A couple years ago I started writing a short-story about a suitcase falling off the conveyor belt at JFK International Airport, New York City. Then I decided I didn’t want to write about a suitcase – at least not that kind of baggage. I wanted to write about metaphysical baggage: the emotional burdens which illegal immigrants carry back and forth from the Caribbean to America; the personal trade-offs they make in pursuit of green money and a Green Card. The final story, “Six Months,” appears in the current (Spring 2017) issue of The New England Review. The issue is available for purchase in digital and print format on NER’s website. Scroll down here for a sneak-peek of the first page.
Six Months speaks to the “box-and-barrel” Caribbean generation who have, from the mid-80’s, lost one or both parents to the enchantments of America. It speaks to the spouses left behind, waiting in the line at Western Union or Moneygram; to the connivance of all family members in accepting material things as a sufficient substitute for a loved one. The protagonist, Luther Archibald Jr, tells it all in his own words and, in a way, asks the reader “What would you do?”
Luther has lost his job and, he fears, the respect of his wife and young sons. He heads to America with a plan to work until his six-month visa is up. His manhood and self-respect are at stake so he works hard and sends all he can back to his family. But, in The Land of Opportunity, Luther’s cherished moral code begins to slip – it starts with just a stolen can of beans. Before he knows it, Luther has become a stranger to himself, an accomplished liar, a fraudster who preys on the affection of his “friend” Becky, as he pursues the goal of getting a Green Card. Just when he thinks he’s in the clear, that he’ll never have to go back to Trinidad, that he can start a new life in America, a frantic phone call comes from home. What should Luther do: stay in America or go back to his family?