Best of Wadadli Pen: Ma Belle

by Kemal Osmel Nicholson

Honourable mention, Wadadli Pen 2006.

She was a character, the old woman, and the villagers feared her. She lived alone through a small dirt road at the backside of the village. Hardly anyone walked so far back into the village.

Her house itself was small but neat looking. Somehow when you saw it (her house) you would think of the old lady who lived in a shoe. It was surrounded by a small yard which was unfenced. Behind her house “cassi” trees flourished.

Now, no one in the village was really that close to Ma Belle. Baysiders thought her queer and commonly referred to her (though not to her face) as “Medusa.” Occasionally one would say a quick “howdy” to her when she paid her rare visits to the shop, and even then she was avoided. No one was of blood relation to Ma Belle, an uncommon occurrence in Bayside where family was kept for generations. But as far back as any one could remember Ma Belle had existed.

Bernie, the oldest man in Bayside (almost 90) claimed that, “When me a likkle bwoy, she (ma belle) min dun owl a ready.”

The brave in heart attributed Bernie’s theory to loss of memory.

Others took heed…

In the front of her yard, Ma Belle kept a white ram. She called him “Rambo”, he looked fierce, and if he saw any one coming into the yard he would charge. Some of the more boorish Bayside youth noted that there was strong resemblance between Ma Belle and Rambo. They hypothesized as to whether there was any blood relation between them. Anyway…

The superstitious of the village have it that at nights, Ma Belle can be seen riding on “she ram goat” wearing all black, and searching for souls. Once again the brave hearts dispelled this, saying that Ma Belle was a poor old soul and should be left alone.

“She no trouble nonbady, ayu ha fu ‘low she”

And what does Ma Belle think of the villagers…

“Dem people in dis village ya weird, fifty years me a lib ya and not one smady a talk to me, a good ting me ha you see Rambo, no dem weird, ugly one dey,” she said chuckling; she gave the goat a little pat and fed him some grass. The Ram bared his teeth as if smiling.


Kemal Osmel Nicholson was born in Guyana. His story "Ma Belle" was included in his short story collection, Bayside Tales. At the time he wrote the story, he was a student at the Antigua State College. He has since gone on to win Antigua and Barbuda’s Independence Literary Arts competition.

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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