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#3595: The Masters of the Country (fwd)
Time for a change of topic! For your enjoyment, Corbetteers, I present a
short story, "The Masters of the Country". (Names changed to protect both
innocent and guilty.)
THE MASTERS OF THE COUNTRY
September 18, 1995
I arrived at the peristyle as the black clouds rolled off the mountains
east of the city, and entered the quiet, shadowy temple. Belange Gabriel
Mondesir, the Vodou priest of Cité Soleil, grabbed a handful of my upper leg,
shook it, and said with satisfaction, "Kati, ou gra kou chat mawon," Kathy,
you're fat as a wild cat.
Having bestowed this high compliment upon me, Gabriel sat down on a
concrete block, stretched his long legs, and relaxed into reminiscence. The
word mawon, which also refers to being in hiding, triggered his memories of
life under the Haitian military regime. He launched into a rich Creole
"Kathy, you know my friend Ratokin? He's a little bony puppet, but it's
he who is most trustworthy of all my friends.
"During the break-bones regime, when the forces of darkness were in
power, there was this attaché, this paramilitary, named Franco. Franco hated
us, he hated us, he hated us to death! Why? Because in those days, behold
our works - we used to get up at three in the morning and paste photos of our
President Aristide all over the neighborhood! I used to paste them right on
the door of Franco's house, and Franco himself, he suspected it was me and my
guys, but he could never catch me at it. Oh! If he had ever once caught me,
he would have killed me ten times.
"One day, Ratokin came and saw me and said, ‘Come, I'll show you
something', so I followed him. And what did that gentleman show me? Franco,
if you please, drunk, lying on the ground in his house, with the door open,
with his wife on one side and his children on the other. They were all sound
asleep! Franco was snoring like a hog!
"Ratokin had his machete in his hand and Ratokin said, ‘Gabriel, I'm
going to kill him, I'm going to cut off his head, he's been giving us
problems too much, and he's been arresting the young men in the neighborhood
and beating them in the police station, because of the pictures of Aristide
we've been sticking up on the walls. I'm going to kill him, and stick a
photo of Aristide right on his ugly face.'"
Gabriel put his feet up against the corrugated aluminum wall of his
dirt-floor peristyle, and lit a Comme Il Faut cigarette with long, elegant
fingers. He shook his head regretfully, his face pensive.
"I said no. Why am I so stupid? My heart was not hard, my heart hurt
for him, I couldn't kill him like that. Ratokin even said he would do the
job alone, but I wouldn't agree, and he listened to me. Mama! If I had ever
once said yes, it is that which we must do, Franco would never have seen the
sun rise again.
"And Ratokin said to me like this, ‘If you don't kill him now, you'll
regret it later.' And truly true, I did regret it later, because later
Franco became even more enraged, and he killed my dog and beat my neighbors
to make them say where I was hiding. Oh, that man, he really made me know
misery... Okay, we gave Franco life and not death, so he could come after us
to kill us later on. Big mistake!
"But there was another attaché, named Martin. He was worse than Franco,
long time! Behold the work Martin knew how to do - three quarters of the
youths killed in Cité Soleil, it was Martin who shot them. He had a little
.38, he called it Ti Marie Djol-Santi, Little Mary Stinkmouth. He loved to
shoot people. He was allergic to young men! He didn't want to see a young
man in the neighborhood at all.
"Worse yet - you remember when all those cadavers were turning up with no
faces? It was he who did that! When he finished shooting a person, he
de-faced them! He did that so that their families could not know them, to
come and gather them up off the holy earth. No! For that gentleman, the
pigs must eat them, the dogs must eat them. Good God, where did he put their
faces? Until today, nobody knows where the faces of those unfortunates are
kept, but surely he put them somewhere. Ah, that was a mean black man.
"So! We decided that since we gave Franco life, we must give Martin
death anyway. Good! Now once we decided to kill Martin, we reflected, we
said to ourselves like this, ‘With what shall we kill Martin? He has a gun,
we don't have a gun. How shall we make him fall?'
Gabriel sat up on the concrete block and pointed two explanatory fingers
in the air.
"We used to have these little toys we called festival, with two branches
and a piece of elastic in between, you hold it and you put a little rock in
the elastic and pull it, and it shoots. Those things can shoot well, Kathy.
We went and we made big ones, with big strong pieces of inner tube for
elastic. We used them, we shot and shot, every day, we shot at all kinds of
things we saw floating in the drainage ditches, until we could hit anything
at all, all the time!
"And do you know what we did then, Kathy? We found old batteries, and we
took the lead out of them, and we melted it down and we made lead balls, look
at the size of them! And we made many lead balls, and we shot them, we shot
at bottles - you see, zip, ching! The bottles always smashed into pieces,
"Okay. So then we were ready to kill Martin. It was at that time that we
tied up our plot, how we were going to kill him. Now Martin knew how to get
drunk, he used to drink and stagger home at night. So we tied up our plot
like this - we would watch him, and when he was drunk we would hide our
bodies in an alley, and then we would squash him!
