Open 2021 Open Stories - Steve Carr


Meisma Writes Her Memoir
By Steve Carr




Me, I, she, her, Meisma.


I write this before I forget to. This is what Meisma hear said is a memoir; it is your life story. Meisma writes her memoir.


Forgive Meisma for not being a good writer. I was taught how to read and write from two books, one about a girl name of Alice who falls into a hole and another about a man name of Gulliver. Meisma didn’t understand meaning of either book. Then and now think there much nonsense in both. I was told neither true. Meisma’s memoir is all true.

Meisma come here to this island to pick the coffee bean. I, then, a young girl of fourteen years, know nothing of the world. I not read or write when coming to here. I am stupid girl, I think. Having no talents I born with choices to pick fruit, have babies, or leave home to be a picker of the dark beans grown on the shrubs, I choose leaving home. I come here in a small, crowded boat with all men and boys. The waves that toss us around not make me sick like many of them. Meisma, smiling as they lean over edge of boat and throw up. Meisma think she should be sailor.


Leaving shore of my birthplace last time Meisma see her mother and father. They kiss Meisma and we all cry. Mother cries the most. They, and Meisma, not know we never see one another again. It part of Meisma’s memoir. But it’s an image in my head of Meisma’s mother and father waving, crying, as boat goes to sea, that Meisma carries with her, like a photograph. I hear my parents were murdered by men who raid Meisma’s village. This hurt Meisma to think about. Meisma’s parents gentle people who never hurt anyone. Nothing to go back to if parents gone and village destroyed. Meisma could be dead if she had stayed home. Strange to think, coffee beans save Meisma’s like.


When boat land here on beach, Meisma get out of boat and line up with men and boys. Mr. Hobson, coffee plantation manager, walk up and down in front of line looking at us. He stops in front of Meisma; look at Meisma from feet to head, and say, “You’re a girl. Picking coffee beans is hard work. Why should I not send you back on the next boat?”

Meisma stick out her flat chest and hold out hands and show him.” Then I say, “Meisma has strong back, strong hands.”


He nods, say nothing more and walk away. Meisma is given cot to sleep on with only other female in room, Delores, who sleep on a big bed. Next day Meisma pick first beans.


Now Meisma write about the plantation because it is important in Meisma’s memoir.


It sat high up on the island where once was a volcano. Tiered fields of coffee trees surround the top of the volcano that is a volcano no more, replaced by a large flat field where stands the plantation owner’s house, the barracks for the workers, and other small buildings. To get to the plantation is a long ride in a vehicle or by walking a far way up a winding dirt road. It is the soil and air up here that creates the color and taste of the coffee beans. First time Meisma see the owner’s house she think it the biggest house in the world. Things get smaller as time passes. The grand house where Meisma was raised no more than a shack last time she saw it.


The owner of the plantation, Mr. Collins, was bachelor, but his woman when I first arrived, a Miss Huma lived in the house with him and slept in his bed like they were married. She was a tall woman with eyes like a panther, same color and shape. She never talk to anyone but Delores, and then just to tell Delores what not to serve her and Mr. Collins for their meals.


When first arrived I only see kitchen and main room. The kitchen, where Delores work, had what I think at the time was the biggest stove in the world. Delores only cooks for Mr. Collins and Miss Huma. The cooking for the workers done by Teddy and Jute and done in big pots and on grills outdoors under a tin roof. Both those men sweat all the time from heat from cooking. The main room have zebra hides and heads of lions and bison on the walls though those animals nowhere around. Only animal on the island is small-sized monkeys.

Delores shows me the kitchen and main room early in the morning when Mr. Collins and Miss Huma were still in bed. I hear them. What I hear, not two people sleeping! On the front of the house was a large porch with lots of chairs where Mr. Collins, the plantation managers, and their favorite workers, sit at night, drink alcohol and smoke cigars.


The boys and men came and went from the plantation. The work was too hard for what little they earned, they said. There aren’t any women except Delores who is too old and ugly and Miss Huma belongs to the boss, they said.


Delores acted like my mother. She taught me to learn letters and to read from the books about Alice and Gulliver. We sat in our room at night and with the lantern lit, Meisma learned about rabbit holes and giants. Delores also teaches other things. “Boys are going to want to steal your softness,” she told me, but she didn’t explain what my “softness” was.


But by age 18 I knew what Delores meant, but I didn’t give my softness away. I was as strong as any of the men and easily fought off any boy or man who tried to take it.

The thing about getting older is that everything else gets older too, usually at the same time. Miss Huma no longer looked like a fresh flower she looked like the first time I saw her. She had wilted into something that looked used. Doing nothing all the time does that to a person.


Meisma looked in the mirror many times and said, “Meisma, you’re prettier than Miss Huma.”


I wanted to know how to become a Miss Huma but not turn into a Miss Huma. These were questions I dare not ask Delores. It was hard enough asking her about a Mad Hatter or Houyhnhnms.


On Sundays Miss Huma would get into the back seat of a jeep and be driven from the house and down the road heading to the beach. She would take with her a large towel, a wicker basket, and a brightly colored umbrella. It was many months after being there that I said to Delores, “Where does Miss Huma go?”


“To spend the day lying on the beach,” she replied.


