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A brief comment before the story begins.  I adore the way islanders speak, but try as I might, I cannot accurately capture the dialect of the Dominican people in writing.  There is an almost musical quality to the way they speak, with lots of very round vowels and unusual intonations that text just can’t relate.  I toyed with not even trying, but settled on using misspelled words that, when spoken aloud, sound as close as I can get them while maintaining legibility.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this story.  It’s another multi-parter.  I would apologize, but there’s just so much to tell that doing this in one entry while keeping it at a manageable length would be totally impossible.

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“You’re sure this is the right place?”

I look dubiously upon the little shack before me.  No other term is more appropriate.  The wooden walls look ready to collapse with a strong gust of wind, and the flat roof, covered in dead palm detritus, doesn’t look like it’s been swept in months.  A small porch with no chairs circles around the structure, and a doorway with no door leads inside.  Not the kind of place I would associate with a bar, but then again, this is Dominica.  What the hell do I know.  And it’s twenty feet from the beach, so I really shouldn’t complain.

“Yeah boy, don’ worry, mah cousin run de place!”  My friend, Ronnie, is an island native and the first person I met when I decided to explore the island on my own.  He is very friendly, always smiling, always laughing, always eager to show me new places and give me a taste of real life on the island.  He hasn’t steered me wrong yet, having shown me places in Rosalie that the tourists never see and introduced me to people so hospitable that you would never think I wasn’t from the island, too.  He’d even gotten me into a community fishing experience, my first seine netting exercise, an activity usually reserved for two or three families and considered a bonding experience by many.  I had worked hard that day to help pull in and manage the net, entitling me to a portion of the catch.  However, since I didn’t need it and they were obviously dependent upon the haul, I had given my share to the rest of the group, and in return for this perceived generosity, Ronnie was going to buy me a drink on the beach.  I told him it was unnecessary, but he insisted, and so I found myself at his cousin’s bar, run out of an extension to his home.

I shrugged.  “Hell, when in Rome.”

I followed Ronnie inside.  The place was deserted, but I could see movement through another doorway leading into the house proper.  Ronnie yelled something unintelligible, and through the doorway burst maybe the largest man I have ever seen.  His response was just as loud and unintelligible, but it was an exuberant exclamation that made me grin, and the two exchanged hugs and intricate handshakes too quick for me to follow.  The big guy looked at me and said, “‘Ey, you mus’ be de white boy Ronnie be tellin’ so much about!”

Another shrug.  It’s hard not to feel awkward under such politically incorrect scrutiny, but my time in foreign lands has made me accustomed to it. “I guess I must be.  Ronnie tells me you have the best rum on the island, so I had to come and check it out.”

“Bah!”  Ronnie’s cousin punches him solidly on the arm–damn, that had to hurt–and laughs.  “He always tryin’ ta bring de white people here, tryin’ ta get some free rum off de boat.”

“Not tonight, boy!”  Ronnie pulls a few bills out of his pocket and passes them over to his cousin.  “White boy is no tourist!  He pulled in de seine and gave me his fish, so tonight I buy de rum!”

There’s a hint of derision in Ronnie’s voice when he mentions the tourists.  A lot of Caribbean cruises stop at Dominica for shopping and brief island excursions, usually older people and newlyweds with little interest in the island beyond its beaches and cheap vacation memorabilia.  It’s a point of some pride for me that the people I have met don’t regard me the same way.  I had come to the island for public outreach and education for a local sea turtle conservation organization, and I had made it my mission to get to know the locals, and to make myself known.  I guess it had worked.  I had developed a reputation, the nature of which I didn’t fully comprehend, and everyone knew me and referred to me as “the white boy”.  But they respected me, I think, at least on some level.  After all, a tourist would never have been invited to their homes for fresh salted fish and grilled plantains, or to a seine net haul.  And they certainly would never have bought a tourist a drink.

Ronnie’s cousin looks at me, clearly sizing me up.  My tattered blue pearl snap shirt and quick drying outdoor shorts are my go-to field biology attire and make it easy for me to get in and out of the water quickly, but they don’t exactly show off my fighter’s build.  He nods and smiles.  “Alright, we got something good for him, I think!”

He turns and pulls a bottle down from the only booze shelf.  It’s an unmarked clear bottle filled with several long, leafy branches I can’t identify through the deep amber liquid.  He deftly pours three shots and passes two to me and Ronnie.  I sniff the stuff and am greeted by a pleasantly sweet aroma, almost coniferous.  “What is it?” I ask, inspecting the bottle on the counter.

“Rosemary soaked in rum,” Ronnie answers happily, and he downs the shot easily.  He sighs contentedly and points to my glass.  “Try it!”

When in Rome.  I throw the shot back, expecting it to be harsh, but something about the rosemary takes almost all of the bite out of the liquor.  It’s very smooth and goes down easily, leaving a strong herb aftertaste and immediately clearing my sinuses, though I can’t smell anything but rosemary and the salty air.  I look at the glass in shock.  “Wow.  This is really good.”

“I told you, Ronnie gonna take good care of you, white boy!”  He and his cousin laugh boisterously, so loudly that I almost don’t hear the footsteps of the newcomer entering the bar.  They don’t pay her any notice, but I do.

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13 Comments

    • It's not me, It's you
    • Posted February 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm
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    • Reply

    Looking forward to part two.

  1. Excited to hear the rest!!

  2. Ah! You are killing me! 😉

  3. ^_^ Thank you, all of you! I’m trying terribly hard to improve my writing, but I find it requires me to be much more lengthy. I have yet to develop the skill necessary to be concise.

  4. Guess you should have pursued English or Creative Writing instead of stinky ol’ science. I’m kidding. You have a very readable style. Trust me I took literature courses up the yinyang.

    • You know, before I settled on science, I sampled a number of liberal arts majors. I once fancied myself a writer. Then I took a creative writing course that drove the desire to write out of me.

      Good thing I love numbers and being outdoors.

  5. I sampled political science! OMG. Thought I’d make a fine attorney with it. Not so much. For science I took all the sweet little classes like Dirty 30 Bio (had a tranny come talk to us and got to watch porn for a grade) and light and sound physics. Too much fun. Creative writing was ok but I was better at poetry than prose, although I did write one killer story about big boobs. Anyway, I digress. Have you made it out of Canada yet?

    • Canada is the black hole of North America. Getting in is easy. Getting out is impossible.

  6. It’s America’s Hat! Sorry. Two very large cosmos tonight. And left alone with the computer which is rare at best.

  7. Lovely writing! You did a great job with the dialect. That’s something I find hard to recreate myself!

  8. Oh I miss your writing, been busy lately. You should write a novel soon! An erotic one, hehe 😉 Ill be reading your blog as I’ve missed it from this post onwards. What a promising start!

  9. Awesome start, eager to hear the remainder.
    I think you did a pretty good job throwing in the dialects while still leaving it readable to outsiders. I’ve found when I go too deep in my accent on paper it gets lost.
    So when’s Part 2?


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