Of his early life and motive for turning pirate we are as yet ignorant. He declared himself an Irishman by birth, but his real name and place of nativity was, he said, a secret he would never disclose. To the windward of Jamaica his ship ran afoul.
IF HER FATHER HAD NOT BEEN a justice of the peace, Ida might never have come to know the movie star.
On a sunny morning in 1946, Ida Joseph stood outside her house in Port Antonio, leaning against her fathers car. She was glad to be thirteen because it meant the end of childhood and the beginning of womanly responsibilities like picking out her own shoes. Her shoes that day were white and went well, she thought, with her pink-and-white dress. It was good to be outside after three days of rain. Looking around, she saw no sign of the bad weather. The ground was dry. The early sun revealed a patch of mountainside and warmed the car behind her.
The street she lived on, Plumbago Road, was in the hilly part of the town, foothills of the Blue Mountains. From where she stood she could see the sea. Any minute now the ship would appear on the horizon. It was Saturday and that meant she would drive down to the harbor with her father.
Eli Joseph wasnt paid for his services as a justice of the peace. He earned a living operating a small taxi business. There were two taxis: a hired man drove the old gray Morris, and Mr. Joseph drove the black Chrysler that Ida now leaned against. Most Saturdays she would go with him, first to the courthouse to see if anyone needed him to notarize documents. After that they made a few stops, maybe at the pharmacy or the Cricket Oval. Then they would drive to the harbor to pick up passengers.
When the United Fruit Company ships arrived, all the life of Port Antonio drew to the harbor. They were huge, sleek ships, part of the companys Great White Fleet, and they impressed Ida. Her father, who often went aboard, told her that above deck was luxury, pure luxury, with air-conditioned lounges and spacious rooms for the American passengers. Below deck, the real business of the vessel took place: bananas - thousands of them, loaded into the refrigerated holds for the ships return voyage to America. The loading of bananas always took place at night. During the daytime bustle of arriving and departing tourists, the banana workers were practically invisible. Instead, there would be cart men selling coconut water and souvenirs, straw weavers with jipijapa hats, calypso singers with maracas and guitars; the crazy man who called himself King George the Fifth would be there too, and taxi drivers would guide the passengers through the crowd.
Ida! she heard her mother calling from inside the house.
Ida turned to face the car window, where, after a quick approval of her reflection, she took in the beige seats of the Chrysler. It was a big car with room for four passengers in the back. One of the things she liked best about driving in the taxi was the way the foreigners smelled. She wasnt sure what it was exactly - it wasnt on them; it was around them and around their luggage as if theyd brought some of the foreign air with them.
It was unusual for a man like Eli Joseph - a white man and a Syrian - to drive a taxi. He was actually Lebanese, but in Jamaica they were all called Syrians: the Jews, Lebanese, Arabs, and actual Syrians who had come to Jamaica and made fortunes, all of them except Eli Joseph. A man of great ideas, he was often heard saying, If I could just raise enough capital.
He was considered a character, not so much by the people of Port Antonio as by his family in Kingston, the wealthy Joseph-Hanna clan who owned the beer and soda business. To the black people of Port Antonio, the fact that he was a Joseph, a white man, and a justice of the peace guaranteed him a certain amount of respect; that he played dominoes and drank rum with them earned him their affection.
Excerpted from The Pirate's Daughter byMargaret Cezair-Thompson Copyright © 2007 by Margaret Cezair-Thompson. Excerpted by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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