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Mother and Child

Jamaican Style

By Geoffrey Philp Published 11 months ago 4 min read
Runner-Up in Painted Prose Challenge
Mother and Child by Barrington Watson

Mavis wanted to hate Timmy. He was the dead stamp of the man who had told her the only thing he wanted to do was “to stare into her eyes for the rest of his life.” But when Mavis told him she was pregnant, he disappeared

And then the tribulations began. The little work Mavis could get at the bar where she'd worked for five years dried up. The owner told her that the men didn't want to see any “big belly woman” who reminded them of their wives at home. They had enough problems, and the last thing they needed was someone who looked like the troubles they were running away from.

No one in Kingston wanted to hire Mavis, and she got tired of the landlord's promise that if she had sex with him, he would ease up on the rent. But after three months, when Mavis couldn't find the rent money, she gathered what little she had and went back to live with her mother in Barneyside, a small town in Westmoreland.

It was as bad as Mavis remembered. There was no electricity and no running water in the house. If she wanted water, she would have to go downstairs to the water tank that gathered the rainwater. When Mavis was ten, she saw a dead rat floating on the water. From then on, even when she was thirsty, Mavis always made sure the water was boiled.

What made matters worse was when she had to do “her business,” as her mother called it, she had to use the latrine under an avocado that bore the creamiest fruit in summer. She hated the latrine, not only because of the flies and the stench but because of the lizards.

One night when she couldn't hold her pee any longer, she went to the latrine. When she pulled up her dress, she felt a lizard wriggling through her panties. Mavis screamed so loudly her mother grabbed her kitchen knife and ran as fast as she could to the latrine--thinking that Mavis had been cornered by one of the men in a local gang. The gang had captured the Great House on the hill that overlooked their house and had been abandoned during Jamaica's undeclared civil war.

But the men in the gang didn't bother her. At twenty-five, she was too old for their tastes. They preferred the girls in high school, and the don for the area often sent messages to the parents of a girl he had been watching. If the parents couldn't smuggle their daughter out of the town, the girl would have to be delivered to the doorstep of the don--like it was in the old slavedom days. After the don got bored with the girl, he passed her to one of his captains.

Although her pregnancy had kept her away from the don and his men after Timmy was born, she noticed that the men began calling her from the street corners.

That's when Mavis decided to go back to church with her mother. Not because she believed but because the men still had respect for a “sanctified woman” despite their murderous pasts. Plus, she’d already had a kid, and who wanted a “brand new second hand”? They stopped completely when she started wearing long dresses and a big wooden cross that covered her chest.

But that didn't stop Reverend Wiley, her mother's church pastor. He hired Mavis to care for his children, but when his wife wasn't around, he would accidentally bump into her.

At first, Mavis thought it was an accident, but then the accidents became more frequent. Soon his hands were down her blouse and up her skirt, and the more she complained, the more he became excited. So every Monday, like clockwork, she'd expect the usual feel-up after he had finished preparing his sermon for the next week.

Mavis knew it wasn't right, but what was she going to do? Complain to his wife? Gloria, his wife, knew what Reverend Wiley was doing but ignored everything he did. So what if he was a pastor with a “wandering eye”? Gloria was content with the gifts the reverend bought her, especially when a girl like the last one got pregnant and she had to pay an obeah woman to “dash away the baby.”

And when the reverend felt especially repentant, she always got a ring or some jewelry. Gloria was slowly working her way up to a trip to Miami.

Mavis had no such future. She needed the money to pay her mother, who cared for Timmy—"her mistake,” as her mother called him. From the first day she moved back, her mother said, “I expect you to pay for you and your own. The Bible says the man who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat.” If Mavis didn't pay her mother, she and Timmy would be out the door.

So Mavis would have to put up with the reverend and hope that her temper--which had gotten her kicked out of her mother's house when she was sixteen--didn't get the better of her.

But this morning, when she wanted to sleep in a little bit later than usual- before she would catch the bus to hell--she heard when Timmy got out of bed. She opened one eye and then another. Goosebumps covered her arms and legs. How could she not love this little creature who had taken his chimmy from under his bed and moved as close as he could to do his business? Mavis didn't say a word. She just looked at him. For in a world surrounded by so many dangers, she was happy she could give him a space where he felt safe.


About the Creator

Geoffrey Philp

I am a Jamaican writer. I write poems (haiku & haibun), stories & essays about climate change, Marcus Garvey, music icons such as Bob Marley, and the craft of writing. For more info, visit my webpage:

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (6)

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  • Test10 months ago

    What a moving story and so rich in detail and reality. Great writing.💙Anneliese

  • Ava Mack10 months ago

    Congrats, Geoffrey!

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Congratulations on runner up!!!❤️❤️💕

  • D. ALEXANDRA PORTER10 months ago

    Congratulations on Runner-up! 🏆👏🏆👏

  • Meagan Dion11 months ago

    Well written. Kudos!

  • D. ALEXANDRA PORTER11 months ago

    This is phenomenal; Congratulations!

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