Size / / /

CONTENT WARNING:


“You work as what, a fisherman?”

I nearly jump clean out my skin at the sound of she voice, tough like sugarcane when you done chew the fibres dry. “Fisherm …?” I stutter.

She sweet like cane, too? Shame make me fling the thought ’way from me. Lord Jesus, is what make me come here any atall? I turn away from the window, from the pure wonder of watching through one big piece of clear glass at the hibiscus bush outside. Only Boysie house in the village have a glass window, and it have a crack running crossways through it. The rest of we have wooden jalousie shutters. I look back at she proud, round face with the plucked brows and the lipstick red on she plump lips. The words fall out from my mouth: “I … I stink of fish, don’t it?”

A smile spread on she beautiful brown face, like when you draw your finger through molasses on a plate. “Sit down nuh, doux-doux, you in your nice clean pressed white shirt? I glad you dress up to come and see me.”

“All right.” I siddown right to the edge of the chair with my hands in my lap, not holding the chair arms. I frighten for leave even a sniff of fish on the expensive tapestry. Everything in this cathouse worth more than me. I frighten for touch anything, least of all the glory of the woman standing in front of me now, bubbies and hips pushing out of she dress, forcing the cloth to shape like the roundness of she. The women where I living all look like what them does do: market woman, shave ice seller, baby mother. But she look like a picture in a magazine. Is silk that she wearing? How I to know, I who only make for wear crocus bag shirt and Daddy old dungarees?

She move little closer, till she nearly touching my knees. From outside in the parlour I hearing two-three of the boys and them laughing over shots of red rum and talking with some of the whores that ain’t working for the moment. I hear Lennie voice, and Two-Tone, though I can’t really make out what them saying. Them done already? I draw back little more on the fancy chair.

The woman frown at me as if to say, Who you is any atall? The look on she face put me in mind of how you does look when you pull up your line out of the water sometimes to find a ugly fish gasping on the end of it, and instead of a fin, it have a small hand with three boneless fingers where no hand supposed to grow. She say, “You have a fainty smell of the sea hanging round you, is all, like this seashell here.”

She lean over and pick up a big conch shell from she windowsill. It clean and pink on the inside with pointy brown parts jooking out on the outside.

She wearing a perfume I can’t even describe, my head too full up with confusion. Something like how Granny did smell that time when I was small and Daddy take me to visit she in town. Granny did smell all baby powder and coconut grater-cake. Something like the Ladies-of-the-Night flowers too, that does bloom in my garden.

I slide back little more again in the chair, but she only move closer. “Here,” she say, putting the shell to my nose. “Smell.”

I sniff. Is the smell I smell every living day Papa God bring, when I baking my behind out on the boat in the sun hot and callousing up my hands pulling in the net next to the rest of the fishermen and them. I ain’t know what to say to she, so I make a noise like, “Mm …?”

“Don’t that nice?” She laugh a little bit, siddown in my lap, all warm, covering both my legs, the solid, sure weight and the perfume of she.

My heart start to fire budupbudup in my chest.

She say, “Don’t that just get all up inside your nose and make you think of the blue waves dancing, and the little red crabs running sideways and waving they big gundy claw at you, and that green green frilly seaweed that look like it would taste fresh like lettuce in your mouth? Don’t that smell make your mind run on the sea?”

“It make my mind run on work,” I tell she.

She smile little bit. She put the shell back. “Work done for tonight,” she tell me. “Now is time to play.” She smoky laugh come in cracked and full up of holes. She voice put me in mind of the big rusty bell down by the beach what we does ring when we pull in the catch to let the women and them know them could come and buy fish. Through them holes in the bell you could hear the sea waves crashing on the beach. Sometimes I does feel to ring the bell just for so, just to hear the tongue of the clapper shout “fish, fish!” in it bright, break-up voice, but I have more sense than to make the village women mad at me.

She chest brush my arm as she lean over. She start to undo my shirt buttons. No, not the shirt. I take she hands and hold them in my own, hold her soft hands in my two hard own that smell like dead fish and fish scale and fish entrails.

The madam smile and run a warm, soft finger over my lips. I woulda push she off me right then and run go home. In fact I make to do it, but she pick up she two feet from off the floor and is then I get to feel the full weight and solidness of she.

“You go throw me off onto the hard ground, then?” she say with a flirty smile in she voice.

One time, five fifty-pound sack of chicken feed tumble from Boysie truck and land on me; two hundred fifty pounds drop me baps to the ground. Boysie had was to come and pull me out. Is heavy same way so she feel in my lap, grounding me. This woman wasn’t going nowhere she ain’t want to go.

