Spotlight

Anansi and the Cou Cou Stick (An Original Anansi Story)

by Sandra Sealy

Once not so long ago, there lived Anansi with his mother, Ma Nanse. They resided in a small greenheart bungalow in Talk Yuh Name Village.

While Ma Nanse was skilled at weaving, Anansi enjoyed creating things out of wood. Just about everyone in the village had one of his intricately carved wooden stools. But more than anything, food was his passion. This wily spider “liked his belly - bad." There was really only one thing he detested: chores. Anansi would find any excuse to escape them.

That explained why on this particularly balmy morning, Anansi was stretched on a mile tree limb listening to the breeze blowing through the fronds. He was supposed to be home cutting the grass and sweeping up the yard but he decided to take a little break. He knew Ma Nanse would be vexed but he just couldn’t keep up with her frenzied pace.

Some noises coming from the far end of the field interrupted his dozing. He lifted one eyelid to glimpse at some animals congregating there. A few of them moved to the middle of the clearing doing something with some sticks at two ends and measuring out paces.

Anansi closed his eyes and ignored them until he smelled the distinct aroma of barbecued chicken. It seemed that a few of them set up a picnic under the shade of the large baobab tree. Anansi’s stomach gurgled. He loved barbecue. He couldn’t remember the last time he was treated to any. There was nothing he enjoyed more than munching on a juicy drumstick. Now this was worth investigating. Especially since he didn’t intend to pay for it.

Anansi sauntered over to Crab bustling over the grill. Grinning broadly, Anansi greeted him.

“Hi. Never saw y’all ‘bout here before. That barbecue sure smellin’ good!”

“Tanks. I is Cedric Gerard. Well, there’s just enough for de crew and de team during lunch fuh de match,” replied Crab.

Any game that involved lunch sounded very civilized to Anansi.

Indicating the animals clustered in the clearing Anansi asked, “What those fellas doin’?”

“Just a little practice match. But wait, you never see a 15/15 cricket game yet?” Adjusting the heat on the grill with one claw, Crab grumbled, “Blasted humans copying every blessed ting from we.”

Anansi was confused. Cricket? He had a cousin Clement who was a cricket. Cool fella but if he slept over at Anansi’s house, he kept so much flippin’ noise at night from chirping in his sleep, that no one got any rest.

By now more was happening on the field. A few animals had arranged themselves farther away from the middle. Some crouched on 4 or 6 legs while others were standing. In the middle was where everyone seemed to focusing their attention.

Donkey and Mongoose were facing each other about 22 yards apart. They were holding some long, flattish wooden sticks with handles and appeared to be waiting for something. He saw Cat behind Donkey, crouched on her hind legs with a mask over her face and holding what looked like a large calabash in her paws. Pelican, with a large floppy hat shading his sizeable beak, stood behind Mongoose at the other end, with his wings folded behind his back.

Anansi’s beady eyes were drawn to Donkey now about to bat. Donkey looked like a knight with a sword.

A long legged Egret sprinted and hopped with one wing whirling like a windmill. The rare over pitched ball he flung, hit Donkey‘s bat. Donkey smashed it hard to the end of the field. And with such sweeping grace. It was something to see, man.

The animals cooling out under the baobab and in the makeshift cane trash pavilion nearby, started cheering, with Blackbird blowing on a penny whistle and Green Monkey keeping time on a bongo drum.

“See dah Mongoose? Dah Talcolm Marshall. Brilliant batsman. He does mek de ball swing both ways…at pace too. And de donkey dah just bat? Dah is Brayin’ Lara, de vice-captain. Fantastic! He mek 257 in a test innings. He average 80 in test cricket and bout 75 in one day. Bet he mek he 75 today,” crowed Crab.

“That would be something,” responded Anansi, as if he knew what Crab was talking about.

Even de damn skins can’t touch dah! Crab bawled, “Ahrrrright Big Bird Egret, bowl it!”

“Skins?”

“Skin creatures…yuh know, humans.” Crab scowled. “One of dem skins sing calypso ‘bout Brayin’ fadda’. The crowd wuh sing piece or it sometimes between ah over..”

Donkey and Mongoose switched ends. A few of the animals including Pelican repositioned themselves with the two players, while a few of the others shifted restlessly.

Lizard started strumming a guitar. The motley crew under the shade of the baobab started chanting:

        And de ones
        in de crowd
        start to sing
        very loud
        if yuh hear dem,
        ‘Hit de ball, Donkey, hit de ball
        cover drive him and make him bawl
        hook de man like Kalicharan
        an‘ put him straight in de stand!*

All this was fascinating but what about the barbecue?

Cedric yelled at Centipede busy scribbling, “Basil, wuh is de score?”

“42 fuh nuttin’, Gerard!”

Anansi said, “Food smelling proper! Brother Cedric, you is a professional. Wuh is dem flat tings up in the corner dere?”

Turning some thick slices of breadfruit and sweet potato with a pair of tongs, Crab shrugged modestly. “I does do a little ting. Dese? Dese is bakes, Lucian style. Me mudda is Lucian. She learn me to cook. We umpire Pellie like bare ital food. Nuh flesh fuh he. You does play cricket?”

“Yes, a little.” Anansi exaggerated. “But I wouldn’t mind a master such as yourself to teach me more.”

Well of course, Crab had no problem pointing out the finer intricacies of the game.

Aright. You see de bowler, Big Bird Egret? Man, he does bowl bare yorkers an’ balls short of a good length at yuh ribs, not nuh over pitches like just now. Musse a lil’ tired. Um is a good ting dis only a practice match. If he ever pelt a beama…God help yuh! Yuh know de crowd love a piece ah good batting but um is de bowling dah does win matches, doh.”

