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Academy of the Heart And Mind
June 14, 2021 academyoftheheartandmind Fiction, Miscellaneous
Summer Contest Fiction Winner: “A Most Unforgettable Experience”
By Felicita Robinson
When Martha invited me to spend the summer vacation with her, I was overjoyed. This was my first trip to the country part of Jamaica. Being a city girl, I was delighted that I was going to actually spend the entire summer away from the city. However, I didn’t bargain for what happened during that summer, which made it the most memorable vacation of my entire life.
Martha’s grandparents picked us up one Sunday morning and we headed for St. Thomas at the northeastern end of the island. St. Thomas is noted for its coconut trees and copra, which is the dried white flesh of the coconut from which coconut oil is extracted.
As we approached Bowden, the town where Martha’s grandparents lived, I noticed that a lot of coconut trees dominated the skyline. This did not come as a surprise as Martha always shared this fact with me.
My first night in Bowden, however, was filled with many surprises. First, there was no electricity! Kerosene lamps were brought out on the verandah and lit as we all met after dinner. This was the time of day when the family shared the day’s events. As I sat and listened to the conversations, I noticed the fireflies outside, as they lit up the dark sky. This was also another surprise for me, as we rarely see fireflies in the city. Fireflies are called peenie-wallies in Jamaica.
That night the countryside seemed like a different world to me. The air was cool, fresh and misty. Only the conversations on the verandah competed with the sounds of the frogs and the crickets. The moths buzzing around the lamps made their own music too. Then there was the sweet scent of the jasmine blossoms which hung heavily in the air. The night was truly magical and peaceful, and soon I started dozing. Suddenly, from a distant I faintly heard my name and thought I was dreaming, but soon realized that I was not.
“Cherie,” said Martha’s grandmother, Mrs. Archer, “come to bed and bring one of the lanterns with you.”
I jumped up somewhat confused and rubbed both my eyes. As I got accustomed to my surroundings, I noticed that except for the verandah, now brightly lit by two lanterns, the rest of the house was in total darkness and I was alone. Everyone had gone inside!
I was afraid to go to bed. Gingerly I took up one of the lamps and held it tightly. I needed the support as I was now shivering. Slowly I walked towards my room and got another surprise. The bed was shrouded with a soft, white, net. This was hung from a circular frame attached to the ceiling above the bed. I hollered,
“Martha, come here quickly!”
Martha came dashing in the room.
Pointing to the ceiling I asked, “What’s that for?”
“For the mosquitoes. It’s to keep them from biting you, dummy.”
I gulped audibly. Martha left the room giggling and shouted over her shoulder,
“Cherie, you need to come to the country side more often.”
I managed a weak smile in the semi-dark room. Seeing the long shadows on the wall and this white net over the bed reminded me of evil spirits. As a child I had often heard stories of spirits and ghosts which always seemed to take place in the country side. Now I was shivering more than ever. Climbing quickly into the bed, I covered myself with the sheet from head to toes, vowing that in future I would go to bed the same time with everyone.
At daybreak I was awakened by the sounds of cowbells, followed by mooing, squeaks and grunts. I dashed to the window to see what was causing all the commotion, and saw about twenty cows being driven by a young Indian boy. He brandished a piece of stick over his head as he shouted,
“Move, Charlie Boy! Move, Mary! Move!”
An older man was feeding green banana skins to some pigs in a pen. They rushed hungrily for the food and made a whole lot of noise. I had read about cows and pigs at school, and sometimes I had seen them at a distance in some parts of the city, but never this close. I can’t wait to tell my friends when I get back to school, I thought. They will be sure to envy me. Like me, a lot of my friends never leave the city!
There were several white birds with long necks perched on the backs of some of the cows. Others were just flying around. I was later told that these birds were called cattle egrets, known in Jamaica as long-necked gallings. The cows’ hides provided insects for these birds and the birds got rid of the insects for the cows. Symbiosis, they called this relationship. I thought this was neat.
The weeks that followed were full and varied. One day after it rained for two full days, we went walking into mud, knee-high and half a mile long! This was the only route to the mango grove. We had to climb the mango trees to get to the sweet, ripe fruits. I ate so many mangoes that I felt hot. We had lots of fun, too, drinking the sweet water straight out of the coconuts. Afterwards, a machete was used to cut the coconuts in two. We then used a spoon made from the green husk to eat the soft, white jelly found in the inside of the coconuts. Other days were spent catching crayfish or janga from a nearby stream.
Life in the country side was different, lazy, beautiful, and, sometimes, quiet until I broke the glass on the door of Mrs. Archer’s China cabinet!