“I …” I start to reply, and she lean she face in close to mine, frowning at me the whole while like if I is a grouper with a freak hand. She put she two lips on my own. I frighten I frighten I frighten so till my breath catch like fish bone in my throat. Warm and soft she mouth feel against mine, so soft. My mouth was little bit open. I ain’t know if to close it, if to back back, if to laugh. I ain’t know this thing that people does do, I never do it before. The sea bear Daddy away before he could tell me about it.

She breath come in between my lips. Papa God, why nobody ever tell me you could taste the spice and warmth of somebody breath and never want to draw your face away again? Something warm and wet touch inside my lips and pull away, like a wave on a beach. She tongue! Nasty! I jerk my head, but she have it holding between she two hands, soft hands with the strength of fishing net. I feel the slip slip slip of she tongue again. She must be know what she doing. I let myself taste, and I realise it ain’t so nasty in truth, just hot and wet with the life of she. My own tongue reach out, trembling, and tip to twiny conch tip touch she own. She mouth water and mine mingle. It have a tear in the corner of one of my eyes, I feel it twinkling there. I hear a small sound start from the back of my throat. When she move she face away from me, I nearly beg she not to stop.

She grin at me. My breath only coming in little sips, I feeling feverish, and what happening down between my legs I ain’t even want to think about. I strong. I could move my head away, even though she still holding it. But I don’t want to be rude. I cast my eyes down instead and find myself staring at the two fat bubbies spilling out of she dress, round and full like the hops bread you does eat with shark, but brown, skin-dark brown.

I pull my eyes up into she face again.

“Listen to me now,” she say. “I do that because I feel to. If you want to kiss the other women so you must ask permission first. Else them might box you two lick and scream for Jackobennie. You understand me?”

Jackobennie is the man who let me in the door of this cathouse, smirking at me like he know all my secrets. Jackobennie have a chest a bull would give he life to own and a right arm to make a leg of ham jealous. I don’t want to cross Jackobennie atall atall.

“You understand me?” she ask again.

Daddy always used to say my mouth would get me in trouble. I open it to answer she yes, and what the rascal mouth say but, “No, I ain’t understand. Why I could lick inside your mouth like that but not them own? I could pay.”

She laugh that belly laugh till I think my thighs go break from the shaking. “Oh sweetness, I believe a treasure come in my door this day, a jewel beyond price.”

“Don’t laugh at me.” If is one thing I can’t brook, is nobody laughing at me. The fishermen did never want me to be one of them. I had was to show up at the boat every blessèd morning and listen to the nasty things them was saying about me. Had to work beside people who would spit just to look on me. Till them come to realise I could do the work too. I hear enough mockery, get enough mako make ’pon me to last all my days.

She look right in my eyes, right on through to my soul. She nod. “I would never laugh after you, my brave one, to waltz in here in your fisherman clothes.”

Is only the fisherman she could see? “No, is not my work clothes I wearing. Is my good pair of pants and my nice brown shoes.”

“And you even shine the shoes and all. And press a crease into the pants. I see that. I does notice when people dress up for me. And Jackobennie tell me you bring more than enough money. That nice, sweetness. I realise is your first time here. Is only the rules of my house I telling you; whatever you want to do, you must ask the girls and they first. And them have the right to refuse.”

After I don’t even know what to ask! Pastor would call it the sin of pride, to waltz in the place thinking my money could stand in place of good manners. “I sorry, Missis; I ain’t know.”

Surprise flare on she face. She draw back little bit to look at me good. “And like you really sorry, too. Yes, you is a treasure, all right. No need to be sorry, darling. You ain’t do nothing wrong.”

The Ladies-of-the-Night scent of she going all up inside my nostrils. The other men and they does laugh after me that I have a flower bush growing beside the pigeon peas and the tomatoes, so womanish, but I like to cut the flowers and put inside the house to brighten up the place with their softness and sweet smell. I have a blue glass bottle that I find wash up on the shore one day. The sand had scour it so it wasn’t shining like glass no more. But all the waves smash it, it ain’t break yet. From the licking of the sea and the scraping of the sand, it had a texture under my fingertips like stone. I like that. I does put the flowers in it and put them on my table, the one what Daddy help me make.

“So, why you never come with the other fishermen? When you pull up to the dock all by yourself in that little dinghy, I get suspicious one time. I never see you before.”

All the while she talking, and me mesmerized by she serious brown eyes, and too much to feel and think about at once, I never realise she did sliding she hand down inside my blouse, down until she fingers and thumb slide round one of my bubbies and feel the weight of it. Jesus Lord, she go call Jackobennie now! I make to jump up again, terror making me stronger, but this time she look at me with kindness. It make me weak. “Big strong woman,” she whisper.

