Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Mango can cause fun, fuss, fight and other things too!Chris Burns
AS boys, we looked forward to summer break because it was also mango season. Sometimes, even before breakfast, we would head out to a mango walk. We climbed mango trees, stoned them and picked up the mangoes that fell overnight. We loved mangoes and ate them until our stomachs made funny sounds which signalled that great unpleasant stuff could betide us, particularly those whose weak constitutions made it difficult for them to hold the gastric "ruption". And although cold sweat foretold when all hell would break loose, we boyishly ignored the warnings.
Yet it could not be more than what occurred when Mr Goldson, nicknamed Quart-o-fly, caught us on his property and in his mango tree. My two partners were in the tree eating Beefy mangoes, laughing and throwing an occasional one or two to me on the ground; then Quart-o-fly arrived with his machete and a crocus bag in hand. And although I yelled, "Jump down; Quart-o-fly a come!" they heeded not my supplication, until they saw him looking up at them. But, as bad luck and nervousness shook hands, and as Quart-o-fly opened his mouth to cuss and threaten, Oneil's short pants suddenly gave way to the pressures of a heavy bout of incontinence that copiously drenched poor Quart-o-fly; so much so, he could not see. Yikes!
But back to the love of mangoes. There is hardly another fruit I like as much as I do a good mango, and when I talk about mango, I am not talking about any or every mango. I am talking about a firm Julie, a sweet East Indian, a half-ripe Bombay or Beefy, a cool Longy, a few "Sweetie Come Brush Me", or the intriguing attributes of a Robin. I used to love Black mangoes, until a chilling boyhood experience killed that affection. Of all mangoes, I still have an aversion to Turpentine. I hate the thread-like texture of Stringy, and fear of worms cause me to bypass Number Eleven.
Nevertheless, I have my own mango rules: no "soffie-soffie" mangoes; no mango-eating in the dark, always peel mangoes and no Stringy or Number Eleven. And as for the Black mangoes I mentioned above, I used to love them until I saw a man bite into one and his false teeth got stuck in it. With mango juice dripping from his hands and beads of sweat above his brow, he tried fruitlessly to extricate the oversized denture from the submissive "Blackie". Memories of the fight remain indelibly fresh in my mind.
And talk about mango fight of a different sort and without promoting incivility. It was fun to see women fight over mangoes. Generally speaking, it is hard to convince some women that they can't fight and that their expertise resides mostly in rending garments of whatever make. Well, it was the height of the mango season when a group of us decided to raid Round-tail Pearl's mango tree. On the way over there, we met Amy. Amy was in her early 30s and "strappingly built". She knew what we were up to, but joined the mission anyway.
She climbed under Round-tail Pearl's fence and into her yard, faster than how bullfrogs run from fine salt, while a few of us scaled the mango tree. Mangoes began to fall like manna and Amy "was in her ackee", gathering them up. But, as she stooped over the whole heap of mangoes, Round-tail Pearl appeared with a piece of wood and gave Amy one hell of a slap across her derrière. As we laughed, we encouraged Amy to "Lick har back, Amy, lick har back. Yu cyaan mek Round-tail Pearl mash yu up suh, no sah." Buoyed by our backing, Amy did the unthinkable. She pulled back her shoulders, straightened up her chest, like when John Crow is about to run from Petchary, and planted a powerful uppercut on Round-tail's chin. It connected so hard that Pearl's head swayed lifelessly and caused Rohan to shout, "Round-tail, yuh dead now!"
There was no way that Round-tail, the older of the two, could beat Amy, but the fight continued. They wrestled, rolled on the grass, cussed each other and finally Amy ripped off Round-tail's skirt. That was the funniest part of the fight; it evoked boisterous laughter. Evidently, Round-tail had forgotten to patch a huge gaping hole in her underwear. So, her entire "family history" was staring through the cleave, but in a way that caused Amy to declare, in deep rural lilt, "Lawd, Pearl, yuh a big woman yuh know, ma'am. Yuh fi duh betta dan dat, enuh. Bingo bag outta style and mango leaf cyaan patch crotch!"
I love mangoes, as do many, but none more so than, perhaps, an elderly woman I met on a flight from Kingston. She confided to me that she had "few East Indian mangoes" in her luggage and was adamant about not losing them. Her hopes were almost dashed as we cleared customs. The customs officer asked her, "Do you have anything to declare?" "No, sir", she replied. He continued with his American twang, "Ma'am, are you sure you don't have any ackee or "meingooes" in your bags?"
By this time, the poor woman became comically agitated. She sighed then replied, "Mi poor enuh sah, but mi nuh fool-fool; mi would never carry mongoose inna mi bag." He then asked, "Did you pack the bags yourself?" Before she responded, she rubbed her bosom, then gave off an everlastingly violent belch "Baaaaay" and said, "Gas dis left fi kill mi. Yes, sah a mi pack dem." When we reached outside the terminal, she said, "Young man, yu haffi know how fi use yu brain, enuh. Yuh waan two a di mango? " I gleefully said, "Sure thanks," but when I saw that the mangoes were clothed in women's underwear, I tapped her shoulder and said deflatedly, "Mommy, don't bother wid the mango." That was the safest way to "tek weh miself".
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