Every afternoon, around four, the iguana fell out of the coconut tree. Bdup! While sunbathing, it had fallen asleep, relaxing its grip, dropping from a considerable height. It always landed like a cat, on all fours, ready to fight. The dogs always went berserk, gnashing and chasing after the creature as it fled, scuttling across the grass, a streak of lime green disappearing off into the undergrowth.
'It never remembers the day before,' Sabine remarked. 'Never remembers its dreams, either, I suppose. Brain like a peanut. '
The lizard's daily plummet acted like an alarm clock, prompting Sabine to make their afternoon pot of tea. She went to put the kettle on.
'Jennifer, tell your son Talbot to come and kill that damn lizard.'
But Jennifer only rolled her eyes. She'd dominated the kitchen all day, baking gooey cakes and sweet-breads, stewing chicken with brown sugar. She'd been making pellau for the weekend. On the kitchen table, two halves of Madeira sponge were just out of the oven, cooling on racks.
'It upsets the dogs.'
'It's driving me crazy.'
'Let de dog go bite it, nuh, den dey go see somptin!'
'I don't want it to bite the dogs.'
'Dem dogs chupid.'
'Not my little one, ma petite. '
'She de woss. '
'Oh Jennifer, how can you say that?'
'If dat lizard go fall on she, she go dead.'
'Don't say that.'
Jennifer chuckled, enjoying the thought of the lizard falling on Katinka's glossy Pomeranian head.
'I want Talbot to kill it.'
'He won't kill it.'
'Talbot 'fraid dat lizard too bad.'
'Don't be ridiculous. He can cook it, or do whatever he wants with it.'
'Put it in a pot,' Jennifer teased her.
'Stew it up.'
Sabine flinched, making a wincing-chewing face.
'It taste nice, boy.' Jennifer stifled a laugh.
'No, thank you.'
'You never taste it?'
'Of course not, eh, eh,' Sabine steupsed, sucking her teeth.
Jennifer laughed and Sabine poked out her tongue in response.
Jennifer was mostly African, mixed up with some Spanish blood, or so she claimed. Her arms were heavy and her hips had spread, but she was proud of her heart-shaped face, her round polished cheekbones. She waxed her kinky hair and pinned it up. Jennifer smelled rich, coconut oil and Paramin mountain herbs, fresh rosemary, wild thyme, scents she knew well. And yes, these days Jennifer was much too fresh by half, never did what she was asked any more; did what she liked and when she liked, in her own time. Jennifer hoovered when she wanted to, polished the silver and cleaned the crystal only when she felt like it. Jennifer ran things now: good for her.
'Oh Gyaaaad,' Sabine complained loudly. 'The heat! Jennifer, I cyan take it.' She lifted up her voluminous house dress and fanned it up to her face, exposing her pink cotton knickers.
'Phhhhhut! ' She made a loud hissing sound, fanning herself. 'C'est un fourneau. '
Jennifer shook her head. 'Take cyare Mr Harwood ent come in and ketch a fright.'
'Ha ha,' Sabine cut back. As if George looked at her any more; as if he cared to look.
'You can talk. You're almost as fat as me.'
Jennifer gasped. 'I not fat.'
'You were skinny once, like a piece of spaghetti when you first came to us. Now look at you.'
Jennifer pursed her lips. 'I does look healthy.'
'You'll get fatter if you're not careful. Your daughter Chantal is already getting fat.'
Jennifer stopped her mixing at the stove; she turned and fixed her hands on her wide hips. 'Oh gorshhh, nuh. I don't want to see your panties.'
Excerpted from The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey. Copyright © 2011 by Monique Roffey. Excerpted by permission of Penguin 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
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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