"Not too much later, Ratokin came to my house and Ratokin said to me like
this, ‘Gabriel, behold the work of God! Martin is drunk, and Martin is going
to his house, all alone. Let's go!' Truly true, I rose and I followed
Ratokin. But we didn't have our festival, our slingshots! We were so happy
to go and kill Martin we forgot our slingshots. So we had to go back and get
them, and get plenty of lead balls.
"We said, shit! Surely Martin has had time to arrive at his house. But
when we got to the alley, it was better than what we had thought. There was
Martin, sitting down on a bucket with his back to us, right in the middle of
the alley. We couldn't believe our luck! But we were scared because we knew
Martin had a gun. We were so scared, we were shaking!
Ratokin took one side of the alley, and I took the other. We left a
space in between us so that if the gentleman turned around and shot at us,
the bullet would pass in between us, and we wouldn't get it. I looked at
Martin, and my heart did not hurt for him, because he was too wicked, he did
too many things that God and the ancestors did not agree with. And I said,
‘Ratokin, do you feel like you are able?', and Ratokin said yes, and I said,
‘Ratokin do you feel yourself strong?', and Ratokin said yes. So I said to
Ratokin like this, ‘The gentleman has given us the back of his head as a
present. Let us squash it, therefore! Shoot in the middle, don't shoot to
Gabriel was sweating with remembered tension. He mopped his face with a
red silk ceremonial kerchief, and sighed.
"Then the two of us tied seventeen frowns into our foreheads, and we
remembered the people that died in Martin's hand, and the people that could
not be found by their families because Martin took away their faces. We put
man's balls in our asses, to be unafraid! And we put the lead balls in our
slingshots, and we pulled on them and we shot together! The lead balls left
from our hands and flew, together. ZIP! ZAP! And they hit the gentleman,
they hit him with force, together at the same time. One hit the base of his
skull, and one hit his neck, right on his spine. KUNG! KUNG! Martin fell!
BLAM! Yes, he fell, stiff like a bull when they dig a knife into his head to
put him down on the earth, before they cut his throat. Not even one little
scream did Martin have time to push out of his mouth.
"We saw that we had put him down on the earth truly, and we were just
about to run up on him to give him two more lead balls in his forehead and
kill him for real. But God made us not show our bodies, for at that moment
the man's wife came from God alone knows where, and began to shake that bag
of filth, and say, "What's wrong with him, what's wrong with him?'
"Ratokin got crazy, because he wanted to finish killing the shit. He put
another lead ball in his slingshot, and he - ZIM! KOW! - he gave that
stupid woman a lead ball right in her waist. So fat she was with the benefit
of the crimes of her husband, the lead ball actually entered into her flesh!
"She jumped up, and she ran away screaming! She screamed, ‘Help, help,
they have shot my husband, and I too, I have taken a bullet!' But nobody
heard the sound of a gunshot, so nobody believed her, and they cursed that
stupid woman until they saw the blood on her side. Finally some of Martin's
acolytes came and carried him to the hospital. Oh, a black man's head must
really be hard, for how did that shameless gentleman live, and not die?"
Tears of laughter were tracing two lines down the sides of Gabriel's
short, blunt nose. He wiped them away, tossed the butt of his cigarette into
the drainage ditch that ran through the middle of his temple, and patted his
"And we? Well, we hid ourselves and went home, but we were laughing so
hard we almost couldn't walk. We felt ourselves free! We were brave! It
was revolution that we made there! And what was the best tasting thing of
all - Martin himself thought he was shot with a gun! He knew we didn't have
guns, so he began to suspect some of the other dirty guys that were his
friends. Then he accused some unfortunate, a poor man named André who knew
how to make charcoal stoves, because his father had taught him, and that was
how he made his meager daily bread. When Martin accused André, we went to
André and we took him into our bosom and we told him it was we who shot
Martin, and behold in what way the work was done...
"André laughed, André laughed, André laughed! And when André was done
laughing, we talked to him and we showed him things, and we taught him things
and we encouraged him. When done, André said, ‘My dear gentlemen, you don't
need to give your heads problems for Martin any more. I myself, poor
unfortunate that I am, I will kill Martin with my own hand.'
"But thunder burn us, he never got the chance, because in that same time
the blan soldiers came, and they crushed the Haitian Army. We were so happy!
And all the attachés went mawon, they all went into hiding. But Martin was
stupider than all of them. The blan soldiers said that they came to put
peace in the country, to give security for everyone. Martin was so stupid,
he was so lost, he really understood that the blan soldiers could protect
him. He believed in their guns, he thought because they had guns too, the
blan soldiers were like him, and that they would protect him. So he stayed
in his house like a king - the imbecile - and one day when he went out to go
to a funeral, the people all remembered together what he had done, and they
turned on him, and hit him with sticks, and broke his head open with rocks,
and they cut off his hands so that he could not do his works any more."
Gabriel shifted on his concrete block, trying to keep his ripped up
sneakers from the mud. The rain had started, dripping through the corrugated
"You see, Kathy, now Martin is dead and Franco has run away. Aristide
has returned, and we are the masters of the country."
Peace and love,
Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen
"Se bon ki ra",
Good is rare - Haitian Proverb
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