Harry prepares for his first Carnival

Illustration by James Hackett

Harry! Harry? You could put down that newspaper for a minute? I tryin’ to
talk to you!

Harry, you goin’ down to Trinidad for Carnival next week, is your first
visit and your first Carnival. I don’t know how I lettin’ you go on your
own, nuh, but I tell Mavis take good care of you. But Harry, listen, doh
make me shame, you hear?

You have to understand you is a big hairy baldhead yankee white man with
belly jumping over he belt and tattoo all over he skin. Why you had to put
big-boob mermaid there only you and God knows. You does blend in easy up here
in New York, but down there in Trinidad people not like you, they black and
brown. And all them sexy red girl in the band spend the last six month sweating
up in the gym to look good. So you just mind your business, okay, Harry?
Even when they come and wine on you. Yuh understand what I saying?

Anyway, Mavis get a costume for you. Forest Fern. You going to be a Forest
Fern, Harry, yuh hear? You get a set a green boots, a little green skirt,
a green collar looking like leaf, and a long green pole. You supposed to be
gentle breeze rippling through the rain forest, Harry. Just remember that,
after you get a bottle of rum in your head and you going across that stage
like a tank, your pole swinging about like Gandalf sword in that movie we
see on cable.

And they have a special way to dance, Harry. Up here in Brooklyn you could
dance any way you want, people does flap any part of they body and squeeze
up theyself like they have bellyache. But if you do that down there in Trinidad
everybody going to ask if that is really Myrtle man, and how she could let
him loose so, you understand? I go feel so shame.

So hear, nuh, Harry, listen to this tape a man sell me. He
put all my favourite tunes on it, that is service, eh? This tune could teach
you how to move, it call Dollar Wine. When it say “cent” you does push
out yuh waist to the left. Then it say “five cent” and you push out you waist
to the right. Easy. Then it say, “ten cent”, and you boomsie fly back behind
you. And then it say “dollar!” and you does thrust youself forward like you
want to — well, I see that does come natural to you, Harry. It easy,
lehwe try. Cent, five cent, ten cent, dollar. Just keep yuh foot still,
Harry, yuh dancin’ with you pelmic region now. Cent, five cent, ten cent
— wooo Harry, mind the side table nuh. OMIGOD HARRY, MI MOTHER VASE. O god
o god. Harry you steppin’ in it, mind yourself.

Well I go have to explain to her. All right, Harry, you could stop now.

But Mavis bound to take you to a few big fete, and that is where it have
trouble. Them little ragamuffin boys racing up and down the stage with smoke
and firework, swinging on rope and jumping in the crowd and all sort a thing.
Then they bawl “Trinidad are you ready?” And they do a sort of countdown like
when they launching rocket at Cape Carnivorous, and they start to bawl, “Move
to the left, move to the right, wave you rag” or whatever, and everybody wave
their whatever. Mavis will give you something to wave, Harry, don’t worry,
some nice little towel or something so, only don’t go and blow your nose
in it, Harry, you hear? You go shame me too bad.

Then everybody start to throw they hand in the air and jump up and down,
whole fifty thousand or however much they pack inside these days. And you
is a man nearly three hundred pounds, so when you land on some poor woman
foot it go break in six places, and that is when you really in trouble.

But Harry, you really sure you want to make this trip? By youself? Harry,
you swear you go behave yourself? You won’t shame me, Harry? And you will
come back home, Harry, right?

Harry? Put the blasted newspaper down, I tryin’ to talk to you. And Harry,
where you learn to steups like that?