Fiction: Bartender Tales: The Quest For Bob Marley

Ricky is jobless and broke. He is desperate to get out of his bad situation but instead sits in bars, surfing the Internet. Enter Casey and Madison, two tourist girls who believe he can help them find some weed at a good price on the island. They see him as a conduit for fun. In them, he sees a way to make some quick money. And so begins their quest for the elusive “Bob Marley.”

i.

Alright, check a scene here, nuh. I had just pull up in a chair in this corner bar in Fort Willem when I see these two white gyals walk in, just me alone in the bar and a old brethren killing some scotch at the counter.

The two of them gyals was skinny bad. Maybe you put two of them together, you get half a gyal with some meat on she. Maybe. But one of them had some fresh looking tattoos though. I didn’t pay them no kind of attention, you know, just sit back, check my phone, scroll through the ‘Gram, send some Whatsapp messages, the usual.

I look up and see the same gyal with the tats sitting down on the other side of my table, just eyeing me like she want something. I don’t ask people they business except when they try confront me like that, so I straight up myself and fix my face in a, “Wha yo problem be?” kind of way. I man don’t show no love to them tourists at all, spending up they money, acting like they can buy anybody.

But she was looking good up close for truth, though, glasses like Eliza Thornberry, pretty smile, like a church gyal but with tats.

She say to me, “Bob Marley,” slow and quiet, like telling a secret.

It must have be a secret, self, because I man didn’t know what the hell the gyal was talking about.

And then she say, “You know where we can find some ‘Bob Marley?’ You know?”

She lifted up her hand in the air and put two fingers on her lips. I buss out laughing. That what they want? Okay, then.

She friend keep peeping over to our table.

“Sorry, I can’t help you,” I tell she.

“We had some friends come down on a cruise to The Bahamas, and they told us, all you do is say ‘Bob Marley’ to anybody, and they will know what you’re talking about,” she said. “We wanted to score here.”

“But this St. Maarten, though.”

“Not the same thing?”  She start to giggle.

I buss out laughing again.

“Not at all.”

She friend come over and sit down across from me, and say, “Let’s talk prices.”

“I already tell your friend I don’t know where to get your ‘Bob Marley.’”

“Look, we willing to pay whatever, okay?” the friend say.

Now, check a thing, before you start judging, I man aint see a dollar for three month ends. High season done, so they let me go from the line cook job. No big loss, but I was brokes bad.

I tell them, “Maybe I know a brethren or two who could hook you up. I chargin’ you, though. Finders’ fee.”

I half expect them to march out the door and down the street to find somebody else. But it was a Sunday afternoon. Nobody in town except for tourists and taxis.

“Alright,” the friend say. “My name is Madison. Maddy.”

“I’m Casey,” the tattoo gyal say.

“Call me Ricky,” I say. “Leh we find you some ‘Marley.’”

Yeah, I man don’t like how them tourists try to buy everybody, but boy, if I tell you how brokes does make a man forget he self and do funny things.

ii.

Meen had know, self, where to find this “Bob Marley” that the two white gyals had ask me for. I aint saying I never burn before. That would be a lie. Who didn’t used to be under the tree next to Chinese shop after school – back in the days when Primo and he gang used to be up and down in the scooters? But these days, I man don’t promote illegal activities, self, especially in the daylight. Too easy to get catch.

Madison was talking and talking while I was trying to think.

“We’re here with her parents but only in for the weekend, leaving tomorrow morning,” Madison was saying and pointing to her tatted friend, Casey. “We wanted to see how much we could score for the last day before we go. We met some other tourists at the resort, and they were willing to share a little bit, but they left yesterday. We tried asking around people at the resort, but nobody seemed to know where to go.”

That gyal had like to talk. I could already see that long time. I send off a couple messages and waited.

“Who your plug be?”

That was the message, simple and discreet. Somebody might look at that and tell me I paro. I don’t care. I already see inside Pointe Blanche once before, don’t want to go back.

“You say you was here with your parents? How you going to get away to enjoy yourself with them watching?”

“What do you mean?” Madison ask me. “We smoke with them.”

I was shocked. Let me ever try telling Esther that I wanted to smoke with she. See how fast she would have me running, even at my age of thirty-two.

“It’s a different culture,” I say.

Messages come onto my phone about the same time.

One padna say: “Check da rasta pannuh da does be on da bw.”

It’s a Sunday. Nobody on The Boardwalk today.

One gyal say: “I don’t kno who my plug name. Don’t have his number either. We used to meet him in a grp. But he was sketchy, so I don’t buy from him anymore.”

I reply to a bunch a messages.

“Any luck?” Casey ask me. If you remember, she was the nice looking one, like a church gyal with tats, quiet, too. I had like she bad from when she had sit down and ask me for Bob Marley.

