Saying « Good Morning » is more important than knowing the direction of the road. In order to understand this concept well, you should go near St Rock’s Chapel, because people who live in the vicinity of this area, once you say Good Morning, they are ready to climb up mountain « Tay Fè » or up mountain « Malanga » to take you to any house. People close to that Chapel are similar to the « Kenèp » (fruit) near the Chapel; no « Kenèp » (fruit) is sweeter than the ones close to the Chapel. Women living close to the Chapel do the laundry, they get their clothes from town, and they are neat. Men living close to the Chapel make small chairs, as well as baskets.
I knew a man living close to the Chapel called Charitab who use to make small chairs and baskets. When going to town with his chairs and baskets he used to be overloaded like a packhorse with everything on his head.
Charitab had a woman called Dyedònn (Godgiven), her nickname was Dòn, and they were living in a yard which had a one room straw house. Dòn had a display on the threshold of the house, where she was selling peanuts, biscuits, and a bottle of «Kenèp» (fruit) soaking in alcohol. This is how she made extra money, to help Charitab to put something in the pot every day to feed seven kids that God gave them. Dòn had also another small job that was giving her some extra money; she used to sweep the Chapel for seven gourdes per month; but this job caused her a lot of animosity in the neighborhood, they did not like her because of that. Charitab use to tell her not to be discouraged.
One evening, Dòn was standing in front of the gate with all the kids; they could not stay inside because they would all run into each other. Seven children, Charitab and Dòn, only a traffic light inside the house could solve the problem. Dòn was standing at the gate, while Charitab was playing cards in the neighboorhood; Dòn felt a pain at the waist, ahhhhhhh she could not bear it anymore, she went in earlier, she called the kids, some got under the old bed, some laid down, scattered inside the house, she turned off the artisanal lamp, she laid down and was never to wake up again.
As God called Dyedòn, it was as if Charitab’s right hand had been severed. The seven kids were now his sole responsibility. They were in the yard with their feet dirty with dust, their mouth dry, their hair uncombed; they used to go to a small school not too far, which they no longer attended. It was only when Charitab returned home that he was able to bring a little something in order to buy and cook food; this situation was breaking Charitab’s heart, everyone passing by were looking at those kids without a mother.
Charitab was thinking a lot, he went to sell small chairs and baskets somewhere in the neighborhood of Bourdon at his client’s home. The lady had always asked him for a child to stay with her (restavek).
When he arrived there he said: ahhhhhhh life is tough! But what can you do, you have to survive; he arrived and said to the client: the child you had asked me for, can I bring him to you? The client said yes but it must be a girl and she should not be too old. Charitab woke up the following morning, took with him ti Sentaniz who was about to be nine years old.
He took ti Sentaniz, barefoot, wearing the same dress she wore all day. She walked from Chapel St. Rock to Bourdon on her two feet. Upon his arrival he said: here is the child you were asking me for, I brought her to you, she is a child without a mother, and be patient with her. It’s true that she is stubborn but you are also a mother, do whatever you can. That’s the way ti Sentaniz landed at my friend, a professor who lives at the higher part of Bourdon. This professor was a man who was reading a lot of big books against injustice. He used to read them to me, he could not tolerate injustice, he did not create the world, but he wanted to change it.
But, the garbage (the injustice) this Professor wanted to sweep was the neighbor’s garbage; even though this garbage was piling up to the roof under his nose and he refused to smell it; it was in front of his eyes and still he did not see it. One day, I was sitting with him on the gallery and suddenly ti Sentaniz passed by struggling with hauling a basket of garbage toward the street for the garbage truck to pick up. I saw her wearing a see-through dress; you could count all her ribs under the dress, and you would think that this dress was made of a piece of cloth picked from the garbage can. She could not look at the sun; educated people would say that she suffered from a lack of vitamins; her head looked like a frizzy chicken’s nest, you could see that her hair had not had any contact with a comb in a while. Her two legs looked like two chopsticks. I saw that child struggling with hauling the heavy basket, but the professor was reading about this situation in his big book and still he did not see ti Sentaniz in the book.
One morning, I needed to see the professor very early. I went to his place. I should tell you that he was living with his wife, his wife sister, his 17 years old son Robert, his 14 years old daughter Chantoutou. Chantoutou was a well developed and well taken care of, for a child of her age. When I looked at Chantoutou I used to ask myself if it was through her eyes her mother delivered her and that ti Sentaniz Mother was the one delivered naturally the usual way.
