It’s been a while since I did a writing prompt (I’ll link some of the previous ones at the bottom). This one comes via Writer’s Digest. You know how I am with these prompts, I try to be as pure as possible – writing right through almost without breath and sharing the draft in all it’s roughness. In this case, I’m even showing my side work. The 500 word prompt is actually to write about a situation trying to gently or modestly explain something illegal, outrageous, or lewd to someone who might find it offensive, disturbing or problematic. Mango stealing might be a stretch but it’s what comes to mind – it’s a familiar Caribbean trope. Just because it’s familiar though, doesn’t mean it can’t inspire…because, mangoes.
The Mango Tief
Every Caribbean person has to have a mango stealing story. Here’s mine.
First, it’s a stretch to call it stealing. When mango so plentiful, the birds will peck their share, the dogs will take their share – what, you didn’t know dog eat mango? Well now you know? And what of the knobby-kneed village children, they’re due a bucket or two for risking life and limb and dog bite climbing mango trees on smadee property. Doesn’t it seem like the best tasting mango trees are always on somebody else’s property?
Well, it’s been a while since I was a knobby-kneed anything. Not true. My knees kinda knobby these days but that’s arthritis. And the pain that was like a man that hug up under you whether you want him or not was the reason I knew my mango tree climbing days were behind me. But my spirit wouldn’t have it.
“You want me to take you where?”
niece daughter being all careful and proper. Sometimes you would think I had no influence at all.
“Country,” I said again.
“To steal people’s mangoes,” she repeated.
“Will you stop saying that? Picking mangoes isn’t stealing.”
“It is when the tree isn’t yours.”
“Gyal, where you think you be, America or something? Antigua dis. Nobody can eat all dem mango that drop. We actually helping out.”
“Helping out huh? Tell that to the vendors in the market.”
“When I was a little girl,” I started.
“You didn’t even buy mango; yes, I know,” she finished.
I cut my eye at her. Fresh pickney.
“Plenty things weren’t for sale in the dinosaur days,” she teased.
That was an old joke.
Back when she was my little shadow, “
Aunty Bee, I can come with you? I can come with you?”, she would tease me about being from before time, dinosaur days. Actually that teasing was a feature of her teenage years but by then we were so solid that even though I was then entering middle age, I didn’t mind the that she was a too-mouthy teen.
“Look,” I said, vex
with myself that power had shifted so much in our relationship that I had to explain myself to someone I couldn’t help but think of as a child. A 33 year old child. Which made me old, too old to be climbing mango trees. The very reason I wanted to.
“I won’t get to climb a mango tree probably again,” I explained.
And something in her posture gave.
I hated pity but I’d take it.
“Okay,” she said.
She even gave me a boost up the tree when we got there instead of trying to talk me out of it, and kept a lookout for dogs and anyone else who might be irate over a few stolen mangoes, all while catching the mangoes I dropped and dropping them in to the bucket we’d brought.
Yes, a whole bucket.
As we knew when I was little; if you’re going to go tief mango, you might as well go all in better make it count.
Written by Joanne C. Hillhouse whose also written a few books and prompt responses like In Shadow, Too Strange, Original Sin, A Bad Day in the Imaginarium, The Death of Mr. Richardson, Colin and The World Beyond, Empath, Springtime Friends in September, This is not a Eulogy, The Snake Monster, The Wafer, In War, Music, Love is Magic, Lamplight, Clear, Sad Clown, (unnamed), Pieces of the Past, and, wow, I did more of these prompts than I realized. Well, I hope you enjoyed.
Feel free to leave your prompt response – i.e. your own response to the prompt and/or your response to my response to the prompt.