One late afternoon, I ventured out to the backyard to pick some Ackees that had opened on the tree. Our housekeeper who unfailingly kept a sharp eye on any and every crop which was ready for harvesting, for some reason kept omitting to clear the tree of the precious fruit. I was curious to know why?
Armed with a long, tapered, picking stick, fashioned with a metal hook on the end, I began my sojourn.
Six or seven ackees later, the housekeeper appeared through the kitchen door, amazed that I had found so many of the fruit.
I took the liberty then, to ask why she had not already stripped the tree? Her answer was simple:
“A hell of a green lizard live on dat tree an me an ‘im a nuh fren.” “Look ef yu nuh see ‘im?”
Sure enough, a quick search of the tree revealed the presence of the lime green watchman who allegedly lorded over the ackee tree.
I must admit, the lizard did look a bit intimidating. It lay still, observing my movements as if deciding whether to act on it or simply ignore me.
Historically, lizards found in Jamaica are all said to be harmless. Personally, I feel that is a questionable matter, especially after being chased at the age of ten by a serious-looking ground lizard.
However, on this occasion, history was not going to be put to the test as just then, the groundskeeper who had quietly come up on the scene, without a word, made a quick, jerking lunge towards the Ackee tree.
The movement was so fast, my brain cells were still actively processing it when the groundskeeper came towards me, machete outstretched. Hanging hap-hazardly over the sharpened blade was none other than the mangled corpse of the green, ackee tree watchman.
Before I could register my distress upon the innocent killing, the groundskeeper blurted out, while pointing to the dead lizard:
“Ah one a di worse py-son (poision) dis yu nuh. Ah it dem tek kill one a mi girlfren dem, wha’ day.”
I wasn’t sure which was more curious. Exactly how his girlfriend was poisoned? Or exactly how many girlfriends this tiny, aging wisp of a man boasted?
I was about to pose the question when he spared me the banter:
“Yu know how dem dweet?”
Not waiting on any particular answer the groundskeeper continued.
“Ef yu put it out inna di sun and mek it completely dry out it cyan shred up like powder. Ah it dem tek sprinkle inna anyting an gi’ yu. All inna cornmeal.”
“Ah so dem py-son mi girl. Gi’ har inna cornmeal porridge. Stone dead!”
With that the groundskeeper walked away with his trophy, stopping only momentarily to hurl the green reptile over the fence into the bushes beyond, before resuming his duties.
As I watched him in the distance, I could not help but wonder, who actually felt the need to conduct an experiment of this kind to discover its use? And how do others find out?
Needless to say, my ackee dinner was divine and the helper was extremely relieved the green guard of the ackee tree was gone forever. However, cornmeal porridge for me will never be the same.