I started school at 2 and a half, not three like most children. ‘cording to mi fada mi did too nuff and ask tuh much question (According to my father, I acted like an adult and asked too many questions). Since my family knew the owners of the basic school (daycare and pre-k) and they verified I was ready, I started school early, which was fine by me. I had things I wanted to know and I was wearing out my own family with all my questions.
Going to school meant more work for my brothers, who were already quite sick of their little sister, but hey that wasn’t my fault. You see, my brothers had to walk me to school, which was past their own school and then turn around and come back to their own school. Don’t feel too sorry for them though because we had fun on our walk.
To get to my school, Clydesdale Basic School, we had to walk through several lanes and streets, cross a bridge over a gully (opening where water from rains and other run off washed through), then cross a fairly busy road and then walk through several more streets and lanes. It sounds longer and worse than it really was.
We left early in the morning and walked and played together. Everybody knew my family or that’s what it felt like, so it was like we had checkpoints along the way. The ladies in the lane, right by the clinic, always rushed us along.
“Unno, hurry up and walk gwaan. Mine unno late. Doan mek mi haffi tell Dor seh unno was igling on the road ( All of you, hurry up and walk to school or you’ll be late. Don’t make me tell your mother, Miss Dor, that you were playing on the road.”
That was all the motivation we needed to hurry past our first checkpoint. Our next checkpoint was after we crossed the bridge. Our cousin, Smirch, was normally sitting somewhere there with his friends. He’d always play with my hair, put me on his shoulders and walk us down the street to the busy road.
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Before we crossed, Miss Sonia, a close family friend who owned a cook shop (street side restaurant) would always call us over and give us something out of the breakfast she was preparing for her customers. One dumpling for each of us, a piece of breadfruit or plantain, whatever was ready as we arrived, before her customers descended. It didn't matter to her to Miss Sonia that we had already had breakfast at home.
As we munched, Smirch or Miss Sonia, if Smirch was missing in action, would help us across the road and checkpoint two would be complete. Next up was actually my brothers’ school, Pembroke Hall Primary. They’d drop off their bags in their rooms and we’d all use the bathroom, if we needed to, before continuing the walk to drop me off at school. Sometimes we’d get joined by some of their friends.
After our third checkpoint, we got to the point in our walk that I hated. This neighborhood was full of bad dawg (dogs) and I’m not exaggerating. Before this, I had never heard of a Doberman, but here it seemed like it was a secret club dedicated to bad dawg. There was one in every yard and sometimes two. All the gates had some sign that warned, Beware of Dogs, Don’t Touch the Gate or some variation of that message.
We usually walked quickly through this section of our journey to school, without making too much noise because though they were locked up in their yards, they made an awful racket as we walked by and there was always the fear that one of these days as they were jumping and banging into those gates, a gate would open.
Once we passed the third checkpoint, we were home free. My brothers happily dropped me off before scampering back to school.
In the evenings, we’d do the whole trip in reverse, complete with getting some of the dinner Miss Sonia was making. My favorite days were Fridays because it meant a cup of soup and a small crab leg that had fallen off while being cooked.
She even made sure we got desert, one Blue Draws/ Dukunu (type of pudding made from sweet potato and coconut boiled in banana leaves) cut up for all of us or some type of candy like Catch (chocolate candy bar with crunchy bits), or some Duplex cookies (a type of cookie with one side vanilla, the other side chocolate and cream icing in the middle) or sometimes just a Busta (toffee like candy that came wrapped in white parchment paper).
Then, we’d see Smirch again and he’d buy us all bag juices (exactly what it sounds like a plastic bag with frozen juice in it). After that, we would all walk together. Sometimes Smirch would walk us all the way home. Other times, he’d walk us to the end of the bridge.
Our little routine went on for a long time without any issues until one fateful morning.
We had just gotten to check point three, when we noticed it was eerily quiet. The type of quiet that made your stomach hurt. The bad dawg dem wasn’t making a sound and it felt like you could hear the leaves move from the likkle (little) breeze that was blowing.
Sensing something was wrong, my brothers and me started to walk more quickly than usual. Just then, we heard an aggressive growl and noticed several steps ahead of us that two black bad dawg (Dobermans) were blocking the path we needed to take to my school.
Everyone froze in fear. That is until the dogs started running towards us. My brothers took off running, back in the direction of their school, but I was so afraid, my legs were rooted in the cement street.
In no time, the two bad dawg caught up to where I was standing and continued to snarl and growl at me.
I just stood there crying softly.
Emboldened by my growing fear, one of the dogs moved in closer as if to bite me. Self preservation instincts finally kicked in and with all my might, I swung my metal Transformers lunchbox and clobbered him right in the nose.
“Errr, errr, err”, the dog cried and backed away.
Remembering that there was a second bad dawg, I swung my lunch box again and caught the other bad dawg in the jaw. Then I just started to swing my lunch box back and forth, back and forth like a mad woman, trying to keep the snarling bad dawg away from me.
We must have been making a commotion because from the house with an open gate and a Beware of Dog sign, I heard someone opening a grill and running out into the road.
The next thing I knew, this older lady was telling me, “It’s ok, baby. Gimme the lunch pan. Nuh bada lik mi wid it (Give me the lunch box. Don’t hit me with it.)”
She held me tightly in her arms and patted my head. Then she turned and said, “Gwaan eena di yard now. Suh unno a bad dawg now? A likkle pickney unno have strength fah? When big people a try come inna di yard, unno run guh hide. Suppose unno did bite the people dem pickney? (Go in the yard now. So you two are bad dogs now? You feel strong bullying a little girl? When adults come on our property, you two run and hide. What if you had bitten this little girl?)”
“Come baby, mek mi gi yuh summ'n fi drink (Come baby, let me give you something to drink).” She walked me in past the two bad dawg, who weren’t making a sound anymore and let me have a seat on her verandah.
I was shaking now and crying harder than before. She quickly went into the house. A couple of minutes later, she came back with a dark liquid in a clear glass.
“Alrite likkle miss, drink di suga water. U wi feel betta. (Alright, little miss, drink up the sugar and water. You will feel better.)"
By this time, my brothers had made their way back up the street and entered her gate as well.
“Kim, you alrite (Kim, are you ok)?” This came from my older brother, Greg.
I suddenly burst into tears.
“Unno leave mi fi di bad dawg dem eat mi. Mi aguh tell daddy. Mi aguh tell daddy. (The two of you left me to be eaten by those dogs. I’m going to tell daddy. I’m going to tell daddy)”
As angry as I was, I still let them hold and comfort me while I continued to drink the sugar water.
That evening, when I in fact told my father what had happened on the way to school, both my brothers got in a world of trouble for abandoning their little sister, while I got the queen’s treatment.
From that day on, we were even more careful traveling the roads after the third checkpoint, but luckily, apart from some barking, we never encountered any more bad dawg again.
If you enjoyed "Bad Dawg Dem," read the other short stories in the I am an Island Girl series. Story 6, Fix Yuh Face, is the story of what a metal pipe has to do with dancing. Story 4, Verandah Key, gives a sneak peek into summers well spent in St. Thomas, Jamaica. Story 3, If Ah Poop Yuh Dead, is a hilarious account of why Fridays were my favorite days of the week. The second story in the series, A We Say Acrobat: Chinese Skip, gives a glimpse into one of my favorite games growing up in Jamaica and the first story in the collection, Duppy Business, is a tale of the evil genius of siblings mixed with a popular Jamaican superstition (belief to some).
Share the I am an Island Girl series with Jamaicans, lovers of Jamaica and readers of all ages. Check back often to read the next short story in the series.