Jamaica had just run out of her house to keep from crying, and she would have cried if she hadn't done it. She hated to cry. She ran to the little park and into the woods at the end of it and had almost reached the log she usually sat on when she saw someone was already sitting there. It was a boy and he was reading a book and didn't even notice when Jamaica appeared.
"That's my log," she said indignantly.
The boy was startled. "What?"
"Your sitting on my log," she said quite forcefully.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the boy said as he got up and closed his book. "You can have it. I didn't see anything that indicated it belonged to anyone."
"That's because there isn't anything. It's mine because it's where I always sit," she said.
The boy was about to say, "how does that make it yours," but he was suddenly aware the girl was about to cry, and he said, "is there something wrong?"
"No!" she said, but at that moment her face was streaming with tears.
"Please, sit down," the boy said. "I'm sorry if I did anything to upset you."
Jamaica did sit and looked up at the boy standing there, noticing for the first time that he was truly concerned. "I'm sorry," she said. "It's not your fault. It's something else. I'm really OK," she said.
She even managed to smile, which greatly relieved the boy. "My name is Gordon," he said, then without knowing why, he blurted out, "you're very pretty," and then he felt his face growing very hot.
The girl was pretty, and she knew it, but was still surprised when Gordon said it. "You think I'm pretty? Mama says I'm too skinny."
Gordon really didn't want to talk about that any more, and tried to change the subject. "Why were you crying?"
The way he asked it surprised her. He sounded like he really cared, and the way he looked at her was not as though he were accusing her of something, like most people. Funny, she thought, his dark blue eyes could look sad and smiling at the same time.
"I'm sorry," she said. "My name is Jamaica and I'm sorry I cried. I didn't want to cry. I never want to cry, and most of the time I don't."
"But why were you crying," Gordon continued. "Were you hurt?"
"Yes," she said, then, "Well no, not on the outside."
That confused, Gordon. "Then something hurt you on the inside? Are you sick?"
Even though Jamaica knew Gordon really was concerned, the questions were beginning to annoy her.
"Of course I'm not sick," she said. "Do I look sick?" she asked a bit sarcastically.
"No," Gordon admitted, bewildered by Jamaica's sudden change. "I just didn't know what you meant by hurt 'inside.'"
"Well, its none of your business anyway. I didn't ask you to be sitting on my log or for your sympathy. Why don't you just leave me alone."
Gordon's response was a total surprise.
"I'm going fishing, want to go?" he said as though nothing at all had happened and as though they were old friends.
"You aren't angry?" Jamaica asked wide-eyed.
"Why would I be angry? You didn't do anything to me."
"But what I said... the way I talked to you. It didn't bother you?"
"Oh, it bothered me a lot. It always does when someone says things I know they don't really mean, because it means something is bothering them, but it's nothing I can do anything about, so I don't do anything."
Jamaica just stared at Gordon.
"You're very strange," she finally said.
"So I've been told," he said. "So, do you want to go fishing?"
"Your kidding, right?" she asked.
"No, I mean it. I'm going fishing and you look like you need to do something, ... something different. I'd like some company, so why not go fishing with me?
"Well, thank you," Jamaica said, sounding a bit confused. "... but I really can't."
"Well, I didn't ask you if you could, I asked you if you wanted to go."
"Are you serious?" Jamaica asked.
"Yup. I'm serious."
"I don't know anything about fishing. I don't have anything to fish with and my mother wouldn't let me go anyway," Jamaica said a little huffily. "Besides, I have no idea who you are."
"But you still didn't say if you'd like to go," he said, ignoring her arguments.
"Well, if I could go I think I might," she said, "but ...."
"Well then, we'll go fishing," Gordon said. "You can do anything you really want to do, and since it's what you want, it's what we'll do."
"You really believe you can do anything you want to do?" Jamaica asked astonished.
"Of course, because you can. So long as it is not wrong and not physically impossible, there is always a way to do what you really want."
"OK," Jamaica began a little defiantly, "how am I going to go fishing?"
"Easy," Gordon said. "We'll go by my shed, pick up some fishing poles and my tackle box and the worms I dug this morning, then go to the meadow. I'll show you."
"My mother will never let me go," Jamaica said.
"Does your mother know where you are right now?" Gordon asked.
"No," Jamaica said.
"Well, you could be fishing right now. Your mother wouldn't know. There is nothing wrong with fishing. You don't have to ask your mother."
"But wouldn't that be like lying?"
"If you go fishing, and your mother asks you if you went fishing, it would be a lie if you said you didn't go fishing. It's not a lie if she never asks."
"What if she asks where I've been."
"Tell her the truth."
"Tell her I went fishing?" Jamaica exclaimed.
"Yes, of course," Gordon said.
"Oh, she'll be so angry," Jamaica's eyes got big and serious.
"Did your mother ever tell you not to go fishing?"
"Well, no," Jamaica said. "But I just know she wouldn't want me to."
"You don't know that unless you can read minds. If you have to tell her, and you probably won't, and she gets angry, just act surprised and say you didn't know she didn't want you to go fishing, because that will be the truth. You cannot possibly know what someone else will like or not like until they tell you."
Jamaica still had her doubts, but Gordon seemed so sure of himself, and she liked the way he talked to her and was already beginning to forget all her doubts.
"Which way?" she said, getting up from the log, ready to follow Gordon.
Gordon walked very fast, but Jamaica had no trouble keeping up with him.
"How do you know where you're going," Jamaica asked, puffing a little.
"I just follow the path," Gordon said.
"What path? It's nothing but brambles and cat briars. It's not a path."
"It is to me," Gordon said.
They finally came out into a clearing and Jamaica could see a small rickety building a little further on.
"Is this where you live?" Jamaica asked Gordon, just before they reached the shed.
"No, I live in that house over there," he said, nodding toward the big farmhouse.
"I didn't mean do you live in the shed," she said indignantly.
Gordon just laughed.
Jamaica looked at the farmhouse and thought she recognized it.
"Isn't this the Tarbuck farm?"
"Yup," Gordon said, "and I'm Gordon Tarbuck."
"Oh," is all Jamaica said.
"Well what?" she asked.
"Well you know who I am, but all I know about you is your first name, 'Jamaica.'"
"If you must know, it's Jamaica Williams."
"Really?" Gordon said.
"Of course," Jamaica said. "Did you think I made it up?"
"Oh no," Gordon said. "It's just... do you have a brother named Jared?"
"Yes, he's my oldest brother. Do you know him?"
"I do, but not as well as I'd like. I met him last year at the science fair. Your brother is a genius."
"Well, he certainly thinks so," Jamaica said.
"Well he really is," Gordon said. "You said he's your oldest brother, do you have others?"
"Only one. Tramone," she said with obvious disgust.
"What's wrong with Tramone?"
"Well, he'd hate it if he saw me with you."
"Why?" was all Gordon could think of to ask.
"Because you're white."
"Oh," Gordon said.
"They were both quiet for a moment, then Gordon said, "I'd like to meet Tramone."
Jamaica looked shocked. "No you wouldn't. You must never meet him. He'd kill you if he could."
"Just because I'm white?"
"No, not just because your white, but because you are with me, and if he knew it, he'd probably kill me too."
"Do your parents feel that way?" Gordon asked.
"No. It's just Tramone. He didn't used to be that way either, but he got into a gang and he's changed."
The inside of the shed smelled earthy and musty.
"Pick up that green box over there," Gordon instructed Jamaica.
It was a small tackle box, but much heavier than Jamaica expected.
"What's in here, lead weights?"
"Among other things," Gordon said.
Gordon picked out two rods from the dozen or so that were hanging against the back wall and headed for the open door of the shed, grabbing a little net on the way.
"Well, c'mon," he said to Jamaica who was standing there holding the tackle box with both hands in front of her."
"Do I have to carry this?" she asked.
"Of course not," Gordon said, taking the box from her, while adjusting the two rods to his shoulder. Then, "let's go," he said starting out at his fast pace.
"I could carry something," Jamaica said when she had caught up with him.
Gordon handed her the fish net and one of the poles. "Can you manage these," he asked with a grin.
It was only about a half-mile to the meadow. There were gardens of corn, beans, tomatoes, melons, and other vegetables near the edge of the meadow. Gordon helped himself to a big tomato as they were tromping through.
"Did you steal that tomato?" Jamaica asked appalled.
"Nope. Just took one."
"But they're not yours," Jamaica said.
"Mmm, no they're nowt," Gordon mumbled around the juicy delight. "Have one yourself," Gordon said. "This is one of Sam Nesbit's gardens. He's a friend of my Dad."
"Does that make it alright to take what is not yours?" Jamaica asked quite seriously.
"It wouldn't be alright if Mr. Nesbit hadn't invited us kids to take whatever we liked."