She know! All this time, she know? I couldn’t move from that chair, even if Papa God heself was to come down to earth and command me. I just sitting there, weak and trembling, while she undo the shirt slow, one button at a time, drag it out of my pants, and lay my bubbies bare to the open air. The nipples crinkle up one time and I shame I shame. Nothing to do but sit there, exposed and trembling like conch when you drag it out of the shell to die.

I squinch my eyes closed tight, but I feel a hot tear escape from under my eyelid and track down my face. So long nobody ain’t see me cry. I feel to dead. I wait to hear the scorn from she dry-ashes voice.

“Sweetheart?” Gentle hands closing back my shirt, but not drawing away; resting warm on the fat shameful weight of my bubbies. “Mister Fisherman?”

Yes. Is that I is. A fisherman. I draw in the breath I been keeping out, a long, shuddery one. She hands rise and fall with my chest. I open my eyes, but I can’t stand to look in she face. I away gaze out the window, past the clean pink shell to the blue wall of the sea far away. What make me leave my home this day any atall, eh?

“Look at me, nuh? What you name?”

I dash way the tear with the back of my hand, sniff back the snot. “K.C.”

“Casey?”

“Letter K, letter C. For ‘Kelly Carol’: K.C. I sorry I take up your time, Missis. You want me to go?” I chance a quick glance at her. She get that weighing and measuring look again. The warmth of she hands through my shirt feeling nice. Can’t think ’bout that.

“Why you come here in the first place, K.C.?”

I tilt my head away from her, look down at my shoes, my nice shine shoes. Oh God, how to explain? “Is just I … look, I not make for this, I not a … I did only want some company, the way the other men and they does talk about all the time. All blessèd week we pulling on the nets together, all of we. And some of the men does even treat me like one of them, you know? A fisherman, doing my job. Then Saturday nights after we go to market them does leave me and come here, even Lennie, and I hear next day how sweet allyou is, all of allyou in this cathouse. Every week it happen so and every Saturday night I stay home in my wattle and daub hut and watch at the kerosene lamp burning till is time to go to bed. Nobody but me. But I catch plenty fish and sell in the market today, I had enough money, and after them all come here I follow them in one of Lennie small boats. I just figure is time, my turn now … But I will go away. I don’t belong here.” My heart feeling heavy in my chest. I sit and wait for she to banish me.

She laugh like a dolphin leaping. “K.C., you don’t have to go nowhere. Look at me, nuh?”

The short distance I had was to drag my eyes from the window to she face was like I going to dead, like somebody dragging a sharp knife along the belly of a fish that twisting in your hands. My two eyes and she own make four, and I feel my belly bottom drop out same way so that fish guts would tumble like rope from it body.

She start to count off on she fingers: “You come in clean clothes; you bathe too, I could smell the carbolic soap on your skin; you not too drunk to have sense; you come prepared to pay; you have manners. Now tell me: Why I would turn away such a ideal customer?”

“I … because I …”

“You ever fuck before?”

“No!” My face burning up for shame. I hear the word plenty time. I see dogs doing it in the road. I not sure what it have to do with me. But I want to find out.

She give me one mischievous grin. “Well, douxdoux, is your lucky night tonight; you going to learn from the mistress of this house!”

Oh God.

Softly she say, “You go let me touch you, K.C.? Mister fisherman?”

My heart flapping in my chest like a mullet on a jetty. She must be can feel it jumping under she hands. I whisper, “Yes, please.”

And next thing I know, my shirt get drag open all the way. She say, “Take it off, nuh? I want to see the muscles in your arms.”

My arms? I busy feeling shamed, ’fraid for she to watch at my bubbies—nobody see them all these years—but is my arms she want to see? For the first time this night, I crack one little smile. I pull off the shirt, stand there holding it careful by the collar so it wouldn’t get rampfle. She step in closer and squeeze my one arm, and when she look at me, the look make something in my crotch jump again. Is a look of somebody who want something. My smile freeze. I ain’t know what to do with my face. My eyes start to drop to the floor again. But she put she hand under my chin. “Watch at me in my eyes, K.C.; like man does look at woman.”

My blasted tongue run away with me again. “And what it have to look at? You seeing more of me than I seeing of you.”

A grin that could swallow a house. “True. Help me fix that then, nuh?” And she present me with she back, one hand cock-up on she hip. “Undo my dress for me, please?”

