Bernaldo Lloyd, a member of the Baxter clan, is a medical student who is sensitive to the hopelessness of the Jamaican masses. Inspired by his close friend and Howards cousin, Ras Robin Pone, and their ties with the Rastafari movement that calls for social and economic equity, Bernaldo is determined to overthrow the corrupt government. As Howard, Bernaldo and Robin become influenced by Americas Black Power and Civil Rights movements demanding equal rights for African Americans, the women in their lives both love and criticize them. But when revolution breaks out, Howard finally discovers a purpose for his twisted life that leads him in a direction he never anticipated.
In this tale of love, passion, and self-discovery, two Jamaican men become caught up in a 1960s revolution that reveals injustices, oppression, and a purpose for one of them.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.79(d)|
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King Street, Kingston's main commercial center, extends from George V1 Park to the north and Kingston Harbor to the south. Here, every day of the week other than Sunday, people push their way through the crowds, buying, selling, lodging, and withdrawing from bank accounts. On Saturdays, King Street is one of the busiest, hottest places in Jamaica. Most of the crowd is shopping, and the others are merely pretentious.
Girl watchers, man provokers, exhibitionists — this is their day. The men — pointedly called facemen, cha-cha boys, and wolves — meet at the intersections of King and Barry and King and Tower Streets; at these points, they are described as the concrete gang. Together they are strong, sarcastic, and boorishly charming to the young women. At these meeting places, many a man finds a wife, some a lay for the night or two; most ending up getting only an insolent answer to their querulous approach.
Most girls, however, are insinuative in their insolence, and if the wolf is patient and subtle, aptly able to throw another quick question or answer before the girl gets out of hearing distance, the chances are that she will slowly turn and ask sophisticatedly, "I didn't hear that?" This leads to the wolf moving to her, she waiting for him, and the two walking off together.
These young men wear only the latest in fashion, most preferring the soul cut to any other — not because it is so much the in thing, but because it only necessitates cutting one's hair at the most four times a year. The girls are beautiful, the minority being natural. The majority, depending on the makeup, and the shortness in length of their dresses, get catcalls or wolf whistles.
They are any color or race or social upbringing, but it is noticeable that the darker boys prefer the lighter complexion girls and vice versa. But it is a nationally accepted fact that the girls with mixed blood are the most attractive and sexually inclined of all the thousands of young women who pass along King Street; those with Negro Indian, Negro European, Negro Asian, or Negro Jewish claims are the ones generally preferred. Pure stock Indians are too vicious, both in and out of bed. Period.
Howard walked aimlessly along King Street toward the harbor. He was not sure if he should drop into Zarak for a Saturday afternoon jazz feast or go on down to the pier for an afternoon of swing with Tommy McCook and the Supersonics. His hands were stuck deep in the pockets of his Wrangler jeans — out of style and equally out of color, old and faded. He was concentrating deeply on the legs of the girl before him. "If you don't mind me saying it, I believe your dress is a bit on the tall side."
She smiled, flashing a quick glance at him and then at her dress. "Most people think it's too short," she responded to Howard.
"Well most people are wrong. What do you think?"
"I think it's okay, and it's airplane mini, you know."
"Um, um, but I think a girl like you, with such beautiful legs should show all of it, and not just 50 percent."
Her smile wavered but held. "Thanks."
"They are so beautiful that I would like to touch them."
The smile began to strain but held.
"If you wish, we could go into the lane where nobody would see us.
May I?" He held her gently by the arm.
The smile died. She shook off his hands and moved away.
"Hi, your panties are smashingly red," he called after her.
The people around chuckled. The girl went over to the other side of the street. Creep, he thought to himself. Exhibiting flesh but doesn't want it to be eaten. Here look, look all you can, but don't touch. Creeps the damn lot of them. He decided to stop at Zarak. Rolando Alphonso and the Soul Brothers would be there. Rolly blew the most lyrical sax south of the sun. This is King Street. Soon it would be five. At five, King Street would be wounded. By seven, it died. The cops and the dogs would take over from there. The poor homeless dogs hunting for food. The cops preventing the poor homeless men from stealing for food and clothes. Sometimes the cops and the dogs had their misunderstandings. But they were friends. They all were lonely, away from home, underpaid, and underfed. And they had one thing in common — they disliked the poor homeless thieves intensely.
* * *
Howard walked past Old Edmond sitting quietly in his rocking chair reading a copy of The Star, the daily evening paper. Christine was curled in the sofa listening to the top pop tunes on the radio.
"Howard, I would like to speak to you for just a minute." Old Edmond coughed.
"I am going to the bath. When I am through."
"He wants to speak with you now," his sister called up to him.
"He speaks with me later!"
Old Edmond said nothing. He folded the paper, watching his son climb the stairs. He stretched his feet before him and yawned, making no gesture of formality to cover his mouth. Lifting his pipe from the ashtray beside him, he filled it with tobacco from a pouch that his father had left him as part of the legacy. "This is for you Eddy, my boy. Keep it with you always and remember what it has done to your dear old pop," he remembered his father coughing at him. But it had made no impression of fear on him. He had chosen the same trail as his dear old pop had done.