"He really did that?" Jamaica asked in disbelief.
Gordon picked a lovely red tomato, wiped it on his shirt, and handed it to Jamaica. "He really did," Gordon said. "Taste it?"
Jamaica did, and the juice of it was running down her arms and chin. "I've never tasted a tomato like that," she said, grinning.
Beyond the gardens there were fields that led down to a small lake. Off to the left the hills rose into woods and at the highest point there was a granite building that stood above and adjacent to what could not be seen from the meadow, a huge round granite lined pool of water, which the older people in the area called, "the reservoir." There was a wrought-iron fence surrounding the pool and there were signs warning, "no swimming allowed."
It only took a few minutes for them to reach the edge of the lake.
"We'll go over there," Gordon said, pointing at what appeared to be a little peninsula of reeds.
"What's wrong with right here?" Jamaica asked. "It's nice and smooth, and there's a little stream right there," she said pointing to an opening in the berm with water pouring over it."
"The reason it's nice and smooth is because everyone fishes here, or used to; not many come here anymore. The ground is all tamped down by their feet. Its easy to fish here, but you don't catch any fish. It's shallow water, because everything flows here carrying all the silt and mud.
"That little patch of reeds that juts out into the lake, that's were we're going to fish. It is the deepest part of the lake and where the fish are," Gordon explained."
They trampled over to the patch of reeds. "Better take off your shoes. It's pretty wet," Gordon said. "Leave them up there behind us."
Gordon opened the tackle box, put a bobber on the line of the Rod Jamaica was going to use, then a sinker nearer the hook.
"The ground is all spongy," Jamaica said. "My feet are getting wet. Are you sure it's safe?"
"Nope." Gordon said. "Not certain, but I've fished here lots of times. What you are standing on is not ground, it's dead reeds that have accumulated here. Not sure what's underneath. It may just be floating. Never had two people standing on it."
"Are you trying to frighten me," Jamaica asked.
"Can you swim?" Gordon asked.
"Yes I can swim," Jamaica said. "Why?"
"Then there is nothing to worry about," Gordon grinned.
"Oh sure, nothin' to worry about except getting all wet and muddy. That would sure be fun."
"It might be," Gordon grinned.
"Boys!" Jamaica said rolling her eyes.
Gordon showed Jamaica how to put a worm on the hook so it couldn't wiggle off but would still wiggle enough to attract the fish, then he showed her how to cast her line out into the deepest part of the lake.
"Just watch the bobber," he said. "If you see it moving, it only means a fish is interested. If you see it begin to sink, give the rod a quick snap, then wait a second. If the bobber still moves on its own, you've got 'em. Just real it in."
Gordon tied a lure to the end of his line and began casting and reeling it in.
"Nothing's happening," Jamaica said after a few minutes.
"Give it a couple more minutes, then reel it in very slowly.
Jamaica started to reel the line in. When it was about half-way to shore the bobber suddenly went under water.
Lift the rod quick, " Gordon said."
Jamaica did. "It's pulling the line back out," Jamaica said.
"You've got him," Gordon said. "Just reel it in, steady and slow, but not too slow."
Keeping his eye on the line, Gordon reached for the little fish net.
"I see it," Jamaica said excitedly.
"Just keep reeling it in, and when it's almost to shore, lift the rod so the fish is as near the surface as you can get it, but don't lift it out of the water," Gordon instructed.
"Oh that's a good one," Gordon said as Jamaica brought the fish to the surface. He scooped the fish out of the water with the net.
"What is it?" Jamaica asked.
"It's a pickerel. A really good size one for this little lake. They get much bigger, but this pond is too small for there to be any really big ones.
Gordon laid the pickerel in front of her, and when she reached for it, Gordon warned her, "pickerel have teeth and can cut you."
"Then what do I do?" she asked.
"You have to take the hook out, have a good look at your fish, then put it back in the water."
Gordon showed her how to hold the pickerel by the lower jaw and how to remove the hook without causing any damage, which she managed to do.
"You did that like a pro, you know," Gordon complimented her.
"Then, you don't keep the fish you catch?"
"If it were a trout, I would," Gordon said. "I love trout, but no one in my family will eat pickerel."
"It's so pretty though with those green and black chain marks. It looks like it would be delicious," she said as she slid the pickerel back in the water. "Why doesn't it swim away? Is something wrong with it?"
"It's just stunned, resting. If you try to touch it, it will swim away fast," Gordon said, but at that moment the pickerel dived and disappeared.
"Does anyone eat pickerel?" Jamaica asked.
"I have cousins that eat them, and an aunt that makes chowder with them."
"Let's catch a trout, so we can keep him," Jamaica said.
"Can't," Gordon said.
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because there aren't any trout in this lake."
"Oh!" Jamaica sighed a little disappointed.
They fished for a while longer, and Jamaica caught a couple of other small fish Gordon told her were sun fish, and one a little larger Gordon said was a perch. Gordon didn't catch anything, but was enjoying Jamaica's giggling excitement each time she caught one.
"I'm hungry," Jamaica said after a while.
"So am I," Gordon said.
Gordon showed Jamaica how to clean up her fishing gear. Gordon threw the unused worms into the lake. "Will fatten up the fish for next time," Gordon explained.
"How come I've never seen you at School, Gordon," Jamaica asked when they were on the way.
"I don't go to school," Gordon said.
"You don't?" Jamaica exclaimed, wide-eyed. "Why not?"
"I'm too dumb," Gordon grinned.
Jamaica was walking in front of Gordon, insisting she knew the way, and suddenly stopped, looking at Gordon in disbelief. Gordon almost ran into her.
"You mean...," she hesitated, "are you retarded or something?" she blurted out.
"Yes, that's it," Gordon said very seriously. "Retarded. I can never remember that word," Gordon confessed.
But Jamaica had begun to understand Gordon. "Why are you always teasing me. You're not retarded. I saw you reading," she said.
"I was just looking at the pictures," Gordon said.
"There were no pictures in that book," Jamaica said firmly.
"There weren't?" Gordon said as if surprised. "Then what are all those little squiggly marks? Aren't they little pictures?"
Jamaica was having none of it. "Well, come on then, stupid. I want some lunch," she said turning and beginning to walk.
Now Gordon was laughing and could barely blurt out, "I'm home-schooled."
Gordon was now walking beside her. "Do you like that?" Jamaica asked, looking very serious.
"I like not having to go to that child day-prison you have to go to, but I don't always like the studying I have to do."
"I don't go to a day-prison," Jamaica said. "What an awful thing to say."
"Can you leave any time you want, then?"
"Of course not. How could they have a school if everyone could come and go whenever they liked?"
"So you have to stay wherever they say you have to stay and you can't leave until they say you can leave and if you don't go, what happens?"
"The truant officer comes and they arrest me."
"Sounds like jail to me," Gordon said.
When they got to the shed, Gordon took everything and put it away. Jamaica was standing outside when he came out. He was closing and locking the shed door when Jamaica said, "How do I get back. I'll never find your so-called path."
"C'mon, I'll take you after lunch."
"After lunch!?" Jamaica exclaimed. I have to be home for lunch. Mama will have a fit if I'm not."
"I know you're hungry, but it's really not lunch time yet," Gordon said looking at his watch. "Mom will give your mother a call."
"Are you sure?" Jamaica said.
"Pretty sure, yeah!" Gordon said with mock doubt.
"Your Mom won't mind?"
"I don't know, but she won't say so if she does."
"You are strange Gordon Tarbuck. I've never met anyone like you."
"Well, you don't have to have lunch with me if you think I'm so strange. We can just take you home. How about that?"
"It might be better," Jamaica said, sounding a bit disappointed.
Gordon was sorry he said it, even though he was only kidding.
"No it would not be better. I want you to meet Mom, and Joyce and Trisha."
"Who are they?" Jamaica asked.
"My sisters. You'll see."
Jamaica did not say anything, but she was concerned about meeting all these new people. She certainly wasn't her best, still smelling a little fishy and was sure there were bits of reeds and grass stuck to her.
"Oh Gordon. I'm such a mess. Do you really want me to meet your family looking like this?"
"I already told you you're pretty. Let's go."
She mumbled something about that not being what she meant, but she followed.
Gordon led Jamaica straight to the back screen door, which he held for her, pointing her in the direction of the little hall that led to the kitchen, where they found Gordon's mother.
"Mom, this is Jamaica Williams. Her brother is Jared Williams, the boy that won the science fair last year."
"Oh yes, I remember," Gordon's mom said. "So you're Jared's sister," she said, holding out her hand after wiping them on her apron. "Jamaica, what a lovely name," she said.
"Thank you, Mrs. Tabuck," Jamaica said after shaking her hand. "Gordon took me fishing," she added not knowing what else to say.
"Oh he did! Well I hope he invited you to lunch."