I had gone to fetch a glass to drink some water. Feeling happy-go-lucky and energetic, and anxious to get back to the hide-and-seek game outside, I slammed the door of the cabinet so hard that the glass cracked. My eyes popped open in horror. I didn’t know what to do. These people were kind to have invited me into their home. How could I tell them of this awful thing? Wrestling with my thoughts, I felt weak and afraid. I decided not to say anything because I was too scared.
That evening while we were having dinner, Mrs. Archer saw the crack in the glass.
“Who did this?” she asked angrily.
No one answered. I looked down at my trembling hands, and said nothing.
“Which of you children broke that glass?” she inquired.
I heard several voices. “I didn’t.” “Not me.” “I don’t know anything about it.” I didn’t go into the cabinet.” I remained silent.
“Well it’s strange,” said Mrs. Archer. “This morning that glass was not broken.”
Martha’s grandfather saved the day. “Come, come, Maisie, it must have happened accidentally. Why make a fuss about it now?”
“I suppose you’re right,” replied Mrs. Archer. “I guess I’ll never find out who did it.”
I stifled the big sigh that almost escaped my lips.
That incident put a damper on the rest of my vacation. The guilt of what I had done weighed heavily on my head. I wasn’t happy anymore. Martha’s grandmother must have noticed the change in me. She asked me one day,
“What’s come over you, Cherie? Don’t tell me that you’re getting homesick.”
I tried to smile, but couldn’t. Should I tell her, I wondered. She would certainly be mad with me. I remained silent, again, as she drew me to her bosom and kissed me on my forehead. This made me feel so bad, I almost burst into tears.
I wondered if Martha had also noticed a change in me. Maybe she wouldn’t even invite me here again. Just then my thoughts were interrupted as Martha dashed into the room.
“Hey, Cherie, let’s go play,” she said, pulling me outside. I guess she noticed how sad I looked, because she immediately asked.
“Girl, what’s wrong with you?”
I decided then and there to come clean.
“Martha, I have something to tell you, but promise me that you will not hate me.”
“Why would I do that?” How could I hate you when you’re my best friend?” she added.
I looked at her and whispered,
“I’m the culprit.”
“What are you talking about?”
I’m the one who broke the glass in the China cabinet.”
For a moment Martha remained speechless. Rolling her eyes towards heaven, she pointed her finger at me and asked disbelievingly,
“Are you really the one who did it?”
“Yes,” I mumbled, looking down at my feet and wishing I could disappear. “I just couldn’t admit it Martha. Not in front of everyone. I was ashamed and too scared.”
Putting her hands around my shoulder, she said matter-of-factly,
“Cherie, I forgive you, and understand how you feel. Promise me one thing, though. I want you to tell my Grannie just what you told me. I promise you that she will understand.” With a big grin on her face, she added, “I also promise you that she will not eat you!”
I smiled weakly and said, “Give me some time to think this over. Okay?”
“Okay,” said Martha. “Let’s go catch some janga.”
For the next couple of days Martha kept looking at me. She never asked if I had told her Grandmother the truth. I never said anything to her either, but I knew by those looks that she wanted to know what was happening. After thinking about my predicament, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to tell anyone else about what I had done. Sharing it with Martha was enough. Besides, the summer vacation would be over in a week and I was now really feeling homesick.
On the day of our departure to return to Kingston, Martha’s Grandparents each gave me a big hug. Mrs. Archer said to me,
“Cherie, it was a real pleasure having you here.”
“Yes,” Mr. Archer added. “You’re such a well-behaved child. You should come again to visit with us.”
I had that feeling again of wanting to disappear. I felt choked up inside. The tears started rolling down my cheeks. Before I knew what was happening, I blurted out,
“I’m so sorry, but I was the one who broke the glass in the China cabinet, Mrs. Archer.”
“I knew,” she said.
I was surprised and asked,
“You knew all along?”
Her eyes seemed to light up as she hugged me again.
“Yes, I knew all along, Cherie. But never mind dear, you finally owned up to it. That’s the important thing.”
As I walked towards the car, I’m sure my smile was brighter than the noonday sun. I felt so happy. This was a vacation that taught me a lesson to always speak the truth no matter what. It was a vacation that I will always remember. Actually, it was a most unforgettable experience!
Tagged A Most Unforgettable Experience, academy of the heart and mind, academyoftheheartandmind, contest, contest winner, Contests, Felicita Robinson, Fiction, short fiction, short story, Summer Contest
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Life Is A Work of Art
October 6, 2012
A private Book Signing Awards Party was hosted by Mrs. Sandra Ginyard at her beautiful home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Sandra is my friend who "sparked" the idea for me to write Seven Letters to Heaven! It was a wonderful afternoon of fellowship, comraderie, and sharing stories of faith and prayers. My special thanks to Sandra, who was a delightful hostess, and to her friends and family for a great experience which I will always remember.