She had comb she hair up onto her head with a sweep and a frill like wedding cake icing, only black. The purple silk of the gown come down low on she back so I could see all that brown skin, smelling like sweet flowers. The fancy dress-back fasten with one set of hook and eye and button and bow. I tall, nearly tall like Two-Tone, but this woman little bit taller than me, even. I reach up to the top of she dress-back. I manage to undo three button and a hook before a button just pop off in my hand. “Fuck, man, I can’t manage these fancy things; I ain’t make for them. Missis, I done bust up your dress, I sorry.”

She feel behind she, run one long brown finger over the place where the button tear from. Quicker than my eyes could follow, she undo the dress the rest of the way. I see she big round bamsie naked and smooth under there, but she step away and turn to face me before I could see enough. “Give me the button.”

I hand it to she. She laugh little bit and drop it down between she bubbies. “Oh. Look what I gone and do. Come and find it for me, nuh?”

Is like somebody nail my two foot-them to the floor. I couldn’t move. I feel like my head going to bust apart. I just watch at she. She step so close to me I could smell she breath warm on my lips. I want to taste that breath again. She whisper, “Find my button for me, K.C.”

I don’t know when my hands reach on she shoulders. Is like I watching a picture film of me sliding my hands down that soft skin to the opening of the dress, moving my hands in and taking she two tot-tots in each hand. They big and heavy, would be about three pound each on the scale. If I was to price this lady pound for pound, I could never afford she. I move my hand in to the warm, damp place in between she bubbies. The flower smell rising warm off she. My fingers only trembling, trembling, but I pick out the button. I give it back. She stand there, watching in my eyes. Is when I see she smile that I realise I put the fingers that reach the button in my mouth. She taste salt and smell sweet. She push the dress off one shoulder, then the next one. It land on she hips and catch there. Can’t go no farther past the swelling of she belly and bamsie without help. And me, I only watching at the full and swing and round of she bubbies and is like my tongue swell up and my whole body it hot it hot it hot like fire.

“You like me?” she say.

“I … I think so.”

“Help me take off my dress the rest of the way?” She telling me I could touch she. My mother was the last somebody what make me touch their body, when I was helping Daddy look after she before she dead. Mummy was wasting away them times there. She skin was dry and crackly like the brown paper we does wrap the fish in. But this skin on this lady belly and hips put me in mind of that time Daddy take me to visit my granny in the town, how Granny put me on she knee and give me cocoa-tea to drink that she make by grating the cocoa and nutmeg into the hot milk, how Granny did wearing abrown velvet dress and I never touch velvet, before neither since, and I just sit there so on Granny knee, running my thumb across a little piece of she sleeve over and over again, drinking hot cocoa-tea with plenty condensed milk. This woman skin under my hands put me in mind of that somehow, of velvet and hot cocoa with thick, sweet condensed milk and the delicious fat floating on top. As I pass my hands over she hips to draw down the dress the rest of the way, I feel to just stop there and do that all evening, to just touch she flesh over and over again like a piece of brown velvet.

Then she make a kind of little wiggle and the dress drop right down on the ground and is like I get transfix. My two eye-them get full up of beauty and if God did strike me dead right there I woulda die happy.

She only smiling, smiling. “Like you like what you see, eh, Fisherman?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

She step out the dress and go over to the bed. She lie back on it and I mark how she bubbies roll to either side when she do so. Today I bring back two fat, round pumpkin from the market, rolling around in my basket. The soup from those pumpkins going to be nice. I taste the salt on my lips still from when I touch she bubbies and lick my fingers after.

She say, “Come over here, K.C.”

I go and sit on the edge of the bed, not too close. And now I shame again, for it have a white crochet spread on the bed, and white pillowcases on the pillows and them, with some yellow and pink embroidery edging the pillowcases. I can’t get my fisherman stink all over this lady nice bed!

“Take off your shoes and your pants, K.C.”

So I do that, giving thanks that I could turn my back on she and not see she watching when I get naked.

“The underwears too.”

I drag off my underpants, the one good ones with no stain. I fold them up small small and put them at the foot of the bed. I leave my hand on them. They still warm from my body. I feel to never leave that warmth.

“Come into bed with me.”

So then I had was to turn around to climb on the bed. I feel so big and boobaloops and clumsy. I roll back the bedspread, careful, and sit down on the sheet. I pull my knees up to my chest. I watch at she feet. Pretty feet. No callus though.

She rise up in the bed, sit facing me. She ease the crochet bedspread out from under she body and roll it all the way down to the end of the bed. What she go do now? I nearly perishing for fright. “Lie back, K.C.”

So I do that, stiff like one piece of plank. She lean over me, she chest hanging nearly in my face. If she come down any lower, how I go breathe? She start passing she hands over my two shoulders, side to side. Big, warm hands. Big like mine. All these years, is this my skin been hungry for. I feel my whole body getting warm, melting into the soft bed. I close my eyes.