“Almost, got a couple brethren who know a padna who does sell,” I say. It wasn’t a lie, for real. But The Rock is small. Everybody know somebody who know something about somebody else. I just need to find the ones who could hook me and these gyals up.

“See what you can do, okay?” she say to me. I look down and see her fingers resting on top of my hand. I checking now, maybe, I get paid two times for finding this stuff.

Another message had come in: “My coworker.”

Boy, I was excited. I get he number and starting messaging, back and forth. I never had try a deal like this before. I didn’t know how to ask or how much. The gyals say they were going to “pay whatever” to get it. That had make it easier I thought.

The Plug pass a price to me. I tell it to the gyals, expecting to link that deal one time.

“That’s too high,” Madison say. “We might be tourists, but we’re not stupid. We’re not paying that.”

I finally find a brethren, but now, I have to make the deal. The stores had close, but I feeling like I on Back Street trying to find “very good price.”

iii.

Man, them boney gyals was going to be trouble. I had know. I had know that was going to happen, but, chupse, like I say before brokes does make a man forget heself and do funny things. First problem was finding the “Bob Marley” them two tourist gyals had want. Alright, I find somebody who could hook them up. New problem! This gyal Madison (She like people call her Maddie) decide she don’t want to pay what this padnuh was asking for the stuff she had want. Look trouble!

To make matter worser, she friend, Casey, had she hand rubbing up on my hand, and man, I would be a liar in front of God self to tell you that didn’t feel good. Remember she was the nice-looking one with the tattoos and glasses?

Boy, all a sudden, I checking I man a negotiator, trying to find a price that the two of them would have agree on. Time keep passing by. I was ‘fraid self to ask about my finder’s fee. That was the only reason I even had agree to help them gyals. Only one of the reasons now. I had done decide that I would take the dollars from them and buy the stuff myself and take my fee from that. I had to do some quick maths in my head then, adding my fee to whatever them gyals wanted to pay and what The Plug wanted to sell for.

“What’s he saying?” Maddie had ask. She was getting vex. “Is he willing to give us an extra gram for that money? That’s the only way we going to buy it. Tell him that.”

Man, now I was vex self. That same gyal had say she would pay “whatever” for she damn Bob Marley. I was on Whatsapp trying to get The Plug to bring down the price.

I tell him: “Padna, dese gyals tourists. Sell it cheap n u could keep make more sales today or tomorrow self.”

My boy wasn’t agreeing. “Nah, dread. this aint Back Stret. i would b losin n that deal.”

Chupse, this wasn’t worth it. I was about to say “fyah” to them gyals and they stupid vacation smoking.

“Any luck?” Casey had ask. “Can you get us a better price? Something fairer?”

She little fingers had hold on to my hand tight, tight. I man had feel like I was the only thing keeping she alive. Chupse, boy, I decide something stupid right there.

I squeeze the gyal hand back and The Plug a message.

“Why do people keep trying to take advantage of us here?” Madison say. “Like, we’re tourists, duh, but we know better. She and I smoke all the time in Connecticut. I sell, too. They can’t fool us.”

All a sudden, I had feel like I was on the wrong side of this “us” and “they” talk again. But no matter, The Plug hit me back up. He had agree to my offer. I decide to say “fyah” to my finder’s fee. I didn’t want to tell the gyals them, maybe I could still make a little change off them or something else.

“Alright, leh we go,” I say, standing up.

The gyals look up, maybe they didn’t understand, but they could follow directions. I point to the doors, and the gyals had walk out. Wait, I checking I lie to you just now. It’s not just brokes that does make a man do funny things. While I man was watching Casey boney waist wiggle through that door, I was checking, “Boy, that does also make a man forget heself, bad!”

iv.

The padna had say come check he up in FQ. I had my car park up on the side of the road by Great Bay. That place does be full most of the time, but on a Sunday, all them people on the beach.

I was walking in front of the gyals and lead them up to my trans. I just get she fresh up for a flex last night, wash and shine. My Corolla was looking sweet. And that gyal Madison check that one time.

“Oh, nice car!” she say.

“Yeah, okay, get inside,” I say.

But of course, she jump in the front seat, and she friend Casey sit down in the back. I should her tell she sit she bony self down in the back, let me talk to she friend in the front seat. But never mind.

“You okay?” I ask.

“I’m alright,” Madison say.

Gyal, I wasn’t talking to you!

Man, I was ready to cuss she off and done with it.

“I’m fine,” Casey say. “I’m just really glad you’re willing to do this for us.”

“I just don’t want to end up on CNN or anything, so don’t murder us, okay?” Madison say. “You are a stranger after all.”

Boy. One. More. Time.

The road was empty, and I press down on the gas hard to speed up to SG. We drive down the main road pass the old Seaman’s Club and the washing machines they have park up on the road. Then climb up the hill and drive down through the roundabout and across the border.

