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Ah hungry!

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 27 2019

OSKIE is my best friend but sometimes he does try my soul.

He have a knack for asking the right question at de wrong time.

Eleven years ago I had an operation for prostate cancer. One month after my operation, he come asking me if de ting' does still work.

Ah had to write a whole article in de Guardian to tell him how he farse and outta place, but then he turn 'round and cuss me for writing about his farseness.

'Is so yo does treat ah friend?' he had the gall to ask.

'Yo damn right.'

I wanted to tell him that with friends like him ah didn't need enemies, but ah hold ma tongue.

It happened again a week ago.

Ah just come into de people country, a place dey say isn't a real place.

The first thing he ask: 'What yo' think about Marlene?'

'Marlene who?' I ask.

'Like yo don't read de papers or what?'

Ah had to confess. I read about Marlene's troubles in de newspapers but I don't know de woman. Ah know she's a friend of Brian, our mutual friend, who use to run a credit union in Diego Martin.

'But like she can't help sheself or what?' he continued.

'What yo' mean?'

'The morning de police hold she for questioning and carry she to de station, all she could say was 'Ah hungry!' 'Water more than flour, yo looking at about 25 years in de slammer if they find yo' guilty, but all yo' could say is 'Ah hungry'?'

'But dey ent charge de woman with nothing. Dey just wanted to question she to see if she know anything about rumours people spreading about she.'

'After complaining about hunger, she say 'Ah feeling sick' and they rush she to de hospital.'

All I could say: 'Ah sorry to hear dat.'

Without waiting for me to finish, he chime in: 'Ah glad dey hold she. She should make plenty time if she guilty.'

Now is my time to get mad.

'How come dem straight-hair people does thief and yo' doh say nothing about that? Now yo' want to jump down Marlene throat.'

'Ah don't want to jump down Marlene throat, but black people too stupid. We does tief chicken s and when dey hold we allyuh mad.'

'How much dey say she tief?' I asked.

'About a million dollars.'

I wanted to remind him that it was only an allegation, but he had no time for such niceties.

'Dat is we problem. We don't even show imagination when we tief.'

He was getting hotter by the minute.

'Yo hear about the UNC man who tief so much money dat he does boast he have enough money for five generations of he family to live on?'

'I never hear dat.'

'Dat is de problem. Even when we tief, we don't really know how much to tief.'

Ah shake ma head in shame.

'Yo' ever hear about de Indian and African man who went to de bank to borrow $10,000. After listening to them, the loan officer said 'I could lend you guys $100,000.' The African get 'fraid. He wondered how he go pay back all that money.

'The Indian man wasn't troubled. He say he could use $200,000 if they could lend him that much.

'Astonished, the African turn to the Indian and asked 'How yo' go pay back that much money?' 'The Indian looked at him unconcernedly: 'Ah go cross dat bridge when ah come to it'.

'Black people in de country shame for Marlene. Like she never hear about legal tief and illegal tief.

'We does only think about fulling we belly rather than setting up weself for de long term.

'Dat is de Christian in we. Tief little and live long.

'Dat is why we was so happy when Rowley and dem say dey go lock up every man and woman who tief. Four years gone and nobody make a jail yet. We want to be righteous. We want to cross every 't' and dot every 'i' before we hold anybody.

'PNM should ah get a special prosecutor- someone like Ramesh Maharaj-to clean up the stables when dey won de election. Right now plenty of dem tief would ah been in jail or in heaven, but dey would not be around to make people sin their souls.

'But even in heaven some of them would still be looking to find what they didn't put down.'

Listening to Oskie, I remembered a poem I read years ago: 'Roberts is dead-so I am told/His greatest love was the love of gold/If to heaven he's gone, angels, look sharp/As you may lose a golden harp.'

Ah had to look at Oskie and laugh.

Although he always asks the right question at the wrong time, his perspicacity is priceless.

Maybe that is why he is my friend.

Professor Cudjoe's email address is scudjoe@wellesley.edu. He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

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The Slave Master of Trinidad by Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
The Slave Master of Trinidad by Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe