Hi Guys….remember that client I coach that writes short story. He is the writer of the Christmas in Mayo that I posted a while back. Well as promised I have another one for you that gives you a view into the lives of some of the people who live in Trinidad and TobaGO…Our Oyster Vendors. I’ve had oyster once in my life. For me is was too ughy and slides right down the throat but the sauce our vendors mix with it are the best and that helps make it a lot more appetising. So I hope you enjoy another short story by my client Rory.
Without a boat engine most men would have packed up and gone home, but oyster vendor Krishna “Sonny” Balkissoon had other ideas.
The next best thing, albeit unsettling, was to get a piece of wood long enough to fashion an oar out of. After a cursory look around, he says the only place to get it would be the dump nearby.
At 6:30 in the morning the only sounds to be heard in the Caroni Swamp was the stiff breeze whistling past my ears and an occasional bird call. The still water in the heart of the mangrove swamp was charcoal black and the small wooden boats at the place called “The Spot” looked anything but seaworthy. Catchers have been known to break the locks off owners’ boats to go out for oysters; some buy it back, some don’t, Balkissoon though had a key.
We walked to the very end of Shipping Road Dump in Felicity, Chaguanas, stalked by an army of black corbeaux, before Balkissoon found a crude piece of wood to his liking. With a few strokes of his cutlass, an oar was born.
Barefoot and in short pants, Balkissoon, pushed the small boat from the slimy, sand-fly infested bank into the water. As we moved out to deeper water, he pulled alongside the bank and threw a small plastic container in my direction. “The boat has a small hole and does leak sometimes,” he remarks casually. The boat was taking in water, but Balkissoon, also a cane cutter from Caroni, was unmoved.
He simply took out the plastic container and started bailing out the water which was now about half-inch in the boat. “It have boat with bigger hole than this,” he says consolingly, while at the same time asking, “You could swim?” The water looked muddy-brown and I didn’t want to know what dangers lurked below. At Pasea Road, Tunapuna, Balkissoon has a thriving oyster trade. His sauce is delectable and from as early as 6pm, his flambeau can be seen burning.
Now, pulling to the bank of the mangrove and sitting precariously on the edge of the unnamed boat, Balkissoon covered his left hand with a black piece of cloth. “Oysters does give bad cut,” he says, whipping out his cutlass. He takes his time, stripping the oysters from the mangrove branches, careful not to cut the tips off. Other catchers are not so patient and just hack off the oysters at the stem.
“If you do that it kills the mangrove root, “ he says. It looked like back-breaking work. “Oyster vending is a dying breed, “he notes. “Not every body cut our for this kinda thing.” Occasionally, other oyster catchers passed by; only one other catcher had an oar though.
Balkissoon keeps glancing towards the branches’ edges just to make sure there are no snakes on them. “Camouflaged in the mangrove, you won’t see it open and putting it to his mouth. It sounded more like a challenge.
He immediately cracked one open and threw it towards me. For a fleeting moment I recalled this was part of the Gulf of Paria, an area known for its pollutants. In broad daylight, an oyster looks almost alive and unpalatable. It is not for the squeamish.
“As soon as you crack the shell it dies.” Balkissoon asures. In one swipe I dip the oyster in the water, put it to my mouth – and sucked. It slid down my throat, the salt water acting as a seasoning. At the end of it all I must have guzzled down about two dozen raw oysters.
But as one scientist explains, the Gulf is flushed out every six or seven days, so that pollutants are constantly carried out to sea. Plus, oysters cannot thrive in stagnant water and they are known to have their own unique filtering system. They can become poisonous when they are bathed with the harmful coliform bacteria from water contaminated with sewage.
Inevitably, the conversation drifts to oysters and its reputed sexual prowess. “ It’s real good for sex,” he conveys with a grin. “It won’t work now for now, but over a period of time, “relates the father of three children. Sometimes he sits with his sauce and a gallon paint can full of oysters to satisfy his craving for the stuff.
By about 11am, he had a large pile of oysters in the boat – about three pig-tail buckets, he averages. As he made his way back to shallow waters in the swamp, the only sound to be heard was the slurping sound of my eager sucking on raw oysters.
Hope you enjoyed this I have another one for you, but that will come later. See you soon and let me know if you liked this story.
Luv you all,