Heyyyyyy! I was inside the house and I was present as they awoke Chantoutou, it’s a cute story; I saw the mother, go to the Chantoutou’s bedroom door, pushing the door open and I heard her say:
The Lady: Look at the little doll, you are awaken, darling? Ohhhhhh! What a beautiful smile. Did you sleep well, darling?
Chantoutou: Good Mom
The Lady: It’s time to go to school, you have to hurry; what are you going to where this morning, the beautiful embroidered dress made for you by your Godmother; it so cute!
Chantoutou: Good Mom
The Lady: Well then, you are going to take the dress and I will iron it for you then you will go and wash yourself. Then, you will go to your godmother who will give you a beautiful hairstyle to go to school, come on darling ; wow, you are beautiful, come and I will give you two kisses to wake you up (sounds of kisses) ahhhhhhhh look at my little doll, go darling…
Maurice: This is for Chantoutou, I heard her talking to Sentaniz and she said:
The Lady: Where is the little girl that lives here, where is Miss Sentaniz, where is the little vermin, she does not hear I am calling her? When you wake up in the morning she must make you yell like a chattering chicken for all the neighbors to hear. Where is that little girl?
Sentaniz: Here I am
The Lady: Well, you are coming with two trace of oil next to your mouth; did you put your hands in somebody’s meal again?
Sentaniz: It’s Chantoutou who gave me her leftover since last night.
The Lady: I thought I forbade you to ask the child for the rest of her meals; I will hold you accountable if this child loses weight; look at the face of that girl with her eyes looking like buttonholes on the clothes of crazy people. Her mouth looks like a piece of soft decomposed liver left on the marble table at the iron market.
Stop staring at me like that, go and bring me the powder box so that I may powder the child.
Sentaniz: Here is the powder box.
The Lady (to Chantoutou): Go and take your little box of hair ribbons, your double face hair ribbons; I am going to put some bows for you, darling. You see, you must put some small hair ribbons, so that you will be stylish, darling, isn’t that true?
Chantoutou: Good Mom.
The Lady: Let me put your hair ribbons for you, here they are, Hummmmmm, ahhhhhhhhhh! Look at yourself in the mirror, it’s beautiful ohhhhhhhh let me kiss my baby girl ahhhhhhh. Now, you are going to eat your oatmeal porridge. Tomorrow, you will eat banana porridge, do you hear me hannnnnnnnnn, ok darling, hurry up.
The Lady (to Sentaniz): Where is Miss Sentaniz, go and get the Child’s school bag; every day I must repeat the same thing; When you wake up in the morning it’s a curse. When you take those little pests to stay with you, you think you are making an economy, but indeed you are abusing your health. Go and get the book bag of the child to clean it for her to go to school, ohhh, don’t you know to do that?
Sentaniz: I am looking for a piece of cloth to clean Miss Chantoutou’s bag.
The Lady: You are looking for a piece of cloth, why didn’t you wipe it with your mouth, but no, you don’t want the child’s bag to be clean, you would prefer the bag to be like your face, dirty and shiny. Oh oh, I don’t know what you are doing here, you think that you are a boarder? If I needed a boarder I would look for a beautiful girl with a Patrician nose. It’s not the demon at Saint Michael’s the archangel’s feet I would select to be my boarder! Go an open the drawer, and take a piece of cloth so that I may wipe the child’s school bag. Every morning I tell you the same thing. Fortunately I am not having anymore children otherwise, it would be a monkey looking creature like you, and I would have. Go, get me the cloth!
Sentaniz: Here is the cloth.
The Lady (to Chantoutou): You drank your oatmeal porridge, you drank it ahhhhhhhh, and tomorrow you will take the banana porridge. You know I almost forgot; you must take an apple to go to school.
Chantoutou: Ah no.
The Lady: No, you must take an apple, it’s good. You take an apple and you hold it in your hand, it’s almost the same color as your dress, go and look. Ahh you should not eat the apple before the break; everybody is going to look at you, isn’t that true, darling.
The Lady (to Sentaniz): Go and open the drawer to bring me an apple from the apples of the children.
Sentaniz: What drawer?
