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My friend is now living overtime


Ah don’t tink my buddy Dennis Joyette will forgive me foh missing his seventieth birthday party last Sunday. After all is only survivors like de Mighty Sheller and me who could ah gone dey and really speech him off, and let out all his boyhood secrets among his friends. Ah might ah start wid de Ole Year’s night, when Miss Pricilla dey in her yard cooking in one ah dem Crix biscuit tin pon three fire stone, pot full ah peas, dasheen, dumpling, ham bone and corn-pork boiling.{{more}} Dennis in de dark hiding, dey waiting like Brer Nancy, from de moment Miss Pricilla turn her back and went inside foh butter or someting, Dennis sneak-up and ran off wid dat steaming hot pot. Poor Miss Pricilla cuss all night thru to New Year’s day. Wha bout de time when he was in de mango tree, rain pouring and Aunt Bates begging him to come down, but of course she was talking to Tarzan, de best climber. “See I let go both hands yet I do not fall” he said, lines from a Nursery Rhyme. Same time ah piece ah wind blow: “ and down came Dennis, mango limb and all”! Straight to de Hospital to mend ah broken arm. Every day of our school vacation, we uses to push down Percy Bonadie fishing boat and about two dozen ah we from de Village, some inside, some along-side de boat swimming from way de Cruise Ship berth to Flat Rock, ah lickle rocky bay under Candy Veira’s home at Cane Garden point. Sheller never went, couldn’t swim, up to now Sheller can’t swim, his excuse was “me Mammy say, sea water ain’t got no back door”. We owned every mango tree in de Village, those we couldn’t visit in de day we tackled at nights, until one night we mounted Mr. St Agathe’s “Glasgow mango tree”, dat’s way Tomlin Voss office is. De dog started to bark and ole man St. Agathe fired off his shot gun (in de air fortunately) and gravity was put to de test, all man on de ground, at de same time. Dat tree still standing, every time ah pass, it brings back fond memories. We had great days, and when ah see wha happening to de youths dem today, just liming pon de blocks wasting away, ah does feel to cry.

But de Dennis Joyette who today is the most credible name in Auto body repair-man in SVG, had one ah de roughest and most humble beginning. As early as age ten, when all of us would ah bin sleeping, at 5:00 a.m, Dennis, ah small and boney kid wid two knock-knee, he knee dem still lock, had to walk ( three miles) from Murray’s Village to Sion Hill Bay to milk several cows, tie out goats and sheep and come back home in time foh school, and he better be early, cause our head-teacher Tommy Saunders was always at de door waiting foh late comers.

Times were so rough and Dennis didn’t even finish Primary school. While some ah we went on to Secondary School, he left at Grade 5, to go wuk, to learn “ auto body repair trade” wid ah Trinny fellar name Lashley, one ah de best. He learned trade quickly and when he had acquired ah few pieces ah tools, Joyette, brave as ah sailor, went on his own. Ah talking bout fifty years ago story yuh know.

He didn’t have ah work-shop, was next to his brother’s village shop, under ah breadfruit and ah mango tree, wid some plastic covering dat he did his first jobs. We would all hang around and help wid sanding de rust spots on de vehicles, he used ah ole time manual spray can or insect flit-can to paint de vehicles until later, he got ah small second hand compressor. Interestingly he never abandoned his animals, inspite ah all de animal names we uses to call him, he could ah tek ah good heckle. Neville St. Agathe was his twin in crime, but Nev uses to pin nicknames on him like ah cushion. Every funny character Nev saw at de movies he would say look Dennis. We looking at de Crucifixion, Nev took one look at Judas and say “dah fellar look just like Dennis”. We watching “Tarzan and de Beast”. When de beast tear open E eye, Nev shout out “look Dennis”!

Den one day Dennis said he was leaving foh Canada to get some experience. Losing him from de gang was like ah chain wid de link in de centre gone. But in less dan three years he was back. When I passed thru Toronto going to study, all his relatives laughed at his move back home, dey said he was foolish. He proved every body wrong. He maximized his Canadian experience to de full and immediately put into practice his newly acquired skills, strict work ethics, and de high professional standard of work dat raised him to No 1in de land.

He is ah perfectionist and ah hard task-master who pays his wukers well. He practically lives on de job, so much so, his dear wife Glenda, who more dan anyone else understands or puts up wid his nagging, hasty and miserable ways, her only complaint is dat he is too much of ah work-ah-haul-licks. Dennis can’t help, he born dat way.

De Jew, Dennis, Judas, Beast or whatever we chose to call him, he answers to dem all. He loves to reminisce on de good ole days, like these tings ah saying bout him. One can always count on his integrity, honesty and frankness, he’s ah plain shilling. Hold on, Dennis doesn’t spend ah bad penny, he was always brokes, dat’s why we called him “de Jew”, but as ah professional his opinion and signature are highly recognized by de Banks and Insurance companies. Unfortunately his sterling contribution to development in SVG remains unrecognized; but Dennis would be my nominee foh ah National Award. My seventieth birthday wish to him is dat he chill ah bit and enjoy every day of his overtime, and ah begging him, please, carry back Miss Pricilla pot. And wid dat, is gone ah gone again.

One Love Bassy

Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.