The Big Issue : Edition 568
THE BIG ISSUE 2018 45 FICTION EDITION in the rear-view mirror. “God! I knew I recognised you from somewhere. Mr Dawson? You’re Eli’s Dad?” Nico wants to give the teacher a piece of his mind, let his thoughts rip. But the taste of wet earth is weighting his tongue. Something missing in these boys. You would know. Eli’s neon shoelaces, undone and dragging. Afro hidden under hoodie. Chin raised. Proud. Like Nico. A good boy. Straight As, just five weeks ago. Nico held the report with his own hands. Nico takes several deep breaths in. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to... I’m just... I’m gonna be quiet now, okay?” She pulls a ridiculously lacy bra from her purse, waggles it around, laughing. “Fricken hen’s night.” The white lines on the road dance in front of Nico’s eyes. First they sway this way, then they sway that. Laughing- laughing as he drives. Humidity rising. Black volcano grit flicking up in his eyes. Nico can hear Gracie screaming. “Get inside! What ye staring at, Elias? Hurricane ain’t no pretty picture. Stare right into its eye like dat, it gwan come up an eat ye alive. Come! Come!” Elias. Seven years old. Running. Hiding behind her bright, smelling-of-nutmeg skirts. “Are you okay? Sir! Pull over! Pull over!” Nico’s hands are shaky on the wheel. “I can’t. I can’t breathe.” “What?!” “I can’t...” The taxi is slowly swerving into the next lane. The woman frantically unbuckles her seatbelt. Squeezes her body through the gap. Climbs clumsily into the front passenger seat. Leans over and grabs the wheel. “You okay?” She steers the car wonkily into the side street. Pulls hard on the handbrake. “Should I call an ambulance. I don’t... What happened?” The pull inside Nico’s chest feels like a landslide. Like Morne aux Diables volcano, dropping away to uncertain ground. He can feel the weather in the taxi car with him, can smell the wet earth, that foreboding stillness he remembers so clearly from before the ground swallowed his Gracie. The gathering of hurricane breath. Black and righteous as Nico true-believes God is, he still can’t figure why His Mighty would conjure this trouble his way. Maxine Beneba Clarke (@slamup) is the author of the ABIA-award winning short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the critically acclaimed memoir The Hate Race, the award-winning poetry collection Carrying the World and the kids picture books The Patchwork Bike and Wide Big World. Poetry is her first love.