The Lady: What do you mean: what drawer, if it was for you to wake up during the night to rob, I am sure you would know what drawer? You are sneaky, underhanded, cunning, like a milk vendor, open that drawer, take an apple and bring it to me.
Sentaniz: Here is the apple.
The Lady (to Chantoutou): Here it is darling, hold your apple in your hand, ok!
The Lady (to Sentaniz): Yes, if it twas a mango or an avocado you should give her you would, because in your mind that’s what looks like her. Anyway, take the school bag and walk ahead of her and take her to school.
Sentaniz is 9 years old, Chantoutou is 14 years old, and it’s Sentaniz who is responsible to take her to school. Sentaniz goes to the front gate, the mother goes too and the Mom says to Chantoutou:
The Lady (to Chantoutou) : You are leaving darling, have a nice day, ok !
Chantoutou: Good Mom.
The Lady (to Chantoutou): Watch that little vermin.
The Lady (to Sentaniz): Also, you have to take the child to school; I am not sending you to look inside the street vendor’s cornmeal porridge, breadfruit or corn on the cob pot.
Sentaniz is walking down the road with Chantoutou behind her. Chantoutou is walking slightly dancing with her apple in her hand. She looks like a big pregnant cat and everybody is watching; she has nothing else in her hand than the apple. Passing by the neighbor’s gate, the neighbor said:
Neighboor: Ohh the cute baby girl, what a beautiful dress, how are you?
Chantoutou: I am well
Neighboor: How is your Mom?
Chantoutou: Mom is well, thank you.
Neighbor (to Sentaniz): oh, look at the face of that girl looking at me, nosy Sentaniz, am I talking to you, you look like the child of a crazy person. It seems that the child is taking you to school and not the other way around; I will say that to your mistress.
Neighbor (to Chantoutou): You should watch her darling.
Chantoutou: Yes Auntie.
Sentaniz kept on walking down to take Chantoutou to school. She went inside and left her. Then, she took the road back walking up to the house, the sun was very hot and she felt on her back sweat running down, ayyyy she is breathless, her little legs making « one two, one two » like a Ford truck climbing the Tapion mountain with an empty radiator. She is making the effort she is climbing, and when she finally arrived home she found the lady with a basket on her leg peeling off green beans with her cat laid down next to her rocking chair. The lady told her
The Lady: oh oh do you know that I forgot this dog puke, it seems like you found things to steal on the street, where were you, how come you took so long?
Sentaniz: I did not take long
The Lady: You did not take long hum hum; did you take the child all the way inside the school?
Sentaniz: I took Miss Chantoutou inside the school where all her friends were.
The Lady: What comment did they make on her dress?
Sentaniz: I did not hear them say anything
The Lady: of course, you did not hear them say anything; you are not looking after her. So you think I would believe that school kids would see this beautiful embroidered dress on her and say nothing. So, you think I did not go to school too, you must think I am like you, like your family. Those kids would see this girl with that beautiful dress and they would make no comments; get out of here with your face looking like those dirty garbage kids are throwing on the big mountain; go wash the dishes inside.
She went to the backyard to wash the dishes; you would ask yourself how come her legs did not break when she squats. She is looking at all the pots, plates full of grease inside. She does not have any dishwashing soap like Joy, Ivory or steel wool, only a small piece of soap wrapped around a small rock ; she stood up and went to the lady.
Sentaniz: Madam, please, I would like to have 5 cents to buy 5 cents of washing soap to wash the dishes.
The Lady: Well, you think that I have a tree of money; day before yesterday I gave you 5 cents to buy soap; you must have a greedy gut voodoo god (lwa) in your family swallowing up the soap, and the indigo. Go wash the dishes with the little piece of soap you got and even if your fingers hurt, I could not care less, I am not the one who told you to swallow the soap ; get out of my face.
She went back to wash the dishes ; she took a little bit of guinea herbs to take the big grease off, then she washed them with the little piece of soap and then she rinsed them with cold water , she does not have hot water. While washing the dishes, the lady called her, because she is the one taking care of the gossip of madam:
The Lady: Sentaniz, this girl must be deaf; you are ugly, dumb and deaf on top of that. Oh, you must have a « lwa zenga » (voodoo God) inside your ears; don’t you hear me calling you?
Sentaniz: Here I am.
