Punch for Punch-Lovers

SO this is the punch punch-lovers love, I thought, as I strained to suck the thick milk drink through the straw. "It good, eh?" asked my cousin, Dodo, smiling as he watched me struggle to pull the viscous liquid out of the cup.

I took a deep breath through my nose, creased my forehead and pulled through the straw until my eyes crossed.

"It thick, eh?" Dodo asked, still smiling.

"Yeah, boy. It real thick," I said. For all my efforts, I hadn't managed to draw one ounce of the punch. I took the lid off the 24 oz. styrofoam container and drank one full gulp of the pinkish liquid.

"How it tasting?" Dodo asked. "Good eh?"

"Yeah, boy. It tasting real good," I replied, nodding. I smiled and took a second gulp, wondering what was in this punch.

A die-hard punch-man, Dodo had voluntarily undertaken to initiate me in the ways of punch. Hence this trip to Fruit Boutique, a fresh fruit and punch stall on St Michael Street, Tacarigua. Fruit Boutique, Dodo had told me, was the mecca of punch-lovers in the East. From the looks of things, he hadn't lied. It was close to closing time, just before 10 p.m., and the young lady behind the counter was still turning clients away.

"No darling, we not making punch again," she repeated intermittently, as stragglers strolled up to the stall with their requests.

"You want fruit instead?" she asked one guy, almost as a consolation.

The fella, a rasta, made little attempt to disguise his disappointment. All the same, he attacked the assortment of fruits with alacrity. Portugals, nectarines, oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, plums, kiwis, honeydews, cantaloups, peaches, various kinds of apples, pears, grapes, silk and grand michel bananas, paw-paws, pineapples and mouth-watering slices of watermelon.

Steups. I should have had the fruit punch.

"What it have in this, boy?" I eventually asked Dodo, when I realised that he'd polished off his punch and was now eyeing mine.

"Everything," Dodo said, proudly adding, "She make it just like mine. Milk, condensed milk, granola, wheat germ, glucose, honey, almond essence, bitters and corn flakes. Well, I does take the frosted wheat flakes. More fibre. And all that for less than $20. But, like you wanted a $12 cup, boy."

"Nah, yuh feel I sof' or wha?" I said, realising that I was in way over my head with this massive cup of punch.

"We have coconut water too, eh," the girl was telling the young rasta, as she double-checked his change. "And cane juice."

"What? It have coconut water still? I'll take one with the change," the rasta said. His joy had returned.

"Yeah, but Dodo," I asked, "what it have in this? What it is?"

Dodo smiled a knowing smile.

"That is The Bomb, man. Is peanut, seamoss, beetroot, channa and fig. And I feel she put some carrot and pumpkin for spite. Drink nah. Drink. How it tasting?"

"Good, man," I said. "Real good."

Steups. I should have had the fruit punch.