We took her to the sea.
Poochie was cast out by her mudda an' fadda and sent to live with Miss Una out inna country. Montego Bay was no place for a 5-year-old whose mother had no time fi she. The ghettos of Mobay were ruff enuff and one more unwanted likkle girl was bound to find a better life out in the rural yards of the parish of Westmoreland than the streets of the city.
Poochie was soon under the stern watch of Miss Una out in the wide open hinterlands of Savanna La Mar, some 20 miles west of Negril, along the south coast of Jamaica. Miss Una was the aunty of a cousin of Poochie's mudda or half-sista of a cousin of an aunty or a half-sista of her cousin or, well, it doesn't really matter.
Miss Una took Poochie in without a second thought. Even tho' Miss Una was finally finished raising her own pickney.
Miss Una and her youngest daughter, Felecia, shared a bed in her two-room house. One more likkle girl squeezed in under the covers didn't put anybody out. So Poochie stayed. And stayed. And stayed.
Miss Una is my mother-in-law. And my two little daughters, her grandaughters, loved Poochie. Poochie was as foreign and as mysterious as a jackfruit, a soursop, a plate of ackee. And she was a girl who knew how to climb a ginnep tree in a flash and deliver a bunch of ripe juicy fruit, fearlessly shoo away the loose grazing goats and knew which little shop on the lane had the coldest boxed drinks. Poochie could run up an' dung pon da gravel barefoot, while my girls didn't dare take off their sandals for fear of piercing their soft city-girl feet.
And when we visited Jamaica, we'd always take Poochie and a handful of other pickney to the sea. We'd buy her one fresh bath suit and take her to the ocean for a swim, followed by platefuls of jerk chicken and endless bottles of Pepsi or Kola Champagne. The exotic seaside was a place she saw once a year, when friends or family fram farrin would load up a car with all the little yard pickney an' tek dem a beach.
But one year Poochie was no longer in the yard with Miss Una. Something bad had happened to Poochie.
As if enuff bad tings had not happened to Poochie already.
A lonely, old coot of a man on the lane had taken to asking for Poochie's help to collect limes way out inna bush, several mornings a week. Poochie was permitted to go as her share of limes would contribute to the family funds.
Unitl it became clear that very few limes, if any, were being collected.
Long hot hours of walks way out inna bush often resulted in just an empty bucket. And a Poochie who grew despondent, angry and withdrawn.
Poochie was barely 12 when she was sent back to Montego Bay. After all, no one could send the Old Coot off the lane. So the little girl, who had already been cast out once for her own good, was returned-to-sender for the same reason.
We don't know what has become of Poochie....
4"x6" ink and watercolor on paper.Purchase a print of this painting here.