Monday, November 27, 2006

There's a new Sheriff in Town

This is Reggie. And it wasn't really his fault that my leg was shattered.

Well, at least for about a dozen years I thought his name was Reggie. Turns out his name is Cleveland. I guess if you are a young man growing up in rural Jamaica, you are as anxious to shed the name "Cleveland" as you are to shed your status as a likkle bwoy.

Cleveland became Reggie after repeated bredren viewings of "48 Hours", wherein Eddie Murphy, aka Reggie Hammond, announces the aforementioned sheriff line. I didn't learn this bit of history until many years later, when addressing a piece of mail and was laughed out of the room when I wrote "Reggie" on the envelope. It wouldn't be the first time I mistook a nickname for the real thing.


It was Reggie who was riding on a motorcycle in front of ours, his spiky short dreads held in place by a bright red beret. What is it with these guys and berets? I thought it hysterically funny that in the late 80s to early 90s, a stretched-beyond-recognition beret was a common choice of rasta headgear.

And the red beret, much like that infamous red balloon of classic French cinema, went sailing past us as we cruised into Whitehouse, just beyond Bluefields, on the south coast of Jamaica. Ever thoughtful, I tapped Peter's shoulder and signaled that we should turn back and collect Reggie's chapeau. We slowed and began a u-turn into the other lane.

In so doing, we were hit broadside.

Peter saw the oncoming car and leaped from the bike, later remarking, "Mi jump fram di bike but me look back and see yuh still 'pon it", referring to me, the passenger, and shaking his head in wonder. Well I wasn't "pon it" for very long. I shot into the air and had enough time to contemplate whether or not the absence of a helmet was going to be a problem.

You see, the car behind us chose that precise moment to overtake our bike and as they say in Jamaica, don't be an overtaker, or you'll soon meet the undertaker. And here we were jus the u-turn-maker. I hit the ground after what seemed like an eternity in the air, and landed foot first, to the sound of several loud Ca-RACK,CA-RACK,CA-RACKs, then landed on my backside, and finally, felt my head drop back onto the asphalt.

I immediately sat upright and grabbed hold of my skull to make certain it was intact. Skull in one piece? Check! My right leg, however, had a sickening, snakey curve that I knew was not quite right. The audio soundtrack of the previous 30 seconds gave me my first clue.


I guess it wasn't really Reggie's fault. I guess it was my own. And that's how I ended up flat on my back in the women's surgical ward in Sav La Mar hospital.

I met a cast of characters that fateful weekend, a cast that continues to grow and expand, move on and pass away. The Sheriff is no longer in town, but he still lays down the law in a new corner of the world.

I hope we'll see him again real soon. Sans chapeau.

New Sheriff in Town
Ink and watercolor on paper
Purchase a print of this painting here.

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