The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

BOOK: The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
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Table of Contents
Praise for
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
“Roffey’s evocation of Trinidad is extraordinarily vivid, the central relationship beautifully observed. . . . Deservedly short-listed for the Orange Prize.”
—Kate Saunders,
The Times
“A rich and highly engaging novel.”

The Guardian
“Equal love and attention go into the marriage and the country at the heart of this Orange Prize short-listed novel. . . . It’s a book packed with meaty themes, from racism to corruption to passion and loyalty.”

Seven, The Sunday Telegraph Magazine
“Roffey’s Orange Prize-nominated book is a brilliant, brutal study of a marriage overcast by too much mutual compromise.”

The Independent
“A searing account of the bitter disappointment suffered by Trinidadians on securing their independence from British colonial rule and of the mixed feelings felt by a white couple who decide to stay on. An earthy, full-blooded piece of writing, steaming with West Indian heat.”

London Evening Standard
“Her plot engages the reader through a gradual revelation of the past—slowly forming a melancholy whole.”

Financial Times
“A beautiful, moving, and haunting book.”

Edinburgh Evening News
“From its opening pages, I was entranced by the world of this novel. Monique Roffey’s Trinidad is full of strife and languor, violence and also hushed moments of peace, so beautifully and lushly evoked that while I was reading Trinidad became more real for me than my own neighborhood. What a vibrant, provocative, satisfying novel—I can’t stop thinking about it.”
—Suzanne Berne, Orange Prize winner
Monique Roffey was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and educated in the UK. Her highly acclaimed debut novel,
Sun Dog
, was published in 2002. Since then she has worked as a Centre Director for the Arvon foundation and has held the post of Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Sussex and Chichester universities. She currently lives in Harlesden, north London, where she spends most of the day in her pajamas, writing.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
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New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd., 2009 Published in Penguin Books (USA) 2011
“Love for an Island” by Phyllis Shand Allfrey reproduced with the permission of Curtis Brown Ltd, London, on behalf of the estate of Phyllis Shand Allfrey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Monique Roffey, 2009, 2011 All rights reserved
eISBN : 978-1-101-51405-4
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

For my mother, Yvette Roffey
Love for an Island
Love for an island is the sternest passion;
pulsing beyond the blood through roots and loam
it overflows the boundary of bedrooms
and courses past the fragile walls of home.
Those nourished on the sap and the milk of beauty
(born in its landsight) tremble like a tree
at the first footfall of the dread usurper -
a carpet-bagging mediocrity.
Theirs is no mild attachment, but rapacious
craving for a possession rude and whole;
lovers of islands drive their stake, prospecting
to run the flag of ego up the pole,
sink on the tented ground, hot under azure,
plunge in the heat of earth, and smell the stars
of the incredible vales. At night, triumphant,
they lift their eyes to Venus and to Mars.
Their passion drives them to perpetuation:
they dig, they plant, they build and they aspire
to the eternal landmark; when they die
the forest covers up their set desire,
Salesmen and termites occupy their dwellings,
their legendary politics decay,
yet they achieve an ultimate memorial:
they blend their flesh with the beloved clay.
- Phyllis Shand Allfrey
They took him to the top of Paramin Hill. Right to the top, where there was no one around, where no one could hear him call for help. Four of them. Four to carry out such a job. They wanted to teach him a lesson. He’d no business complaining
. So what
if the police had stolen his mobile phone, they can damn well take what they like. And poor Talbot – well – yes. Mixed up with the local thugs, the badjohns up on this hill, the ones causing all the problems. The police already knew Talbot. And now they wanted to teach him not to go making more trouble.
Talbot was in the back of the police vehicle, squeezed up between two of them, handcuffed. They’d already hit him about when they picked him up – slapped his face, told him to shut up or they’d return for his sexy younger sister, Chantal. They told him to shut his
damn blasted mout
‘Leave mih sister
dis,’ Talbot shouted. But they hit his face hard. Then Talbot shut up. They parked and left the headlights on full. It was dusk, darkness about to settle. The biggest of them, a man called Johnny, was laughing like he knew what to do. Last week he gave the same treatment to another man, some poorfuck up in Debe.
‘De damn blasted people need to show some respek, man,’ he’d said then and meant it. They pulled Talbot out shaking and blabbering and begging, saying he was sorry, sorry he told his girlfriend about the mobile phone, sorry he made a fuss. He didn’t need it, he didn’t want it. They took off the cuffs and Talbot rubbed his wrists.
The first blow sang out. Then Johnny went at him with another big punch,
. This time he hit Talbot in the belly. Talbot doubled over. He spewed something out onto the grass. Talbot staggered, holding his sides. He looked up.
‘Show some damn fockin’ respek, man.’ Johnny smiled; his eyes were wild and dark. It was he who stole Talbot’s phone at the fête the week before. Later, Johnny got a ticking-off from the Superintendent – nothing big, but Johnny’d had a lot of pressure recently. Too many complaints.
‘Hol’ him, nuh,’ Johnny said. Two of the men held Talbot back by his arms, across the broadside of the police vehicle. The headlights sprayed light across the hillside bamboos.
Another punch. Johnny had some boxing experience. He took off his uniform shirt and his muscles glowed in the heat. He flexed and shadow-danced a little. He laughed as the other men held Talbot down. Talbot said nothing. His eyes were open wide. Johnny and his friend Marco, a policeman on another force, took turns with Talbot.
Bam, badap
. Each punch brought Talbot’s eyes out of his head. Blood sprayed out. Sweat flew from his chest.
Bam, baff
. Talbot took the punches, but he cried like a little boy. Each one made him jump off the ground and made him weak, so weak they had to hold him upright. Then Talbot went limp. They straightened him up and pinned him across the door of the car. He was crying, crying for them to stop.
And then Johnny got really mean. He set in. His eyes gleamed like he was enjoying himself and then he lashed out like a kung fu expert, executing all manner of kicks. He round-kicked at Talbot with his big police boots and he swung around, kicking him again and again, in his stomach, in his mouth.
, a sound like something had split in Talbot’s chest
. Crack
. Bones were breaking. Talbot groaned, blood trickled from his mouth.
Then they both started kicking him: flying kicks and blows, karate chops. Talbot couldn’t stand up. His face was mashed up, his chest bleeding; he was black and blue and sweating. The man poured with sweat and blood. They continued punching and kicking him. When they stopped, because they had tired themselves out, they drank rum from a bottle of Vat 19. Johnny and Marco were sweating, too, from all their kicks. They spat out some rum on the ground.
‘He go dead,’ one said, looking at Talbot.
‘Nah, man,’ Johnny replied. He hadn’t finished yet.
Again Johnny went at poor damn Talbot, this time with his fists, and he worked him over,
smack, crunch.
A rain of blows to Talbot’s face. Blood spurted out. Blood on Johnny’s hands that he wiped on his uniform trousers. Johnny smashed up the man’s nose so it folded across his face. Talbot was unconscious.
‘Enough,’ one of the policemen told Johnny.
BOOK: The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
2.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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