Four Eyes

Tobias Buckell
Four Eyes
by Tobias S. Buckell

Manny had Bob Marley cranking on the stereo, his van was full of
passengers, and the air conditioning was working after a long week of
giving him trouble.
The sun beat down on the wet-looking asphalt road that ran along the
harbor, next to the concrete waterfront. It curved along in front of the
brightly colored Dutch Colonial warehouses of Charlotte Amalie,
which were now converted restaurants and jewel shops. Tourists in
day-glo shirts and daubs of sunscreen rubbed over peeling skin
crowded both sides of the waterfront road. Manny slowed somewhat,
keeping an eye on them.
On the sidewalk by the shops a tall black man stood by a food cart. The
hand-painted wooden sign hanging from the cart's side had faded letters.
The man wore a grand suit with tails, like an orchestra conductor, and a
top hat perched on his shaved head. A cigar burned in his mouth. For a
brief second he held Manny's attention. Then the food cart's owner
stepped forward and the strangely dressed man disappeared.
Manny looked at the other side of the road. A white girl with oval
shaped sunglasses and pink leather pants stepped off the sidewalk into
the road in front of his van.
He slammed on the brakes, trying to dodge her, but the van couldn't
respond that fast. Her ponytail flew up towards the windshield and her
head struck the star-shaped hood ornament. She bounced along the
asphalt. Manny weaved the van to a stop, with swearing from the
passengers in the back.

He opened the door and stepped out into the heat. Get up, stand up, the
radio cried out, and that was what Manny hoped would happen. He
hoped that she would at least just stir and be okay.
But she just lay there.
Manny's stomach pulled itself tight and began to hurt. He looked back
at the van. One of the passengers, an elderly lady with a straw hat and
sunscreen on the tip of her nose, stepped down through the sliding door.
She covered her mouth with the back of her palm.
"Oh my God," she said.
A trickle of blood ran down from the girl's head, muddying the dust in
the gutter.
A passenger with a large belt buckle, working boots, and a southern
accent, crawled out the sliding door with a cell phone in his hand. A
mahogany-skinned man in khakis and a floral print shirt followed close
"An ambulance is on its way here," the southern man said.
The man in khakis walked over to the girl and squatted. He held a small
piece of rope in his hand, tied in an elaborate weave of knots. He shook
his head.
"She dead," he said.
"How you know?" Manny demanded. The man in khakis said nothing,
but looked sad.
The southerner closed his cellphone. "He seems to know about these
things," he said. "I met him on the plane here. His name's Jimiti. I'm
In the distance, Manny heard the low wail of an ambulance start,
fighting its way through the snarl of waterfront traffic. The world
rippled, and Manny swallowed hard. He hoped she was alive.

"It's a shame," Stan said.
"I never knock into no-one before," Manny said, still stunned.
A bystander, an old lady with a large handbag, called out from the
bench she sat on. "Don't fret so, man. She walk right out in front of you.
Nothing you could do."
Manny looked down at the girl, the trickle of blood from her head
growing. The man in khakis, Jimiti, nodded. He put the knotted rope in
his hands back into his pants pocket.
"Nothing you could do," Jimiti agreed. The wail of the ambulance
began to drown out the din of traffic and town noise.
Jimiti stood up and walked over to Manny. He put a small length of
knotted rope into Manny's hand, as well as a business card. The card
was simple. Plain white. Jimiti, it said in black letters. Obeah and other
Manny started to put the card and rope in his pocket, but Jimiti's
leathery hand grabbed his wrist.
"Keep the rope out in you hand. It suck up you fear."
"Look..." Manny said, annoyed. He met Stan's eyes, though.
"He means well," Stan said. He had a similar piece of knotted rope
around his wrist. "He gave me one when I met him on the plane coming
down here."
Manny slipped the knotwork over his hands.
The ambulance pulled in front of them, killing its sirens and bringing
back the usual wash of background noise. Manny watched as two men
jumped out of the doors in the back and knelt by the girl.
Please live, Manny hoped.

Manny revved the engine and turned into
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