I slow down one time. I don’t want no trouble from no Gendarmes at all. The Dutch side po-po bad enough, but them French man them, boy, ruthless. They does walk around with guns like from Call of Duty in Marigot. I man aint trying to cross they paths.

“A cow? A cow? You have cows here?” Madison ask.

A big brown cow was just pull up by the side of the road alone, chewing on some grass, minding she business. Just like me before this gyal ask me about finding Bob Marley.

“I’d like to see more of the island later, after we’re done, if you have time,” Casey say.

Two-twos, I man flashback to she hand on my hand just now inside the bar. Oh, yeah, later start sounding real nice, self. By that time, I clean forget I was trying to hustle she for some change from the start.

I pull off on a dirt road by the big church they used to use. My trans was bumping and shaking on the climb. I hit she on a rock that was in the middle of road. I cuss one time. I stop the car, look up, no damage I could see.

“Are we close?” Madison again.

I ignore she tired self and stop the car. The Plug had say find the tamarind tree at the end of the road. I reach. But he wasn’t there.

I take out my phone to check Whatsapp. I see some new messages. Some people was just now answering back on my question about they plugs. I send off a message The Plug I was trying to meet. Little clock sign. Two minutes pass. Still, little clock sign.

No service on the French side? Of course!

The padna got a French side number, too, and I man don’t want pay them international fees and roaming charges. These gyals already costing me time and my poor sweet Betsy.

“Is he not coming?” Casey ask. “What’s taking so long?”

“Okay, road trip, we going back Dutch side real quick,” I say.

v.

Boy, meen had want drive back Dutch side, self. But I man had already waste gas and time checking for these gyals Bob Marley, so I checking, “Why not?”
My seatbelts on again because, yeah, it still the French side. I decide self let me pull my trans into BVD and just use my cell phone data plan. Just when I reach the gap by the old people home and about to swing in, this padna come speeding through the roundabout up the road and almost hit my car. But I was already too vex to cuss. I just suck my teeth, and pull up by the little playground.
Madison had say: “Did you see that? I can’t believe that. You’re just allowed to drive like that.”
I man aint had the patience left in me to talk to she no more, so I just let she talk. She friend, Casey, wasn’t saying nothing.
“You alright?” I ask she.
“He could have hit us.”
“Don’t worry. You fine. I can make sure.”
She smile then and there, and I man was feeling good. I walk out the trans, lift up my phone to check the signal. Okay, alright. Not bad. I push the call button on Whatsapp and listen to it ring.
The Plug my friend had hook me up with aint pick up. I try again. Man still aint pick up. I walk a little bit into the bush and turn my back to the trans. I man was bussing to pee bad.
Next thing, I hear sirens. The po-po dusting to the French side border. One car. Two cars. Four. What now?
My phone start ringing. The Plug calling.
“Yo, wha’ goin’ on?” he say.
“Padna, where you be? I reach there and you not there.”
“I had a scene to check. I there now. Where you be?”
“Dutch side. Belvedere.”
“That cool. You right there. Just come through and check me. Same tree.”
I hear sirens on the phone.
“What’s that sound?”
“Gendarmes doin’ something. I don’t really watch what them French man be doing.”
“Driving fast? Going Dutch side?”
“Yeah, I can’t see self, but that looking like the scene. So wha’?”
“Hold on.”
I look down at my phone, checking messages.
The road hot. Five-O chasing car thiefs across the border.
Stay off the road. Trouble goig through.
“Yo, you there?” I hear he say.
“Something happen. I can’t meet you again.”
“Why?”
“No license. No insurance. Police stop me. They goin’ take my car.”
“Padna, they aint going do you nothing.”
“Then why you don’t come ‘cross then?”
“Nah, boy, them boys in blue looking for self. My side ting saying I beat she up. She lie! But yeah, I aint letting them see me neither.”
“Cool, then, no deal.”
“Wait, wait, I could meet you at Kimsha. You could drive there right?”
“Nah, padna, too much trouble.”
“Wait, wait, I could give you a discount. Same price you had want.”
“Cool, thirty minutes. Kimsha.”
I checking, maybe, I could make some change for true. Maybe.

vi.

Madison was just chatting and chatting. The whole damn drive that gyal just could shut she mouth. A bunch of dumb questions she asking me like she on tour.

“Why does this road smell so weird?”

“Why’s that hill on fire, there on the lake?”

I keep telling myself, ‘Only a little more time then I could get rid of that one and have some change in my pocket and she friend taking care of me.’

She friend, Casey, had say: “It’s getting late.”

Madison say: “Uh-oh, and you haven’t called Justin today. Trou-ble.”

Casey ask me: “Is there WiFi on the beach?”

