Yesterday I decide I not running no more. I can’t manage with coming last again. Ever since that time when the boy hold down Rupa, it look like I use up all the speed Maha Devi give me for this life. Me and Rupa, we was walking home from school and just when we done cross the river that run beside the school, a big boy come running up the road and bounce we like he didn’t have no room to pass because of the bamboo jhamraa on both sides of the road where Mr. Ramdial plant bodi and yam. And as he jam up against we, he grab Rupa hand. I figure he never bother with me because I younger and smaller than Rupa who just turn eleven.
I start fighting, cuffing and scraping he arm, and when that don’t work, I hold on to Rupa shoulder and pull and pull and all the time me and Rupa screaming down the place. But then I notice that nobody coming to help and I too weak for this big, bad boy and Rupa can’t free sheself and I feel so bad like I going to throw-up. So, I shout, “I going for Mama”. And with that I take off with a speed that I don’t know I have. I run. All I could see is blur. I run straight home. I don’t know where I get breath to tell Mama, “A boy hold down Rupa”. I start back running and everything is blur again. We reach Rupa who still fighting with the big boy. Is only when he see Mama that he let Rupa go and run away across the river.
That was the first time I hear the word “rape”. When Mama tell Miss Radha that we lucky the boy eh rape Rupa. I never know exactly what “rape” mean but it make me feel like I want to throw-up again. And since then I always come last in race. I try hard, but my legs hurt and hurt and is like I can’t move. Like in them dreams I does have sometimes. The big boy trying to catch me and I running, running, running, but every time I look behind me, he still there. After a while I start screaming and that’s when I hear Mama calling me and I wake up and realise is only a dream. But I soaking wet like I run for true.
Well I dreaming about that boy again. He still trying to catch me and I still running. Then I start to sprout feathers. Is bird I turning into bird, oui. My toenails grow out hard and long, curving over like talons. My arms turn into wings and I am covered with big, grey feathers from the top of my greyhead to my foot.
I flap my wings and fly up in the air. I turn around and see the big boy getting smaller. Scales start covering he body. He turning into fish. A grunt to boot. I fly at him and stick him with my claws. When I look is snitch I snitch him in he eye, oui. I screech at him, “Take that for Rupa, you bad boy!”. Then I, with my ospreybirdself, fly away over the sea to the mountain top with this heavy boy/grunt in my toenail hook. I well enjoy eating that bad boy with he fishself. Even with my belly full, I feel so light, I soar. I soaring high, high, high.
“Saving Rupa” was the Overall Winner of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Short Story Competition in 2001.
•••Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming is an Indo-Trinidadian poet, and prose writer married to a Bahamian and resident in The Bahamas. Her poetry and stories have appeared online and in numerous publications around the region, including The Caribbean Writer, Journal of Caribbean Literature, Poui, WomanSpeak, Yinna, and numerous collections and anthologies. She has won several awards for her writing, the most recent being shortlisted for the Proverse Prize out of Hong Kong, part of which was the publication of a book of poetry, Immortelle and Bhandaaraa Poems (Proverse Hong Kong, 2011). Among the other awards are the David Hough Literary Prize (Caribbean Writer, 2001), the Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for Short Fiction (Caribbean Writer, 2009), and Overall Winner of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Short Story Competition. She is the author of Curry Flavour (Peepal Tree, 2000) as well as Immortelle and Bhandaaraa Poems.