Vodou Child

Haitian religious rites in the unlikeliest of places: a Long Island suburb

It's almost 5 a.m., and Erol has also been seized by Ogou, but Ogou the dealmaker, the politician, the organizer. His face is confident, masculine, hard—so different from the tender, almost maternal look that he had when he was helping Chantal a few hours earlier. Then he slips out of the spell.

He gulps a mouthful of rum and blows it around the room in a large, misty spray. He walks over to Chantal, swigs some rum, and sprays some on her. She is holding the machete in front of her, its blade inches from her face. Without a word, Erol calmly takes the machete from her hand and passes it to a woman standing nearby. He embraces Chantal, and she, too, slips out of the trance. The room is quiet.

There is more singing—in soft voices now—and a few candles are lit. The ceremony is over. Erol is physically drained. The spirits have come and gone.

It is 5:30 a.m. The oak-tree-lined street in Hempstead is beginning to stir; lights illuminate windows and people in suits walk to the cars parked in their driveways to begin their commute to work.

Erol and the others from the basement go outside and stand on the lawn. Erol jokes and chats softly with Florence, while Huguette and the other women shake the fabric of their skirts and cool off in the morning air.

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