"He did," Mrs. Tarbuck, but I'm not sure my Mama will be happy about it.
"I've met your mother, Jamaica. I don't know her very well, but I think she won't mind you having lunch with us. I'll give her a call."
Jamaica gave Mrs. Tarbuck the telephone number and Mrs. Tabuck directed her to where she could freshen up. "Take your time Honey, lunch won't be ready for a few minutes."
Gordon had disappeared and Jamaica assumed he had also gone somewhere to clean up. When she felt presentable she ventured her way back to the kitchen, which was now much fuller.
"Oh, there you are," Mrs. Tarbuck said when Jamaica appeared in the doorway. "Jamaica, these are Gordon's sisters. Joyce ..."
"Hello Jamaica," Joyce said smiling.
Joyce was a lovely tall blonde whose smile said she was always comfortable and in complete self-control.
"... Joyce is Gordon's older sister," Mrs. Tarbuck continued, "and this is his younger sister, Patricia."
Patricia grinned, her reddish locks dancing about her face and she made what appeared to be a slight curtsey as she shook Jamaica's hand and said, "Hi! Everyone calls me Trisha."
Gordon appeared at that moment. "Well I see you've met everyone."
Joyce and Trisha were taking their seats at the table.
"Come sit beside me, Jamaica," Trisha said.
Gordon held the chair for Jamaica, then sat on the other side of her.
"It's nothing fancy," Mrs. Tarbuck said. "Mostly left-overs as usual. Help yourselves," she said mostly for Jamaica's sake. The others needed no encouragement."
"Did you tell them what we did?" Gordon asked Jamaica.
"Do we really want to know?" Joyce asked, sarcastically.
"I'll bet it was naughty," Patricia added.
"Patricia," Mrs. Tarbuck said firmly.
Patricia just grinned.
"Gordon took me fishing. I've never been fishing before." She said.
"And she caught four fish, including a good size pickerel," Gordon said.
"Gordon never takes me fishing," Patricia complained.
"Since when did you want to go fishing?" Joyce asked.
"Well the next time we go fishing, you're going whether you want to or not," Gordon said.
"You can't make me," Patricia snipped.
"I'll not only make you, I'll use you for bait."
"Gordon," Mrs. Tarbuck, said, without looking up.
Gordon just grinned. Joyce and Patricia both giggled.
The conversation totally bewildered Jamaica. It was obvious there was no bitterness or anger, and in spite of the things they said to each other, it was also obvious they were enjoying themselves immensely.
After lunch Jamaica helped Gordon's sisters with clean-up, but did not feel very useful since she didn't know where anything went or how they did things. Joyce and Patricia assured her she was a big help, and anyway, "it was fun," they both said.
When everything was put away, Jamaica was left alone in the kitchen. When Gordon appeared she pointed to the framed photographs on the shelf next to the doorway. I know that's Joyce, and that's you, and that's Trisha. But who's that?" she said pointing to the first picture of a very handsome young man.
"That's Chink." Gordon said. "He's our oldest brother. His real name is Charles, but everyone has always called him Chink or Chinky. No one knows why."
"Where is Charles now?" Jamaica asked.
"I don't know," Gordon said. "He's a merchant sailor, and I think he's currently somewhere in South America, but I'm not sure.
"Want to have a little look around?" Gordon asked.
"Sure," Jamaica said.
Gordon led her out the back door then past another shed into a lovely garden. It was a vegetable garden but looked like a flower garden.
"Everything in this garden can be eaten, even the flowers," Gordon said.
"It's beautiful," Jamaica said.
"Dad's a genius and an artist," Gordon said.
They sat on the little garden bench surrounded by flowers.
"I've had a wonderful time, Gordon. Everyone was so nice to me, and I love Joyce and Trisha."
"Oh, they love you too," Gordon assured her.
"Are we going fishing again?" Jamaica asked.
"Would you like to?" Gordon asked.
"Well you told Trisha the next time we go fishing she was going whether she wanted to or not."
"Oh, that was just teasing. Trisha would hate fishing. She's a musician, writer, and poet."
"She is?" Jamaica said amazed. "How old is she?"
"Fourteen," Gordon said, matter-of-factly. Jamaica just looked at him.
"So we're not going fishing again?" Jamaica asked.
"I didn't mean that," Gordon, said. "I'd love to have you go fishing with me again."
"Really?" Jamaica asked.
Gordon's look said, 'do I really have to answer that?'
"I'm not sure I really want to go fishing again," Jamaica said. "I mean, if that's what you wanted, I would want to, but that's not what I really want." Then she looked like she wished she had never said anything.
"I don't want to go home, Gordy, but it's getting late."
"'Gordy?' Why did you call me that?" Gordon asked
"I don't know," Jamaica said. "I'm sorry if you don't like it. I won't call you that again, ... Gordon," she emphasized.
"Oh, I don't mind at all. You should hear what my sisters call me sometimes. So long as you're going to call me Gordy, I'm going to call you Jama."
"I'd like that, Gordy. I like it because it's what you want to call me."
Then, with obvious reluctance, Jamaica said, "I don't think I've ever had a more wonderful time... I... I wish it would never end, but I really ought to be getting home. Can you point me to your, 'path'?"
"I don't think I can." Gordon said. "I'd take you, but I have a better idea. I just saw Dad's truck pull in and I want you to meet him."
"Oh Gordon, I've been so much trouble already. I don't want to be more."
"Let my dad decide," Gordon said, and led Jamaica inside.
They found Mr. Tarbuck at the kitchen table but he wasn't eating.
"Hi Dad, I want you to meet Jamaica."
"Hello Jamaica," he said looking up from something he was reading. "You don't need to be introduced. Mrs. Tarbuck and Joyce have already told me about you and your adventure with Gordon. He stood and extended his hand to Jamaica.
"Hello, Mr. Tarbuck. So glad to meet you," she said smiling.
Mr. Tarbuck was not what Jamaica expected at all. He was bald except for a fringe of grey hair all around his head, but his eyes were an intense blue, and though they always seemed to be smiling, Jamaica had the feeling he could look right into her soul.
"When you're finished, Dad, Jamaica needs a ride home." Gordon said.
"I'm already finished and I have to pick up a couple things at Jose's for your mom. We can go now if you're ready, or you can take the truck."
We'll go with you," Gordon said.
Gordon and Jamaica rode in the back seat of Mr. Tarbuck's car. Gordon took Jamaica's hand and held it. "Do you mind?" he asked.
"No," is all she said, but gave Gordon's hand a little squeeze, and looked at him with wonder.
Jamaica suddenly became very serious. "Am I ever going to see you again?"
Gordon laughed. "Do you want to?"
"I do, Gordon, very much."
"Well then, you know the answer. We can do anything we want to do as long as it is right to do. And nothing could be more right."
"But how? I have school, and you don't go to my school, or any school. How will I ever see you?
"How did you see me today?" Gordon asked.
"That was just an accident," Jamaica said.
"Yes it was, but there is no reason we cannot do it on purpose." Gordon said.
Jamaica looked at Gordon doubtfully.
"Don't worry, I'll call you," Gordon said. And she knew he would.
When they arrived at Jamaica's home, Mr. Tarbuck told Jamaica how much he enjoyed meeting her. Gordon walked her to the door and gave her a little hug and kiss, before she went in. Gordon hopped into the front seat with his father when he got back to the car.
"Pretty thing, isn't she?" Mr. Tarbuck said. "Hope we see more of her."
"I'm sure you will Dad," Gordon said. They both grinned.
Jamaica needn't have worried, Gordon used every excuse he could think of to see her.
"Do you need any help with your homework?" Of course she did, and Gordon spent many an evening at the William's house, helping her with homework.
He got to know the Williams family very well. Jamaica's younger sister, Jasmine, was in love with Gordon the moment she saw him. "If you get tired of him," she once said to Jamaica, "can I have him?"
Jamaica's father, Ernest, was a stern looking man, until he smiled. He liked Gordon, with whom he was always cordial, but was naturally a taciturn man, and Gordon never pressed him for more conversation than he volunteered. Everyone called him Pop.
Mrs. Ida Williams, whom everyone call Mama, including Gordon, was almost the opposite of her husband. She was always talking, and joking, and laughing. The only time she didn't seem happy was when Tramone was mentioned, though nothing specific was ever said.
Gordon never really understood how serious the Tramone situation was until he was there one evening, "studying," with Jamaica.
There was suddenly loud shouting and banging coming from downstairs. Gordon and Jamaica ran into the hall and could see Tramone yelling at someone, but from that point could not see who it was.
"I'm proud I'm black! You are ashamed of it!" Tramone yelled.
It was Pop Williams he was yelling at, and Pop was obviously exercising extreme self-control.
