Pearl’s Picks

by Kenneth Little

do not dare tear my flesh

from my bones

deny my spells cast in whispers

bury my wisdom with your name, she says


you once slashed at my flesh

and claimed my talent evil. do not dare deny the

parts of parts that make me whole, she says


yes she believes in magic

conjuring with the bones and tones

of those whose dreams she bears


she picks in rhythms of marvel flashing

numbers calling magical numbers

33, whoppy

Pearl says that I met her on the re-bound. She was off her numbers, when her life was doubly difficult: hard to follow and hard to bear. Until it wasn’t. She took interest in me because I was the “come and go” white guy some locals were talking about who had hung around Walliceville for far too long to be a tourist but not long enough to be an expat “come-stay” but who started playing Boledo and losing until he began to win, playing the number thirty-three, once three times in one week, and one of those times in a big way, enough to pay two month’s rent.

Boledo is the oldest national betting game in Belize. A Boledo ticket is a record of the numbers that you pick to play and the amount you put down on each of the numbers you pick. Pick a number, a series, or several numbers from 00 to 99. Put as much money as you like on your picks. But after that, things get complicated, at least if you want to win like Pearl wins, big, and with such frequency that it’s “crazy scary,” her friend says. “Pearl,” Toycie says “has some pick power. You find imitations of Pearl’s special cool, but she be new every time.”

Pearl was curious about my success. She hailed me in the street one day to ask nervously what numbers I was going to play next. Unguarded I told her that I hadn’t thought about a pick. We left things there. Later that day I dropped into the Chinese market to buy my numbers. I picked 33 again and won again. Pearl did too. “How did you know to pick thirty-three?” I asked her. She smiled and whispered “whoppy.” Some Belizians say that when a number has whoppy it brings on more luck and an intense feeling for stronger numbers generating better powers of prediction. But whoppy isn’t just logic and luck, it’s something special conjured out of repeated things and wild forces that make up spaces of desire. Pearl says thirty-three has “whoppy.” Maybe it’s just hers, maybe mine too. Things get complicated with the “maybes”.  


Pearl’s Boledo picks, my writing: how does it matter to write connected to Pearl’s stiff attempts to maintain traction in a confusing neoliberal present on the precipitous edges of Empire with a pirate and colonial history, in a place called Belize, in the spaces that take place in the course of historical forces of eroding edifices, images, tendencies and attachments to life? How does it matter to write tethered to Pearl’s picks as an emergent otherwise that is not about an object or a subject, but, rather, is itself a whirling wave of repetition and difference composed of both potentialities and loss? Writing not as an expression of what is already acknowledged or known, but to write as an attending, attuning and worlding (Stewart 2007, 2011). How does it matter that I picked thirty-three and Pearl did too? When that happened, some jumpy trajectory, some emergent “relationscape” (Manning 2009), started to grow rogue, vital, fugitive, exuberant as some “always more than one” (Manning 2011), as a disjunctive self-inclusion (Massumi 2002: 17). That’s whoppy.

Picking numbers and writing, both practices gesture toward something generative in everyday moments of hunkering down, of ducking and dodging, of panic, rapture, deep curiosity, seduction or some eerie apotheosis that takes Pearl’s picks and my writing beyond some fraying “good life” tropical paradise narrative of unsustainable “sustainable tourism” that some call Belize’s “last resort,” and toward some figure of an otherwise. Here, impasse and potentiality rub up against each other as a double enactment, no ideological or material substratum, no “being behind doing effecting becoming” as Nietzsche (1967: 45) put it. Rather, it’s the relational heterogenesis of Pearl’s picks as a transitory state of tension, an intensity that draws my attending.

dream bone flash

Pearl attends to all of this with the aid of her King Tut Dream Book, her Grinning Doukies Skeleton, her cell phone game of solitaire, that accompany her own numbers book. These things connect her dreams with bones and gristle, stuff, situation, and pliant event, to compose the urgent and vibrant feel of emergent numbers, all in a flash. Pearl becomes charged in a flash. Turned into a conduit of transitional contacts, caught up in some flesh feeling bone touching breath in the grip of earth, animal and sea, and it can all stop her cold on a dripping hot day. It is necessary to stay with the eventfulness of a flash or “things push down on me like the pressure of the world,” Pearl says, head back gulping some thicky flow, “like something pressing sudden that steals my breath.” That’s when things push in on Pearl like some pressing corporeal bulk, it’s something that envelops her like a smothering weight.

