The Amputee and Yankee

Blogtober Short Story # 10

I always wondered about that leg, how he lost it, and I strained to remember if I had ever seen him standing on two legs at all. What I do remember about Martin Sylvester, was that he never called me Nyri, it was always Yankee! I could never understand how that name applied to me, I took pride in having a name that had never been heard, and one that people instantly acknowledged as beautiful. I loved my name so why the hell was he calling me Yankee! And what was a Yankee anyway? I waited, but since when did adults ever respond to the inquiries of an inquisitive child, especially with respect to something her elders called her. So to prevent the assumption of my blatant lack of manners, I answered. 

At that time I didn’t understand that anyone born in the United States of America was a Yankee if you were on the soil of any island in the Caribbean. Since I was not yet old enough to immerse myself in history and world events or sports, I thought it quite strange, he decided that’s what he would call me. I despised it, and I would soon learn that he wasn’t the only person that would be calling me a Yankee so I had better get used to hearing it.

My solution, pick up an accent quickly to avoid the shame and embarrassment of hearing Yankee blasted across the yard every time I flew off the gallery to seek out some daily mischief. I had it all figured out, if you look like a trini, eat like a trini and talk like a trini people just assume you are another trini child and boss you around using your government name or a respectable nick name chosen for you. Aside from my name, everyone calls me Ny, and in my subtle defiance and protest, I began to ignore Uncle Martin.

Though uncle Martin had one leg, his presence was larger than life to me. He spent most of his day seated in the middle of the yard on a chair, rubbing the nub of his missing leg, it was amputated at the knee, with a dreadlocked dog at his feet. I found this fascinating, I would sit on the steps and watch them for hours. The fact that this dog with dreads was still alive was quite remarkable, considering that it emitted a smell that could be nothing but death, hardly moved, never barked and didn’t run when food was thrown in the yard for him to eat. Aside from the steps, he would place himself at the foot of Uncle Martin in the yard, and the two of them would sit in the sun, high on the hill that faced a Hindu temple, watching the scenery of life in the small village of Mendez slowly pass by. He would rub the hair on his face and the nub at his knee in unison, and I waited, hand on my chin, to see something exciting happen!

The day came when Uncle Martin went to get fitted for a prosthetic leg, this was a family outing. It’s the only picture I remember of him having a sliver of what could be considered as a smile, in all that fuss, he seemed to be excited about that leg. Sadly, I never saw him wear it much, not because something happened, he simply refused, didn’t like the fit. He would use it to walk into the yard, get comfortable in his chair, and remove it, prop it next to him in the yard, and rub that nub and beard as usual. This seems common in our family for those that have lost a limb, I also remember my grandmother refusing her leg because the color “did not match her skin” and fighting for years for a replacement. Well she eventually did get one that was “brown skin” but she refused to wear this one as well, complaining about “it wasn’t made right”. I’m thinking that the technology for prosthetics that we have now is simply superior to those given to patients years before. They must have been painful to use, and some amount of shame carried, but as a child, I saw it as an opportunity to get around, and didn’t understand why he didn’t take it. 

So picture it, a prosthetic leg, standing up in the yard, an old black man with the darkest of skin and a light yellowing in his eyes, seated, with a dreadlocked dog at his feet, rubbing his beard and nub. How could this not be exciting for a 6 year old girl with an overactive imagination? I thought he was the greatest, but also mean and surly and I wondered what secrets he held in that mind of his. Yankeeeeeeee! The deepest of voices, thick Trinidadian accent, I can hear him calling, laughing and yelling Yankeeeeeee!

To this day, I despise the word, I guess it’s time to let it go!!

Much love from the brown girl, sharing short stories for Blogtober! Keep writing, even if no one is reading ❤️

Nyri~The Unnerved Traveler

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