My own interpetation of a barbershop from growing up in an area populated with numerous folk from Caribbean islands in particulat Jamaica. This still needs to be neatened up in places but I want to post a snapshot of what goes down in barbershops.
Champy turned up the volume as the smooth voice hummed through the speakers, Hutton nodded along to drums as Rupert Theo blessed the microphone. The customers were in for a treat but they didn’t know it yet. What the Night Redeems by Rupert Theo was the biggest record the country had ever seen. Jamaica was officially recognised a home to music, reggae music. Champy had been around long enough to understand what this particularly meant to the people of Jamaica.
“Now dat is moozic!” Champy bellowed “All ah dat boogo boogo raas cyaan touch dis ‘ere!”
“Champy, turn it down nuh!” Eric raised his voice over the song, “Mi sick ah ‘earin’ dis ‘ere choon pon ah soun’ system.”
Champy ignored Eric’s plea and turned it up some more, he shuffled back over to his chair and danced behind it. Samuel watched in the mirror as Champy performed a version of some eighties dance. Eric watched on unimpressed at his boss’ dance moves.
“Champy yuh to big fi dance like Michael Jackson nuh!” Eric laughed.
“Dis nah Michael Jackson, dis Champy!” He exclaimed.
The customers erupted with laughter as Champy began ducking and jumping to the beat, old man Hutton struggled up from his seat and encouraged Champy to continue. Eric stood back in amazement as Champy worked up a sweat. The loud noise casued Mr Sherman from the insurance broker next door to come in and see what was going on.
“Champy, turn down dis raas noise, mi ‘ave customer in ah my office.”
“Nah suh, mi gettin’ right in ah mi groove nuh.”
“Champy, every raas day you ah groove. W’appen to yuh?”
“Mid life crisis” Eric thought out loud.
The cassette tape peeled out of the tape deck stopping the song. The shop groaned in unison and Champy fell in to his seat visibly exhausted. He picked up a towel and wiped his forehead dry. Kevin wandered over to stereo and ejected the cassette.
“Kevin, where di raas, yuh buy dat cassette?” Champy asked.
“ Shirleen ah ‘ave a ‘ole ‘eap” his baritone voice vibrated through the shop. “She recard dem from one cassette to di nex’ an’ sell dem fi five dolla’.”
“Raas, Shirleen always affi mek prafit fram some scheme” Champy sighed.
“Champy, nex’ time mi ah step foot in ah dis place, it ah be far a trim! Nat to ‘ear yuh blootclart naise, ya simmi!” Mr Sherman resembled a school teacher when he pointed his finger.
“Sekkle, Shermy di party done.”
Mr. Sherman slammed the shop door closed and returned to his office. Eric returned his focus to Samuel’s hair. The shop encountered a brief moment of silence until the door swung open and a tall man walked in whistling What the Night Redeems. Everyone stopped and stared at him until he stopped whistling and took a seat next to Hutton. Champy signalled the tall man to his seat and prepared to cut his hair.
“Di problem I ‘ave wit’ dat recard is dat it meks Jamaica look like paradise” Eric spoke.
“Fa real” Samuel agreed.
“So, wha’ di problem?” Champy asked covering the tall man with a sheet.
“Dis place is nat a paradise” Eric moaned.
“Dem mek videos dat play pon di telly dat show Ocho Rios and Negril and dem people deh tink all ah Jamaica look like dat” Samuel spoke.
“Exactly!” Eric’s comment was met with nods from Kevin and a teenager in dark sunglasses.
“But why is dat a problem? It means mar people ah come to Jamaica” Hutton proclaimed “Mar tarism is mar money for di nation.”
“Oo gets dat money?” Eric spun round pointing his clippers at Hutton, “You? Certainly nat me, nat mi bredrin Sammy ere ar my yout’ Lewis.” The teenager in sunglasses nodded at the sound of his name. “Di people don’t see a cent fram dese tarists ar di five star ‘otel dem ah sleep in ta raas!”
“It’s nat up to dem fi feed di people, dem need fi feed demselves.” Champy chimed in “das the tarism business, it ah work fi dem. Ya tink mi like seein’ Marley wid ‘im dreads ar di Jacksons an’ dere afros. Nah suh, dat ah mek it ah tren’ wid di yout’ dem an’ none ah come cut dem ‘air” Champy argued.
“True” Eric agreed turning to Samuel’s hair.
“But it nah do nutten fi you Champy” the tall man said.
“How yuh mean?”
“Well dem likkle tarist video nah mek tarist come ‘ere. Dere nuh beach round ‘ere suh. Dem stay well aweh fram towns like dis, dey only wan’ di beach an’ di fry fish wit festival.”
“Raas me ‘ungry” Hutton moaned.
“But it’s far di bigga pickcha nah. Right now we need di Island fi look good to di res’ af di worl’. We cyaan show pure gunman in ah di gully, lickin’ aff shats at di police. Dem tarists nah feel safe in ah dat.”
“But di gunman ah come ah barbershap fi ‘im trim” Kevin spoke winding the tape back in to the cassette.
“Nat fram you!” Eric joked causing the shop to burst in to hysterics. Kevin kissed his teeth and continued with the cassette.
“Nah ‘im mek a good point still” Samuel spoke “Ah big video in ah dis place ah mek you ah rich man Champy. Someone like Sweet Tooth ar Starr Man ah-”
“Mi nah wan eny af dat raas naise in ah my establishment!” Champy boomed “Dem man ah tink dey are mafia gangman. Dat nah do nutten far me ar Jamaica.”