He was proud to own such a beautifully decorated pouch as that. It was the talking piece for him, like a stuffed antelope head hung over the fireplace was for the hunter.
Howard scrubbed between his legs. The water felt cold running down his back. A good bath would help revive him after six hours of living hot jazz and rocksteady and killing hot rum. Rolando had been at his best for a long time. The sounds were clear when they should have been and hazy when it was necessary for them to be.
In the arts, one had their time. But it wasn't so for Howard; his time never came. It wasn't that he was not trying. He murdered his mind trying but to no avail. Something was eluding him.
Berny had said it was a girl he wanted — that his kind was made for falling in love, and without love for such an artist, there would be no inspiration. But he had had girls, though his involvement with them was only physical. Still, for a time, they had meant something to him, but nothing happened.
His nerve was all right. His hands were sure like that of a surgeon. But nothing happened, nothing at all. Jesus Christ! He couldn't give up now. He was a painter, born and bred. But nothing was happening.
Old Edmond was at him. He knew that was what he wanted to talk about. Christine was also at him, but not out of concern for him as a brother. It amused her to see him struggling, she being an accomplished musician. She hated him — that was no strange news — and if he failed at anything, it gave her some kind of warped satisfaction.
To hell with them. Why, he was his own man. If it meant dying trying, then he would die, but nothing was going to stop him from becoming a master painter. To hell with the whole goddamn world. It owed him. It owed him love, love that he had been robbed of at four. So why should he be concerned with what the world thought of him? The world as it was, wasn't for him. Misfits had to make a world of their own, so no one in the orderly, loving gutter slum they called society should concern themselves with his failures or successes. Frig them.
"I saw Mr. Watson today. We were speaking about your problems, and he agreed with me that you should rest off from it for a while and do something else. He said that this has happened at times with a young painter, and even the old masters, they have a blue period. He said you would soon get over it. You could come into the office. I will find something for you."
Howard felt uncomfortable in the room, he wanted to go, to get as far away from there as possible. They turned his stomach.
"Why doesn't he take a rest too and try something else. Even in my blue period, as he calls it, none of them can paint like me. And you can tell him that!"
"Great, Picasso." Christine smiled at him.
"Great Lady of the Night," Howard returned.
"Daddy, you heard what he called me. It must be you that I am catching!" She began to sob to impress upon her father how deeply hurt she was.
"You have no damn right calling your sister that. You have no damn manners for no one! You only go around talking a lot of bull about painting tripe, you lazy, goddamn son of a bitch!" Old Edmond rose out of the chair as he concluded his outburst.
"Tut-tut, temper, temper, Old Ed. We mustn't get irritable over trivial things, now should we, um?"
"Daddy, he isn't worth talking to. He hates us all. You are wasting your time trying to get something out of nothing."
"Hush, honey," her father said, his tone consoling.
"Old Edmond, if you are through, I would like to go," Howard said, bored.
"Howard, I have been through with you for a long time now. Believe me, it's only for your mother's sake that I am still trying, for her and her alone."
Howard smiled. "Thanks. I do appreciate that," he said and left.
"What's the matter with him, Chris? Tell me where I have gone wrong with him."
"It's not your fault, Dad. He just doesn't have any good in him. He thinks he is a second Robin Pone. Robin was lucky, and he had some good in him. But Howard is worthless."
"But he is my son, your brother. He is twenty-one, and so far nothing has come out of his life, absolutely nothing." He turned and walked away.
"I am going up for a rest, Chris. When you are going, call me."
"It's okay, Dad. I am not going out tonight."
He forced a smile at her. He still had Chris.
* * *
Howard parked near the entrance under the lights. He couldn't afford for anyone to steal the tires from the car, not with his old man threatening to freeze all his bread. He had no money except that which his father allowed him. The money that his mother had left for him was to go only to his education as a painter. She had willed it.
"Hi, Howie, honey," the young woman at the door said in greeting.
"Hi, baby. Long time no see." He rested his hand on her stomach, moving it gently across.
"How do you expect to see me if you have stopped coming around?" "Well I'm here now, puss, and for real."
She chuckled. "Heard say that you had outgrown Merritone — you didn't dig the crowd no more."
She shrugged, her breasts remaining to the left when she moved to the right. "It was around. Saw your cousin here too last Saturday. What brings you here tonight to Peyton the Place?"
Some patrons arrived, and he shifted to one side to allow them in. "You I guess. Long time since I've been down there." He moved his eyes down her magnificent body to the spot that he was talking about.
"Don't think you will ever be back either. The door has closed for a time yet."
"Um, um, gotta try and open it." He pinched her soft belly, feeling the blood run hot in his veins. "See you later. Going to mix a little."
He moved away, thinking over what Berny had told him. Maybe he was right. Berny was always right. He was going to find himself a woman. Maybe he had found her already and not known, but he would be looking. That was what had brought him to the Merritone Discotheque's home, Peyton Place.
