By Marina Johnson
The Jabless – a selected short Dominican folk story from author, Marina James
La Diablesse (pronounced La Jabless) is a very strange legendary being – so they say!
One moonlight evening, my uncle decided to take his horse to go for a ride to his friends in the neighbouring village. Most villages were at least five or eight miles away, so he set out at ti buenage, meaning ‘twilight.’ They never had clocks in the house. At dawn it would either be first cock crow or second cock crow. Twilight would be ‘ti buenage,’ night would be ‘nueces.’ Midday would be called ‘ganju.’ Ganju is easy – the log planted in front of the house loses its shadow, so one would be quite satisfied that it was twelve/midday.
One never sees a jabless in ganju. It was always in neuces and if it so, happened that the full moon came out whilst she was frolicking in the darkness, she would get tired out and ‘tied up.’ ‘Tied up’ meant that she would lose her way in the moonlight. Being a persona non-gracia she could operate her cunning only in darkness, otherwise she would surely be stranded. Now that you have an idea of what a jabless is, I will proceed with my story.
So this uncle of mine on his horse rides to Trois Piton Village and has a great time with his friends. They sat on the bridge, recalled jokes and filled the air with resounding laughter. The laughter merged with the sounds of the babbling brook until the clouds started gently surging to the west. When the rest of the moon was glimpse, it was time to take the journey back home to Cashimouna. All the friends dispersed and the trot, trot of the horse’s hooves were the only deliberate sounds to his ears. In normal circumstances, fireflies and crickets, the mantis and hooting owls would orchestrate their harmony, but something was amiss. The powers of darkness had frightened them all away.
The little Trois Piton brook becomes a river at the third bridge – for it was a winding river – a lovely lady, so beautifully dressed in national costume, sat there with her hands to her face sobbing as if her heart would come out of place.
“What’s the matter, Miss Lady?” asked my uncle in a very low and gentle voice. “Me belly a hut me and di docter, so far. I tired! I tired!” At this explanation, my uncle offered her a light on his horse. He began to lead the horse gently by its reins. Before he could reach the fourth bridge of the meandering river, a shrill voice penetrating his eardrum startled him out of his wits. He stopped the horse and checked to see to the comfort of the lovely damsel. “Sista is away you dare goin?” “Me a goin to de docta.” ‘Then you sick nah?” and to his surprise, the damsel said, “So dem say.”
This was a signal to take the lovely lady down from the horse. He lifted her down. The wind gently blew on her skirt. It lifted, and as the petticoat hovered, to his utter amazement, he saw with his own eyes that it was not a mirage created by moonbeams; it was not a calf that he lifted off the horse, but to his horror her two legs were two cow legs complete with fur and hoof.
That was a jabless and as he placed her down, she mocked him, “you lucky the moon is shining and you born with your legs come first.”