a couple of years for me to have a read of that “Felicity” speech, which I will come upon one day at work quite by chance, well not by chance, but anyway when I read it closely, all of it, I will be ashamed of myself. Oh yes, I will be most ashamed. Oh well, fragment by fragment, as they say.