Local heroes

July 19, 2000
By Terry Joseph

Not a lot of people know that in Heaven, the annual calendar begins at sunset on July 11.

Even fewer know that significant spirits, admitted during the preceding 12 months, must convene on the third Sunday of the new year (called "The Day") to compile a report based on individual earthly observations.

To accommodate the leap year, the current accounting period was extended to July 12, 2000. As a consequence, Ras Shorty I just made it to The Day. He sat next to calypso legend The Roaring Lion, who had preceded him through the Pearly Gates by exactly 366 days.

"I hear your name still ringing downstairs," the outspoken Shorty said. "The family saying that the Culture Minister promised to name the Carnival Institute after you and now it looking like the li'l show on Independence night is all the official tribute you could expect," he chuckled.

Former police calypso monarch, Supreme Happiness intervened: "I was at the show," he said. "They say it was a tribute, yes, but is not like if they sang Lion's songs. And worse, they had a Tobago Speech Band with some li'l children talking about 'bumsee' and 'panty' that got people real upset.

"Coccotte, I remember that too," said the forever-elegant Beryl Mc Burnie. "It was an insult to the body of work left by The Roaring Lion to pretend that such a thing would suffice as a lasting tribute." Her tone evoked general murmur.

Rapping the knob of his walking-cane just once on the edge of the table, Lion brought the house back to order. "You have to understand that the Institute was the brainchild of Chalkdust, who is now its first director," he said. "We are both calypso historians and diametrically opposed on the question of where the very art originated, so it might be difficult for him to concede naming the Carnival Institute after me."

Horace James, the well-loved actor and television personality rose to his legs: "As I said for years, if you play your cards right, the final tally of your achievements is not left to the people downstairs. Don't worry about what they can do for you. Find contentment in what you did for your people."

Not wanting anyone to construe his choice of seating as a "holier than thou" attitude, or draw him into mediation, Archbishop Anthony Pantin purposely avoided the throne and drew a chair next to mas-designer Neville Hinds instead.

"It is not always that priests are able to successfully defuse these situations," he whispered to Hinds. "Remember Dean Knolly Clarke, at the Natuc elections?"

But his comment, although spoken softly, did not escape the astute Calypso Grandmaster, Kitchener. In fact, the mere mention of Dean Clarke's name reminded them all of the uncontrollable fiasco into which Kitchener's final rites descended. A grim silence engulfed the table.

Humourist Lord Popo cut through: "The snake bite 'im," he said. And although no one knew for sure whether he was referring to Knolly Clarke or Kitch, his remark drew spontaneous laughter from some members of the group. However, since serpentine references are not considered politically correct in Heaven, other members shot looks of admonition in Popo's direction.

"Talk yuh talk," chimed ex 3-Canal singer John Isaacs, throwing the full band of angels into giggles. Veteran chorus singer, Ruby Radix, extending the jibe, struck up a parodied version of 'How Great Thou Art', pointing alternately to Kitch and Lion, and pulling crossover star Sundar Popo closer, as if to tighten the harmony.

As the gathering warmed to the fun, national anthem composer, Pat Castagne began to mime piano chords on the table-top. But Mr. Prospect stopped the band. After all, they were there for the serious purpose of preparing the report. Using his baton to circumscribe the order of a round-robin, he indicated that Shorty should speak first.

"I have just one observation," Shorty said. "I find that, instead of only playing selections of mine that give the impression that I was a saint from birth, the better lesson would come from playing both the religious and the provocative songs.
"That way, particularly the youth, some of whom feel that they gone through already and cannot change, could appreciate that a fella could come back from whatever point he reach, embrace new values and turn around his life," Shorty said.

The gathering grew quiet again. None among them could likely be more profound. Shorty's words spoke of earthly propensity for confusing deception with deference. It was much the same point that they all wanted to make. There was nothing to be gained from further discussion. Taking the cue, Mr Prospect adjourned the meeting and they all went off to drink milk and honey preparations at the reception that traditionally followed such days in Paradise.

Terry-J at I-Level