“So yuh see…” Crab was interrupted by a fracas erupting on the field.

Snail bellowed, “Alright I GONE!”. The irascible mollusc crawled off from deep mid wicket in a huff. Everybody chupsed. On top of getting easily offended, he left a slimy mess.

“Well that’s it then,” sighed Crab disgustedly, waving a piece of cardboard over the coals.

“What do you mean?”

“It wasn’t easy to find enough uh we to play tuhday. Tris Snail gud but he got a temper, boy. We reserve Ryan Hind Leg, cuhn mek it tuhday. He enter some foolish Mr. Barkbadus pageant. Den, we had to come out here - real far from we regular groun‘, cuz uh de blasted skins diggin’ up we good pitch…tuh put down condominiums. You believe dat? Now I ask you, wuh kind ah priorities dem got?” Crab exhaled, “Anyhow, we short a fella now.”

Hearing the grill sizzling, Anansi politely sympathised, “That’s too bad. So ahhh…when you serving the food?”

“Like I told you before, I serving de food to de team at lunch an’ not before. You like you…Wait a minute…you cuh fill in. Just do wuh we captain Darfield Sobers tell yuh to do. DARF, COME! We got somebody to fill in!”

A muscular Black Belly Sheep trotted over.

“Darf, dis fella gine fill in fuh Tris.”

“Who?”

Turning to Anansi, Crab asked, “Wuh you name again?”

“Anansi.”

Darfield cocked his head at the odd eight legged fellow. “A little small, ain’t he?” he offered to Cedric. What he really thought was how he was bound to topple over trying to catch a ball on those spindly legs - or be squashed by a shooter.

I don’t know, Cedric. The bat bigger than he. Look, leh we just call it a day and have lunch.

“No no,” spoke up Anansi hastily. “I’d be happy to fill in. An’…an’ I cuh run real fast and got my own bat at home, just a few minutes away.”

“You do?” said Darfield wrinkling his nose, not fully convinced.

Actually I uh…made it ‘round Christmas time. I got a lil’ workshop, see? And…

“All right.” Darf interrupted, impatient to get back to the pavilion for some mash juice and a leisurely chew on his cud. “But if you not back in 20 minutes, don’t worry to come. We would put this off and just lime.”

Off Anansi dashed. Good thing Ma Nanse was napping. She must have been tired from all that weaving of webs and that flurry of housework. Quickly he scampered into his workshop and whittled a bat. It came out much too small, so he tried another. Ahh…that looked about right; just his size. Now back to the field and that food!

Anansi was back at the clearing in 17 minutes flat.

“So you reach. Nice bat. You like you like cricket bad,” smiled Crab, wiping his brow with one claw and looking up from his grilling.

“Yeah,” Anansi assented, his mouth springing water, like the Kaiteur Falls cascading, at the scent of the spicy, smoke.

“Leh we play some cricket den!” hollered Darfield from the pavilion.

Fortunately Anansi was a fast learner. He enjoyed the cricket but naturally, he enjoyed the food more. That Lucian Crab sure knew how to cook! Anansi liked the tuk music he heard between overs too. Quite lively. And then, there were the women.. For a girl with 6 legs, Camille the Cockroach was nice looking. Anansi liked them brown. She winked at him with all 2,000 lenses of one eye and gave him her cell number.

As for the game, it was close. Team A led by Talcolm Marshall was defeated by Egret Garner’s Team B by just one wicket. Brayin’ Lara put 260 runs on the board.

The animals loaded up Donkey’s cart with all their paraphernalia.

Crab sitting up front with Green Monkey holding the reins, waved a claw to Anansi.

“Boy, nex’ time we playin’, yuh must leh muh know yuh comin’. Fuh a lil’ fella yuh cuh eat, doh!”


***


Anansi scurried home. He couldn‘t believe how the time flew. Ma Nanse would be livid.

By the time he arrived at the house, it was near dusk and approaching dinner time.

“Good evening Ma Nanse,” Anansi said meekly.

“Hello son. Go clean up and come have your dinner, ” replied Ma Nanse ladling a bubbling, savoury gravy from a black saucepan.

Oh boy, it smelled good too! But wait a minute, she wasn’t upset? What’s going on?

“Thank you luv,” she smiled patting him with four arms.

“For…”

“That stick you left in your workshop. I was searching for something to stir cou cou and I saw it lying there on the work bench.“

Stick, what stick? Wait a minute... The cricket bat that came out too small? That must be it!

‘Let me tell you, it really made my stirring much easier. I’ll never turn cou cou with a twig again!”

Anansi’s jaw dropped to his lap.

Oh yes, and I tell my friend Brenda the Beetle and she tell Sheila the Stick Insect and now they both want one too. Everybody will want one. Son, this could make us rich! By the way, you wasn’t to sweep the yard?”

“Uhhhh…”

And that is the story of how Anansi invented the cou cou stick.

*Excerpt from song “Cricket In The Jungle” Copyright © 1974 written by David Martins of the Tradewinds. Martins was inspired by one of Ken Crosbie’s stories.



About the Author

Sandra Sealy describes herself as “a Barbadian-Canadian raised artist clutching an English birth certificate, emerging from her chrysalis.” She is a performance poet and an award-winning writer of poetry, non-fiction, fiction and drama with work published in the region and beyond. Her work has appeared in Calabash: A Journal of Caribbean Arts & Letters, Caribbean Writing Today, Arts Etc., POUI, SHE Caribbean Magazine, and Urban Entertainment to name a few. Sandra blogs at Seawoman’s Caribbean Writing Opps.

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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