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Krik? Krak!

Edwidge Danticat


  Breath, Eyes, Memory

  krik? krak!

  krik? krak!

  Edwidge Danticat

  Copyright © 1991,1992,1993,1994 and 1995 by Edwidge Danticat

  The following stories have been previously published, some of them in a slightly different form: "Children of the Sea" appeared under the title "From the Ocean Floor" in Short Fiction by Women (October 1993); "A Wall of Fire Rising" appeared under the title "A Wall of Fire" in Cymbals: The National Student Literary Magazine (Summer 1991); "The Missing Peace" in Just a Moment (Pine Grove Press, Fall 1992) and in The Caribbean Writer (July 1994); "Between the Pool and the Gardenias" in The Caribbean Writer (Summer 1993) and in Best of the Small Presses (Pushcart Press 1994) (winner of the Pushcart Prize) and also in Monologues By Women (Heinemann 1994) and "Night Women" appeared under the title "Voices in a Dream" in The Caribbean Writer (Summer 1993) as well as in Brown University's Clerestory (July 1994).

  All rights reserved.

  Published by

  Soho Press Inc.

  853 Broadway

  New York, NY 10003

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Danticat, Edwidge, 1969-

  Krik? Krak! / Edwidge Danticat.

  p. cm.

  ISBN 1-56947-025-1

  1. Haitian Americans—Social life and customs—Fiction.

  2. Haiti—Social life and customs—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3554-A58I5K75 1995




  Book design and composition by The Sarabande Press

  Manufactured in the United States

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

  Krik? Krak! Somewhere by the seacoast I feel a breath

  of warm sea air and hear the laughter of children.

  An old granny smokes her pipe,

  surrounded by the village children . . .

  "We tell the stories so that the young ones

  will know what came before them.

  They ask Krik? we say Krak!

  Our stories are kept in our hearts."


  "White Darkness/Black Dreamings"

  Haiti: Feeding The Spirit


  1. Children of the Sea

  2. Nineteen Thirty-Seven

  3. A Wall of Fire Rising

  4. Night Women

  5. Between the Pool and the Gardenias

  6. The Missing Peace

  7. Seeing Things Simply

  8. New York Day Women

  9. Caroline's Wedding

  Epilogue: Women Like Us

  children of

  the sea

  They say behind the mountains are more mountains. Now I know it's true. I also know there are timeless waters, endless seas, and lots of people in this world whose names don't matter to anyone but themselves. I look up at the sky and I see you there. I see you crying like a crushed snail, the way you cried when I helped you pull out your first loose tooth. Yes, I did love you then. Somehow when I looked at you, I thought of fiery red ants. I wanted you to dig your fingernails into my skin and drain out all my blood.

  I don't know how long we'll be at sea. There are thirty-six other deserting souls on this little boat with me. White sheets with bright red spots float as our sail.

  When I got on board I thought I could still smell the semen and the innocence lost to those sheets. I look up there and I think of you and all those times you resisted. Sometimes I felt like you wanted to, but I knew you wanted me to respect you. You thought I was testing your will, but all I wanted was to be near you. Maybe it's like you've always said. I imagine too much. I am afraid I am going to start having nightmares once we get deep at sea. I really hate having the sun in my face all day long. If you see me again, I'll be so dark.

  Your father will probably marry you off now, since I am gone. Whatever you do, please don't marry a soldier. They're almost not human.

  haiti est comme tu l'as laissé. yes, just the way you left it. bullets day and night, same hole, same everything, i'm tired of the whole mess, i get so cross and irritable, i pass the time by chasing roaches around the house, i pound my heel on their heads, they make me so mad. everything makes me mad. i am cramped inside all day. they've closed the schools since the army took over, no one is mentioning the old president's name, papa burnt all his campaign posters and old buttons, manman buried her buttons in a hole behind the house, she thinks he might come back, she says she will unearth them when he does, no one comes out of their house, not a single person, papa wants me to throw out those tapes of your radio shows, i destroyed some music tapes, but i still have your voice, i thank god you got out when you did. all the other youth federation members have disappeared, no one has heard from them, i think they might all be in prison, maybe they're all dead, papa worries a little about you. he doesn't hate you as much as you think, the other day i heard him asking manman, do you think the boy is dead? manman said she didn't know, i think he regrets being so mean to you. i don't sketch my butterflies anymore because i don't even like seeing the sun. besides, manman says that butterflies can bring news, the bright ones bring happy news and the black ones warn us of deaths, we have our whole lives ahead of us. you used to say that, remember? but then again things were so very different then.

  There is a pregnant girl on board. She looks like she might be our age. Nineteen or twenty. Her face is covered with scars that look like razor marks. She is short and speaks in a singsong that reminds me of the villagers in the north. Most of the other people on the boat are much older than I am. I have heard that a lot of these boats have young children on board. I am glad this one does not. I think it would break my heart watching some little boy or girl every single day on this sea, looking into their empty faces to remind me of the hopelessness of the future in our country. It's hard enough with the adults. It's hard enough with me.