"You have nothing to be proud of, Tramone," He was saying firmly, but without anger. "Did you choose to be black? What have you ever done to be proud of? That's the only thing one can be proud of, what he has done, what he has made of himself."
"You believe all that Honky crap, Pop. I don't!" Tramone shouted.
Very calmly and deliberately Mr. Williams answered, "We don't talk that racist trash in this house. You're wrong, Tramone. You've let all the racist idiots you think are your friends fill your head with lies. You think it is some kind of game to win, and that they're going to win it. Life's not a game, Tramone, and all you're going to win is jail time or death. What's wrong with you? You're not stupid. Why have you fallen for all those lies?"
Tramone exploded with a single epithet, "Honky," and left.
Jamaica had also become close to the Tarbucks, especially Joyce and Trisha.
Trisha was a classical pianist, and on one of Jamaica's visits to the Tarbucks she told Trisha how jealous she was.
"Gordon said you can play the piano," Trisha said.
"We have an old piano that I like to play with, but I've never had any lessons, and I can't really read music very well. I'd love to be able to, that's why I'm so jealous of you."
"Please play something for me," Trisha insisted.
Gordon walked in just then. "Go ahead, Jama. Play that boogie thing you played for me."
Jamaica sat down at the piano. She looked wide-eyed at Gordon, and groaned.
"Do it, Jama," Gordon said and winked.
Jamaica, with a big sigh of resignation, began. It certainly wasn't classical, but her fingers simply flew over the key board, and in spite of the simple three cord pattern, it was subtle, complex, and moving. The influence of blues and spirituals was unmistakable.
Joyce had come downstairs as soon as she heard the music, and was wide-eyed when she saw who was playing the piano.
"That was beautiful," Trisha exclaimed, when the piece was over. They all gave her a little applause.
"It was wonderful, Jama. It reminds me of Gershwin or Grofé." Joyce said. "I didn't know you played."
"I've never heard that piece before," Trisha said. "What's it called?"
"I haven't named it yet," Jamaica grinned.
"You mean you wrote it yourself?" Joyce exclaimed.
"Well, no. I didn't 'write' it, because I don't really know how. I just made it up. It changes a little each time I play it."
"Well I'm going to write it, and show you how, too," Trisha assured her. "Then I can play it. Joyce can play a lot of jazz as well as classical and I want to learn how to do that."
"What else do you play?" Joyce asked Jamaica.
"Oh mostly spirituals and blues things."
"Do a little," Joyce said, and sat down beside Jamaica.
Jamaica played a little and Joyce began picking out some base accompaniment. Soon they were both improvising and didn't even notice Gordon and Trisha, or Mr. and Mrs. Tarbuck who had just come home or that they were now playing for a rather large audience.
"Oh, hello Mrs. Tarbuck," Jamaica said when she noticed her.
"Jamaica, I think you should call me Mom. That's what everybody in this family calls me and you are certainly part of this family."
"Am I?" Jamaica said with disbelief.
"Anyone who plays my piano, eats my food, and is as sweet as you is part of my family, Jamaica."
"Please call me Jama, Ma'am, I mean Mom. Only this family calls me that. Gordon gave me that name and when I'm here it just seems right."
"Jama it is, then," Mrs. Tarbuck said.
"And call me, Dad, Mr Tarbuck said, giving her a little hug.
"When Mr. Tarbuck let her go he saw she was crying.
"What's the matter, Darling? Did I say something wrong?" Mr. Tarbuck said.
"Nothing!" Jamaica said.
"Then why are you crying," Mr. Tarbuck asked bewildered.
"Because I'm so happy," she sobbed.
"Girls, Dad," Gordon said. "With all the girls you have around, you ought to know them by now."
"Well, I know them as well as you do, young man," Mr. Tarbuck said.
Gordon didn't say anything.
Mrs. Tarbuck looked at Mr. Tarbuck over her glasses. "Well at least your a good man, a good husband, and a good father, you can't be expected to know everything." The girls all giggled.
"I guess I better not hold your hand or kiss you anymore," Gordon said.
"Why?" Jamaica asked, obviously bewildered. She was about to ask, "is there someone else," but Gordon interrupted her.
"If you are my Dad's daughter, that makes you my sister, and I can't very well be dating my sister, can I?"
"Gordon, you are so mean." Then, after a pause, she asked, "is that what we are doing, Gordy? Dating?"
Gordon and Jamaica did not go fishing again that summer, but they did go back to "their" meadow a few times, to go blueberrying or just for a picnic. Gordon brought her up the hill to the "reservoir" one hot late summer afternoon.
"I've been swimming in it, and even dived off that roof," he said pointing to the roof of the round stone building above the reservoir itself."
But the signs say, "No Swimming," Jamaica pointed out.
"I can't read, remember? Besides this reservoir hasn't been used for years and probably won't ever be unless there is a huge fire. The "no swimming" warning is just to protect the city if anyone should get hurt or drowned up here.
"Can we go swimming, Gordon?" Jamaica asked enthusiastically.
"There are two rules: only boys and no clothes," Gordon recited seriously.
"You mean you swim naked?"
"That's the rule."
"OK! I can do that," Jamaica said.
Gordon was shocked. "Jama, I couldn't do that."
"Why not. You've done it before. So can I."
"But it was all boys."
"So what? We're just going swimming. You have sisters," she said. "We're family." Gordon was not sure what she was implying.
"C'mon, let's go," Jamaica ordered.
Gordon didn't move.
"Well, I'm going, whether you are or not," Jamaica said, and took off her shorts, and jersey, and underwear.
"You can reach the ladder there," Gordon said, intentionally not looking at her and pointing to the tiny opening in the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the reservoir.
"Aren't you coming?" Jamaica said as she started down the ladder.
Gordon took off his shorts, underwear and shirt and headed for the ladder. He was relieved that Jamaica never seemed to notice him.
"It's cold," Jamaica said, now up to her neck in the crisp clear blue water. She let herself sink into the water, then suddenly burst out, "it's beautiful," then began swimming away from the ladder.
"Jama, be careful. Don't get to far from the ladder," Gordon shouted, and scrambled down.
As soon as he reached the bottom rung, Jamaica appeared from beneath, her head popping up next to him, the drops of water in her hair sparkling like little diamonds in the sun.
"Oh, Gordon," Jamaica said, "This is so wonderful. But why is the water so cold?"
"This water and the water in our fishing pond are always cold, because they're both fed by natural springs all around here. That's why the water is so clear, too.
"This is so much fun, Gordy. You boys are so lucky."
"Well, I guess you're one of the boys now," Gordon grinned.
"I don't want to be a boy, Gordon, I want to be a girl doing what boys can do."
"Jama, I don't want you to be a boy either, but there is no danger of that. I just want you to be able to do whatever you want," Gordon said.
They swam for a little while, and splashed each other, and Gordon showed how he could swim under water almost all the way across the reservoir. Neither of them was aware of anything but the freedom they were enjoying.
"I'm tired, Gordy," Jamaica said after a while, with her hand on his shoulder.
"Me too," Gordon said.
Jamaica climbed up the ladder quickly, and Gordon avoided watching her, then climbed out himself. Jamaica was drying herself off with her jersey, and Gordon began drying himself off with his shirt. They did not look at each other. But when they began to dress, Gordon said, "you are beautiful, Jama."
Jamaica did not answer him. Instead, she dropped the shirt and the underwear she was beginning to put on and stood their smiling.
"I love you, Gordy. Why shouldn't you see me? There's nothing bad about it, is there? If it were anyone but you, you wouldn't see anything. I am very modest, Gordon, and other girls make fun of me for it. But I feel as comfortable like this with you as I would alone in my room."
Then they dressed.
"Mama's worried," Jamaica said.
"About Tramone?" Gordon asked.
"No, about us," Jamaica said a bit sheepishly.
"About us? Really? What does she think is wrong?"
"People are saying things about us? Mama wouldn't tell me exactly what, but I know it's not because your white, but because, well, they think, we're too young," Jamaica explained.
"Too young for what?" Gordon asked.
"You, know. You kiss me whenever you feel like it, and no matter where we are, and you always have your arm around me, or are holding my hand," she said.
"Yes, I plead guilty. I do all those things," Gordon said. "But I don't know what's wrong with any of them. Do you want me to stop holding your hand, or holding you, or kissing you, Jama?"
"No I don't," Jamaica said. "But are we really old enough to be this serious?" She paused. "Please say we are," she said pleadingly.
"Age has nothing to do with it, Jama. If you're old enough to be in love, then you're old enough. I know I've never said it before, because it is so trite today, but it is the right word. I love you and that is why I hold your hand, and why I hug you when I can, and kiss you whenever I want to, and I want to a lot.
"I don't care what others with nasty minds think. So long as you know who and what I am, and know that I really love you, and you want me to, that is all that matters to me."
