Trinidad in Three Pieces

by Jack MADIN

The afternoon came down as

imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man

Benson sat in the back of his old Ford truck, with his short legs dangling in the air. He shouted and laughed at all those who happened to pass by, but he shouted joyfully. He was not a lecherous man, he shouted out for friendship and camaraderie, and not only to the pretty girls. This propriety earned him great respect; it was simply the way that he met new friends.

Benson was a cargo man. He would take any sort of load or freight from wherever he was to wherever he could get to. He had traveled over the island of Trinidad a hundred times. When Benson was sitting in the back of his truck, however, it meant that he had no cargo to deliver. His method was uncomplicated: he would deliver his cargo; then he would receive his payment; then he would drive his truck to the nearest dancehall and once he had parked he would call out to passersby until he found someone to talk to. It was usually not long before there were four or five men all sitting and laughing and telling stories alongside Benson in the back of his truck.

It was on this afternoon that Benson met Federico. Oh that Federico, he saw in Benson’s genial face all manner of potential. While Benson was shouting out, ‘Is there no man on this island that can offer me companionship? I am a newly moneyed man and yet here I sit alone! What poor tidings befall rich men?’ Federico was already rushing to his side.

Ah, the prayers of the millions,

how they must fight and destroy each other

on their way to the throne of God

Giacomo, that silent man, walked aimlessly along the port of San Fernando. From the edge of the docks he saw large ships returning from Punta Piedra with expensive Venezuelan objects, and he saw large ships setting off for America. He smelt the strange ocean mist, which he did not particularly like, and he began to feel religious.

He was so often misunderstood, poor Giacomo, for he spoke a language which was familiar to no other man on that lonely Trinidadian island. He had many friends, but the only true companion to Giacomo was God. He turned and walked away from the vast ocean and went to find a nearby church.

The church steeples of San Fernando are always in sight. They stand proudly, constantly reminding those sinful men to return to their spiritual home. Giacomo soon found an intimate catholic church, with large windows and a dark, musty feeling. Inside there were no men or women, no sound and no smell, only piety. A faint breeze came in to distract Giacomo, as he knelt and prayed, but his mind was undisturbed.

He closed his eyes. He rested and thought calmly. He opened his eyes and looked courteously at the brilliant windows of the church, and he watched the late afternoon sun shine softly in. He lifted a bible and felt its weight. Gradually thoughts of thirst and restlessness drifted back into his mind and he took leave of the reverence.

Then, from the other end of the church, he heard a faint cry. ‘Unfortunately,’ whispered Giacomo, in his secret language, up towards the heavens, ‘I have heard a noise. I feel that there may be trouble within this place, and it is my duty to investigate.’ And God smiled down lovingly on Giacomo, for He had set Giacomo to this task. In a small room at the rear of the church an elderly priest had tumbled down a flight of stairs and was injured.

Giacomo appeared in the room, and gently lifted the priest into his bed. The priest sighed and thanked Giacomo, and he humbly bowed. Together they sat for a time in silence. Giacomo thought only of his parched throat while the priest thought only of his lord’s curious grace.

Giacomo left the church and walked back towards the centre of the town. He saw Federico, his old friend, and another man sitting comfortably on the tray of an old truck. Giacomo waved and the two men shouted back.

What good is punishment

unless something is learned?

Federico, Benson and Giacomo awoke on a beach. They had slept well on the hard sand because all Trinidadian men can sleep well on the beach. It was not uncommon to find more Trinidadian men sleeping on the beach at midnight than one could find tourists swimming and strolling about at noon. The sun had risen and the three men slowly roused.

‘I am hungry,’ said Benson.

Federico thought about this. How he could help his friends find something to eat? His thoughts turned to the problem. There was an outdoor café that he had seen on that beach the night before; a café which would surely be full with all types of breakfast, yet they had spent all their money the previous evening. Federico thought quietly for a moment more and then said to the others ‘Take only what we need for breakfast, I am not so hungry. Be quick but not greedy.’

Benson did not fully understand what Federico had meant, Giacomo understood even less, but they dutifully waited at a distance while Federico walked towards the beachfront café. It was not long before a waiter was yelling and a loud, violent clash between Federico and the café staff had drawn the attention of the tourists from their breakfast. Benson and Giacomo quickly gathered up eggs and pancakes and fruit while they watched Federico smash glasses and wrestle with the waiters. Federico was a cunning fighter, and he taunted the staff with crude remarks as he overturned tables. A cook soon came out from the kitchen and nearly removed Federico’s finger, and an unfortunate patron was accidentally struck in the scuffle and started to spit blood.

The two onlookers did not rush to help, they saw that it was Federico’s initiative, so instead they slipped away to wait in the old truck for their friend.

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