Talking Story


Outside of the walled resort the town is poor, clothes from Goodwill poor, the kind of poor where there are not enough jobs for young men, so they congregate around shade trees waiting for the day’s catch to arrive in leaky dinghies. My kids have never seen this kind of poor outside of a National Geographic special. Remember, I think hard at them. Understand how much you have and be grateful. Remember also, I think, that to whom much is given, much is required.

Eventually, we walk to a bar where the only non-alcoholic drinks are water and Coke. The older men in the neighborhood gather around us and talk guns with my husband, sell bracelets to my daughter, and once they realize I know what breadfruit, papaya, and mango trees look like, joke with me about island life. Too busy on the mainland, they tell me, you must teach your children to slow down island-style.

Along with the Reggae comes the herb. My son looks like he’s about to blow a blood vessel when they politely offer him some. “No thanks,” I say, “The day is enough,” and they laugh some more.

“Chill,” I tell my son. “Rastafarians. It’s part of their religion. To them it’s a sacrament.”

He frowns. It’s not like this at home. He’s had a few problems with drunken frat boys on the ship and is clinging to his just say no mentality with both hands clenched tight.

“I’ve never seen a belligerent pakalolo head,” I tell him. “Mellow and munchy is the worst to expect.”

I cross the street to where a small boat is unloading its catch, sorting fish into five gallon buckets that are whisked away, disappearing down shanty alleyways and behind bar counters. “How’s the fishing?” I ask.

Three men proudly display thirty or so small fish that look like miniature marlin and a couple of red snapper.

“Net?” I ask.

“Of course, mon,” they say, “unlike de tourists we don’t have all day.”

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