Joseph Binbin Mauvant did not die. Not him...no. He simply disappeared. They would still be searching for him if he had not come to his wife in a dream. He said to her, “Don’t try to look for me. You are never going to find me. I have gone back to Ginen, to Africa, where I came from.” It was early morning in Jean Rabel in the mountainous north-western corner of Haiti. Deep shadows clung to the feet of the mapou, mango, and sour orange trees, while it was still night on the narrow footpath running through the dense canebrake behind the Mauvant family compound. The woman called Manman Marasa, mother of twins, had breakfast on her mind. There was water to boil for coffee. “The cassava that’s left is a little piece, real little,” she thought. “What are we going to give those boys? They’re clearing land today. They need food. Oh, well,” she sighed, answering her own question, “we have coffee. We have sugar for that coffee. We have kleren [rum]. That will do. We are cooking later, God willing.” It was not unusual for men who worked in the fields to start the day with nothing in their stomachs but heavily sugared coffee or a shot of sugarcane rum with salt added or perhaps some sowosi leaves, but Manman Marasa still worried about them from habit. The last thing she wanted to hear was the babbling of a crazy husband. Emerging from the door of the hut in which she had born and reared her “little people,” Manman Marasa threw a rag around her shoulders to ward off the morning chill. She did not even break stride to respond to the old man reclining on the mat inside. She did not even break stride to respond to the old man reclining on the mat inside. With a disdain common to women accustomed to hard work and childish men, she dismissed Joseph Binbin Mauvant: “You are going today? Well, good! I will see you when you are back.” Hunkering down beside the charcoal brazier in her yard, she blew on splinters of pine kindling and muttered to herself, “He says he is going today. Humph! Where is an old man like that going to go? That man has lost his head, truly.” … “Jepete [Eyeless One],” he called out the window to a scrawny, ageless woman who stood by Manman Marasa, “fetch water for me. I’m going to bathe.” Jepete, who had an angry pink hole where her left eye should have been, showed no sign of having heard the command and continued to feed a sugarcane stalk slowly into her mouth. Time passed. A sharp voice came from within the hut: “Jepete, fé vit [speed it up]!” With a shrug, the eyeless one bent to one side to spit the depleted cane fibers from her mouth and, in the same sideways motion, swept up a from her mouth and, in the same sideways motion, swept up a large gourd with a corncob plug that sat on the ground near Manman Marasa’s fire. It was a ten-minute walk to the well, and Jepete’s foot-dragging step raised angry cries from scavenging fowl all the way across the courtyard formed by the circle of small thatch and wattle-and-daub houses that made up the Mauvant family compound. … Although Jepete would never have let on, her foot dragging came from more than the lethargy that is the constant companion of the hungry. The sun was barely above the horizon, and she did not like to go near the cemetery at these in-between times of day. But that was not the worst of it. The worst was that she had to go by Marie Claire’s house. Everyone said Marie Claire was Manman Marasa’s favorite child. Whether or not Manman Marasa actually loved her more than she loved her other children, one thing was certain: that girl got everything she wanted. Jepete’s marginal position in the family - a foundly who ate meagerly from the pots of Manman Marasa in return for meager labor - made her suspicious. Bu a person did not have to be sour old Jepete to wonder if Manman Marasa was not simply afraid to say no to Marie Claire. Everyone knew Marie Claire had “eaten” her twin sister while they were still in their mother’s belly. During more than one long night, as Jepete slept on the porch of this or that person’s house, she was sure she heard strange noises coming from Marie Claire’s. Whatever that woman did at night, Jepete did not want to know about it. And, as Papa Mauvant sent her for water that early morning, she was not sure there was yet enough light for the awful events of the night to be over. Her fears made Jepete appear more sullen. … Like a man moving under water, Mauvant reached into a sack that stood in the corner of the hut and retrieved a pair of pants made from coarse blue cotton…”M’ap prale jodi-a, m’ap prale, wi [I’m going today, I’m going, yes].” ... Most days passed the same way, with Joseph Binbin Mauvant holding court from his private office between the roots of the mapou tree. There he consulted about what and when to plant and when to harvest. Sitting on the short-legged chair, he taught the younger men in his family how to repair tools. He allocated