Best of Wadadli Pen: Tekin' ahn Dey!

by Lia Nicholson

Second place winner, Wadadli Pen 2004.

The air is moist and heavy with the smell of roasted corn and Friday night chicken – pure tropical. The streets of Antigua glow with houses flamboyantly covered in Christmas lights. Tree frogs chirp like wound up music boxes after a light evening shower.

Slowly my father presses his foot on the brake as we approach a speed bump. My cousin Kelsey and I jolt slightly in the back of the ancient pickup truck. As we draw closer to Cobbs Cross Corner, we begin to feel the bass before it’s even possible to hear the music, suggesting the real night life is just ahead.

My mother had sent us to go pick up my older brother for dinner, and I’d eagerly agreed to go; I thirsted for my home culture after months of boarding school.

We could hear the sound of music now; a song by Wayne Wonder and T.T. Miss, one that I have to close my eyes and listen to for old time’s sake.

‘I don’t wanna talk about what I had be-fore, so what I wanna do right now, is love you ever more, ba-by’.

As we round the corner, a hiss rings through the air, “Pssssssssssssst!”

I open my eyes abruptly; the sound is so familiar, yet so foreign. A group of boys are on the curb, some sitting, some standing, but all moving to the music. A car’s electric blue headlights cast swimming shadows. A couple more hisses follow, accompanied by an “ay, babey!”

‘Of course,’ I think, ‘white girls in a black country.’

I look away from them, tense and self-conscious. My actions remind me of an English friend that visited. She loved the beaches as much as I do – as much as every tourist does – though when hissed at, she’d blush furiously. I felt her insecurity of wanting them to keep giving me attention mixed with the embarrassment.

“I’d almost forgotten that sound,” I say to my cousin, though it sounds much more bitter than I’d intended. I also missed it.

“I wonder when the tradition started,” she replies.

“No idea.”

“Ever hissed at them?” she asks, smiling cheekily.


“I dare you to when we pass back.” She winks at me.

I think about it for a minute, and then agree. “You’re on,” I say, winking at her.

My brother hurries down the stairs, jumps in the cab, and slams the door. The whole truck rattles; its years are numbered.

After we pull out onto the main road, the music slowly comes back into hearing range. A different song is playing now, one I don’t know. I can glimpse the lights from the Corner as it approaches. My heart is pounding with anticipation of their reaction. Am I sure I don’t know any of the people? After all, it is dark.

As we draw level with the group, I hiss at them long and loud without hesitation. Their reaction is unexpected; a second of silence which is quickly broken by an uproar of cheering and crazy hissing. Some comments are thrown in as well: “Ay baby!” and “Where you goin’?”

The English girl would have been proud of me.

Night swallows them up as we fly out of sight, my dad speeding along. My cousin laughs deep and I join in.

“Merass, yu tek ahn dey!!” She yells it out loud in dialect. You took them on.

I remember the days when I had been the only white girl in my class, when I possessed that child’s non judgmental, accepting mind. As the ring of our laughs join together, I realize that child in me would never die.
I lift my face to the sky, and inhale deeply. A sweet smell fills my lungs. The scent of frangipani suggests there is one blooming nearby.


Lia Nicholson was a 15 year old student living overseas (much like the character in her story) when she earned first runner up in the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize competition. She recently returned to Antigua from New Zealand where, among other things, she worked in the Green Department on the forthcoming movie, The Hobbit.

Copyright of the winning Wadadli Youth Pen Prize stories and/or art work featured on this site belongs to the creators of the individual works. Anansesem's editors played no part in the Wadadli Pen judging process. Anansesem's editors have not edited or adjusted the stories or artwork in any way.

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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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