The Island

Category: , , , , , By Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik
Had a rather Huckleberry Finn childhood. Spent a lot of time on the Umgeni lagoon, riding a bike, fishing and exploring. Maybe that’s the memory because there was a Mississippi paddle steamer moored on the bank there before Cyclone Demoina. No shit. There was an island in the middle of the Umgeni there; hobo’s used to live on it. Used to buy cracker shrimp off them; at low tide they would come over with old orange sacks filled with cracker, legs black with mud, swearing all the way. They had built shacks there, hidden in the thick bush under the biggest trees. When the tide was in the water was clear enough to see crabs dancing along the bottom, claws raised like they were carrying invisible furniture. First memory is a warthog that came snorting and stamping out of the bush under the bridge. Mother was scared stiff but went all ‘aw, shame’ when the little ones came from behind.
'Succulent.' said Father.
'Aw, shame.' said Mother.

Boogie was one of the cracker hobo’s, and a friend. Used to bring the biggest crackers and demonstrate how to hook and tie them just right so they wouldn’t come off, even if a crab got cheeky. Was a pisscat and a button*-smoker, was Boogie. His breath smelled terrible, the methane of swamp mixed with the ripe hum of sorghum beer and rotting teeth. He didn’t care about a thing other than drink, buttons, zol and his pozzi on the island. Dirt poor but laughing all the time, even when falling on his ass in the mud, that was Boogie.

Used to be a fun fair on the banks of the river there, below the model boat pond. Rode the slip ‘n slide, the go-karts and the miniature train that ran on a track through the mangrove jungle. All so big when you’re a lightie. Mother and Father knew the owners, so it was freebies on those rides till sunset sometimes. Lightie heaven. That’s where the Huckleberry Finn boat was. Never saw it used, maybe it was a model, just for show.

Boogie knew all the best spots where the mullet were so thick at high tide they’d even go for a finger in the water. Sharp fuckin' teeth. So thick, just drop a line and wham! Got one. The other hobo’s didn’t know about the special spots; they never got to know. Was our secret, Boogie and me. Used to bring a carton of iJuba, say 'have a taste'. So sour, but then nice. Mother smelt it. Said I smelled like a shebeen and lighties didn’t drink Zulu beer, so no more hanging out with Boogie. Well, that she knew of. Used toothpaste after, no more shebeen breath, then.
Also smokes. Boogie would fall in the mud but his smokes stayed dry. Green pack of Courtleigh Satin Leaf. He would say ‘have a pull’. Choke and cough and he would laugh and say ‘Ag, lightie, one day, eh?’
And buttons, Boogie loved to smoke button pipes. One day the police waited for him in the bush at low tide when he came with the cracker, to bust him for smoking buttons. But they just slapped him, took his buttons and weed and threw it in the water. That’s when Boogie would stop laughing for a while. Then he would vloek them, and drink more iJuba. A little later, laughing again.

Cyclone Demoina came and washed the river clean of the island, washed all the bush and the dead fish onto the beaches. Dunno what happened to Boogie.

* South African slang

button = mandrax
pozzi = house/place
zol = weed
lightie = kid
jolling = fun
klapped = smacked
vloek = swear

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