The Last Panman

TT – San­to Lyons brought the rub­ber-tipped sticks against his chest with a flash­ing ges­ture of pride. He quick­ly struck his tenor pan with na­tive skill and the mu­si­cal notes sailed out of the makeshift tent-like oiled gems of de­light. Ring­ing sounds, tin­gling the nerves, har­mo­nious melody cours­ing through the air.

For months, a gaunt broody Lyons stood be­fore his steel­pan and with spon­tane­ity, pound­ed out the mu­si­cal notes, the sounds emit­ting a mar­vel­lous rhythm. He had to co­or­di­nate, know­ing full well that the sub­tle tones must be kept low-keyed to sup­port his ac­cen­tu­at­ed high oc­taves, boom­ing with stac­ca­to em­pha­sis. A pa­pered win­dow opened at the side of the one-room rick­ety shack.

Wendy looked out a shad­ow in ink, a ghost­ly ap­pari­tion as if out of sleep, with fraz­zled hair, look­ing at her hus­band en­tan­gled in his own de­spair. His band­ed fore­arms, throb­bing chest and his quick hands cre­at­ing a blur in the fee­ble light from the flick­er­ing flam­beau cast­ing a shad­ow.

“San­to, Julie and Jen­ny ent have no pas­sage. You could spare a small change?” Wendy spoke at the win­dow.

“Ah buy tam­pee with meh last mon­ey,” Lyons replied.

He stopped play­ing on his pan and dropped his hands in­to his pock­ets. Af­ter much time his hand sur­faced with coins.

“This is all ah have. Take it —thir­ty-two cents.”

“Dat can’t even buy chan­na. Is pas­sage mon­ey ah want. And is stale bake them chirren tak­ing to school to­mor­row.

“Well, leh them stay home, where I could be near them. I nev­er went to school. I wash car and car parts and sell bot­tle in my day.

“Doh be chupid. Ex­ams com­ing and them chirren do­ing good.

“Well, sell them two com­mon fowl in the yard, what you want me to do?”

“You go sell your neigh­bour fowl to send yuh chirren to school?’ Wendy asked.

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