Pearl’s dreams fall on her flesh in affective intensities that index her acts of picking numbers. “Follow the feelings that fall into dreams,” she tells me, “They lead you places if you are strong enough to bear their touch.” Pearl says her picks are shaped with clues her Creole ancestors drop into her dreams. She is thankful for them because these clues are an unforgetting, an act of creative unfurling. Her ancestors touch her and with that sensation a world begins its generation, again. Ancestors come in dream flashes: as tingling hunches, shivers, “body glitches,” Pearl calls them, like a sudden stomachache, headache, heartache, bone-ache and shifting corporeal pressures that rattle Pearl’s body when the cayes cry tears that sea foam gathers caught in swirling currents of flotsam, jetsam and cruise ship garbage, pirate stories, reef madness, hurricanes, strange politics, nervous histories, crazy land deals, floating dead bodies, Belikin beer girls, punta rock, the high end resorts where Pearl works, and her “next one” expat boyfriend.

Pearl attends to all of this with the aid of her King Tut Dream Book, her Grinning Doukies Skeleton, her and her own numbers books. These things connect her dreams with bones and gristle, stuff and event to compose the urgent feel of emergent numbers, all in a flash. Pearl becomes charged in a flash. Turned into a conduit of transitional contacts, caught up in flesh touching bone touching breath, and it can all stop her cold on a dripping hot day. She has to “stay with the flash” or “it will push down on me like the pressure of the world,” Pearl says, head back gulping some thicky flow, “like something pressing, hard; a smothering weight steals my breath.”

of pics and poesis

Pearl’s flashes are a contact zone of roiling multiplicities that begin to figure through an unstable yet forceful instancy and congery of pluralized sensations, potentialities to which, on the good days, she is receptive and o
pen. But there is always more there and that helps me avoid writing Pearl’s local life in some “language of obituary” (Raffles 1999:350). The more has to do with how numbers finally move things. The more is enlivened by the way Pearl scans sensations absorbed in off-shore fantasies and the local everyday chaos of a village that has gone crazy for tourism, in the way she reaches through her entire sensorium as a manner of inhabiting her body: follow the reef water, its temperature, its ever shifting blues, bad weather, good fishing, the mangroves, the flows of sargassum that suddenly appear on a stiff breeze, the texture of blossoms on her old flamboyant tree, her sister’s acid words, the transient sweet tastes of mangos, the antics of iguanas, bad accidents, the reverberate provocations of obeyah seductions, good luck, gecko chirps, tourist tricks, loves, labours, and daily dramas, the heat of the sand, all incite transitional passages: eventfulness as number emergence; desire in its transitory state .

I write in the gravitational orbit of these elementary particles (Houellebecq 2000) that add to things for Pearl even if things never quite add up, an ecology of practices enacting a “doing” by which Pearl and I begin to conjure our creation stories, me, trying in a manner of writing to stay attuned to the qualities and capacities of curiosity and care with respect to the potentialities of whoppy, to the dense and wild generation of a life lived here, in this place, in the swirling restlessness of touchy numbers, on a tourist beach: a cultivation of desire in connectability. Pearl enters into an erotics of the pick, in sensations of affliction and delectation working desire like a machine shorting out, in all of those elements of conjuncture and disjuncture, unleashing impulses and flesh fluxes passing through Pearl undoing her solidity. Desire, delirium, Pearl conjuring her number picks passing from one intensity to another, from one event to another, from one dream and another, from one thing or another, the desiring machine undone by waves of delirium, suspensions, blocks of becoming, her leaps across voids. Pearl’s desire, much more than a personal feeling to fulfill as an object, is an incessant assembling that acts like waves do on the Walliceville beach that flow and follow in relays, blockages, broken patterns, reforming figures and things always the same but different, confounding, surfacing, capping, folding and those things that are unspeakable in thick air. Whoppy. This is how it goes day after day, intensity after intensity, singularity building on singularity, or not. Such singularities are not compliant with any order of things but are her conditions of becoming in a Caribbean tourism dreamworld/nightmare, on a beach, in Belize.

References cited

Houellebeq, M. (2000). Elementary Particles, trans. Frank Wyme, New York: Vintage.

Manning, E. (2009). Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Manning, E. (2013). Always More than One: Individuation’s Dance. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Nietzsche, F. (1967). On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. W. Kauffmann and R.J. Hollingdale, New York: Vintage.

Raffles, H. (2002). In Amazonia: A Natural History. Princeton University Press.

Stewart, K. (2007). Ordinary Affects. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Stewart, K. (2011). Atmospheric Attunements, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 29: 445-453.