Coo Yah…! by Tammi Browne-Bannister

Image courtesy of commons collection of NASA.


Imojen unleashed her fury on top of Penny Hole. Her big mouth opened and her bad breath sent every one of those houses tumbling. At first I thought my eyes were deceiving me. So I rubbed them hard to clear my vision.

The land gave way and the houses on the hillside began creeping, easing and sliding down the slope into one another. One good-sized home tumbled off the blocks it was sitting on, bashing like a wave into the houses below its varnished deck. They, too, rolled and tumbled. It was like a game of marbles; the biggest marble knocked the smaller marbles out of the way, splitting and cracking one or two in the process, sending shards of glass flying just like the ply boards in the wind.  All that remained was a long, wide, muddy track and bare foundations.

A shriek erupted from within me. It was the type of shriek made when something cold and slimy runs across your feet, or when a long bluish centipede prostrates itself on a white wall, squirming it’s head left to right. Every fork crashed on the dining table, and everyone flocked round me. All eyes were pinned to the hillside.

The ambulance, police and Defense Force sped up the swampy road toward the catastrophe at the bottom of the hill, swerving to avoid the debris. People ran out from the shelter at the school. I could see them obstructing the vehicles that were attempting to save lives. They had ventured into the turbulent elements of cold rain, gusty winds and crackling lightning only to see pain, suffering and misery.

“Look, coo yah!  You see how them love ugly?” mummy shook her head and sucked her teeth in disgust at what was happening. Men, women and children watched the scene unfold below dangling electric wires.

Mummy grunted and lamented. But I knew better than she did what would happen. The older folks would tell all sorts of jumbie stories. They would make up absurd names for the dead.  They would develop the tragedy into such an ugly picture that all the gory details would terrorize the younger ones for a very long time.

Everyone was unable to finish eating after what they saw.  My brother and sister went back to bed but I remained by the front room window until everyone dispersed. I hoped for a miracle in which everyone would be recovered unscathed. But, then I saw the black horse. It groaned up the road to where the crowd had been. Its trot made my hair roots stand and an eerie feeling swell up my head.

I thought about the dead. I thought of the disheveled lives. I thought about the people’s displacement from their homes that most had probably grown up in. I thought about the elderly and the babies. They would become part of a circus act in which volunteers helped the needy while boasting of their efforts in the media. Everything would be for the sake of publicity. Look at me. I’m giving such and such to so and so, so they can feed their stomachs or so they can provide for their families. At the same time remember where they got such and such from, this store on Hard Street! Nothing but a publicity stunt. I shook my head.

Soon, various  organizations would pop up out of nowhere asking for donations, seeking contributions, pledging this, that, and the next. Each one would rally against the next, trying to outdo the others, trying to see who could collect the most material relief, who could provide the greatest assistance.  In the long run, this type of disunity would cause suffering.

I tried to place myself in the shoes of those victims but I could not fathom the depth of their sorrow. The wicked hurricane had taken away their hopes, dreams, lives and sanity and I wondered to myself, were they having breakfast like us? Were they asleep in their warm beds? Perhaps they had curious children who looked out of the window every now and again, hoping to catch a glimpse of the next big thing.

Our house shuddered.  It made my heart jump and stopped my breath. Being thrown about like puppets in a dollhouse was dreadful. Mummy paced up and down every time the house shook. When the wind howled through the eaves, she froze into position, looking at me with her eyes tearing wide open.

The gale rocked the house with a passion, wailing and walloping through the eaves. A loud bang shot my nerves.

“Oh God!” mummy ran to find my father. My brother and sister dashed into the front room from their beds.

Daddy flew into the bedroom to see what had happened. Mummy followed him and I looked on from behind her. We saw a large hole in the side of our bedroom. Something hit the side of the house and shattered eight louvers. There were fragment of glass on the floor. Janai wrapped her arms around herself. Her eyes flitted all over every time the wind howled.

We shoved one of the mattresses by the window to block off the wind and rain. After a while the breeze started up again. It became stronger, removing a part of the sideboard and exposing the bedroom completely to the elements. Our little sanctuary, the place where we spent most of our time reading, playing and relaxing was now consumed with wet leaves, rain, wind and debris.

The flimsy mattress sagged and nodded beneath the winds. The floor was drenched. At length, Imojen’s persistence paid off.  It stood its ground, found the Achilles’ heel of our humble abode. Daddy closed the bedroom door with much effort. The pressure from outside sucked the knob from his hand. His face was soaking wet from rain and sweat. He scratched his head and let off a deep sigh of frustration.

“Get ready.  We haffu run,” he glanced at mummy.

“What you say?”  I asked with a nervous giggle. Daddy shot me a look of annoyance.

“Young ooman, move from in front-a me, now. Help you moomah get tings ready! As soon as she done, we gone.”

Many things raced through my mind all at once. My heartbeat accelerated. I broke into a cold sweat. My breath was hardly coming fast enough for me to stand on my two feet. A hot flash moved through my body and into my head.  My head spun like a carousel. Lights twinkled all around me. My feet gave out and I fainted.



Tammi Browne-Bannister is an Antiguan living in Barbados. Her stories have won awards at the annual National Independence Festival of Cultural Arts (NIFCA) in Barbados. She studies creative writing at The Barbados Community College and her work has been published online by Anansesem and St. Somewhere Press. Her work will also be featured in Winning Words – a NIFCA anthology.

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