> The Mangohead Chronicles: Mangohead and the Zaboca Thief S01E05

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mangohead and the Zaboca Thief S01E05

Now on to our story!

As Mangohead lay awake, tossing and turning in the bright moonlight that washed over him, the only image that came to his tired brain repeatedly was the rag with the scrap missing. Could the Kurma man really be the one who was haunting Ma Procop's zaboca tree? He wasn't even sure. Looking at the old man hobble up the road that evening, it didn't seem likely. Still, he liked to be thorough and decided that to ease his own conscience and to clear the Kurma man he would have to investigate the situation. Slowly, he fell into a restless, fitful sleep.

The dawn found Mangohead up before eight, a feature so rare that his mother was stunned.
"You alright boy?" she asked in a concerned tone.
"Yeah Ma, I fine," Mangohead answered. "I go be up the road if you need me." With that the youth slipped out of the house and half-walked half-ran to Ma Procop's garden.
Briskly, he undid the wire holding the gate shut and made a bee line for the zaboca tree. Standing in the shade of the tree cast by the rising sun, he counted, his breath held...and realized that he was one zaboca short! Sometime in the night someone had pilfered a pear. Now he was certain that there was a zaboca thief in the village and he was determined to get to the bottom of it. The main suspect he had (as loath as he was to believe in the man's guilt) was the Kurma Man himself.  After checking around the tree and on the fence for any further clues and finding absolutely nothing, he latched the gate to the garden and made for the Kurma Man's shop.
Early mornings in villages such as these out in the rural areas of Trinidad were usually interspersed with men returning from their even earlier jaunts into the forest to tend to their gardens. The road would usually have a gardener passing by regularly either on their way home or off to the local rum shop in hopes of getting drunk so they could forget about their problems, the major one being how hard it was to make a living in subsistence farming.
Not all of these farmers were subsistence farmers though. Some of them had inherited vast swathes of land from their fathers and grandfathers, tilling the land just the way their parents and grandparents did before them. Farming was a time-honored tradition out here in the bush, but more and more children sought to escape the humdrum of rural life, and parents, knowing how hard farming was and how difficult it was to make ends meet, pushed their children to perform well academically so that they could escape what they saw as a very hard life. Some children, however, eagerly worked the land, seeing it the way the older, traditional Indians saw it, as a living.
Mangohead's friends Two and Four were on their way back from their early-morning farming trek like so many others whose families owned lands and had younger, stronger sons to work it. They hailed him out as they passed, covered in the sticky, greyish-brown lagoon mud from head to foot.
"Aye Mangohead," Two called out, "you still looking for them watchman hands?"
"Yeah boy," Mangohead said, perking up. "Now especially, I have ah suspicion."
"Serious?" Two said, his eyes shining. "That mean we getting pay then?"
"No eh," Mangohead stated. "But if allyuh still willing to help for payment in zaboca then I could use it."
"I feel I could use it too," Four said slowly. "Ma them buy like ten pound ah baigan. I hate baigan."
Mangohead nodded in agreement. Baigan, also known as aubergine or eggplant, was one of the staples of the East Indian immigrant diet when they arrived from India to work on the canefields so many years ago. They enjoyed how easy it was to cook and even moreso how it tasted when 'stretched' with potato, since the average East Indian family of the time had to stretch every available resource, not being able to make ends meet otherwise. This love for the baigan had extended to modern day, a fact that is mourned by many an East Indian youth.
"Gyaaad," Two said, screwing up his face. "Doh tell me is baigan again this evening inno."
Four nodded solemnly. "Is baigan today, baigan tomorrow, baigan the next day..."
"Arrite, Arrite," Two said exasperatedly. "We in, I cyah take so much baigan, I go kill somebody."
Mangohead nodded again, solemnly. "Cool, check me back at Ma Procop house round ten and thing, we have some plans to make."
The boys exchanged goodbye and Two and Four continued their weary trudge home to get out of their mud caked clothes. Mangohead realized with the little help he had from those two, he could look into catching the thief red-handed. However, he still wanted to confront the Kurma man about the rag; it was a damning piece of evidence and Mangohead was curious as to how it entered the old man's possession.