The whole time, I man thinking I could get with Casey. She a cute little thing, boney, no backside, but pretty face, sexy tattoos. That woulda make the whole trip worth it. And she was showing me positive vibes, too! In the bar, remember? Touching my hand and thing.

 I aint even answer she. I had to ask. “Who Justin be?”

Madison answer: “Her boyfriend. They’re very in looooove.”

I peep in the mirror and see Casey looking guilty like I just catch she thiefing.

“Yeah,” she say. “He’s been getting my mad lately, but I don’t want to worry him.”

Boy, if I tell you how much it had hurt me to hear that. I man was expecting some a little something from she, and now come find out she was fooling me the whole time. I aint say nothing else.

It had traffic on Bush Road, traffic on Cole Bay, traffic on Cake House road. Accidents non-stop. It’s like everybody forget how to drive at the same time, or worser, decide they want to drive like tourists, slowing down wherever and taking the roundabouts backwards. Whole time in my head, I counting up the money I would be getting.

It was only six thirty but place was looking dark up, dark up.

I pull the car off the road on Kimsha and park up by the little barbecue place they have there. I turn off the car. The Plug had say check he by the shack they have there behind all the trees.

“Oh, remember the Wifi!” Madison say.

She point over to the bar up the street. “Maybe they have there. Let’s go.”

“The money,” I say.

“Oh, yeah,” Madison say.

She pull out a couple twenties from a stack in she purse and give me enough to pay The Plug.

Before she went, Casey say: “Thanks for doing this for us. We owe you, okay? I do anyway, whatever you want while I’m still here.”

She and Casey walk out to the bar, and I was sitting down in the car, thinking. Man, looking back, I shoulda just take the money and drive off, wasn’t nothing stopping me but a lot of stupid. I don’t know what foolishness tell me go meet this man. I must have still be hoping for a piece, thinking that was going to happen.

I walk outside to the trees looking for The Plug.

vii.

A mind had tell me, “Stop your stupidness. You dotin or wah?”

I should have just buss off. But nah, I walking on the damn cold beach, with sand fulling up my slippers. I walk and sink, walk and sink. Like the whole beach was asking me if I “dotin or wah.” Meen had know, self, what to say back.

Them two white gyals was maybe drinking they heads full and taking selfies with caption saying: “Check how we got this fool boy looking for ‘Bob Marley’ for we.”

I spit. “Bob Marley” is a stupid name for weed. Just call the thing by it name and done. I blame them clowns in other islands, telling the tourists what they want to hear  and doing all kinds of stupidness for them, just for money.

Me? Nah, I different. If I was there just for the money, I would have done take it and run.

Why I was there then? Good question. I must have still believe I was getting a piece.

I see a padna pull in the trees by the far side of the beach. The place already turn night, only lights from the big hotels and from the bars. I can kinda see that he there, looking like he waiting for something.

“Yo, the padna I looking for?”

He pull out a small bag. “Five ounces. Eighty dollars.”

He hand was stick out.

“What happen to the discount?”

He voice sound like he was going to curse. “Oh, yeah, I had forget that, self. Sixty-five.”

I reach into my pocket and take out the twenties from my pocket. “Take sixty or give me change.”

“What I look like, a casino, a chiney shop?”

I was ready to box him off, self. But then the place get dark complete. All the lights gone. All the music stop. GEBE take the current. I suck my teeth.

In the dark, I feel he hand snatch the money from me. He shot off running, and before I was thinking, I was running behind he. Slippers them still sinking in the sand. We must have look like two fools in that dark kicking up the sand, splashing like children.

I curse. He curse back. Now, my foots reach concrete, and I running properly. He out of shape self wasn’t faster than me. I catch up with him by the street, pull his shirt and drop him on the ground and start boxing him. The bag of weed fall somewhere close.

A car driving down from Pelican stop in front of the two of we, headlights bright. I turn and start cursing the driver. A police walk out, in uniform and thing.

I get up and try to run.

“Freeze,” he say, hand on gun, sounding like he from Curacao.

I freeze. They had find the bag and lock me up for fighting or for weed. I don’t know. I had sit down in Pointe Blanche for three months, and I bet the tourists must have think I thief they money. Funny, right?

I aint get no piece, no money, boy.

One of these days, I going to tell you how I start working at bars after that.

*Note:

Meen translates to “I don’t.” The first person singular objective case is used here with a truncated version “aint” or not. Meen know translates to “I don’t know.” Meen want translates to “I don’t want” and so on.

Padna and pannuh are used interchangeably here. They are the colloquial equivalents of brother or, more aptly, bro, when used as nouns of direct address. Either word could also be used to refer to a man or boy, referred to in the third person, usually with some informality and distance attached to it.

 

 **This story appeared as a seven-part series in The Daily Herald  each week from July 6 to August 17.

 

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