Set in the early eighties in small town Jamaica, 76, Clancy’s journey tells the story of a gifted Jamaican schoolboy who was well on his way through high school and heading straight on to university.
Young Clancy was fast becoming one of the country’s topmost schoolboy football players, but then his idol: Bob Marley died, and Clancy’s life took a drastic turn.
Note: 76, Clancy’s journey is a work of fiction, all a figment of the author’s imagination.
He was sitting on the low hanging branch of the big star apple tree, the emphasis here being on the “hanging” more so than the “low” since no one wants to fall from that height to the ground.
He leaned his back up against the dominant trunk of the tree, resting the left hand atop the other much smaller branch which grew out of the tree right at the level of his armpit, as if it was cut-to-measure just for him.
His head being propped up by the round of his palm under the cheek, the tip of his fingers at ear-level.
His chin cupped in the palm of his hand behind the knee which was pulled-in in front of his chest. The sole of his left foot resting flat on top of the same limb on which he sat.
He was not sure if it was the sound of the music which filled the air that awakened him out of the sweet little nap which he was having, or was it the pain which was running up through his armpit and over the shoulder?
The red, black, green and gold tam he had placed between his armpit and the tree limb for comfort, had fallen out while he slept and had left the bare skin rubbing up against the hard wood.
He eased himself up from the lower branch, hobbling on one leg, because the cramps in the right leg which had been hanging all this while, would not allow him to put his weight on it.
After the feeling came back into his leg, he picked up the T-shirt which he had been sitting on and climbed down.
By then, the music was beginning to get closer and clearer, so he joined in with the lyrics of the classic Rasta man chant:
I hear the voice of the Rasta man say, Babylon your throne gone down, gone down. Babylon your throne gone down…
In the distant he could see a couple of automobiles rounding the corner like little marbles as they rolled into view.
He had positioned himself strategically, half way up on the hills of mount Rosser, at a point where one could see the approaching vehicles as they passed just outside of the town of Linstead.
It was very clear by then that the funeral procession was approaching.
He could feel the throbbing by the side of his neck, his earlobe heats up by several degrees, “its action time,” he said to himself.
“The late great Robert Nesta Marley is being buried today,” said Clancy, “the funeral procession is passing right by this way, I may not be able to go to the funeral in St Ann but no one is going to deprive me out of watching the procession as it passes by this way.”
To make himself more comfortable, Clancy reached into his pocket for his pocket knife and gathered some dried banana leaves.
He spread them out on the ground and then laid himself flat out on his stomach, resting his propped-up chin on top his folded arms and then waited.
Clancy O’Connor was the name which his mother gave him but everyone call him “76” because of the number which he wore whenever he played football with the renowned Dinthill technical high school football team.
His fame had been spreading throughout the Island in those times as he blossomed into one of the most prolific goal-scoring machine the Island had ever seen.
Not just in schoolboy football arenas, but at the club level too, and he was constantly being compared to the great: Allan “skill” Cole.
To say that Clancy loved the game of football is an oxymoron; however he secretly cherishes another burning desire: One of becoming an entertainer, someone like Bob Marley or Dennis Brown.
He particularly liked Dennis Brown, he thinks, and agrees with those who do says that DB is a better singer than Bob Marley and for those who are close enough to Clancy to hear him sing, He just beams with pride whenever they say that He sounds like Dennis Brown.
“Maybe someday I’ll be belching out hits just like DB” Clancy reasoned within himself but for the time being, He is all about football.
There was two motorcycles leading the procession as it makes its way around the corner, just before passing right by Clancy, who was by then joined by two others.
The new arrivals were: Devon with whom he was quite familiar as they both attended Ewarton primary school together. Devon, at this point was attending St Jago high school in Spanish Town.
The young lady with him was not familiar to Clancy, she had a rather cool and refined appearance he noticed, “a foreigner,” Clancy immediately thought to himself, “must be his girlfriend.”
He was interrupted in the middle of that thought as Devon introduced them. “Hey, meet Debbie, my cousin from London.”
“Debbie this is Clancy, my longtime friend from primary school.” Hi! Hi, they exchanged greetings shaking hands then quickly reverted to focusing on the steady stream of automobiles rolling through the winding up-hill climb of the street.
For the next 45 minutes to an hour (or so), Mount Rosser was transformed into a sea of: cars, trucks of all sizes and shapes and motorcycles (mostly being ridden by Rasta man and his pillion rider), some wearing their trademark black, red, green, and gold tam (headpieces).
They were looking with an inquiring gaze for the appearance of the hearse which as of yet they had not seen, or did they miss it somehow?
The traffic stream was beginning to thin out signaling the end of the procession, but Clancy, as well as the other two with him, (he could tell by the puzzled look on the faces of his two companion) were thinking the same thing: where is Bob?
The closest thing which they had seen so far to suggest that there was going to be a burial (other than the vehicular procession,) was a few cars and vans laden with floral bouquets and wreaths and somewhere wedged between them was: one pickup truck draped over by a Taup-hauling.