“Wha’? Dem man ah revolutionise di music in ah Jamaica, yuh tink di yout’ dem wan fi ‘ere What di raas night redeem? Nah suh dem wan some choon dey can relate to” Eric moaned.
“Far real” Samuel agreed.
Greg J Allman
This is an extract from a short I’m currently working on. Don’t let the dialogue throw you off in any sense it’s written in Jamaican patois.
Thelma clambered in to her kitchen dumping the grocery bags on the floor. She didn’t allow the Fran and those at the culinary event to destroy her passion for cooking. Her faith in her own ability took a knock however. She packed away her shopping and decided to work on dinner. She took out two chicken breasts and began seasoning them. She didn’t have an exact idea of what she was going to make but most nights she never did. She just let her inspirations take over. Ryan came in to the kitchen with music blaring from his headphones. He was dripping in sweat from his daily run.
“Wh’appen mummy?” He kissed her forehead.
“’ow yuh do?”
“Recard time nuh. Mi gan Olympics nex’ year.” He laughed.
Thelma opened a cupboard and began studying the different dry rubs she had available. She snatched a few off the shelf and shut the door. Ryan was leaning on the counter watching his mother closely.
“What?” She asked.
“Why yuh nah enter far di cookin’ ting dis year?”
“Ahh Ryan, mi nah wan’ ‘ear ‘bout dis again.”
“Why? You is ah excellent chef.”
“Ryan, stap it nuh.”
“Di kitchen is yare element. It’s where yuh belang mummy” he cried.
Thelma stopped what she was doing, her head sunk. Ryan’s words had touched a nerve deep inside her. Ryan walked over and placed a poster for the event beside her.
“Get dat ting away fram me” she moaned.
“Dat ooman ‘as ruined everyting. Dem judges nah see pas’ ‘er breas’ and smile.”
Ryan laughed at his mother’s comment. “Look dem ‘ave new judges dis year.” He slid the poster closer to her. Thelma glanced over the poster; she noticed the red lettering stating ‘New Judging Panel’. Her stomach tensed, a new judging panel meant that she really did have a clear chance of winning.
“Mi see yuh face light up!” Ryan beamed.
“It ah good chance, I mus’ say.” Thelma read over the poster.
“Doi people dem will be shocked to see you return.”
Thelma walked away from the poster and stared out the window. The people she thought to herself. The people will cause her the biggest problem of all. Her actions at the previous event still haven’t been forgotten. She hears them whispering to each other in the market. Fran was loved by everyone in the town; she couldn’t make an enemy of these people even if she tried. Thelma put herself on the opposing side to Fran. The new judges would’ve heard about the history between the two, if Fran’s able to sway their vote with her personality and popularity; Thelma wouldn’t stand a chance. She knew she had to stop Fran in her tracks. Fran was calculated enough to use every tactic possible to win, Thelma could not let that happen.
“I gonna enter this time roun’” she proclaimed bringing a smile to her son’s face. “But it ‘ave to be a joint effart wid me an’ you.”
“Anyting I can do, I will.” Ryan spoke up. This was music to Thelma’s ears.
“Good, I ‘ave ah job far you.”
“What kin’ ah job?”
“You need to go an spy pon Fran. Fin’ out wha’ she cookin’ far dis year’s event.”
“What? ‘ow mi ah do dat?”
“It nah simple. She ah recognise me as your son. She see mi dere at di event standin’ wid you.” Ryan edged to the doorway.
“Mummy, I will ‘elp any way I can, but mi can’t spy on Fran. ‘ow will I even get in to her ‘ouse?”
“I know, it was ah silly idea. Gwan fi shower I will call you when dinner is ready.” Thelma spoke absently. Ryan tapped the wall and headed upstairs leaving Thelma staring blankly at out of the window.
Ryan sat across his mother at the dinner table; neither spoke a word. Ryan kept looking up at his mother to catch her eye. He cleared his throat a few more times than he needed to, but that still wasn’t enough to spark a conversation. He played with the food on his place, humming random tunes and whistling. Thelma didn’t bat an eyelid. Years of raising a child alone provided her with the ability to have a heart of stone when necessary. It seems that this was one of those times. Ryan knew exactly what his mother was doing. But unlike her he doesn’t have a heart of stone; in fact he has a need to please. No one knows this better than Thelma. She got up from the table and washed her plate in the sink. The silence was eating away at Ryan one bite at a time. He stared at his mother before dropping his head in his hands.
“Sam ‘ave ah outfit mi can borrow” Ryan blurted out. Fran didn’t respond. “’im say it ah belang to ‘im farda but ‘im nah use it.”
“You wan’ mi to pick it up?”
“Why nat? Yuh say yuh wan’ mi to spy dis is di bes’ way.”
“Yuh nah wan’ to. Mi nah wan’ yuh to do it” Thelma spoke washing the contents of the sink. Ryan laughed aloud causing Thelma to finally look at him.
“You nah wan’ mi to do dis cah mi nah wan’ to. ‘ow many times yuh make me gwan church” Ryan laughed. “You ah chat-” he was cut off by a stern glare from his mother. That same stare that leads in to her losing her temper, Ryan has seen it one too many times.
“Look, I will go an’ get it tomorrow. Den we can ‘atch a plan.”
“No” Thelma replied.
“Mummy, mi sarry far nat agreeing straight away. I jus’ tink we need a plan firs’” Ryan’s fist inadvertently slammed the table. Thelma raised her eyebrows; she never accepted disrespect in any form. But she loved to see her son show passion.
“No” she repeated. “Gwan get it now.” Ryan leapt up from his seat and headed out the door. Thelma watched on through the window as Ryan jogged up the pathway. She made sure she was out of sight before cutting a smile.
Greg J Allman