Photo by Philip Hartigan

Photo by Philip Hartigan

Her Mommy and Daddy were afraid to leave the island, and they never had. They were sure God took special care of Eleuthera Island where they lived, and he made it safe for His people. He gave them fish, and pineapples, and plenty of places to grow tomatoes and raise chickens. He gave them flowers, and tall willowy pine trees and birds that sang to them in the early morning.

God could be a strict parent, too, her daddy said. He brought fierce storms from the sea, and winds that tore at their houses and carried away what they had built. “It’s God’s way of sayin’ we be disobedient childrens”, Daddy told her. “When God get angry with us, he takes away the things we love more than we love Him. Then we gots to accept His punishment. God knows the best for us.”

After the sun went down and there was nothing to do because everything was dark, Daddy would tell stories until she and Mommy fell asleep. Sometimes they would be stories that the pastor in the Methodist Church on Lord Street would tell on Sundays and Daddy would use a big voice like Mr. Peter. Most times, though, daddy’s stories were the ones he knew from his own mama, stories about the devil and how he was right behind you all the time, ready to reach out and grab you when you weren’t looking and didn’t have a prayer on your lips.

“The Debbil, he looks for the weak ones,” Daddy would say, and he would tell about his own brother Sam who left Eleuthera and went to Miami, Florida, to find work and was hit by a car and died the day after he got there. “Debbil knew Sam should have stayed on ‘Lutra,” Daddy said. “That boy, he go off looking for money and womens, and he goes right to the place where the Debbil lives and the Debbil just takes him and he never comes back.”

And Daddy would almost always finish his stories with the same words: “You stay away from where the Debbil be hidin’, and you listen for what God wants, and you say ‘Thank you, Jesus’ every time you takes a breath.”

That was a good philosophy, as far as it went, but when Momma got sick and the air ambulance came to take her to the doctors in Nassau, Daddy was angry and sad. That first night she was gone he drank lots of rum and the next morning he borrowed money and left the island on the early morning airplane out of Rock Sound. She saw the plane go over the house as it left the island and she waved as hard as she could, but she knew her daddy couldn’t see her.

When he came home, he was alone and he was even angrier than before. “How can a man love a wife too much?” he yelled up at the sky. “How can You punish me for that? You are not a God who loves his children, you are the Debbil hisownself. I truly do hate You, and all You stand for.”

Daddy stood in the yard, yelling and waving a fist at the sky, and she was very afraid and stayed inside the house, waiting for the terrible storm of God’s anger.

But the world never stopped.

Writing prompt from Patricia Ann McNair

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