The sweetish sting of the heady drink told him he was home. White rum, real overproof white Jamaican rum can only be had in Jamaica. A weaker version is exported. He took another sip, and his limbs seemed to loosen. He wagged his tongue about how good it was to be home again, and his uncle said something funny and slammed his drink down hard. His aunt was in the kitchen supervising the maid as she prepared dinner.
What with the jet lag and the rum punch on the plane and the hot drive through town and now this, the good stuff, he was feeling no pain. But then he remembered the announcement he heard on the radio in the cab on the way in from the airport. Something about a State of Emergency. And then there were those grim faced black soldiers in bright khaki in those jeeps that they’d passed.
“What’s this about a State of Emergency?” he asked looking out over the terrace of the big white house.
“If you ask me they shoulda done it a long time ago,” said his uncle.
“Done what? What’s going on down here?”
“Certain people out to tear up this country!”
“The criminals them is out of control, out of control. The Gun Court didn’t do the job so now we need stronga meashas.”
“The Gun Court?”
“Yes, sar. Them pass a law that anyone caught with a gun get life in prison. LIFE, you see!” he screamed.
“Life? For simple gun possession?”
“If you ask me they shoulda shoot them all.”
“Come on now.”
“Masta, things was never like this. Nevah! Decent people can’t even go about they business.”
“Still, though, I don’t know. . . Sounds like something they trying in New York. We just passed this law that they call the – “
“Jamaica will never be Jamaica again until we get the criminals them off the street!” bellowed the older man.
“Don’t you think fighting hate with hate will only cause it to intensify? Like in New York they just passed this new drug law. It says that – “
“Guns! Seems like overnight, guns are everywhere!”
“Here its guns. In New York its drugs! We have a law now that requires 10, 15 even 20 year sentences for just simple possession of drugs.”
“It’s time to take the gloves off!” the uncle ranted.
“Yeah. But what’s going to happen down the road when these people get out?’
“Out? Them never getting out!”
Suddenly the dogs erupted in a horrid commotion. Looking down he saw a burly black man stride shirtless down the dead end street where the uncle’s house stood at the end, and they sat drinking on the second story verandah looking down at him, machete at his side, a determined figure of retribution.
The neighborhood dogs barked and charged at his heels, hoping to nettle him and then perhaps to bite him. But he didn’t flinch. He only walked straight as a man could walk, streaming sweat in the dizzying just past noon sun.
“Someone to see you, sar,” called out the maid. Uncle went downstairs to meet the baleful figure. He soon returned sticking his wallet back into his pocket as the man left, the dogs again nipping at his heels. He was the gardener. He had just been paid. The young man remembered how the maid did not look up at him when she him in. He recalled hearing on the radio that Parliament was considering a 20 dollar a week minimum wage.
“A bird cannot fly on one wing. Come on, let’s have another!,” laughed his uncle as he bustled about the tinkling tray filled with liquor bottles, soda, glasses and ice. And why not, and why not, thought the young man. He needed a good stiff drink to stay in the bright Jamaica and out of the one that was not, and after all, it was hot, hot, hot!