Spotlight

The Little Golden Stone Man

by Ibi Zoboi

Krik?

“Krak!”

It was on the sixth day of each week that Manoucheka was to place a small bundle of cloth atop her head beneath which she would gently balance a plastic bucket for her hour long journey to the river. Her little brother, Gogo, would walk by her side only pushing a bicycle wheel with a long wooden stick down the rocky roads.

Manoucheka would kiss her teeth each time she’d watch her little brother play while the day’s chores washing clothes by the river, fetching water, pounding maize, and feeding the chickens forced her to wake at dawn and only rest her aching feet when the sun slid down beneath the earth.

Manoucheka was glad that she had found an old tin pail near the riverbank which she filled with water and told her brother to carry all the way back to their thatched-roofed home, despite the fact that the pail had a rusted hole at its side and water dripped out and onto Gogo’s brown and sweaty face. She laughed at the sight of her clumsy brother struggling to balance the pail on top of his head. A skill she’d only learned recently herself, Manoucheka would mimic the older and more graceful women in her village.

She laughed so hard that she did not see the glowing stone on the ground and she tripped and fell. This time, it was Gogo’s turn to laugh long and hard.

Manoucheka kissed her teeth and cursed the stone. “Stupid rock! Who would drag this dumb rock into the middle of the foot path!”

“But, Nounouch,” Gogo called out. “It looks like the sun!”

“Silly boy. The sun is not the size of a rock. It is more like the size of your huge round head!”

“But it’s glowing a bright yellow, Nounouch!”

“Maybe it is a sweet juicy fruit! Why don’t you give it a try, Gogo?”

Manoucheka loved to tease her little brother and have him do things she would never do herself. Indeed, the rock was glowing a bright yellow, as if a light bulb were screwed right in the middle of it. And it was about the size of her hand. If she’d picked it up, it would’ve fit into her palm perfectly. But it was Gogo who was willing to touch it, and when he did, he quickly pulled back his hand.

“Ouch! It is hot like the sun! Woosh!”

“Maybe it is hot coal or something. Strange color, but…stay away from it. Let’s go!”

As the two walked, they kept looking back at the spot where the glowing rock lay. It seemed to shine even brighter the further they looked away. And as if it emanated some sort of magnetic pull, Manoucheka and Gogo were forced to stop and come back to the rock. They placed the buckets of water to the side, knelt on the wet ground and hovered over the glowing rock, feeling its warmth on their faces.

“It’s gold,” Manoucheka said.

“Gold?” Gogo asked.

“Like the necklaces and rings Madan Gerard wears only on Sundays.”

“But this is a rock, not jewelry, Nounouch. And it’s not even the same color.”

“This is what gold looks like before they make it into jewelry, stupid.”

“What? You want to turn this rock into a ring for yourself?”

“Ah, Gogo. You and your silly questions. What will I look like walking around the village with gold chains and rings?

“But, Nounouch…”

“We will sell it to Madan Gerard. She can make all the gold chains and rings she wants.”

“For money?”

“No, for dog poop! Of course, for money! That way we can send it to Maman, so she can finally get us a visa so we can go live with her in New York!”

“Really, Nounouch?”

Manoucheka carefully tried to touch the stone with her index finger. She immediately moved her hand when she felt its heat just inches away. “If gold is this hot, they how can people bare to keep it on their neck and fingers for so long?”

“Maybe we should try to cool it off with some water,” Gogo said.

“Now these are the moments of genius that make me think that you might really be my brother. Other times, I swear I think that Mama must’ve picked you up from the side of the road,” Manoucheka teased.

Slowly, carefully, they poured cool river water over the hot, glowing stone. The stone hissed and sizzled, then coughed, and sneezed, and laughed, then coughed again, sneezed, giggled, then it was quiet. The stone glowed brighter and brighter, and it got hotter and hotter as if an open flame were dancing right before them!

The stone shifted and turned and rolled a bit to the left, a bit to the right, then it was still. And within a blink of their eyes, the stone became a little golden old man, barefoot and shirtless except for a pair of tattered golden pants and an old straw hat. He sang in a voice that could only belong to a baby.

“I am the little golden stone man, the little golden stone man.
In your pocket or in your hand,
Your greatest wish is my command!”

Manoucheka laughed. Gogo gasped.

“Nounouch, quick! Let’s go home! It’s a loogahoo, a duppie, a douen, a djab! Nounouch let’s go!” Gogo cried.

But Manoucheka only continued to laugh, throwing her head back and holding her belly. “Let me see you dance, little golden stone man!”

The little golden stone man shook his little round butt, waved his chubby arms around, spun, and wind his fat waist.

“You see, Gogo. He is funny and cute. He says our wish is his command. You can go home if you want, but this little fellow is mine!”

“I am the little golden stone man, the little golden stone man!
In your pocket or in your hand,
Your greatest wish is my command!” he repeated.

“Little golden stone man, where did you come from?” Manoucheka asked.

But he only danced again.

“Little golden stone man, do you belong to anyone?”

But he only danced some more.

“You only told him to dance, Nounouch,” Gogo said from a safe distance a few feet behind his sister.

“Okay then. Little golden stone man, I want you to answer my questions. Can you give us money?”

“Yes,” he replied, his body stone stiff once again.

“Can you…let us see our maman again?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like to go home with me?”

“Yes.”

The little golden stone man was cool enough to touch, so Manoucheka picked him up and gently placed him on the small bundle of cloth atop her head. Carefully, she balanced her dreams and wishes up the rocky road for the hour long journey back to her home. Gogo walked quietly behind. He’d left the tin pail, the bicycle wheel, and the wooden stick behind.

The golden sun was resting its weary head behind the mountains in the distance.

Manoucheka and her little brother shared only one wish. They would keep the little stone man in their shared room for the night. They would not return him to the riverbank until they were sure that their visa applications to visit America was approved and that their mother had bought their plane ticket.

Until then, the next few short days would be spent waking at dawn to begin the chores while dreaming of cold snowy faraway places, and their mother’s warm hugs and kisses.


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Ibi Zoboi is a Haitian-American writer and educator. Her short stories have been anthologized in the award-winning Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, the highly-acclaimed Haiti Noir edited by Edwidge Danticat, The Caribbean Writer, and Crossed Genres. She founded the Daughters of Anacaona Writing Project, a workshop for Haitian teen girls in New York City and Haiti.

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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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