Mama After Her Night In San Pedro de Marcoris

By Michael McGrath – 1986

Mama, as the locals called her, was a big busted Quebecois woman with a head piled high with blonde hair. Here in Juan Dolio she was popular with all the boys. The women were less generous in her regard and showed signs of mild disgust in asides here and there as mama strolled the rocky road along the beach.

I met her in person at Johnny’s bar one night. It was hot of course out in the open patio there on the beach facing the ocean. Thankfully, the sun was setting on another day and a cool breeze started up as though it was fanned from the relentless roar of crashing salt water on the sand. Mama was well on her way to a party night and her face was blushed with drink. She, as usual, was surrounded by a group of young men who all seemed very eager to please her every whim. They laughed at her jokes and sexual innuendos and happily ate and drank on her generous tab.

Mama, Johnny the bar owner told me, had retired from her government office job in Montreal to move to a little house in Juan Dolio. She arrived with must gusto and hope and situated her self in her place along the main road and facing the beach. I had seen mama a few times in the past week as she made her way around the little fishing village with an entourage of strong and athletic Dominican boys. She always seemed happy and no doubt life here encouraged that response in comparison to what she was accustomed to back in Montreal on Sherbrooke Street and the smothering one bedroom apartment.

Mama, was a heavy woman. She was rolly polly and her body shook in rolls as she danced with her boys to the music in Johnny’s Bar.

“Anglais, anglais,” she shouted out to me as she pointed her bouncing gaze my way. She pointed to me directly and hollered above the sound system, “Come join us. Come on don’t be alone there. Come and dance Anglais”.

Thankfully, I was not sufficiently inebriated and I managed to deflect her spotlight on me with a short wave as I shook my head no no no to her request. She just laughed very loudly and was joined by her boys in great cheer as they mocked my refusal with their heads in the air and noses pointed upwards. I laughed too.

It was fun to watch them bounce to the rhythm in the middle of the bar. Mama wore a flowing yellow cotton dress and she was covered in fake jewellery that hung around her neck and dangled from her ears. When she danced the floor shook and the boys all thought that was hilarious. The other tourists in the bar seemed to be a bit embarrassed by the mama’s antics. They huddled close over their drinks chatting while peering every so often to the spectacle of mama and her boys moving like a freight train in the middle of Johnny’s Bar.

Suddenly, a beat up old van pulled up in a cloud of dust in front of the bar. Mama and the boys responded with woops and yells. The big lady paid her bill and the group dashed out into the night to the waiting van. She turned to me and hollered, “Hey Anglais come come we go to San Pedro de Marcoris to dance the merengue. Come, come.” Her boys chimed in, “Come, come, come,” they chanted.

“No no, I go home soon but you have fun. I see you tomorrow,” I called after them as they crammed into the van and sped off into the night.

Soon after, all the lights went off as was the routine here in the Dominican. Every night at about 8 p.m. just as night fell, off went the lights. The antiquated electrical system was sufficient to provide electricity to homes across the country but when the lights went on at the ball parks then zap that was it for the rest of us. It was quaint in a way as the candles were lit, generators powered up and people became a little more friendly in the safety of groups here and there along the coast in the dark of night surrounded by jungle and the roar of the ocean.

I made my way back to my rented house a mile away. A few drinks helped to calm the fear I felt as I walked alone in the dark along the rocky and twisting road. Here and there I would pass by small shacks where I would see people huddled in the dark and watching as I made my way. A few cars passed by and I welcomed the light that momentarily provided me with an idea of where I was. I was happy to finally reach my little place on the beach and I rushed in and locked the door quickly behind me. I fumbled for the candle and lit it. Then I made my way to the table, where my portable underwood sat. I lit a cigarette, had a few good puffs and then beat the keys of that little typewriter with a story.

In the morning I awoke, as was normally the case, with the wretched crow of a frantic rooster and the squeaky braying of a donkey. The two seemed to be somehow unofficially appointed to keep the time in these parts. If it had only been a rooster I might have been able to fall back to sleep at six o’clock in the morning but that damned donkey sounded like a monster in pain. So, I was reluctantly up with the sun and cleaning up for my walk back down to Johnny’s for breakfast.

I was always eager to open up my front door and step out onto the beach in front of the ocean. This was my reason for being here. That view of sand brown, turquoise sea and a white cloud studded robin’s egg blue sky did something wonderful to my brain. Then, with that good feeling in my head I half ran my way along the road to Johnny’s Bar. The route was much more friendly in the daylight and the shade of the overhanging jungle growth made the jaunt cool and refreshing.

I could hear the commotion long before I got to the front patio of Johnny’s. Still, it did not prepare me for what I was to witness. As I entered the patio a chorus of black and brown faces turned to “hush” to me. There was a circle gathered and I made my way to the group to see what was up. There in the middle of all of this was mama. She was flat on her back on a rug and someone had put a pillow behind her head. Her face was beet read and she was screaming.

“It has me. I has me. Mon Die Je Suis Mort,” cried mama and she struggled to break free of her boys who were holding her down. A small but tough looking little Haitian who was referred to as the Voodoo Doctor was at her side. He had a live chicken in his hands and he was about to slice its neck off. He mumbled a few words I could not interpret and then off went the poor creature’s head. Then he rose up and spilled the blood of the chicken on mama from head to toe. All the while the Voodoo Doctor chanted and thrust the writhing blood spewing chicken towards mama. I could take it no more.

I found Johnny at the bar downing a shot of whiskey. “What’s up I asked?”

“Mon Dieu. They found her on the beach this morning. She was crawling in the sand and barking like a dog. The boys brought her up here and then they called for the Raphael, you know that Voodoo guy. He has been poking her, chanting at her and now you see…he’s covering her in chicken’s blood,” explained Johnny.

I ordered a coup of coffee and we sat there at the bar as the Voodoo Doctor worked on mama. Suddenly she stopped screaming. There was sighing from the crowd. Then with a bound mama drew up into a sitting position and looked around seemingly confused.

“Bien, sacrament. What’s going on?” she asked.

“We don’t know,” answered Johnny from the bar. “You were a bit sick I guess. How are you now mama?” queried Johnny.

“I am fine. The last thing I remember was that old witch at my door this morning. She said she was going to curse me. I don’t remember anything after that except of course her husband running all the way home with her following with a stick,” said mama. Then she laughed at that recollection. She laughed so hard that she shook and like an aftershock it seemed to reverberate into the entire crowd and we all fell into long and bizarre laughter.

Mama got to her feet, pushed her boys aside and headed for Johnny at the bar. “Merci tout le monde. Johnny, drinks are on me. Put on the merengue I want to dance,” she shouted.

A cheer came up from the crowd and her boys. The music blared, the whiskey flowed and mama grabbed the tiny Haitian Voodoo doctor in her arms. One could only surmise what his payment would be for services rendered. There she was in her yellow cotton dress red with chicken’s blood, she was wrapped tightly around the hard and somewhat astonished Voodoo doctor and her boys had encircled her as they all moved as though one in the sensual beat of the merengue.

The End

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