Jamaica looked at Gordon for a long time. "Gordy, do you really love me?" she asked.
"Of course," Gordon said. "Do I really have to say it. Don't you know from how I treat you?"
"You know, Gordy, you treat all girls as though you love them."
"Hmmm," was all Gordon said.
"Well, do you love them too?" Jamaica insisted.
"Jama, I do love all girls. If I didn't love all girls in general, how could I love one in any special way. If I didn't love girls, I wouldn't love you."
"That doesn't make sense," Jamaica said.
"You know some boys do not love girls, or even like them. Do you think that kind of boy could love a girl?"
"You mean, like Tramone. He says he hates me because I'm a girl."
"Yes. Do you think he could love a girl."
"He has a girl friend," Jamaica said.
"How does he treat her."
"Like dirt," Jamaica said. "I feel sorry for her."
"I do too, and I don't even know her. I don't understand how anyone could treat a girl like that," Gordon said.
"Well, if you love all girls, why do you always want to be with me?"
"Jama, I know you like to eat. When you go to a restaurant, do you order everything on the menu?"
"Of course not," Jamaica said.
"So, when you pick something, does that mean you didn't like anything else on the menu?"
"No," Jamaica admitted.
"See!? You may love everything on the menu, but you can't have everything, so you pick what you want the most, don't you?"
"That's how love works too. I admit I love girls, all girls, old, young, pretty or ugly, though I think there is something pretty about them all. Out of all the girls there are, you are the one I want to be with."
Jamaica thought Gordon was changing the subject when he asked: "What do you think of Chink?"
"Your brother, Charles?"
"Yes. Now tell me the truth, didn't you fall in love with him the moment you met him?"
Gordon could see Jamaica was embarrassed. "Well he is very handsome," Jamaica said.
"It's alright, Jama. He is handsome, and charming too. If you didn't fall in love with him, there would be something wrong with you. I know you don't want to be his girl, or anything like that, but if you don't love Charles, you could never love me. You wouldn't be the kind of girl who could love me.
"What would you do if he kissed you?" Gordon suddenly asked.
"I think I'd die," Jamaica said.
"Oh, I hope not. Now that Charles is home for a while, you'll see him a lot, and he's going to kiss you. Charles kisses all the women, and he'll definitely kiss you. But don't be disappointed, he kisses his sisters the same way."
"You really don't mind that your brother will kiss me and that I'll like it."
"Jama, there's something else. I love you, because you are you, and I could never want anything for you except what was truly good for you and made you happy."
"Oh Gordy," I know you're only seventeen, but sometimes I think you are seventy. I'm glad you love me ..."
She paused, and Gordon waited.
"... I know I love you too," she said, "but I've been afraid to say it."
"You said it before, you know."
"At the reservoir," Gordon said.
Jamaica said nothing.
"You never had to say it, Jama, I know you love me, but I'm glad you did say it." Then he held her and kissed her and thought he could not possibly be happier or ever want to be anyplace else.
"Jama," Gordon suddenly said. "About those other people, the ones doing all the talking about us. Don't worry about them, they'll get used to us. You can tell Mama that too.
"Oh, I couldn't," Jama said.
"Then tell her not to worry about us. Tramone's the one to worry about."
A couple of weeks later Jamaica was at the Williams' home.
"Jared is home from school for a week and Mama wants to know if you can come to dinner Saturday," Jamaica said.
"I'd love to," Gordon said.
Jamaica raised her eyebrows and looked up as though pleading to the heavens about something.
"What's wrong?" Gordon asked.
"Tramone will be there," Jamaica said.
"I don't care about him, so long as Jared is going to be there."
"He's really looking forward to seeing you again, too. He couldn't believe it when I told him we were, 'dating.'"
"You're his sister. Would he doubt you?"
"Hmmm, he might. He doesn't think I'm too bright."
"Well, then he disappoints me. He ought to be able to see how bright his sister is."
"I've done some pretty dumb things Gordon. He has his reasons for doubting my ability to make choices."
"Jamaica, I want to ask you a question. You don't have to answer it if you don't want to. It might matter if I'm going to be at your home with everyone. The first day I met you, when I was sitting on, "your," log," he grinned, "you were crying. Can you tell me why? You told me you were hurt, but didn't want me to ask you about it then. I'm asking you about it now."
"You can ask me anything Gordy. I did not know you then. I was hurt. It was Tramone. He wanted me to join his gang, wanted me to think the way he does, and he would not let me alone. He never physically harmed me, or threatened me, although there were hints, like I needed his protection from the gang. That day he called me a vile name, it meant a black girl who was a white boy's... toy. That's one reason I'm worried about what he'll do when he meets you."
"You think he'll believe that about me?" Gordon said with disbelief.
"I think he'll know it's not true, but I won't be surprised if that is what he accuses you of."
"Well, he can accuse me of anything he likes. It won't bother me. It will bother me if he threatens you."
"What will you do if he does, Gordon?"
"I'll leave and take you with me."
"Oh, Gordon, I'd go with you, but how would that solve anything?"
"What is there to solve? What do you think 'solving it,' whatever 'it' is, would be?"
"I suppose it would be Tramone not being a threat anymore."
"Well, he's already not a threat. He can't harm us. All he can do is talk and act crazy, but that can't harm us."
"Are you sure?" Jamaica said. "I'm sure Jama, Darling," and he gave her a hug and kissed her gently.
"You've never called me that before," Jama said.
"Oh yes I have, you just never heard me.
"Come into the kitchen," Jamaica said after letting Gordon in.
"It sure smells good in here," Gordon said as they entered the kitchen. "Hello Mama," Gordon said, giving her a hug.
"You picked a good one, Jamaica," she said.
Both Jamaica and Gordon did not know quite how to respond to that, but fortunately Jared came into the kitchen at that moment.
"Hi Jama," he said.
"Jama? You never called me that," Jamaica said.
"I heard someone else does. I like it," he grinned.
"Hi Gordon," he said turning to him. "It's good to see you again. We sure had some fun at the science fair."
"It's Gordy, these days, courtesy of your sister. It's good to see you too, Jared."
"Jared, have you seen Tramone?" Jamaica asked.
"Yes. But not for a couple of days. He's gotten a lot worse. Called me some names I'll not repeat."
"I'm afraid of what he'll do when he sees Gordy. What do you think?"
"Well, he won't do anything, at least with me and Pop here. He's even more afraid of Mama," Jared said.
"He better be," Mama said.
"The most he might do is say some things. He might call you," he said to Gordon, "some names and accuse you of things. He's sure you are corrupting Jama."
"Well, I am, but I don't think its doing her any harm."
"Oh we all feel the same way. We love having Jama so happy."
Jamaica and Gordon looked at each other. Gordon knew what they meant though they probably didn't know he did. Jamaica did not cry any more.
"Where's Tramone?" Jamaica asked when the were seated for dinner.
"He doesn't always come to meals," Mrs. Williams said sadly.
"If he doesn't want to eat with us, he might as well not live with us," Pop said. "I think this is the last straw."
Mama didn't like it, but she knew Pop was serious. The stage was set for a very big surprise.
Tramone suddenly appeared at the foot of the stairs. He made his way to the table and took a seat next to Jasmine. He was very subdued.
"Tramone, I want you to meet Gordon," Jamaica said.
Gordon stood and reached out his hand, "Hi Tramone," he said.
To everyone's shock, Tramone shook Gordon's hand and said very softly, "Hello Gordon. I'm glad to meet you." Then looked away.
"Please call me Gordy, its what everyone calls me around here."
"OK... Gordy," Tramone said without looking up.
Jamaica looked at Gordon with a big question mark on her face. In fact everyone looked like that.
Everyone began handing Tramone whatever was closest to them, the ham, the sweet potatoes, and hush puppies.
"They're your favorite hush puppies, Tramone," Mama said smiling.
"Thank you, Mama," Tramone said.
Then suddenly, he burst out, "why is everyone looking at me!?" It was a very angry outburst. Then he looked almost as if he were going to cry.
"I'm sorry he said. Will you please excuse me from the table." He got up and ran upstairs.
"What was that all about?" Pop burst out.
Mama hushed him. "Not now, please," she said.
Pop said, "Humph," and went back to eating.
After dinner, Jared, Gordon and Jamaica were in Jared's room talking. Jared sat with his back to his desk. Gordon and Jamaica sat on the bed. It was mostly Gordon and Jared reminiscing about their time at the science fair, and Jared telling them what he was up to now.
They were all surprised to look up and see Tramone standing in the doorway. He was obviously troubled.
"I have to tell you something." He said.
"Go ahead," Jared said. But he just stood there as if he were frozen.
"What's wrong, Tramone?" Jamaica asked.
"I'm in trouble."
