Cover mile after mile of unrelenting distance on foot to communities as far west or east as Anse-La-Raye or Dennery. Continue walking even when exhaustion permeates flesh and seeps into bones and placing one foot in front of another requires a superhuman effort of will. Call out to patrons “Volan salé! Volan salé!” with your mouth tasting of dust which is also in your eyes, nostrils and throat; repeat the call at periodic intervals although it appears that nobody is buying today. Give your best smile and inquire about one’s health and that of her family when a sale is being made in spite of the frustration of this being a bad day.
Return home on rubbery legs that threaten to collapse beneath you. Get there between five-thirty and six amidst the long shadows of approaching dusk with the dust and sweat caked onto your skin and wolf down whatever little is available. Try not to think about your friends cleaning up and indulging in the luxury of healing sleep while you busy yourself in preparing for the next day. Harold has brought more fish which must be made ready for the road tomorrow before you can release some of the massive exhaustion build-up.
The fins and scales of each fish must be carefully removed before it is cut open along the length of its white underbelly to expose the entrails within. The entrails are scooped out and an incision is made on either side of the bony middle so the upper flesh containing the profusion of tiny bones can be removed. Great care must be exercised when removing those tiny bones as you don’t want too much flesh taken out with the bones. Wash the fish in one basin—discarding the water at intervals—and put them in another basin for salting before transferring them to the big, white bucket. Your children are in bed and asleep before you’re finished. Then place the pemi and breadnut paraphernalia together for Thomas so his chores can be a bit lighter in the morning. In the privacy of your cramped bedroom, you perform your nightly ablution with the weight of the day’s activities pressing down upon you. Finally, drag yourself off to bed and scream silently in self-suppressed outrage as your man reaches out to claim your tired flesh. You will, as always, submit to him.
Author’s note: The preceding is an excerpt from the story, “The final journey”, from the novella, “House of Tears”, now available on Amazon Kindle.