“A want yu to clean the two bicycles spic and span this morning.”
“A don’t want you to leave not even a speck of dirt when you are finished cleaning them.”
I live on top of a church on a commune of 4 buildings, with mummy and 50 other women. The church is in the centre and there are is a tenement next door, owned by the church. Mummy and I share a little bed. We share a room with Sister Henry and old, blind Sister Aspy. I don’t know why, but the doctor cut off her two legs. Mummy and the other church sisters are always making me do something for them. They call it chores. I call it child slavery. If it’s not cleaning Sister Henry and Sister Forbes bicycles, it’s sweeping the yard. If it’s not sweeping the yard, it’s going to the shop. If it’s not going to the shop, it’s going to the shoemaker. If it’s not going to the shoemaker, it’s going to the market.
“And whatever you do, don’t go over next door today.”
“You are to stay right here when yu finish cleaning them. Yu hear mi?”
“Alright, I’m gone to work. Don’t give any trouble today.”
I hurry up and finish cleaning the bicycles. After I finish cleaning the bicycles, I run straight to next door. I know they’re hiding something from me. Grownups are always trying to hide something from me.. (BEAT) Now I have to go pee. I don’t want to go to the toilettes near our room, because Sister Henry or somebody else will find something else for me to do. I run fast through the side gate. I like going next door. Some people in that yard are not Christians, they are worldians. At least that’s what mummy calls them.
“They’re jus’ living for dis worl’ but they will soon end up in a lake of fire.”
I like going next door because I get to hear music that’s not Christian music.
“Good morning Ms. Chambers. Good morning Ms. Ena.” I dash around the house corner to the toilette.
“Steeeeeeeeeeve! Don’t go round dere!”
Right in front of the toilette there is a rusty square sheet of corrugated tin. It is big like a manhole cover. I’m going too fast to avoid it. Once my barefoot touches that rusty tin, my foot bottom will split open, blood will come rushing out, I will have to go to Children’s Hospital and mummy will beat me for disobeying her. The rusty tin collapses under my foot and I drop into this big, black hole, just like Alice in wonderland. I land, plop in this mooshy greenish brown stuff. My feet are deep in the moosh up to my knees. I’m sitting in it. I’m sinking in it. The wall is round. It’s far away. The wall is moving. No, big drummer cockroaches line the wall. They are moving. I frightened them when I fall in. Now they’re flying around, plenty of them. They’re hitting me in the head. I can hear their little footsteps. They’re crawling on one another. It’s very very stink in here.
I’M IN THE DOODU PIT.
“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Tek mi out. Somebady tek mi out!”
“Jesus Christ! Steve drop in the doodu pit.”
“Tek mi ooooooouuuuuut! Somebady tek mi out. I’m sinking!!!!” I’m up to my waist in doodu. I’m sitting in everybady’s doodu: Ms. Ena’s, Ms. Chambers, all the children in the yard, Sister Hudson, the skinny old lady in the yard. I can see paper mixed with the green/brown doodu.
“Tek mi ooooooooooooooooout!”
I can see the square hole I fell through. The sky is blue blue blue. I can make out Ms. Ena’s face. Many people from the neighborhood are looking down on me.
“Somebody soon come for you. Brother Claire, Steve drop in the doodu pit.”
I’m still sinking. Now I’m way past knee deep in doodu, I’m chest deep in mooshy, slushy doodu. I’m 6 years old. I’m going to die.
“Somebady tek mi ooooooouuuuut! Tek mi oooooouuuuuut!
Brother Claire is a deacon in the church. He’s on his belly outside. He drops pieces of cloth tied together through the hole. “Stop di cryin! The more you cry, is the more you move. And the more you move, is the more you sink! Hold on to the cloth!”
I’m trying to stop crying. I can’t wipe my eyes or my nose. There is doodu on my hands. I hold on to the cloth. I’m going up out of the doodu pit, covered with everybody’s doodu all over me. I’m not going die. I’m going back through the hole I fell through. I’m back on dry land. My feet are on solid ground instead of solid waste. Clumps of everybody’s doodu are all over my body. The yard is full of people. How did the news travel so fast? Even Ms. Tomlinson and her children from way down by the seaside are here. I can never go to school again. I can never go anywhere again.
“Doodu boy, you’re lucky.”
That is what my name is now: Doodu Boy. Mummy is here. Jesus! I’m dead now. I should’ve just died in the doodu pit.
“Thank you Brother Claire, thank you so much. My son owes his whole life to you.”
“Is not me Sister D, is the Lord yu have to thank for that. Believe you me, it could have been much much worse.”
“Praise the Lord.” Mummy marches me over to the only cistern in the yard. She puts a hose on the pipe and starts to hose me down from a distance.
“Tek off your clothes.” She mixes Pine Sol and Lysol in a bucket of water. Now she’s washing me down with a rag. No, she’s scrubbing me down. It smells like Children’s hospital.
“Why are you so disobedient? Didn’t I tell you not to come over here?”
The scrubbing is over.
“Stay right here.”
She leaves and comes back with her handbag. It has long straps. She starts to beat me.
“Why, are, you, so, dis, o, be, di, ent? Ay? WHY?”
I’m dancing around crying. Ms. Ena is begging her to stop.
“Don’t beat him, after what he just went through don’t beat him Sista D.”
“He deserves it, his ears are too tough. Do, you know, how, much, you, made, me, worry, about you?”
“Ay, yes mummy. I’m going to be obedient next time. Mummy, mummy mummy!”
“Don’t mummy me. Stop the screaming.”
Mummy drags me back to the church yard. She hauls me upstairs and sends me to bed even though it’s almost lunch time. Wow, that was scary, I’ll never disobey big people again.