Independence time, well anytime family gathers, is a time for stories. It’s a time when the old among us tell fantastic tales. Ghost stores and funny stories. It’s a time when our elders shed the days and chores and the hum drum of life and just relax, animated in memory of better times. The far off looks and the rueful smiles infuse the atmosphere with a kind of energy, made authentic by the light and heat of the coal pot, often times burning neem bush to keep the mosquito at bay. Yes these are the times when smokey outdoor theater, with family and sometimes neighbors, set the mood for epic tellings.
This is a story told by me, a long long long time ago. It, I kid you not, is true as I am typing here tonight. I don’t know how to tell it without breaking into my Creole so please bear with me when I do.
A little background.
The Jablesse or Diabless, or La Jablesse depending on which island you hail from, or which part of this one for that matter. Is a lovely women, who has sold her soul to the devil in for some favor or other. She sells herself and so is doomed for eternity to use her whiles to charm men to their deaths for the Devil’s pleasure. Her only flaw and a man’s only warning the deformity visited on her for her dark dealings.
Now the Story.
Papolie was coming home to Buckleys from from his ground somewhere in Freeman a late late week night. Now the place dark, and everybody knows Papolie love he rum. He min sahl drunk coming home the night. No streetlight, no streetlight min dey dem time, but it was alright since the donkey he was riding on knew the way home, even better than the man did, or at least so ‘Mem say.
So there he was on the donkey, well sahl drunk and coming round a corner somewhere between Jonas and Home he saw a woman in the distance. Now the place wasn’t built up like it is now, all there were down there were field and fields, nobody lived them places, far behind God’s back, so anyone there would have been strange enough. Papolie never told us how he knew it was a woman from so far off, but he was a sharp man, so how he knew na matter, she was a woman and that was enough.
He got close to the woman, and Papolie say the woman pretty pretty pretty, in long white dress and a broad brimmed white hat. The dress off her shoulder so you could see the top of her bosom, she had plenty of that. When she looked up she had a sweet rosey face, with straight white teeth, she was pretty ah tell you. Beautiful woman, sitting on a stone at the side of the dark road with no street light in the middle of the night.
Papolie said, he woulda give she a ride. A ride to where ever she was headed, because nobody supposed to leave a woman like that on no road, let alone so late a night. But as he drew close and told the Ass to slow the wind pick up and the skirt billow and flutter, and where there should have been a pretty plump foot to go with the pretty face and the big bosom, was a hoof!! A cloven hoof like what you see on goat or cattle.
Papolie say he jump off the donkey, he didn’t think he just wasn’t holding up to see what would happen next. Leff bottle, Leff cutlass, leff donkey and run. He run and he run, he nar hold up and he nar look back. He say he coulda hear the Ass bawl in surprise, but he nar hold up to look back and see, if is the ass of him, is him reaching home. He don’t know how but the man beat the frightened ass , from Jonas road to Home in Buckleys the man beat the animal.
He didn’t stop the drinking, or the riding home at night, and his cutlass was always handy. The members of the household, or so my own Grandmother corroborated, only knew that Papolie indeed got home first and the Ass came ambling after.