“Nice?” she ask.

“Mm-hmm.”

She hands pass side to side, side to side, so hot and nice on my skin. And then the hands go under my bubbies, weighing. I jump and my eyes start open, but the look on she face ain’t telling me nothing. I turn a piece of board again, just lying there. She run she thumbs over my nipples and I swear I feel it right down to my crotch. Is so I does do myself nights when the skin hunger get too bad, but Jesus God, how it powerful when somebody else do it for you! My breath coming hard, making little sounds. Can’t make she see, can’t make she hear. I go to push she hands away.

“Is all right, K.C. Nothing for shame. Relax, nuh?”

“I doing it right?”

“When it feeling good, you doing it right.”

I must be doing it plenty right, then. I put my head on the pillow again. She start to squeeze my bubbies, to pull and tug at them. I ain’t know how much time past, I just get lost in what she hands doing. The little noises I making coming louder now. I wonder if Lennie could hear me, and Two-Tone, but I decide I ain’t care.

The woman hands on my belly now, massaging the big swell of it. Between my legs my blood only beating, beating. I want … no, I ain’t want that. How anybody could want that? But when she push my legs apart, when that big, warm hand cover my whole pum-pum and squeeze, I swear it try to leap into she hands. She push apart my legs little more, spread my pum-pum lips open. Oy-oy-oy, I shame, but I couldn’t stand to stop she. She press on that place, the place between my legs I find to rub so long ago. I forget how to breathe. “Look your little parson’s nose there,” she giggle. She take she hand away and I nearly beg she to put it back. She lick she fingers. She must be did watching my face, how it get disgust, for she say, “You never taste yourself?”

“Yes.” My voice come out small.

“Well, then.” She put the fingers back. Oh God, the wetness she bring on she fingers just sliding and sliding on the button. And she rub and she rub and little more I thrashing round on the bed till she had was to lie over me with all she weight to make me keep still, make me stay open under she fingers and something coming from deep inside me it buzzing buzzing buzzing from way inside my body like I don’t know what but it coming and I can’t stop it, don’t want to stop it, and I barely hear myself and the noises I making and then it hit me like lightning and it ride me like a storm and I shout something, I ain’t know what, and inside my pum-pum squeezing so hard and nice. I only sweating and trembling when the something drop me back on the bed. “Fuck.”

“Exactly.” She laugh, move off me. “You have a mouth like a fisherman, too.”

Sweat drenching me, salt drying on my skin. My belly feeling all fluttery inside. I couldn’t look at she. One time long long ago, one nighttime in my bed, I touch myself long time like she just touch me and I get a feeling little bit like she just give me, but it frighten me. I thought I was deading. I thought is because is nastiness I was doing. I pull my hand away, and the feeling stop. And though I figure out afterwards that I wasn’t go dead, though I do that thing between my legs plenty times since and it feel nice, I never manage after that to make the feeling come back so strong again. “What we go do now?” I ask she.

“How you know we ain’t finish, K.C.?”

I peek over my bubbies and belly at she. She sitting in between my legs like if it ain’t have nothing wrong with that. She two massive legs pinning my own big ones down, brown on brown. I see she cocoa pod pumpum, spread open pink and glistening, going to brown at the edges. Lord, what a thing. “I ain’t feel finish yet, I feel like it have more.”

She give me that rapscallion smile. “Oh yes, it could have plenty more.”

She start to stroke my button again, gentle. I glad for that, for it feeling tender. Nice, though. I ain’t really get surprised when she push a finger inside my pum-pum. Then another one. I do that myself, plenty times. I thought is only me do that. Me and my nastiness. I start to relax back on she fine white bedspread again, but all of a sudden I sitting up and pulling she hands away. “No. Stop.”

She stop one time. “You don’t like it?”

“I … I don’t know.” Then I bust out with, “I just feel … I not a glove you does wear for you to go inside me like that.”

She just stroke my thighs, with a look on she face like she thinking. “All right, then. Let we try something else.”

Just like that? “Is all right?”

“Yes, K.C. Everybody different. You must tell me what you like and don’t like. Move over so I could lie down.”

I make room for she. She lie down on she back with one knee bend. “Touch me like I touch you.”

Lord, but this thing hard to do. The way the boys and them talk, I did think it would be easy; just pay the woman and she fix you up.

I do she like she do me. I massage she shoulders, I play with she bubbies. So strange. Like touching my own, almost.

“Pull them.”

I ain’t know what she mean. She put she nipples between my fingers.

“Pull.”

