|excerpt courtesy of Time Warner Trade Publishing|
Come Jour Ouvert morning, Tan-Tan was afraid to even self get out of bed. She had asked her mother the rules of the fight over and over till Ione got fed up and refused to repeat them any more. Tan-Tan knew the rules in her own head by now. As she opened her eyes she started to recite them like a mantra. Daddy would be all right.
"Young Mistress," said eshu softly. "Ione say is time to get up now. She say to clean your teeth and take a shower, then put on your best frock, the white one with the sailor collar"
Tan-Tan got out of bed. She went outside through the bedroom doors that led to the back verandah. The morning was looking dreary, oui. Papa Sun was hiding his face behind one big mako cloud. Rainflies flitted everywhere, dancing on their wings in anticipation of a wetting. Tan-Tan went to her bathroom, washed herself and brushed her teeth. She reached into her closet for the white dress with the blue-piped collar, but her hand touched her Robber Queen outfit instead. She put it on. It covered up some of her scared feelings.
Nursie bustled into the room, carrying combs, ribbons and fragrant coconut oil for Tan-Tan's hair. "No, child, Put on the white dress, you ain't hear what your mother say?"
"I wearing this."
"Tan-Tan . . . "
"Mistress say is okay," chimed the eshu out loud. It confused Tan-Tan. She hadn't had any message from her mother.
Nursie sighed with exasperation. "Let me just get some red ribbons then. These blue ones not going to match."
Nursie oiled and parted Tan-Tan's hair, wove it into plaits, then rubbed some of the coconut oil into her elbows and knees so they wouldn't be ashy. "My pretty little girl." She kissed the top of Tan-Tan's head and took her to have breakfast with Ione.
Tan-Tan's mother was sitting at the table, staring off into the distance. " Oh, you prefer to wear that instead, doux-doux?" She said absent-mindedly. "All right."
Nursie narrowed her eyes. "Compère, eshu tell me that you give permission for Tan-Tan to wear this."
It was a second before Ione replied. "Eh? No, but is all right." With a sigh she got to her feet and pulled out a chair for Tan-Tan. "Just ask Ben if he will please do a synapse wash on the eshu, nuh? It must be past time." She stood and patted Tan-Tan's shoulder, a little too hard. She smiled nervously, muttered at the air; "Eshu, we ready to eat."
Mummy was wearing a beautiful white dress that left her shoulders bare. It had puffy sleeves and a deep flounce from knee to ankle. Tan-Tan thought Ione was the most beautiful woman in the whole world.
A chicle fetch slid into the room, loaded with covered trays. Ione took them and put them on the table. Bammy bread and saltfish with cabbage and thyme. "Oh, what a creation! Eshu, thank Cookie for we, please."
But Ione only nibbled at breakfast. She kept asking Tan-Tan if she looked okay, kept checking her hand mirror all the time.
Outside, the threatened passing shower broke. Drops pounded like fists at the windows and thunder shouted at lightning.
As soon as the meal was over, Ione had the eshu make a full-sized mirror on the nearest wall. She put a colourdot from her purse onto one lip, then pressed both lips together. Her lips flushed with her favorite oxblood burgundy.
The eshu said out loud, "The limousine waiting, Mistress."
"Oh God," Ione whispered. "Time to go." She hugged Tan-Tan to her, a little too hard. "Don't fret eh, doux-doux? One way or another, it go work out all right." Silently Tan-Tan repeated the rules of the duel to herself. They bustled out into the front yard.
The shower was over. Tiny so like babies' fingernails, transparent rainfly wings were everywhere, held pasted in place by drops of water. Outside twinkled. Flightless as ants now, the rainflies were crawling off to wherever they went after a downpour. The sun had come out, was burning down full. Registering the way Tan-Tan's pupils contracted against the glare, the nanomites swimming in the vitreous humour of her eyes polarized, dimming the light for r.
Plang-palang! Plang-palang! Cockpit County was in the full throes of Jour Ouvert morning revelry. People beat out their own dancing rhythms with bottle and spoon, tin-pan and stick. What a racket! Bodies danced everywhere: bodies smeared with mud; men's bodies in women's underwear; women wearing men's shirt-jacs and boxers; naked bodies. They pressed against the car, pressed against one another, ground and wound their hips in the ecstatic license of Carnival. Someone grinned into the limo at Tan-Tan and Mummy. The woman had temporarily cell-sculpted her skin to be Afro on one side, Euro on the other. The Euro side was already sunburnt. She licked the length of the window with her tongue, which had been pierced with a star-shaped platinum nugget. The metal scraped against the window glass.
The limo crept along, slow as a chinny worm. A mako jumbie strode through the crowd, picking his way on his tall stilts. His tattered motley had been made into pants that clothed the stilts all the way to the ground. His chest was bare and he'd tied a long, pointy beak onto his face.
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