  I used to read a lot about America before I had to study so much for the university exams. I am trying to think, to see if I read anything more about Miami. It is sunny. It doesn't snow there like it does in other parts of America. I can t tell exactly how far we are from there. We might be barely out of our own shores. There are no borderlines on the sea. The whole thing looks like one. I cannot even tell if we are about to drop off the face of the earth. Maybe the world is flat and we are going to find out, like the navigators of old. As you know, I am not very religious. Still I pray every night that we won't hit a storm. When I do manage to sleep, I dream that we are caught in one hurricane after another. I dream that the winds come of the sky and claim us for the sea. We go under and no one hears from us again.

  I am more comfortable now with the idea of dying. Not that I have completely accepted it, but I know that it might happen. Don't be mistaken. I really do not want to be a martyr. I know I am no good to anybody dead, but if that is what's coming, I know I cannot just scream at it and tell it to go away.

  I hope another group of young people can do the radio show. For a long time that radio show was my whole life. It was nice to have radio like that for a while, where we could talk about what we wanted from government, what we wanted for the future of our country.

  There are a lot of Protestants on this boat. A lot of them see themselves as Job or the Children of Israel. I think some of them are hoping something will plunge down from the sky and part the sea for us. They say the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. I have never been given very much. What was there to take away?

  if only i could kill, if i knew some good wanga magic, i would wipe them off the face of the earth, a group of students got shot in front of fort dimanche prison today, they were demonstrating for the bodies of the radio six. that is what they
are calling you all. the radio six. you have a name, you have a reputation, a lot of people think you are dead like the others, they want the bodies turned over to the families, this afternoon, the army finally did give some bodies back, they told the families to go collect them at the rooms for indigents at the morgue, our neighbor madan roger came home with her son's head and not much else, honest to god, it was just his head, at the morgue, they say a car ran over him and took the head off his body, when madan roger went to the morgue, they gave her the head, by the time we saw her, she had been carrying the head all over port-au-prince. just to show what's been done to her son. the macoutes by the house were laughing at her. they asked her if that was her dinner, it took ten people to hold her back from jumping on them, they would have killed her, the dogs, i will never go outside again, not even in the yard to breathe the air. they are always watching you, like vultures, at night i can't sleep, i count the bullets in the dark, i keep wondering if it is true, did you really get out? i wish there was some way i could be sure that you really went away, yes, i will, i will keep writing like we promised to do. i hate it, but i will keep writing, you keep writing too, okay? and when we see each other again, it will seem like we lost no time.

  Today was our first real day at sea. Everyone was vomiting with each small rocking of the boat. The faces around me are showing their first charcoal layer of sun-burn. "Now we will never be mistaken for Cubans," one man said. Even though some of the Cubans are black too. The man said he was once on a boat with a group of Cubans. His boat had stopped to pick up the Cubans on an island off the Bahamas. When the Coast Guard came for them, they took the Cubans to Miami and sent him back to Haiti. Now he was back on the boat with some papers and documents to show that the police in Haiti were after him. He had a broken leg too, in case there was any doubt.

  One old lady fainted from sunstroke. I helped revive her by rubbing some of the salt water on her lips. During the day it can be so hot. At night, it is so cold. Since there are no mirrors, we look at each others faces to see just how frail and sick we are starting to look.

  Some of the women sing and tell stories to each other to appease the vomiting. Still, I watch the sea. At night, the sky and the sea are one. The stars look so huge and so close. They make for very bright reflections in the sea. At times I feel like I can just reach out and pull a star down from the sky as though it is a breadfruit or a calabash or something that could be of use to us on this journey.

  When we sing, Beloved Haiti, there is no place like you. I had to leave you before I could understand you, some of the women start crying. At times, I just want to stop in the middle of the song and cry myself. To hide my tears, I pretend like I am getting another attack of nausea, from the sea smell. I no longer join in the singing.

  You probably do not know much about this, because you have always been so closely watched by your father in that well-guarded house with your genteel mother. No, I am not making fun of you for this. If anything, I am jealous. If I was a girl, maybe I would have been at home and not out politicking and getting myself into something like this. Once you have been at sea for a couple of days, it smells like every fish you have ever eaten, every crab you have ever caught, every jellyfish that has ever bitten your leg. I am so tired of the smell. I am also tired of the way the people on this boat are starting to stink. The pregnant girl, Célianne, I don't know how she takes it. She stares into space all the time and rubs her stomach.

  I have never seen her eat. Sometimes the other women offer her a piece of bread and she takes it, but she has no food of her own. I cannot help feeling like she will have this child as soon as she gets hungry enough.

  She woke up screaming the other night. I thought she had a stomach ache. Some water started coming into the boat in the spot where she was sleeping. There is a crack at the bottom of the boat that looks as though, if it gets any bigger, it will split the boat in two. The captain cleared us aside and used some tar to clog up the hole. Everyone started asking him if it was okay, if they were going to be okay. He said he hoped the Coast Guard would find us soon.