"We all have trouble sometimes," Gordon said. "Whatever it is, we are already on your side."
Tramone looked at Gordon. "You're on my side?"
"Yes, of course," Gordon said.
"Well, it's not really my trouble. Its your trouble, yours and Jamaica's."
"We're not in trouble, Tramone. What in the world are you taking about?" Jamaica insisted.
"Oh yes you are. They're planning for something bad to happen to you and Gordon."
"Who is?" Jared asked.
"6DA, the Adders," Tramone said. "They told me I had to do it, but I wouldn't. They told me I had to 'kill Jamaica and that piece of white trash.' They said if I didn't, I was no longer 6DA, and that they would make me sorry."
"It's the gang," Jamaica explained to Gordon. "They really do kill people," she said.
"Jamaica, I'm so sorry. I didn't know it would come to this." Tramone completely broke down. "I don't know what to do."
"Don't worry, Tramone. We'll think of something." Gordon said.
"Maybe we should get you three away from here," Jared said.
"You really think they'd come here to do something?" Gordon asked.
"No, I guess I really don't." Jared said. "They're pretty cowardly, actually. They like to get somebody alone and where nobody can see what they're doing."
"So let's none of us ever be where we can be caught alone," Gordon said.
"What about Jasmine, and Mom and Dad, and Gordon's family? Who else have they threatened?" Jamaica asked.
"It's not anybody else, really," Tramone said. "It's not even really you. It's really only me they're after. You and Gordon were only a way of testing me, and I failed the test.
"So none of us are really being threatened?" Gordon asked.
"I don't think they even know who you are. Oh, they'd know if they saw you with Jamaica, but otherwise they only know you're some white guy, 'using my black sister,' as they put it."
"Is that what you think, Tramone?" Gordon asked him.
"I've said it," Tramone admitted uncomfortably.
"Well I'm sorry you ever thought that, Tramone, because it's going to be more trouble for you than 6DA will ever be. Let's see what we can do about your present problem. When do you think you're most likely to run into any of them?" Gordon asked.
"Tomorrow, in school," Tramone said.
"Probably nothing will happen in school. I'd pick you up after school, but that would probably make your situation even worse."
"I'll pick him up," Jared said.
Jamaica was at the Tarbuck's the following afternoon. Everyone but Chink was in the living room when the phone rang.
"It's your Mama, Jama. She sound's distraught," Mrs. Tarbuck said handing the phone to Jamaica."
"Hello, Mama. What? When? Oh, Mama! Are you OK? Oh Pop's there. Wait I want everyone here to know," as she looked up from the phone.
"Tramone's been arrested," Jamaica relayed what she was being told, "and he's been charged with robbery and murder."
"Of course I'm still here, Mama. Do you know any more about it?" Then after some pause, Jamaica said, "No, I'm coming right home. Love you Mama."
It was all actually very confused but Jamaica told them all she knew. Some member's of Tramone's gang had apparently held up a small convenience store and a clerk had been shot and killed. There was no video or other evidence, but the gang members had been identified by another clerk who had hidden during the robbery. The gang members who were identified all said it was Tramone who had shot the clerk, though the clerk had not identified Tramone as one of the robbers. Other than that she knew nothing.
Tramone swore he had not even been there, that the gang had told him to be at a certain garage for a meeting, but no one ever showed up.
"Gordy," Jamaica said, "I believe Tramone. He was set up. It's how the gang get's revenge. I know he deserves what he gets but it's not right, is it? I don't know why I feel sorry for him."
Gordon held her while he thought.
"Want to help him, Jama?" he asked after a while.
"I do, Gordy, but don't know what I can do. And I don't want you to do anything either. Please don't get mixed up in this," Jamaica pleaded.
"I'm already mixed up in it, because I'm mixed up with his sister. But I'm not going to do anything, Jama. However, I think I know someone who can help."
"Who," Jamaica asked.
"Sam Nesbit," Gordon said.
"Who's Sam Nesbit?" Jamaica asked.
"You ought to know. You ate one of his tomatoes," Gordon said.
"The guy that has the garden near our meadow?"
"That's the one. But he's much more than a gardener. He's a kind of curmudgeon and genius. I want you to meet him."
"What's a curmudgeon?" Jamaica asked.
"Err, a kind of nice grouch."
As they drove down the long curving driveway to Sam Nesbit's Jamaica remarked, as the home came into view, "I had no idea there was a mansion like this out here."
"It is rather hidden, isn't it?" Gordon said.
Sam himself answered the door. "Gordon Tarbuck," he said and immediately shook his hand, but he was looking at Jamaica. "And who is this lovely young lady?"
Sam seemed like a mountain of a man to Jamaica. He was well over six feet and solidly built. Square jawed and a bit rugged looking, standing in the doorway in his dark suit he looked like a Federal Agent of some kind or a successful politician, both ideas which would have revolted Sam Nesbit.
"I'd like you to meet Jamaica Williams." "This is Sam Nesbit," Gordon said turning to Jamaica."
"How do you do, Sir," Jamaica said formally.
"Oh, none of that, and please call me Sam," he said a little gruffly. He ignored her outstretched hand and hugged her.
"Well, come in," he said backing away from the doorway." He led them through the house to a huge back veranda where they all sat, Gordon and Jamaica on a plush love seat, and Sam in a similar chair in front of them.
Sam began the conversation asking Gordon about his Mom, Dad, and sisters and seemed especially interested in how Chink was doing.
Then he turned to Jamaica. "Williams," he thought out loud. "Is your father Ernest Williams by any chance?"
"Yes, he is," Jamaica said. "Do you know my father?"
"I know who he is. He did some work for me once a long time ago, really good work. I liked him a lot. Serious but reliable.
"Now what is this all about? Are you two planning to get married or something?"
Jamaica was shocked, but Gordon knew Sam.
"Well, not quite yet," Gordon said, which also shocked Jamaica.
"We have a problem. I thought you might have some suggestions of what to do about it," Gordon said.
Sam interrupted Gordon and called out, "Donna."
Donna was a very pretty young girl, either Mexican or Puerto Rican Gordon guessed, who hurried into the room smiling. She walked directly up to Sam and gave him a little hug and kiss on the cheek.
"Donna, would you bring us some lemonade, Honey."
"Si, yes, right away," she said smiling.
There was no explanation of who Donna was. Jamaica was a little bewildered but Gordon didn't seem at all surprised. Donna soon returned with the lemonade and said something to Sam in Spanish.
"No. Gracias," Sam said, and she left.
Sam then turned to Gordon and Jamaica. "Now what's your problem?"
They explained as briefly as they could about Tramone, how he got mixed up with a gang, how he changed, the robbery, and his being accused of Murder and Tramone's claim of innocence.
"Did he do it?" Sam asked.
"We think he was set up and framed," Gordon said, and explained Tramone's story.
Well, do you think he could have done it?" Sam asked again.
"I'm sure he didn't do it," Jamaica said.
"And what makes you so sure?" Sam asked her.
"I know Tramone. I know he couldn't have done it," Jamaica said.
"I'm sorry, Darling, but you know no such thing. I know he's your brother, but he certainly hasn't exhibited any brotherly love toward you, recently. Everything he's actually said and done is consistent with the charges against him. I see no reason he might not have made up the story of the frame. But that doesn't matter. What matters is getting him free, isn't it?"
Jamaica was very confused. "If Tramone actually murdered that man, shouldn't he be punished for it?"
"Oh, he will be if he's guilty," Sam replied. "You are confusing reality with the law. Reality does not allow anyone to get away with doing wrong. Laws only interfere with reality."
"So what should we do, Sam?" Gordon asked.
"What you should do is nothing," Sam said. "There is nothing you could do that will help, but it could do some harm. If Tramone's story is true, the gang will not look kindly on anyone's interference, because they're obviously out for revenge.
"Gordy, will Sam really help?" Jamaica asked on the way back.
Gordon had the truck with the old bench seat, and Jamaica was sitting as close to Gordon as she could get.
"He will, Jama. You have no idea what he can do."
"Oh, I believe that," she said. "I thought he could read my mind."
Gordon looked at Jamaica and chuckled. "He does give one that impression doesn't he?" he said, pulling her a little closer and giving her a sideways kiss.
"Gordy!" You'll get us killed.
"Well at least we'll go together."
Jamaica and Mama went to visit Tramone when they could. It was very difficult for Mrs. Williams. Pop refused to raise his bail or hire a lawyer and would not visit him. "If that gang were really his friends why don't they visit him, pay his bail, and hire him a lawyer," Pop said with disgust.
Tramone continued to deny any part in the robbery. Even though there was no way for his, "alibi," to be verified, since there was no evidence of his taking part in the robbery and the only witnesses against him were those who had been identified, the appointed defense attorney was confident that Tramone would be acquitted.
