Lorna Goodison: a short story
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Lorna Goodison is known mainly as a poet. While she originally aspired to be a painter, studying at the Art Students League in New York, she admits she always felt the need to write. In fact, she says one of her goals is to manage to impregnate her writing with painting techniques...
Les éditions Christian Bourgois publieront prochainement un recueil en français des textes écrits à l'occasion des assises du roman.
Marian and Peter, a couple in their mid-thirties are the hosts of a dinner party. Their guests are Winston and Allison, a couple whom they have not known long.
“Would anybody like more chicken, more rice and peas?” asks Marion.
Allison declines, declaring she is full. Winston accepts another helping saying, “You can taste the love in this food. I can tell that the two of you are still on your honeymoon.”
“So you can taste the love in the food?” says Allison, “Well then maybe you can get a job; a job as a food psychic who tastes food and pronounces on the cook’s state of mind”
“Allison, please just give me a break,” says Winston.
“Anyway,” continues Allison, “Your taste-the-love-in-the-food theory has been challenged in a book called, ‘Something’s Burning’ the kitchen as Site of Contestation.”
Winston groans loudly and says. “ How would you know? When was the last time you cooked, or even burned anything in our kitchen?”
Marian laughs and says, “Cut it out you two”. “ But seriously Allison; I could have written that book you know”.
Peter reaches over to Marian who is seated in the chair next to him and tenderly strokes her upper arm. Then he turns to Winston and Allison and explains: “Its because of her first husband. God I bless that man. Anybody want more wine?”
Peter is trying to change the subject. He does not understand why Marian, like the ancient mariner, feels compelled to relate this story to their guests; neither of whom take up his offer of wine. Marion takes their silence as her cue:
“My first husband and I were both students in Toronto when we got married. He was one of these die-hard Jamaicans who is must and bound to have rice and peas and chicken for dinner every Sunday of life.
So every Saturday for two years, in addition to holding down a job that paid our rent, I became a hunter gatherer of red peas, dry coconuts, scallion, scotch-bonnet pepper, pimento, and fresh thyme. Even in the dead of winter you would find me all over the city searching out ingredients to make Sunday dinner rice and peas.
And do you know how he rewarded me? By taking up with a woman named Bridget who did not cook! Honest to God! She told a friend of mine who was in a film studies class with her that she used the stove in her apartment to store her magazines and newspapers. Apparently she was also a great housekeeper!
Do you know how and when he told me he was breaking up with me?
After he stuffed his face one Sunday. He pushed back his chair and said,
‘I’m really going to miss your cooking; but I met this woman and…’
When I told my mother she said:
‘My darling, it looks like all along you were fattening that chicken for a mongoose!’
They all laugh at the chicken and mongoose analogy except Peter.
He has been scanning his wife’s face anxiously as she told the story.
He reaches for his fork and taps on the side of his wine glass.
Everybody; “ Let us all raise our glasses and give a toast to the fool who gave me my precious wife, who will never cook rice and peas again as long as she lives.”
Winston points to his plate and asks, “So who cooked this?”
“Peter’s mother” says Marian. “She comes by here every Sunday on her way to church, with a Tupperware container. Peter told her that he prefers her rice and peas to mine, and she loves the idea that her son cannot do without her cooking.
“Nice move P”. Winston signals two thumbs up to Peter.
“So what about you Allison, surely you must have some story about a breakup?” Peter does not want his beloved Marian to be the only one standing out there alone in betrayal’s boggy field.
“Tell us your break up story, one that happened in real life please, We don’t need anything from a textbook.”
But Allison shakes her head and says “I’m just not good at telling stories.”
Besides if truth be told, she is looking forward to being on her own again. To being able to eat her favourite childhood supper of warm spongy hard dough bread spread with salt butter and washed down with hot cocoa, every evening before she falls asleep; hugging her pillow, listening to Nina Simone crooning to the lover she is leaving: remember darling, Dont Smoke in Bed.
Pour citer cette ressource :
Lorna Goodison, "Lorna Goodison: a short story", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), septembre 2014. Consulté le 30/11/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/entretiens-et-textes-inedits/lorna-goodison-a-short-story