I tug little bit.

“Harder.”

So I ’buse up she breasts for she. It look like she good and like it, though. She breathing coming in heavy. It make me feel good. Powerful. I knead she belly, and she spread open she legs for me. The pum-pum smell rise from she, like I used to smelling it on myself. I know that smell like my life. I start to relax. I rub she little button, but that ain’t seem to sweet she so much. She only screwing up she face and twitching little bit when I touch she. I stop. “I not doing it right.”

“It ain’t have no right nor wrong, my fisherman. Just stroke it from the top to the bottom, very gentle.”

Oho. Treat she tot-tots hard on top, she pum-pum soft down below. I could do that. I make the touch light, so light. In two-twos she start to say, “Mm,” and “Ah,” quiet-quiet like the first soft breeze of morning. I look at she face. She head only rolling from side to side, she eyes shut tight. She nipples crinkle-up and jooking out. I feel if to kiss them. I wonder if I could do that? She belly shuddering. I think she liking it.

Something wetting my hand, down there where I stroking she. I look down. She pum-pum getting wet and warm and sticky. The salt and sweat smell rising up from she stronger. Now what to do? I ain’t know what to do.

Do me like I do you, that is what she tell me. Maybe she don’t mind being a glove. So I slip one finger inside the pum-pum. She kinda give a little squeak. It hot in there, and slippery. It only squeezing and squeezing my finger, tight. “Like this, Missis?”

“Oh God like that. Go in and out for me, nuh? No, no; only partway out. Yes, yes, K.C., like that.”

I get a rhythm going; in, out, in.

“More fingers, K.C.”

I could do that.

“More.”

Four fingers inside she, fulling she up. She squeezing tight like a handshake now, and only getting wetter. And every push I push, my hand going in farther. I get lost in the warm wet and sucking and the little moans she making. She spreading she knees wider, tilting up she hips to get my fingers deeper in.

“Oh God more.”

More? Is only my thumb leave behind. I tuck it in close with the others and push that inside she too. She start to groan. I say, “I hurting you?” I start to pull my hand out.

“If you only take it out,” she pant, “I swear I box you here tonight.” She spread she two feet to either side of the bed, move she pum-pum up to meet me hand. “Push it, K.C. Push.”

And is like a space opening up deep inside the poonani. Like it pulling. Like it hungry. I push a few little minutes more, with she groaning and rolling she head around. And next thing I know, is no lie, my whole hand pass through the tightest place inside she and slide into she poonani right up to the wrist! She groan, “Fuck me, K.C.!”

She hips bucking like anything. A strong woman this. I had was to brace myself, wrap one arm around she thigh, and hold on tight. So close in there, I close my hand up into a fist. I pull back my hand partway, and push it in again. Pull back, push in. Pull back, push in. She start to bawl ’bout don’t stop, fuck she, don’t stop. I could do that. I hold on to she bucking body and I fuck she. Me, K.C. She only throwing sheself around steady on the bed. The way she head tossing, all she hair come loose from that pretty hairstyle. It twisting and knotting all over the two pillows. She belly shaking, she bubbies bouncing up and down, she thighs clamp onto me. And she bawling, bawling. This woman bawling like any baby here in this bed. I ride with she. I feel my own pum-pum getting warm, my button swelling and throbbing between my legs. I fuck she, I fuck she. She moan, she twist herself up. My shoulders burning from all the work I doing, but I just imagine I pulling in the net with the boys and them. Push your hand out, pull it back. Push it out, pull it back. Push, pull. I smelling pum-pum all round me and my sweat and she own.

All of a sudden, something deep inside she start to squeeze my hand fast-fast-fast like a pounding heart, so strong I frighten my hand going to sprain. She arch she back up right off the bed and she scream, “Oh GOD I love a mannish woman!” And more too besides, but them wasn’t exactly words.

Hmm. Mannish woman. I like better to be she fisherman. Now is not the time to tell she that, though.

The pounding inside she stop. She give a little sigh and reach down and grab my wrist to hold it quiet. She flop back down on the bed with that mischevious grin on she face again.

Somebody knock on the door. I jump and freeze. If I come out too fast, I might hurt she.

“Mary Anne? Everything all right?” Is a man voice.

She start to laugh. I could feel it right down in she belly. “Jackobennie, you too fast. I with a customer. Leave we some privacy.”

A deep chuckle roll into the room. “Sorry, girl. I ain’t mean to disturb allyou; I gone.”

I could hear the heavy weight of he footsteps as he walk away. Jackobennie is a giant of a man. My whole body start to feel cold one time. “You is Jackobennie woman?”