The Lady: Go on the other side and look in the garbage can of the madam to see what she cooked yesterday Sunday.
Sentaniz: What Madam?
The Lady: Why do you ask me what madam, when she comes here she talks about food and all other things, I always see your eyes in her eyes; if she was giving you a plate over the fence you would not ask what madam; Don’t act stupid with me little girl, go and look in her garbage as I told you.
Sentaniz went and came back.
Sentaniz: When I got there…
The lady: Who told you to open you mouth that wide; you need the lady to hear, what did you see in her garbage can?
Sentaniz: When I look inside the garbage can, I saw breadfruit skin, sweet potatoes skin, two herrings head and beans peal.
The Lady: Did you see green peas?
Sentaniz: No, I did not see green peas.
The Lady: What about chicken feathers?
Sentaniz: No, I did not see chicken feathers in the garbage can.
The lady: Did you see yellow plantain skin?
Sentaniz: There is no yellow plantain skin in the garbage can.
The Lady : What a chatterbox, this woman came here and she said that the chicken was so hard that she had to wash it with papaya leaves ; the green peas are coming from Gros Morne, it dissolve fast ; the yellow plantain was so long that she was going to cook only one. She is a chatterbox, a liar too like you ; Once you hear someone chattering, lying like that, she must also be a thief ; don’t you see that you are also stealing people belongings, get yourself out of my face; I did not slap you yet since this morning. Go and finish washing the dishes.
Sentaniz: I finished washing the dishes.
The Lady: You finished washing the dishes and you stayed in the backyard; you think that you are a boarder.
It is Sentaniz who makes the beds, she goes to the market to buy, she takes Chantoutou to school everyday; at noon, they prepare a padlocked lunch box that Sentaniz takes to school for Sentaniz, then she walks back home; that’s the third time she walks that road; in the afternoon she goes to pick up Chantoutou for the fourth time, and walks back home for the fifth time, and this, everyday. On top of that, she receives a slap from the godmother, the lady, and Robert. Her face looks like a child that has been in a bee hive; her ears are always buzzing; she is the first to wake up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night.
Upon waking, she has to prepare the coffee early, but at night she sleeps in front of Chantoutou’s bed. Chantoutou is lounging on her bed, wearing a nice bed jacket and each evening she puts on a different color of hair ribbon. Sentaniz is laying down on a straw mat, commonly called « better than the ground » (atemiyo) ; the name of the mat tells you what it is ; she is laying down with her legs white with dust, she is wearing a red underwear, made from a piece of Chantoutou’s old apron. This underwear looks like a thong on her. She can hardly breathe in front of the bed. So, to go to his bedroom, Robert must go through Chantoutou’s bedroom; Robert, 17 years old, when he is coming from his wild parties, and trying to get in silently so as not to be heard, one night stepped with his big rubber shoes on Sentaniz’ small hand.
Sentaniz : Ayi! Ayi! Ayi!
The Lady: What’s the matter in my house? This girl must have an appointment with demon society: I have to get rid of that little monster. Why didn’t you give away your parents before coming here, what?
Sentaniz: It’s nothing; it’s Mister Robert who stepped on my hand.
The Lady: Why didn’t you put your hand in your mouth, or in between your legs; how come your hands were on the floor? Oh! Shut your mouth inside my house otherwise I will shut it for you with my slippers. I am not waking up for you tonight; ok you owe me this tomorrow morning.
The husband sleeps next to the lady and still he did not see Sentaniz in the big book he is reading. Tomorrow morning, she takes the coffee in bed for everyone, auntie, everybody. To light up the fire to make the coffee, she does not have pine wood; you would believe she is lighting up the charcoal with her fingers; she is pouring a few drops of gas. In December, after she finished serving the coffee, they gave her a basket with a thimble of coffee powder to sell for godmother, grilled coffee in the entire neighborhood. It was a bit chilly, she was wearing the same dress; she was walking down, the wind was helping her walk down. If you are in the direction of the wind, you could hear her voice, and in that voice you could feel all her pain, all the slap in the face she received, all the slavery she endured, all the lack of affection, all the humiliation coming to you; the wind is carrying it to you, she is walking down and you hear:
Sentaniz: Grilled Coffeeeeeeeeeeee, grilled coffeeeeeeeeeeee
Finally, my friends, who will see Sentaniz in the big books??