"Ha, my painter!" someone shouted across to him. He recognized Derek coming toward him. "Great, what brings you here brethren?" Derek inquired.
"Looking for a woman," he responded.
A record started to play over the set, and the swingers danced around them. It was a new release by the Wailers, the new singing sensations from West Kingston, and Howard could see his old school friend Skill with the members of the Wailers, talking to Winnie the main selector for Merritone.
"Any special woman?" Derek queried.
"Yeah, nothing regular," he responded to Derek.
"Then you are in the wrong hole, Howie boy. Only regulars are permitted here."
A girl came over to them. She was short but provocatively attractive. One might consider her breasts too big for her height, but her hips were equally big, a contrast to the waist. The white, tight-fitting pedal pushers she wore vividly displayed the "V" spot between her legs. Howard knew her. She taught art at the Jamaica School of Art and Craft.
"Howie darling." she threw her arms around his waist.
He felt his penis pressed into the soft, warm flesh. It swelled. "Easy, Janice, baby. You are making me strong."
"And don't I want to." She eased away from him, still holding onto his hands and looking down at the front of his jeans.
"I guess you would," Derek said, reminding her that he was there.
"But of course, you do want to. Don't you, Howie love?"
"Want to what?"
"Want to exercise your strength on me of course."
The record ended, and another began.
"Sure, but right now I want something to drink. How about you, Derek?"
"More than words can say."
"Bring a rum and water over to the table for me. And do get strong quick, Howie love, please." She danced off to the music.
Howie and Derek moved over to the bar.
"I have been trying to get down with that nymph for the last six months. She does things to me. Don't you feel the same about her?" Derek queried.
"Slightly hell," Derek said in mock anger.
"Well sure she does, but not as much as she may do to you."
"Well I want her, Howie, more than how dry peas want fire, and tonight I am going to walk all inside her."
"And Berny? Berny may kill you if he finds out."
"Berny's batty hole. He has no more claim on her than anyone else. One flask rum, Charley, and a soda, dry. What are you having?"
"A flask of white rum and water, two trays of ice."
"Hell, Howie man, but aren't you too young to be drinking white rum like that?"
Howard laughed. "Aren't you too young to be welcoming death, for as sure as God made Eve, Berny is going to kill you for walking over and into Janice."
"I can kill him too you know. Don't you ever think of that? I can damn well kill him too." He had said it, but it was as doubtful to him as it was to Howard. He knew it and shook violently inside.
* * *
Howard twisted in his bed and looked at the clock. His thoughts returned to the previous night, Derek had left with Janice, and he had left soon after, not finding what he had gone there for. Sure some of the best-looking and sexiest girls in Kingston were fans of the Merritone, but they were the most regular also. They were the swingers of the jive set. Four times a week every week they swung with the mighty Merritone.
He would have breakfast and go to the beach. Painting was out. He could not paint a line until he had found something to inspire him, something to shed some emotion on, even if it was a cat.
Old Edmond and Christine were halfway through their breakfast when he went down.
"Didn't hear when you came in," Old Edmond tried to sound friendly.
You couldn't have if you were sleeping. Howard thought of saying to him. "I came in pretty early. Guess you went to bed early."
"Sure. At my age, I got to get as much sleep as possible, leave the nightlifing to the younger heads."
Nothing was spoken for the next minute, but Howard could feel his father glancing at him. He hated the atmosphere. It was too thick. Anything was liable to happen.
"About what I suggested last night, Howie, I really would like you to consider it. It wouldn't be anything hard, just something that wouldn't demand too much of you."
"Like picking up all the paper clips from the floor. Pa, try to understand I can't do anything but paint ..."
"And we aren't sure of that are we," Christine remarked.
"Chris, this is the breakfast table, and I want no haggling. Furthermore, today is Sunday. Now will you stop aggravating your brother."
"Dada, you shouldn't be the one to say that. You know him. You know he only uses that as an excuse. I bet if he was in the position where he had no father who had money to feed him and clothe him and entertain him, he would have to find some work to do. He would have to or starve. Because he is no painter. Sure, he may sell a canvas are two sometimes. But he doesn't have enough talent to live off it, and you are only wasting your time spending all this enormous amount of cash sending him to school. For what? Tell me, for what? Howard isn't a boy anymore, Dad. He is almost twenty-one."
"You got what you wanted, didn't you? Well I want my share now! And, Christine, don't turn Pa against me. Don't do it," he said threateningly.
"You don't frighten me, Howard, not in the least."
"Will you both shut up! I am sick and tired of you both now!"
"Well you tell her to keep out of my life. I don't want either you or her hanging over my back, riding me like a damn horse. Get off!"
"You ungrateful wretch. You see what I mean, Dad. He is worthless, and it's no use trying with him. His only intention is to go and live with those no-good Rastafarians friends of his, like his cousin. They are both worthless. Ma always said, 'Show me your company, and I can tell you what you are.' Worthless tripe!"
Excerpted from "A Reason For Living"
Copyright © 2017 Julian Jingles.
Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Book I The Artist, 1,
Book II The Patriot, 91,
Book III The Oracle, 276,