All three of them has the same puzzled look on their faces as Devon turned towards the others, while pointing in the direction of the tail end of the procession and said: “you don’t think…?” Simultaneously they all burst out; “nooo…”
It had been a full year since Clancy first laid his eyes on Debbie. He knew there and then that: “I really dig her,” as he once confided in his friend Devon.
She is now sitting across the table from him, sipping on a Ting Jamaica grapefruit drink over ice from a plastic straw.
Clancy; meanwhile was working hard at pretending that he hadn’t noticed her dark and mysterious eyes watching him.
Clancy was not yet of age to be admitted in a bar, He has another 10 months to go before turning 18; furthermore it was not his idea to be there.
Dinthill had just done beaten up on Veer Technical high school, all but driving them out of the championship.
The fact that “76” had a lot to do with that wasn’t lost on anyone. He’d scored two goals and an assist to lead the team to a 4-2 win
Not only the 6ft 2ins. 220lbs. frame which he carried around, but his whole bodily features far more closely resembles those of a grown-up than that of a teen-ager and besides, who is ever going to say no to the great “76”?
The band was playing soft and low, as it all blended in with the ambiance of chatter and laughter in the place.
The band had just struck up the song: Blue moon, which got half of the audience singing along.
Clancy was singing too, he slowly faded out when he noticed more than a dozen curious gazing eyes zeroing in on him, then slowly the claps and chants rose: 76, 76, 76…
Clancy hesitated for as long as he could, but the unrelenting mob was not letting up.
So he gingerly walked up front, to what really was a sad excuse for a stage area, took the microphone which was handed to him by Bagga-mouth the: crooner, MC. Band leader, all wrapped up in one.
Clancy clumsily banged on the microphone in an effort to make sure that it was operational.
That really did caught some people off guard, especially those who were sitting directly in front of the speaker boxes.
When he finally spoke, the chattering went down by several decibels: “I don’t know what it is that you all are trying to do to me here,” he said; “what am I supposed to do here?”
“Singgg…” The response came as one voice.
After what seemed like an eternity, Clancy raised the microphone and spoke again. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll sing, but on one condition: that I get to choose the song.”
Without waiting for a reply from the audience, he belched out: “if I have the world, I’d give it to you…”
“Pull-up…” the crowd responded.
Promptly the band struck up the backing rhythm to that song, and broke crisply as Clancy directed them by an up-down swiping motion of a clinched fist.
Again the crowd roared and shouted. Clancy eventually got through the first verse of the song and upon re-entering the chorus, the crowd joined in.
That was the point at which he bent down, placed the microphone at his feet on the stage and walked off stage to much clapping, cheering and calls for: more, more, more.
Clancy sat himself back down at the table across from Debbie. Picking up the glass of drinks he raised it to his lips and gulped down a huge mouthful of the brew, which by then was just a degree or two below room temperature.
Placing the glass back down on the table, just a little bit removed from the round puddle of water where the glass had been before. He began to manipulate the round spot into a hippie peace sign hanging from a long necklace-type cord, the top of which conspicuously pointed to the side of the table where Debbie was sitting.
Still drawing his finger through the now thinning water, Clancy uttered under his breath, “would you even want it though?”
After what seemed like a lifetime in dog’s years without so much as a breath in the form of a response, Clancy looked up from the tabletop where his eyes had been focused ever since his return from the stint at the microphone.
Debbie’s sharp eyes were watching him, the fire inside her gaze was piercing through Clancy as if straight into his soul, while she chewed on the tip of the plastic straw, slowly spinning it around in her mouth with her fingers. She didn’t answer in so much as a single word.
Debbie collected her belongings: her handbag and a scarf, which was sitting on the bench behind her but right in front of Clancy who was keeping a watchful eye on them along with the other belongings which they had placed there: Clancy’s sports bag and Devon’s neat “murse,” that’s what Devon called it, everyone else calls it a man purse.
It was Devon’s first time driving his father’s Ford Cortina motor car by himself, he had just received his driver’s license about a week ago, five days in fact.
He was being very careful with the car, too careful maybe.
In backing out of the parking lot at the club, he touched the bumper of couch’s Mazda pick-up just a little nick, neither of his two friends sitting in the back seats even noticed.
Most youngsters Devon’s age would probably just continue along on their merry way but not Devon, he was the responsible sort, which was probably why his dad never hesitated in letting him have the car.
He went outside to check if there were any damage done, leaving the driver’s side door open as he went, the others remain in their seats.
Clancy rolled the window down and was looking back at Devon, as he ran his finger over a suspicious spot on the car’s bumper.
Devon climbed back into the driver’s seat, hesitating just a moment before pulling out, to look back; maybe at the amount of space which he had between the two vehicles to maneuver, before settling himself in and closing the door.
As the car moved out of the parking lot, Clancy stuck his head out of the window again to look back, maybe at the pick-up truck, maybe at the club.
Debbie in a quick analysis summarized that: it was the club, the place where he’d just debuted as: a singer, performer and entertainer.
Whatever happens hereafter for the Clancy 76 entertainment brand, this will go down in the record books as the time and place where it all got started.
By E Lloyd Kelly – See all E Lloyd Kelly’s books here on The Author’s Page
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