Mummy worked for Daddys company, a muffler and water
tank factory in Laventille, about ten minutes walk
from our house in Morvant.
Saturdays Id make my way to Daddys factory,
in the ground floor of his house, and spend the day sitting
in the office, prowling around the factory floor or running
in the razor grass in the big back yard.
August holidays were two months of Saturdays.
A smellof dust and thick engine grease and welding
rods and rust and ozoneclung to everything in the
factory, including me and Daddy and Mummy, by the end of
the day. The office was no exception.
Enveloped in that smell, I would play grown up and sit in
the office sometimes, studiously recording the numbers of
the vehicles that came in for work on the twin ramps over
the six-foot-deep pit where the mufflers were installed.
Oxy-acetylene torches flared in front, roaring dully and
pitching orange sparks over the welders in their thick,
round goggles and navy-blue coveralls. In the back, arc
welding, this with red Lincoln plants and zinc-coated rods,
also pitching sparks, but smelling like singed hair and
sounding like science-fiction: ziewzzzz
In the grassy back yard, Daddy (for reasons perhaps buried
in his Quinam upbringing) kept two goats. They stank awfully
and ate everything that wasnt metal, but they produced
the sweetest milk Ive ever had. Somewhere, theres
a picture of me, about ten years old, grinning and hugging
a brown goat, in the grass, next to some old iron.
Though we did go to the US a couple of times, most holidays
found us only going as far as Tobago.
We took the boat over, Mummy and my brother and sister and
I, playing all-fours on the rolling deck with strangers
who tried to pick up my sister. My brother, always seasick,
hated it. I loved the fresh, salty, open smell up there;
loathed the dank diesel of the car deck, the cloying vomit
reek of the corridors.
In Tobago we stayed with another brother, visited yet another
brother. Spent days toasting to deep chocolate brown on
the fine white sand of Store Bay. Up to now I dont
care for another beach. Face the waves, dive into them.
Swim out. Come back in.
Two weeks of that and then back home on the boat again,
laden with bene balls, rich, dripping magenta-red mango,
peppermint sticks and pink and white sugar cake.
Home, skin peeling, buying new books and new shoes; holidays
always ended too soon.