When Jamaica told Gordon what she thought was the good news, she was surprised by his reaction.
"Well, if it turns out that way, it will be good, but I would never trust a lawyer's assurances, and the prosecutor is certainly going to do everything he can to get a conviction. It's OK to want Tramone to be acquitted, but I think it's a mistake to count on it, Darling."
"Oh, Gordy. I was so happy. Now I'm just as worried as I was before."
"Jama, I didn't say that to worry you. I want it all to turn out as you wish, but I don't want you to be disappointed. Here's something to make you worry less. Sam wants to see us this evening."
"Is it good news, Gordy?"
"I don't know. I don't think Sam would want to see is if it were bad news. We'll see tonight, Darling."
"Who is Sam Nesbit really?" Jamaica asked on the way to Sam's that evening.
"I can tell you what I've heard that I believe is probably true, but if I tell you what I know is true it won't be very much," Gordon said.
"Just tell me everything," Jamaica said.
"Well, first of all, he's old. Much older than you'd think. One of my uncles, who is only a little younger than my father, once worked for him on his farm, and according to him, Sam was already middle-aged. That's the uncle whose wife makes chowder with pickerel, by the way.
"What I've heard is that before coming to live here he was a spy, which I doubt because he has no use for government. My father says that he was involved in, "international shipping and commerce," usually done in defiance of some government's laws, but that he only "smuggled" things that people were being deprived of. In other words he was benefitting people who were otherwise deprived of things necessary to their lives at great risk and with great courage. That's the story I don't know but believe.
"The story I know, but only incompletely, is that he helps people, mostly young people that he finds promise in but he believes have been wrongly influenced or even held back by government and the social system. If you could spend some time at his estate, you'd find all kinds of people working there, most with very troubled pasts. He requires two things of those he helps—they must work at something to earn what he provides them, either farm work, or in one of his shops, or helping the others, because the other thing he requires is that they become educated while he helps them. He doesn't believe in education as a kind of institution. He has people who will help learners with different subjects but every learner is required to learn themselves, which he says is the only way anyone learns.
"The mysterious servant girl." Jamaica said.
"She's no doubt a Spanish speaking homeless girl, or one who's been abused."
"Like a prostitute," Jamaica said.
"Very likely," Gordon said, a little surprised by Jamaica's guess. "Sam is obviously having her learn English and how to behave in decent society. He'll be very strict, and she'll love him for it."
"That's about all I know about Sam Nesbit, except that he has some kind of network of individuals who seem to be able to discover anything that's going on anywhere. I think most of those informants are past workers and students he's helped."
Jamaica was enthralled with Gorden's explanation. "Oh, Gordy, I love to hear you talk. Sam seems so much more real to me now. I love you, Gordy," and she and gave him a kiss.
"I'm really going to have to talk to you more," he said.
When they were finally seated in Sam's house, and another young lady, not Donna, had brought them coffee, Jamaica could not resist asking, "Is it good news, Sam?"
Sam chuckled. "Well, I see you're not shy. It's news, and part of it is good to know, but I'm not sure how good it will be in use. I know who actually killed the clerk which means I know that Tramone did not do it. I cannot reveal how I learned this so you must not tell anyone what I have just told you. I wouldn't have told you if I had any doubts about that. That's the good news. There's more that's not so good."
"Oh, Sam, thank you. I'm glad to know Tramone really didn't do it, and it gives me hope, Jamaica said.
"Well, it actually doesn't change anything, except what we know. It doesn't mean he won't be convicted, it only means we have one more piece of information that eliminates other possibilities we would otherwise have had to investigate.
"Gordy already explained that to me. I have to say it disappointed me, but I know you are both right."
"Well, Gordon, she's not only beautiful, but bright. Are you sure your not going to marry her?"
"No! Not sure at all, Gordon said."
Jamaica's eyes got big and her eyebrows rose an inch.
Sam continued. "The other news is not so good, and I'm not sure what it means. I've learned that Tramone's gang, 6DA, or the Adders or whatever other name they call themselves by are planning something to force Tramone to change his plea to guilty. I have not been able to learn what, exactly, but my best information is that it is probably a threat to someone close to Tramone.
"I'm sorry, I do not know what to do about the threat because there are no details and I have no suggestion beyond, please be aware that something is being planned and be aware of where you and anyone else associated with Tramone are.
"The best I can offer is that I'm pretty sure I'll know what the plans are and will find a way to head them off before they are carried out. The informants I have are good and very close to the source.
"Was that good news or bad news, Gordy?" Jamaica asked when they were on the way to Jamaica's house.
"Neither," Gordon said. "But it is always better to know than to not know."
"Do you think Sam will be able to 'head off' the threat, whatever it is?"
"If anyone can, it will be Sam. We'll just have to stay as alert as we can," Gordon said. "You know, Jama, I would not recognize a single member of Tramone's gang except Tramone. I'm not going to be very good at spotting anything. I think we just have to depend on Sam to let us know what is supposed to happen."
Jamaica and Gordon told Jared all they could. Jared said he would pick up Jamaica and Jasmine at school the following afternoon. Then they would all stay together as much as possible.
Jared was waiting in front of the school for Jamaica and Jasmine, when Jasmine showed up.
"Jamaica's gabbing with a bunch of girls," Jasmine said. "They said she'd be right out."
Something didn't seem right to Jared.
"Did you speak to your sister?" he asked.
"No," she said. "She was too busy".
"Which girls was she talking to?" Jared asked.
"Those girls Tramone always hangs out with," Jasmine said.
"Lock all the doors, Jasmine, and don't open them for anyone until I get back. I'll only be a minute."
Jared was able to get into the school through the door some others left open as they were leaving. He looked everywhere in the school, then went back outside and looked in the parking lot and everywhere else but never found Jamaica or the girls she was supposedly talking to. When he got back to the car, Jasmine unlocked the door and could tell from Jared's behavior something wasn't right. "What's wrong, Jared."
"I don't know Jasmine, but I couldn't find Jamaica?" Jasmine began to cry.
When Jared got home, Mama asked, "where's Jamaica?"
"I don't know, Mama. She went with some girls from the school and I never saw her.
Mama told him Gordon had called twice while he was out, wanting to talk to Jamaica. Jared called Gordon immediately.
"Oh, Hi Jared," Gordon said when he heard his voice. "Where's Jamaica?"
"Gordon, I don't know. I went to pick her and Jasmine up, but Jasmine said she went off with some other girls."
"Jared," Gordon said very deliberately, "she didn't go 'off' with any girls. They've kidnapped her. Sam just called to tell me it's Jamaica they're after."
It was what Jared suspected and he was completely undone by it. "Oh, Gordon I'm so sorry. I feel like it's all my fault. What can we do?"
"I don't think we can do anything. Hold on a second."
Jared could hear muffled conversation in the background.
"Jared, is your father home yet?"
"No, but he will be in a few minutes. Why?"
"My father wants you all to come here as soon as you can. Everybody, Pop, Mama, Jasmine, and you of course. It's very important," Gordon emphasized.
"We'll come," was all Jared said.
It was a very unhappy crowd gathered in the Tabucks' living room.
Everybody knew by then what had happened to Jamaica, and everybody was frustrated because everyone wanted to do something and nobody knew what to do. Pop Williams had no more use for the police than Mr. Tarbuck, but thought in this case they ought to be notified. At least they might be able to find out where they've taken Jamaica.
"Ernest, we know Jamaica has been kidnapped, but we have no evidence to present to the police. All we could do is claim she's missing. They wouldn't even begin looking for her, because she hasn't been gone long enough, and no one has claimed to have kidnapped her. We don't even know why—whether it's just some kind of stupid revenge or if they have something else planned."
There was a phone call for Gordon during that conversation.
"Don't do anything!" Sam said. "And don't let any of the others do anything." Then with more concern, "Are you going to be OK?"
"No!" Gordon said. I'm not OK. I'm furious and frustrated and helpless. Everything I want to do... I know would only make things worse."
"Can you make sure no one else does anything?" Sam asked.
"Yes. Actually Dad has already taken that in hand. Nobody will do anything," Gordon assured him.
"I have two things to tell you. You decide how much to tell the others.
"The reason they kidnapped Jamaica is to threaten Tramone. Someone inside the prison has already informed Tramone if he doesn't change his plea to guilty, no one will ever see his sister again.
"Tramone has already asked to see his lawyer and is intending to change his plea and provide a confession. That part sounds worse than it is. But I'll explain that later.
"I also know where Jamaica is being held, and have already made plans that I hope will lead to her rescue. You probably should not say anything about this, because I have no idea how it will go. It's going to be a bit risky for everyone.
"I know everyone is frustrated and wanting to do something. Tell them they are doing something, the best thing they could possibly do, by not interfering and not providing everyone with even more to worry about.