She lie back and close she eyes, squeeze my hand that jam up inside she. She smile. “Jackobennie is my right-hand man. He and me know one other since God was a little boy in short pants. Jackobennie does make sure me and the rest of the girls stay safe. Sometimes customers does act stupid. Don’t fret your head about Jackobennie, K.C. You is a well-behaved customer.”

I smile.

“Move the heel of your hand up and down for me, nuh? Ai! Gentle!”

I could do that. A sucking sound come from inside she poonani as she flesh move away little bit from my hand.

“Good. Now come out, slow.”

My shoulder muscles burn as I pull out. My hand come back to me wet and wrinkly. I raise the hand to my mouth. It smell like she, like me. I taste it. I know that taste.

“Here.” Mary Anne hand me a towel from out the bedside table. I wipe my hands.

My bubbies tingling.

Mary Anne sit up, she belly resting on she thighs like a calabash. When she grin at me again, I feel all warm inside.

“So, Fisherman,” she say, “what you think of your first time?”

“Nice. Strange. But nice.”

“Like you. You going to come back and see me sometimes?”

“You want me to come back?”

“It have plenty more I could show you, sweetness.”

My pum-pum feeling like a big, warm smile. I just done fuck somebody. The grin that break out on my face must be did brighter than the sun.

For that grin, she say, she kiss me again.

After she and me done clean weselves up she count the money and tuck it into she bosom. She take my hand. Nobody ain’t do that since I was a small child. We step outside the room and walk down the hall to the parlour.

Bright lights. All the chatting stop one time. Everybody looking at we. Lennie skinning up he face like he smelling something rotten. Two-Tone, with the cards still in he hand, busting a grin from one side of he jaw to the next and shaking he head. “Lord, K.C.,” he laugh. “Is what you was doing inside there with that woman?”

Mary Anne walk with me over to the bar. “Is what you think he was doing, Two-Tone? Bartender, give the man a beer there. House paying.”

I hear the chair scrape and I turn round one time to face the storm. I did know it was coming. Everything I get in this life, I had was to fight for. Lennie throw down his cards and slam his hand on the table. The shot glasses jump. “‘Man’? Don’t make joke, woman! Is nastiness allyou was doing! Is against nature!”

I step between Lennie and Mary Anne, but she come out from behind me. She push out one broad hip and cotch up she hand on it. “Lennie,” she say, loud so everyone in the bar was looking now. “Against nature? And the way you too love to push your totie up inside my behind—ain’t that is against nature too?”

And one set of belly laugh cut loose in the place. Jackobennie, man mountain, thundering, slapping his hand on the bar. The little, light-skin bartender with he long fingers only giggling and snapping he white towel in the air. The rest of my crew holding their sides and shaking with laugh. Ramesh. Errol. Matchstick. Two of the whores jump up from their tables and start to wind each other down, back to belly. “Like this, Lennie? Eh?” the one in back shout, jooking she crotch in she miniskirt, up against the behind of the one in front of she. Lennie face just shut down.

I barely have time to notice how the miniskirt woman voice hard, how she shoulders broader than my own, when Lennie rush Mary Anne, reach for she neck. Jackobennie jump and hold he, but is my hand grab Lennie wrist. Lennie spit at me: “Bullah woman!”

He try to break my hold. I hang on. I could do that.

“Lennie man, calm down!” Jackobennie say, wrestling Lennie by he shoulders. But Lennie not paying him no mind. He only trying to box me, he eyes boring hate into me like them could jook inside my brain and strike me dead. Mary Anne not saying anything. I can’t see she. She all right? I holding Lennie back with the arm I had inside she. It getting weary. But I hang on. Lennie know he could pull net twice as hard as me. But like he forget I could go longer.

“Lennie,” Jackobennie rumble right beside Lennie ear. He put he hand on Lennie shoulder. Lennie try to shrug it away.

“Let me go, I say! Fucking bullah woman and she fucking whore! I going knock she head right off she shoulders!”

I just keep holding on. My hand trembling, but I don’t let go. Mary Anne step in between me and Lennie, and I see Jackobennie fingers tighten on Lennie shoulder. “Lennie,” Mary Anne say, hard and fast, “if you make anymore comess in my house tonight, you never going set foot in here again.”

Lennie look from me to she, he eyes bull-red in he angry face.

“No more of this sweet behind for you, Lennie. Who else you going find to let you do that thing with them?”

Lennie shake my hand off he wrist. It look like he cool down little bit, so I let he. He try to stare down Mary Anne. Jackobennie never move away from he the whole time, that big, heavy hand resting like a threat on Lennie shoulder. From behind the two of them I hear Two-Tone say, “The woman right you know, Lennie. You have to have some manners inside she establishment. And all these years K.C. been doing everything else we men does do, you think she ain’t go do this, too?”

