Miguel Street

CONTENTS

Cover

About the Author

Other Books by This Author

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

1 BOGART

2 THE THING WITHOUT A NAME

3 GEORGE AND THE PINK HOUSE

4 HIS CHOSEN CALLING

5 MAN-MAN

6 B. WORDSWORTH

7 THE COWARD

8 THE PYROTECHNICIST

9 TITUS HOYT, I.A.

10 THE MATERNAL INSTINCT

11 THE BLUE CART

12 LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, ALONE

13 THE MECHANICAL GENIUS

14 CAUTION

15 UNTIL THE SOLDIERS CAME

16 HAT

17 HOW I LEFT MIGUEL STREET

1

BOGART

Every morning when he got up Hat would sit on the banister of his back verandah and shout across, ‘What happening there, Bogart?’

Bogart would turn in his bed and mumble softly, so that no one heard, ‘What happening there, Hat?’

It was something of a mystery why he was called Bogart; but I suspect that it was Hat who gave him the name. I don’t know if you remember the year the film Casablanca was made. That was the year when Bogart’s fame spread like fire through Port of Spain and hundreds of young men began adopting the hardboiled Bogartian attitude.

Before they called him Bogart they called him Patience, because he played that game from morn till night. Yet he never liked cards.

Whenever you went over to Bogart’s little room you found him sitting on his bed with the cards in seven lines on a small table in front of him.

‘What happening there, man?’ he would ask quietly, and then he would say nothing for ten or fifteen minutes. And somehow you felt you couldn’t really talk to Bogart, he looked so bored and superior. His eyes were small and sleepy. His face was fat and his hair was gleaming black. His arms were plump. Yet he was not a funny man. He did everything with a captivating languor. Even when he licked his thumb to deal out the cards there was grace in it.

He was the most bored man I ever knew.

He made a pretence of making a living by tailoring, and he had even paid me some money to write a sign for him:

TAILOR AND CUTTER

Suits made to Order

Popular and Competitive Prices

He bought a sewing machine and some blue and white and brown chalks. But I never could imagine him competing with anyone; and I cannot remember him making a suit. He was a little bit like Popo, the carpenter next door, who never made a stick of furniture and was always planing and chiselling and making what I think he called mortises. Whenever I asked him, ‘Mr Popo, what you making?’ he would reply, ‘Ha, boy! That’s the question. I making the thing without a name.’ Bogart was never even making anything like this.

Being a child, I never wondered how Bogart came by any money. I assumed that grown-ups had money as a matter of course. Popo had a wife who worked at a variety of jobs; and ended up by becoming the friend of many men. I could never think of Bogart as having mother or father; and he never brought a woman to his little room. This little room of his was called the servant-room but no servant to the people in the main house ever lived there. It was just an architectural convention.

It is still something of a miracle to me that Bogart managed to make friends. Yet he did make many friends; he was at one time quite the most popular man in the street. I used to see him squatting on the pavement with all the big men of the street. And while Hat or Edward or Eddoes was talking, Bogart would just look down and draw rings with his fingers on the pavement. He never laughed audibly. He never told a story. Yet whenever there was a fête