May 1, 2011
Book Interview with John Blake on The World Beat Experience,WHUR -World HD2, Washington, DC — at 2:00 p.m.
Book Interview with John Blake, WHUR-FM, Washington, D.C.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Reading at Flower Mart Honoring Jamaica 2012 - Washington National Cathedral. flyer.
|Jamaica Embassy Tent
||Book reading in St. Joseph's Chapel
Presentations - Jamaican Cuisine and Foodways
Floral Display - Anthuriums
January 7, 2012
Book Club Luncheon - I was hosted by Annie Rhodes and the ladies of the Cover to Cover Book Club, in Derwood, Maryland, at their monthly luncheon meeting. It was a wonderful afternoon with a gathering of some very special and interesting women, who raised thought-provoking topics relating to the book, and provided some very great comments. Annie, who was a delightful hostess, laid out a feast of traditional holiday favorites and scrumptious desserts. My thanks to the ladies of this club for a wonderful experience which I will always remember!
Book review on Jamaica.com at:
Luncheon - May 22, 2011 - Jerusalem Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, Rockville, Maryland. It was a real pleasure to attend this luncheon hosted by members of the Book Club. The event commenced with a very stirring and inspirational Sunday Service, followed by a wonderful gathering of about 10 very interesting women, headed by The Reverend Jane E. Wood, Pastor. During the luncheon, we shared experiences of faith and other inspirational stories. Club members also discussed their reactions and impressions of "Seven Letters to Heaven." Notably, the Pastor referred to two letters which impacted her the most—"Please Fix That Car, Lord, and Find Me a Buyer," and "Take This Cup from Me", as well as the closing quotation in the book—"The Beauty of the rainbow after a storm heralds a bright, new beginning filled with hope and promise." —F"T"R, from Seven Letters to Heaven. The entire event was truly heart-warming and a wonderful experience for my husband and myself.
My sincere thanks to all the ladies of the Book Club, with special thanks to Annie Rhodes, and Yvonne Tatum (guest from St. Patrick's Church) for the roles they played in making the event possible.
THE CONTEST to "Share a brief story of how a prayer was answered," is now closed, and we have a winner! (Name withheld by request). Winner will receive a free Dust Jacket Hardcover copy of Seven Letters To Heaven. Thanks to those who participated!
Here is the WINNING STORY:
"Our God is an amazing God with an amazing heart and amazing ways of speaking to us, particularly when we speak to Him from our heart.
A few years ago, I was working as a travel lab employee for a hospital 3 hours away from my home. I would drive there every Sunday afternoon and drive back home on Friday. The drive was over some remote hilly roads so I would leave home early enough to get to the job before it got dark on Sunday. This meant I didn't always get to Mass before hitting the road, and this would leave me feeling empty. I would try to make up for this by visiting the hospital chapel every evening after work to get my spiritual "fix." The chapel was used for different denominations including daily Mass which I could never attend as it was during the work day. In the evenings when I'd stop in, I was always the only person in the chapel and I always sat in the exact same chair, up in front, by the aisle.
One particular evening as I prayed, I told God that I knew I had to make a better effort to attend Mass on weekends when I was home, not as an obligation, but because I truly missed receiving Our Lord during Holy Communion. Communion at Mass has always given me such peace and for me is such a connection with My Lord. I firmly believe the host is His real presence, not just a symbol of Him. Anyway, I sincerely thanked God that evening for His understanding, and told Him I would try much harder not to miss Mass anymore.
The very next evening when I visited the chapel again, with no one else around, as I genuflected by my usual chair, I couldn't believe my eyes, as right there under my chair was a perfectly beautiful communion host! With tears in my eyes, I picked it up, blessed it, and placed it on my tongue and thanked God profusely while it dissolved. (I still get goose bumps and tears just thinking about His incredible love.) Our God is an amazing God with an amazing heart."
(Name asked to be withheld)
Private book-signing and "meet & greet" open house in Olney on December 4, 2010: We had a wonderful evening with a few of our neighbors, which included an impromptu discussion of faith and prayers and the impact Seven Letters To Heaven was having on readers. It was a delightful and rewarding event. Thanks to our neighbors who took time out of their busy schedules to stop by.
The Official Book Launch & Signing held at St. Patrick's Church on October 24,
was a success! Rev. Msgr. Kevin T. Hart, Pastor, opened the event with prayers, and the Author read excerpts from her book. Guests included Rev. Joseph Rogers, Parochial Vicar of St. Patrick's, and Mr. John Blake, Announcer/Host of The Caribbean Experience and the Worldbeat Experience, WHUR-FM, 96.3 MHZ. A contribution was made to St. Patrick's Church from the book sales. See pictures below - photo credit: K.G. Robinson.