“The dinner ready!”
The sound of my mummy’s voice was like a bolt of lightning breaking up the darkness that had started to form. None of us had even noticed because we were too busy building and cooking in our lean to zinc house. It was a typical Jamaican summer evening for us. All of the kids, Kirk and Greg (my brothers), Charlene and Trecia (my cousins) and me, were outside playing in the yard. We always played until we were called in for dinner.
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Hearing my mother call, for the second time, made everyone sprint to the house. Nobody never waan (want to) get a beating. Everyone ran to the house, except me. I was notorious for taking off my yard slippers while playing and then not being able to find them. Tonight was no different. Actually, it was worse because I was having more trouble than normal finding my slippers in the darkness that had suddenly descended. I felt myself starting to panic because it was now pitch black and I didn’t like being alone in the dark. By the time I found them and put them on, everybody else had made it inside. I ran as quickly as I could toward the house.
Gasping for breath, I stopped at the back door. I never even got a chance to touch the door handle because the door started to open on its own. I screamed in terror and ran to the front door begging someone, anyone, to let me into the house. Luckily, I realized the door was open and charged inside. I immediately ran to my dad and told him what had happened. He looked at me, shook his head and laughed. Then he chuckled, “Suh a mad yuh a mad now?” Loosely translated, “So you’ve gone mad?” He laughed some more and said I must’ve imagined the door moving as the streetlight and moon played tricks in the darkness. I wasn’t so sure, but I figured that was the only explanation that made sense, so I went off to eat my dinner.
The next evening we were out playing again, as usual, when my Aunt Joan called us into the house this time. Again, I couldn’t find those annoying slippers, so I was the last person going into the house through the back door. You have to understand it is near impossible to play Chinese skip (a Jamaican children’s game that has flexibility challenges) with sandals on. Unless you want to buss (burst) you head that is. I was about to open the door again when it slowly started inching open on its own. Creak, by terrifying creak. Tonight it wasn’t as dark as it had been yesterday and I could clearly see the door was opening on its own. I felt my entire body tense and shake uncontrollably. I screamed with every ounce of strength in me and ran to the front door banging noisily, because tonight it was locked. Finally, my cousin opened the door and I almost trampled her trying to get inside the house.
Running in, I almost collided with my mom. She held me firmly and kept saying my name over and over again, trying to get me to calm down. When I finally calmed down enough, and told her what was wrong, she shook her head, and told me, “Nutten nuh guh so, Kim. Yuh mind playing tricks on you.” My mom pretty much said the same thing as my dad had, “That’s not what happened, Kim. Your mind is playing tricks on you. I guess my fear of being alone in the dark could be causing me to see things that weren’t happening, but two nights in a row, the same thing. I was so confused.
Once I stopped trembling, she told me to go eat my dinner, bathe and get to bed. Scared out of my mind, and confused, I was in no position to go to sleep. I sat there for hours replaying what had happened. I know what my parents said and knew it sounded crazy, but the door had opened by itself. It wasn’t the streetlight or the moon. So if it wasn’t any of those things, what was it? That’s when I started thinking of all the duppy stories I’d heard. Tales of ghosts that hung around in different places they were attached to. I definitely didn’t want to believe duppies were even real, but what else could it be? Somehow I nodded off to sleep worried about what duppy was haunting my family house and why.
The next evening I tried to get my cousins to come with me to the back door to prove what had been happening, but neither of them would. Terrified, but determined to get answers, I decided to go on my own and face my fear. As soon as I neared the door again, it started to open and I turned to run, but as I turned I heard a faint sound like laughter. The sound scared me even more, so I took off running, but almost immediately after I took my first few strides, I stopped in my tracks. I realized I knew that laughter. Slowly, I turned back around and jogged toward the back door. Curious now, I looked up into the almond tree, hanging over the back of our house. It took a few moments, but finally I noticed two shadowy figures on a low branch almost hidden by the leaves.
Wait a minute! My brothers were missing. It dawned on me that when I had been trying to find someone to come with me to the backdoor to find the duppy, they had been nowhere to be found. The two figures were laughing so hard that they were having a hard time laughing and staying up in the tree.
I guess my brother Kirk was laughing too hard because he lost his balance and fell out of the tree. Lucky for him, he had been on a low branch and was smart enough to tuck and roll as he came tumbling down. He was still laughing hysterically as he fell. I guess my dad heard all the commotion and came outside to see what was going on. I immediately put on the water works and started telling my dad how these miscreants, he called sons, had been tormenting me for three days.
“Daddy, a Kirk and Greg did a do it the whole time. Dem hide off inna di almond tree and trouble the door,”I said in a high pitched whine. I was talking so fast and crying so hard, he could barely hear what I was saying. As he told me to slow down and stop crying, he walked over to where my brother had fallen and started looking him over.
While my father tended to the bruises on my brother’s legs and arms, my other, older brother, Greg, climbed down and began telling the story of how they’d tied string to the door and used the string to control the door opening and closing to scare me for the past 3 days. Vindicated, I looked at my dad expectantly. He didn’t disappoint. Both Kirk and Greg got punished. They had to go directly to bed after eating dinner for two weeks, without getting to play outside or watch any tv. Best of all, they both had to permanently retire from their booming duppy business.
If you enjoyed "Duppy Business," read the other short stories that have been released in the I am an Island Girl series. 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 fourth story in the collection, Verandah Key, tells of one of my "key" adventures in another part of the island. Growing up on an island is beautiful, but also challenging. Read story 5, Bad Dawg Dem, to find out about surviving on an island filled with dogs, read