land for new projects to enterprising sons and sons-in-law and settled disputes among family members. And, in the same shady spot, he worked as a healer. Everyone knew that Joseph Binbin Mauvant was no ordinary man. He was franginen, as they said, a true African. When he had healing work to do, he had no need to call the spirits as others did, using drums, candles, and other ritual paraphernalia. Joseph Binbin Mauvant was franginen nét, completely Cafrican, and he had the spirits “on him” all the time, all kinds of spirits. When he treated someone, he did not read cards to find out was wrong. he could look at a person and know. Most significant, he did not work with an ason, the beaded rattle priests use in the south of Haiti to give them leverage in the spirit realm. Papa Mauvant needed nothing at all in his hand. Nothing. He cured people using only féy (leaves) and his own natural power. And he never took money for what he did, not a penny. He did things the old way. The old way was the simple way. Joseph Binbin Mauvant said that in Africa everyone could do it. Mauvant said, and everyone agreed, that a long time ago many Haitians could do it too, but this was no longer true. they had lost the knowledge. But there were stories about one or two among the mountain folk who, like Mauvant were powerful enough to heal the natural way. They were always described as living a long way off, and no seemed to have actually met them. … [Mauvant] was a real African, which to these mountain people brough him as close to the spirits as a living being could get. Even so, the family sometimes teased him by calling him blan (whitey). The truth was that Joseph Binbin Mauvant’s father had been white, a Frenchman. His mother had been black, but little Joseph had “come out white,” as the country folk put it. Despite the teasing, Mauvant was held in high regard for his light skin, and the unlikely combination of being a blan from Africa ensured his authority wherever he went. The identity of Mauvant’s mother is unclear. Some say she was a North American black; others say she was a Haitian. Wherever she came from, she traveled to Africa in the early 19th century, where she met and married her Frenchman. There, in Africa, Joseph Binbin Mauvant was born. The family later moved to France, to Bordeaux, where Joseph grew to young manhood. But the youth left France after a narrow escape in “the war” and eventually made his way to the northern port town of Jean Rabel in Haiti. There are two Jean Rabels - John Rabel on the sea and Jean Rabel in the mountains. … Mauvant sat gazing into the flames with his back straight and his hands resting lightly on his knees. “Bon!” he said, “at noon we won’t be seeing you anymore, no.” Then he began to sing: O Mother Africa, O Father Africa, I cry ago!  O Mother Africa, O Father Africa, I cry ago! I am calling God in heaven. I am calling Jesus, Mary, Joseph. O Mother Africa, O Father Africa, I cry ago! O Mother Africa, O Father Africa, I cry ago! I am calling Jesus, Mary, Joseph. I am calling the holy Virgin Mary. O, I cry ago! (orig. O Manman Ginen, O Papa Ginen, M'kri, ago! O Manman Ginen, O Papa Ginen, M'kri, ago! M'ape rele Bondye nan syél. M'ape rele Jezi, Mari, Jozef. O Manman Ginen, O Papa Ginen, Mwen kri, ago! M'ape rele Jezi, Mari, Jozef. M'ape rele lasent Vyéj Mari. O, mwen kri ago!) From eight o’clock in the morning until noon, Joseph Binbin Mauvant sang. He sat looking at the fire, and he sang and sang and sang. For the most part, those in the courtyard ignored him. … Reaching the end of a verse, the old man looked up and beckoned to Philo...After some hesitation, the child approached. Mauvant said nothing. A slight convulsion passed through his body and then another and another. He moved one hand to his mouth and vomited up a small, smooth stone. He stretched out his hand toward the child and said, “Here, little one. Eat this.” Philo’s dark eyes traveled from the moist black stone in the palm of the outstretched hand to the face of her grandfather and back again. Then, like the child she was, she cried, “Yuk!” and, pressing both hands over her mouth, she ran away. When Philo was one of the ancients herself, she would tell her daughter how much she regretted not having swallowed the stone. “that was his power. He wanted to give me his power. But I was just a little girl. I didn’t know anything.” … Manman Marasa walked with the soft slapping sound of bare feet on hard earth. She walked around her house to the yard behind. The next sound was her cry: “Woy!...Woy-woy-woy!” There was no fire. No chair. No blue kerchief. No Joseph Binbin Mauvant! People say that if he had not come to Manman Marasa in a dream that very night and told her he had gone back to Africa, the Mauvant family would be looking for him to this day. 1. Ago is used to mean Hey! or Hey, you!. It's origins are not clear, but it comes from Fon of Dahomey.