"Morning young one," the Kurma Man called to him as he entered the front doors of the shop. "You and your sister good?"
"Yeah we arrite," Mangohead said cautiously. "I wanted to ask you bout something I see you with yesterday."
"What it is?" the Kurma Man queried. "Yuh want to buy it?"
Mangohead shook his head. "Nothing like that, is that rag you had yesterday what you was wiping yuh face with, where yuh get it?"
"That old thing?" the Kurma Man laughed. "Madame Lani give me it the other day, I does get all my sapee from she."
"Sapee?" Mangohead enquired.
"Yeah, old cloth nah," the Kurma Man said. "The kind yuh does use to wipe countertop and thing."
Mangohead's thoughts spun. Maybe he was after the wrong man after all. He wouldn't rule the Kurma Man out totally yet, but now he had a new suspect to go on. "Thanks eh!" Mangohead said as he sprinted from the shop.
"Careful to walk on the side ehh," the Kurma Man called after him. "Them drivers these days crazy!"
"Mangohead!" Julie's voice hit him square in the face like one of those cartoon pies.
"What you want now?" he said turning to face her.
"It have somebody by Ma Procop house!" she said, wringing her hands.
Mangohead felt as though someone had knocked the wind out of him. "Who it is?"
"I dunno nah," Julie said, "they was up in the zaboca tree.
The thief! "Quick, go tell Ma she go get Corporal Parris and meet me up there, I go deal with them." Without a second thought he charged up the road, back to Ma Procop's house.
Mangohead burst through the gate, just in time to see a silhouetted figure slink behind the fence. Mangohead assumed he was running for the safety of the forest. He wasn't about to let this thief get away. Casting an eye up the zaboca tree, he realized that the thief was interrupted before he could steal any more of the fruits. He vowed to himself that this miscreant wouldn't get away with this. Nimbly, he hopped Ma Procop's fence easily, pirouetting his weight at the top and landing safely on the other side. The track into the forest was clear here so he followed it, since it would be easier going. If the thief decided to cover his tracks he would have to move outside of the cleared path and that meant that Mangohead might be able to catch up with him before too long. He hoped.
He entered the edge of the forest, the jungle foliage swallowing up the track suddenly and completely. The forest here was thick, light barely filtering through the thick canopy above him. The ground was muddy and moist; one misstep could leave him on his back. Taking note of this he checked his speed just a little as he looked around for clues to where the thief went. A loud cacophony arose to his left as a set of weaver birds (called corn-birds here in the Caribbean) took to the skies, littering the quiet air with their plaintive bellows. Mangohead quickly readjusted his position and ran flat out from whence the disturbance came.
He sliced through webs and tripped over vines and lianas that crowded the forest floor, seeking an inch of sunlight where none was to be found. The only thing on his mind was catching the thief; finding out who it was that would be so unscrupulous as to steal an old lady's zabocas. He turned a corner, catching a glimpse of the thief as they disappeared into a stand of trees. Swiftly he followed, pushing through the copse and immediately losing his footing. The trees stood just at the edge of the riverbank. Mangohead threw his weight backwards, but it was not enough as he slipped and both his feet slid out from under him, the wet mud betraying him. With a cry, Mangohead started sliding down towards the river. That wasn't so bad, he thought. A little wet never killed anyone. A loud splash behind him made him strain his neck to see what caused it. What looked like a large floating log was coming towards him, but Mangohead knew by the ridges he could see that that was no log. It was a caiman, a smaller, much more ferocious relative of the alligator. And they were always hungry. Hurriedly he scanned the riverbank, looking for something to grab onto in order to slow his descent. In an instant, he caught his fingertips in a small crack in the steep slope, burying them deeper for purchase. Levering his fingers into the crack, he felt the mud block give slightly. Not good. It was only a matter of time before him and it went tumbling down to the waiting jaws of the amphibious predator below. To his left was the root of a roseau palm, the two-inch-long spikes rumored to cause intense fever in anyone pricked by it. Mangohead swallowed. This was starting to look grim.



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