  You can't really go to sleep after that. So we all stared at the tar by the moonlight. We did this until dawn. I cannot help but wonder how long this tar will hold out.

  papa found your tapes, he started yelling at me, asking if I was crazy keeping them, he is just waiting for the gasoline ban to be lifted so we can get out of the city, he is always pestering me these days because he cannot go out driving his van. all the american factories are closed, he kept yelling at me about the tapes, he called me selfish, and he asked if i hadn't seen or heard what was happening to man-crazy whores like me. i shouted that i wasn't a whore, he had no business calling me that, he pushed me against the wall for disrespecting him. he spat in my face, i wish those macoutes would kill him. i wish he would catch a bullet so we could see how scared he really is. he said to me, i didn't send your stupid trouble maker away, i started yelling at him. yes, you did. yes, you did. yes, you did, you pig peasant, i don't know why i said that, he slapped me and kept slapping me really hard until man-man came and grabbed me away from him. i wish one of those bullets would hit me.

  The tar is holding up so far. Two days and no more leaks. Yes, I am finally an African. I am even darker than your father. I wanted to buy a straw hat from one of the ladies, but she would not sell it to me for the last two gourdes I have left in change. Do you think your money is worth anything to me here? she asked me. Some-times, I forget where I am. If I keep daydreaming like I have been doing, I will walk off the boat to go fora stroll.

  The other night I dreamt that I died and went to heaven. This heaven was nothing like I expected. It was at the bottom of the sea. There were starfishes and mer-maids all around me. The mermaids were dancing and singing in Latin like the priests do at the cathedral during Mass. You were there with me too, at the bottom of the sea. You were with your family, off to the side. Your father was acting like he was better than everyone else and he was standing in front of a sea cave blocking you from my view. I tried to talk to you, but every time I opened my mouth, water bubbles came out. No sounds.

  they have this thing now that they do. if they come into a house and there is a son and mother there, they hold a gun to their heads, they make the son sleep with his mother, if it is a daughter and father, they do the same thing, some nights papa sleeps at his brother's, uncle pressoir's house, uncle pressoir sleeps at our house, just in case they come, that way papa will never be forced to lie down in bed with me. instead, uncle pressoir would be forced to, but that would not be so bad. we know a girl who had a child by her father that way. that is what papa does not want to happen, even if he is killed, there is still no gasoline to buy. otherwise we would be in ville rose already, papa has a friend who is going to get him some gasoline from a soldier, as soon as we get the gasoline, we are going to drive quick and fast until we find civilization, that's how papa puts it, civilization, he says things are not as bad in the provinces, i am still not talking to him. i don't think i ever will, manman says it is not his fault, he is trying to protect us. he cannot protect us. only god can protect us. the soldiers can come and do with us what they want, that makes papa feel weak, she says, he gets angry when he feels weak, why should he be angry with me? i am not one of the pigs with the machine guns, she asked me what really happened to you. she said she saw your parents before they left for the provinces, they did not want to tell her anything, i told her you took a boat after they raided the radio station, you escaped and took a boat to heaven knows where, she said, he was going to make a good man, that boy. sharp, like a needle point, that boy, he took the university exams a year before everyone else in this area, manman has respect for people with ambitions, she said papa did not want you for me because it did not seem as though you were going to do any better for me than he and manman could, he wants me to find a man who will do me some good, someone who will make sure that i have more than i have now. it is not enough for a girl to be just pretty anymore,
we are not that well connected in society, the kind of man that papa wants for me would never have anything to do with me. all anyone can hope for is just a tiny bit of love, manman says, like a drop in a cup if you can get it, or a waterfall, a flood, if you can get that too. we do not have all that many high-up connections, she says, but you are an educated girl, what she counts for educated is not much to anyone but us anyway, they should be announcing the university exams on the radio next week, then i will know if you passed, i will listen for your name.

  We spent most of yesterday telling stories. Someone says, Krik? You answer, Krak! And they say, I have many stories I could tell you, and then they go on and tell these stories to you, but mostly to themselves. Sometimes it feels like we have been at sea longer than the many years that I have been on this earth. The sun comes up and goes down. That is how you know it has been a whole day. I feel like we are sailing for Africa. Maybe we will go to Guinin, to live with the spirits, to be with everyone who has come and has died before us. They would probably turn us away from there too. Someone has a transistor and sometimes we listen to radio from the Bahamas. They treat Haitians like dogs in the Bahamas, a woman says. To them, we are not human. Even though their music sounds like ours. Their people look like ours. Even though we had the same African fathers who probably crossed these same seas together.

  Do you want to know how people go to the bath-room on the boat? Probably the same way they did on those slaves ships years ago. They set aside a little corner for that. When I have to pee, I just pull it, lean over the rail, and do it very quickly. When I have to do the other thing, I rip a piece of something, squat down and do it, and throw the waste in the sea. I am always embarrassed by the smell. It is so demeaning having to squat in front of so many people. People turn away, but not always. At times I wonder if there is really land on the other side of the sea. Maybe the sea is endless. Like my love for you.