“It not right!” Lennie spit, glaring at Mary Anne.

I barely hear what Jackobennie whisper to Lennie, grinning the whole while: “And what you pay me and Mary Anne to do to you that time? That wrong too?”

Lennie glance over he shoulder like is the devil heself latch on there. He go still. It get quiet in the place again. I see he shoulders sag. “All right,” he mutter. “Let me go. I ain’t go hurt nobody.”

Jackobennie release him. Lennie dust heself off and sit back down to table. He growl to Two-Tone, “Let we finish we game and go home, yes.”

I glance at the whore with the deep voice and the broad shoulders and the tiny, tiny skirt. She? smile and roll she eyes at me.

Mary Anne throw she arms round my waist. I smile at she. “Thanks.”

“Only the best for the best customers.”

I hug she back, this armful of woman. I think the perfume smell and woman smell of she going stay with me whole week.

But I know Lennie and me story ain’t done yet. I have to stand up to he now, in the light, else I go be looking over my shoulder every time it get dark from now on. “Just now,” I excuse myself to Mary Anne.

“All right, darling.”

Lennie and Two-Tone look up when I reach to their table. I pull a chair, I turn it backwards. I throw my leg over it (poonani still feeling warm and nice under my clothes) and I sit down. “Lennie,” I say. He ain’t say nothing.

Mary Anne and Jackobennie come to the table with three beers. “On the house,” Jackobennie tell we. “To thank everybody for being gentlemen.” He look hard at Lennie as he and Mary Anne put down the beers. Two-Tone thank them, but Lennie just pick up his and start guzzling it down. Mary Anne wink at me as they walk away.

I take a sip from my beer. Cold and nice, just so I like it. I swallow two more times, think about what I going to say. “Lennie, you is a man, right?”

“Blasted right!” He slam the empty bottle down onto the table.

“Big, hard-back, long-pants-wearing man?”

“Yes.” He look at me with suspicion.

“Work and sweat for your living? Try to treat everybody fair?”

“I never cheat you, K.C.!”

“Is true. You wish if I never try to work with allyou neither, but once you see I could pull my weight, you treat me like all the rest.”

“So long as you know your place!” He scowl and shake the beer bottle at me. “But coming in here brazen like this!”

“You is a man, yes.”

He look at me, confused. I see Two-Tone frowning too. I nod my head, sip some more beer. “Work hard in the hot sun, don’t do nobody wrong. Have a right to fuck any way you want.”

“But not you! You is a woman!”

To rass. Time to done with this. “Lennie, you is a man. And I? I is a fisherman.”

And I swear all the glasses in the place ring like the fishing bell, the way Two-Tone start to make noise in the place. “Oh God, K.C., in all my born days, I never meet no one like you!” He put down he cards and he hold he belly and he laugh.

“What, you taking the bullah woman side now?” Lennie sulk.

“Man, Lennie, hold some strain,” Two-Tone say. “K.C. not judging you for what you like to do. I not judging you, and you know Mary Anne not judging you, for you bringing you good good dollars and give she. K.C. work hard beside you every day, she never ask no man to look after she. She have a right to play hard too.”

Is not only me does work hard, neither. Mary Anne. All the whores. I realise is not only man have a right to fuck how he want. When a truth come to you simple like that, it does full you up and make you feel warm, make you want to tell everybody. I must ask Mary Anne sometime if she think I right. But for now I just smile and look down at my nice clean shine shoes. I drink some more beer and look Lennie right in he eye, friendly. He scowl at me, but I ain’t look away. Is he glance down finally.

He pick up he cards. “You playing or what?” he say to Two-Tone.

“Deal me in next hand,” I say. God, he go do it?

Lennie glance sideways at me over he cards. Look down at the cards. Then quiet, “You have money after you done spending everything on Mary Anne?”

“Yes, man.” I done being careful. “I have enough to whip both of allyou behind.”

“Oh, yes?” Lennie say. “Well, don’t get too attached to it. I bet you I leave this place tonight with you money and my own.”

He throw down he cards. Two-Tone inspect them, make a face, drop he cards on the table, and pull out two bills and lay them down. Lennie pocket the bills. He pick up the whole deck of cards and hand them to me. “Deal. Fisherman.”

I feel the grin lighting up my face as I take the cards from he. “I could do that.”

(First published in Skin Folk, 2001.)



Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian, author of multiple novels and short stories. She's currently writing “House of Whispers,” a serialized graphic novel in Vertigo’s Sandman universe.
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