Given the aggravations of daily life in Guyana, citizens are in need of some occasional light-heartedness to restore the human spirit, and this week, with the politics at full boil, one came for me via an email to his friends from Alex Neptune, who lives in New York with long roots reaching back here. Alex’s dilemma was immediately reminiscent of our boyhood days, as the song terms it. Simply put, he was holidaying with his Trini wife Brenda in Trinidad, at the home of his mother-in-law (who shall remain nameless), and his problem was that the neighbour’s yard had a Julie tree, laden with mangoes, but not one was coming Alex’s way. He would pass the tree and see the crop swaying gently in the breeze – you know how a mango can call you – but no fruit fell over the fence, and no neighbour appeared offering any, and Alex, a registered Julie fanatic, continued to grind.
After a few days with this dilemma, Alex appealed to his friends for help. He sends an SOS email to Marc Matthews in England, to Henry Muttoo in Grand Cayman, and to me in Guyana.
Alex wrote: “Fellas, a need some advice. A sit down here in T&T looking at meh mother-in law’s neighbor Julie Mango tree wid some real nice and ripe mangoes in it, and a tinking a should raid it. A doan even have to climb de tree; some hanging low; a could jus stretch up an get dem. A looking fa dem all over de place, nobody en have any fa sale, and look dem deh right next door. De only problem is if a get ketch, a will bring shame on mi in-law, and all deh family in T&T, and all over de world would know. More importantly, my wife Brenda would never forgive mi. So what should I do?”
Alex had made the mistake of consulting the wrong people. He picked Henry Muttoo, who is a talented but very temperamental person (all Henry’s staff fraid him); Marc Matthews, who is only interested in Eugene O’Neill and lil weed, and me who in my youth tried to cop some of our Hague neighbour’ s coconuts, and got a royal cut tail from my father. Muttoo was the first to respond nudging Alex to follow the Caribbean traditions and “tief de damn mangoes, man”, case closed. (The email was longer – Henry is a very voluble guy – I’m abbreviating here to conserve space.) I immediately reminded Alex that Henry was the biggest coward among us and suggested a more devious approach as follows: “Alex, you’re a Guyanese. Use yuh brains. Get yuh in-law to tell de neighbor dat yuh come all de way from New York, ketch Chikungunya, and de docta recommen nuff liquids and plenty fruits an could she please oblige yuh wid a few Julie. Dat way, yuh aint got no tief man worries, and de Trini lady may even tek pity on yuh an’ mek yuh some doubles. Doan worry wid Henry; he wouldn tex he own advice fuh tief.” My advice was harsh, but Henry graciously backed me up.
“Dave, yuh right. As me mudda use to seh, I fraid police like six months in jail. Wen we used to raid dem trees in Albouystown – especially dem Kitchen garden dat behind Laing Avenue Housing Scheme, I was always de watchman – about two corna away looking for police. But if a police did come, God help dem boys… dey wouldn’t hear any alarm from me. I gone.” At this point, while Alex was carefully debating the finer points of my Chikungunya strategy, Marc chimed in, all the way from England, with, if you know Marc with his background in drama, a typical reaction. “Banna, alyuh foolin around. Liberate de mangoes, man, liberate dem from dat imprisoned state. Get up, stan up,” or words to that effect, as I recall the Matthews speech – short and to the point. I could almost hear the drum roll, and the trumpets sounding, and I’m confident Mr Neptune heard them all the way in Trinidad.
Before he got carried away with Marc’s call for a frontal attack, however, Alex decided to discreetly survey the target. He reported: “Hi bannas. A went fa a test run…only in de West Indies. Wha yu tink happen? As a walkin pass de tree, a decide to slow down to observe the
target, but as soon as a look at de mangoes, a hear, ‘tief, tief, tief’; it was a parrot in a cage close to de tree shouting. Ah quickly double back to mi mother-in-law house an duck inside blowing. Dave, ah hear yuh Chikungunya approach, but mi mother-in-law and she neighbor doan talk, so dat out. My decision is deh could keep dey mangoes; a going back to cold New York an buy some up deh.”
Needless to say, with the typical Caribbean news that Alex’s mother-in-law and her neighbor “doan talk” the Julie mango episode came to an abrupt end, and all emails ceased. Alex has undoubtedly ended up satisfying his craving in some West Indian store in New York, and I know
Henry is doubled over laughing in Cayman. At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Matthews is standing by his window in London, shaking his fist at the snow, locks flying, and shouting, “Bannas, alyuh foolin around; liberate de damn mangoes.”