Not until after months of being 18, Meisma woke before sunrise on a Sunday morning, and since we didn’t work on Sundays, snuck out of the room, and walked down the long road to the beach. Hiding in the palm fronds, monkeys threw mangoes at me while I waited for the jeep to come, bringing Miss Huma to the beach.


All day after Miss Huma left alone on the beach, Meisma stay hidden, eat mangoes, and watch her lay on the towel under the umbrella, eat fruit and sweets from the basket, and sometimes wade into the ocean, but only far enough for water to reach her waist.


Returning to the plantation house late that day, Delores ask where I was all day.


“Watching Miss Huma.”


“Meisma, what are you doing out so late?” Mr. Collins asks when I walk by the porch.


“Oh, you surprised me, Mr. Collins, I didn’t know you were there,” I say, though that not the truth. I knew he was there all the time.


“Come sit with me here on the porch, Meisma, so that we can get to know each other better,” he says.


I can tell by the moonlight that shines in his face that he wants my softness. He is still a young man, age 30, and handsome. His age and that he inherit the plantation from his dead father; nobody knows what happened to his mother, is what I know of his memoir. I step up onto the porch and then sit in a chair near him. “Would you like to hear a story?” I ask.


He takes a cigar from his shirt pocket, lights it, and as curls of smoke spill from his mouth, he says to Meisma, “Anything you want to tell me is fine with me.”


I don’t tell him about Meisma’s memoir that she has lived so far. I tell him the story of Alice.


“What a silly girl,” he says when Meisma finish. “She should have stayed home to begin with and not chase after the rabbit. Then she would never have fallen into the hole to begin with.”


I didn’t want to tell him he didn’t understand the meaning of the story, because Meisma didn’t understand its meaning either. “Now Mr. Collins, your turn to tell a story,” I say.

“Well, I . . . “ he began.


This was interrupted by Miss Huma coming out of the house, and seeing Meisma sitting there with her man, made her green eyes shoot fire at me. I swear. “What are you doing here?” she said, which sounded like a vulture’s warning while circling its prey.


“Just talking,” I said. I stood up to go.


“Good night, Meisma. Thanks for telling me about Alice,” Mr. Collins said.


“You’re welcome,” I said back to him. As I stepped down from the porch and began to walk away I hear Miss Huma screaming at Mr. Collins, “Who is this Alice? I’ll kill her if she even gets near you.”


I just turned 20 and though I never spoke to Mr. Collins again like I did that one night, we give each other looks and smiles whenever we see each other while I am picking coffee beans and he is seeing that his workers are doing what little he pays us to do. We stop singing and telling stories when he comes around.


I tell the boys and men about Gulliver, but they just laugh. Some say, “How is it that this Gulliver is the only person to find those islands. It makes no sense.”


I can’t really argue about Gulliver’s islands even if I wanted to. Secretly, I think they have a point.


Delores has been sick with a cough and complains about sore muscles and joints. During the nights she wakes up Meisma, saying, “Meisma, I need some water. Meisma, I need my legs massaged. Meisma, I think my end is near.”


It is hard to imagine life without her.


Remember I told you about Mr. Hobson, the plantation manager who Meisma met when first arriving at this island? He and the other manager, Mr. Lawrence, have their own rooms in the barracks. Having your own room a big thing. The cooks, Teddy and Jute, have their own rooms too.


Gossip is that Miss Huma visits Mr. Hobson in his room. It very quiet gossip. Something like a secret, but not a secret. Talk about Miss Huma, quiet or not, always leads the boys and men to ask Meisma why she not find a man and get married.


I keep my mouth shut about that and never answer. When at night Meisma prays that Delores lives forever, prayers are asked for a husband suitable for a girl who has read the stories about Alice and Gulliver.


As present to self on her just passed birthday, Meisma goes to the beach on Sunday morning, getting there before Miss Huma get there. Instead of hiding in the ferns, Meisma finds a place further down the beach, where Miss Huma never goes. I have with me a sandwich that Delores made me the night before and a plastic jug filled with water. I have a regular-sized towel, but no umbrella. Cooled by the night, the sand is chilly.


When Huma arrive she sees me, and sees me seeing her. Her face twists into that of an angry turtle. She lays out her towel and puts up her umbrella in the same place as always. As the day warms, so does the sand. It is just before the sun is at its mid-day place in the sky that Miss Huma stands to go into the water for the first time. She looks out at the water and I think she see the shark fins, but no. I say nothing to her as she walks in.


Meisma is a very strong swimmer and has been in and out of the ocean several times already despite seeing sharks swimming a bit further out. To watch Miss Huma standing in the water, doing nothing but slapping the top of the water, is comical. I don’t laugh out loud, but want to. When she is suddenly pulled under the water, disappearing beneath the surface quicker than a bat of the eye, I try to feel alarmed. Try to. Meisma not accomplish everything she sets out to do.


I walk back up the road knowing with Miss Huma gone, Mr. Collins will want my softness. No one’s heart is as soft as Meisma’s can be. I will be a Mrs., though, not a Miss when I give Mr. Collins my other softness. In twenty more years Meisma will write more of her memoir. Until then she will just live it.


Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has over 500 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies. He has seven collections of his short stories published. His paranormal/horror novel Redbird was released in November, 2019. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.


Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occassionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.