"Have to run, Gordon." Sam hung up.
Early the next morning there was a fire in an abandoned warehouse. It was mostly smoke but there were lots police and fire engines. It was where 6DA was holding Jamaica. The gang fled as soon as they heard the approaching sirens, but Jamaica was in no shape to be moved, and they left her.
Sam informed Gordon of Jamaica's rescue, and Gordon informed everyone else. Jamaica was in the hospital and her condition was serious, but at least she was alive and would fully recover.
Jamaica slept all that day and it wasn't until that evening that she finally awoke. The first thing she saw was Gordon sitting by her bed. Jamaica's mother had insisted he to be there.
"Hi Gordy," she said. She tried to smile but it didn't come out right.
"Hi Jama," he said, and leaned over to kiss her cheek.
"I love you, Gordy. Do you still love me?" she said weakly.
"What a thing to ask. Of course I love you."
"They raped me, Gordy," Jamaica said, her eyes glistening with tears.
"My precious Jama, did you think that would make any difference? Don't you know that, if it did, it would only make me love you more?"
"Everyone's here, Jama." Gordon moved out of the way so she could see Mama and the others.
"You're going to be OK, Jama," Mama said. "We just all love you Honey," but she was too moved to say any more.
Jamaica was OK, but she was in the hospital for another week, and it was another four weeks before she could begin getting around very well. She had been beaten pretty badly, and her arm was broken.
"It was the girls," Jamaica told Gordon. "I mean it was the girls who beat me. They even encouraged the boys to... to do what they did to me."
He listened without saying anything. It was hard to listen to her describe what they did to her, but he knew it helped her to talk about it. After the first few days, she talked less about it as other things became more important.
"What about Tramone?" she asked Gordon.
"Sam is certain he's going to be acquitted, but didn't explain why."
"He confessed to save me, didn't he?" Jamaica said.
"Yes he did. But it wouldn't have saved you. They were planning to kill you when it was all over."
"Tramone didn't know that, Gordy."
"No he didn't, Jama," he said while holding her. He didn't want her to see the bitterness his face would have shown her.
Two weeks before the trial, Sam asked Gordon and Jamaica to visit him.
Jamaica's cast was off and there were no more bandages, most of her hair had grown back, and except for two small scars under her left eye, and another under her chin which really didn't show, there were no visible signs of what had happened to her.
"Jama, you're more beautiful than ever," Sam said when greeting them at the door. Jamaica hugged him and said, "thank you, Sam."
"For paying you a compliment?" he asked.
"No, for rescuing me," she said.
"Oh, that was a necessary part of the job. I had to rescue you to do what I originally agreed to do, or have you forgotten what that was?"
"No, Sam, I haven't. It was to get Tramone off."
"That's right, and it looks like that will happen, but I need some information from you that might help." Sam explained.
Gordon had said nothing during this exchange, and Sam noticed.
"Is something wrong, Gordy?"
"No. Jamaica can give you all the help she wants. I just have no interest in helping him after what happened to Jamaica."
"Oh, I see," Sam said. "Do you blame him for everything, then."
"It has nothing to do with blame, Sam, just the fact that if it were not for him, none of this would have happened. His father warned him, I warned him, Jared warned him, Jamaica pleaded with him. He got into trouble and caused a lot of other people trouble and real harm. I just have no interest in helping his worthless carcass, that's all. But I'd never stop Jama from helping him if she chooses to."
"Well, Jama. What do you think about that."
"Oh, I completely understand Gordon's view. He's actually right. None of it would have happened if it hadn't been for Tramone, and he certainly doesn't deserve anyone's help. In a way, it's not really for him I want to help, it's more because I want whatever happens to be determined by the truth, ...by reality."
Sam was very impressed by Jamaica's little speech.
"You certainly are a wise young lady," Sam said. "Let me tell you what I'm interested in before you decide. You might not wish to help when you know what it is, because I want to ask you something that pertains to when they were holding you, before you were rescued."
"It's alright," Jamaica said. "Gordy has helped me get by all that."
"What I need to know is if you were able to overhear anything they talked about, what they said to each other."
"Oh yes," Jamaica said. "They talked about everything and didn't seem to care what I heard. That's probably because they were planning to kill me and didn't think what I heard mattered. I even heard the one who did the shooting bragging about it."
"Well I've known for a long time who that is," Sam said. "It's someone else I'm interested in. I want the name of someone who seemed the most cowardly, one the others bullied or teased."
"That would be Leo," Jamaica said. "They teased him and called him awful names all the time."
"He's not one of members the clerk identified as committing the robbery," Sam said. "Do you think he took part in it?"
"I know he didn't."
"Because all the others were calling him, 'another Tramone,' because he was a coward and wouldn't take part in the robbery."
"That's the one we need," Sam said.
"Why is he important?" Jamaica asked.
"Because he can be used. I don't want you to have to testify. In fact, I don't want you at the trial at all. If you were to testify everything else would probably come out and we definitely don't want that."
"I don't understand," Jamaica said. "How can he be used?"
Sam just grinned. "You'll just have to wait and see."
Neither Gordon or Jamaica attended the trial. In fact the only one's of interest who did attend were Tramone's parents. If the others had known how it was going to turn out, everyone would probably have attended, but Sam had asked everyone else to "stay away."
The day after Sam's last interview with Jamaica, Leo, the gang member, was arrested. Though he swore he had nothing to do with the robbery or killing, he was told it made no difference, because he knew about it, both before and after, and that made him an accessory, and since there was a murder during the commission of the crime he was also guilty of murder.
He was easily convinced to except a plea deal. He would testify against all the others and the charge of murder would be dropped.
There was also the matter of Tramone's confession and what Sam had meant about it not being as bad as it sounded. Somehow Sam was working with elements of both the prosecution and defense. He arranged to have Tramone's confession taken and recorded as evidence of his innocence. Tramone was asked about certain facts which he corroborated, but which the police knew were not true. His confession was an obvious fabrication.
On the basis of Leo's testimony, the identification of the true killer, the revelation of the impossible statements in Tramone's confession, and the fact that the only ones to accuse Tramone were the gang members who really committed the robbery, Tramone was acquitted, even of perjury, because his false confession was made under duress. The six participants in the robbery were all convicted of theft and murder, and the murderer was sentenced to life in prison.
The most tense moment of the trial was when the prosecution asked Tramone to explain what kind of duress had made him confess. Tramone said the gang had threatened his sister. "What kind of a threat was it?" the lawyer asked.
"They threatened to kill her," he said.
The kidnapping was never mentioned.
Everyone expected Pop to completely write Tramone off. To everyone's surprise, he completely forgave Tramone. It was Pop who arranged with Sam Nesbit for Tramone to work for him, and there was something unspoken about that arrangement and Tramone's eager agreement to accept Sam's offer that cleared the path to their reconciliation.
There were a lot of things that changed after that. The Williams decided they wanted to home school their children, and the Tarbucks offered to help them with it all they could. Both families, in fact, became very close. Any of the children from either family might be found in either home on any given day or hour.
"Now that I'm not going to the day-prison anymore, I can be just as dumb as you," Jamaica teased Gordon.
"No matter how hard you try Jama, you'll never be that dumb, but I'll love you anyway."
"You're not happy about Tramone, are you Gordy?" Jamaica asked.
"I'm happy for you, Jama. I'm happy about anything that pleases you."
"Do you hate him?"
"I hate what he made happen to you, but I don't hate anybody. If someone is not worth loving, they're certainly not worth hating. I might have contempt for them, but hating isn't worth the energy."
"I know you don't care, Gordy, but Tramone admires you. He gives you the credit for saving his life. He says he wishes he could be like you."
"Tell him he should be himself and make the best person he can of himself. If he does that, I'd appreciate him for it. Nothing can cancel the past, but if he makes something of his future, I could admire that."
"You really could, Gordy?" Jamaica pleaded.
"I really could. The past is the past and nothing can change it. But one is only responsible for what they can do, and that means, in the future. I want Tramone to make something of himself, and I will be happy if he does, but he has to do it before I can admire it. But if he does, I will."
"I believe he will, Gordy. He tried to save my life, even if he was mistaken. Hold me, Gordy. You are so good," she said.
"Gordy, do you remember when Sam asked if you were sure you weren't going to marry me and you said that you weren't sure at all?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Doesn't that mean you think you might be going to marry me?"
"Yes, that's what it means," Gordy said.
"Does that mean you are planning to marry me?"
"No. It doesn't mean exactly that. It means, unless something I cannot imagine happens in the future, I'm certain one day we'll marry."
"Does that mean you haven't completely examined the menu yet?"
Gordon looked at her and smiled. "I know everything there is on the menu worth knowing, Jama. You are the only dish I'm interested in. It's just that I cannot afford you, yet."