Akin Adesokan navigates the currents and undercurrents that govern the complex interplay between culture and currency, myth and money, economics and the everyday in our current world.
‘If there’s one person who will do anything to get money, it’s he.’
His name was Moradeyo, but we called him Facilitator. He was smooth, malleable as putty, his greasy manners oiled the clogged wheels of the deals that happened in our small town, once in a while. He grew up here, lived among us until nine years ago. Then his mother’s death scattered the family in different directions, like the grains of corn from a container that crashed, leaving the blind father stranded, all by himself, waiting on hope, waiting to be picked up, the lone grain buried somewhere in sand, beneath twigs. We always knew that Facilitator didn’t believe in anything, but we didn’t know what he would do to prove that. He only knew how to work hard, we’d say; he knew how to deal the cards. My brother, who was his friend and gave him the alias, used to say that the boy could sell his mother, that the poor woman had Death to thank, for her second son was scheming to palm her off for a fistful of cash. Who would buy her, for how much, to what use, my brother never said, preferring to intone, ‘If there’s one person who will do anything to get money, it’s he.’
Whenever I visited home during my undergraduate days, I stood by the window and watched them at play.
‘Facilitator!’ Taye, my brother, hollered as Facilitator emerged, walking briskly along.
‘Is inside my blood!’ the boy was suddenly gratified.
‘The one and only Facilitator! Some mothers do have dem!’
‘Das right. A million stars no equal the single moon.’
‘You who know the smell of currency!’
‘Das me you hail.’
‘You who come across a rooster on a bushpath and ask, Your feather or your flesh?’
‘Talent senior training. Abinibi pass ability.’
‘On account of the new yam you redesign your mother’s facial marks with a machete!’
Facilitator, now close to his addressor, pulled a face. The mention of his mother was part of the game, but it came too early. The gathering under the acacia tree erupted into laughter, and when he made a rude sign at Taye, nobody really noticed.
Once out of here Facilitator took the only job he could find, and it was not easy to get or keep. He worked the Borders, the No-Man’s-Land between the devil and deep-blue Atlantic. He took anything: used tyres, knocked-down vehicle parts, textiles, electronics, rice, shoes. He helped to move them where they should be moved. He picked out couriers by a mere ‘shading’ of the eyes, a wave of the hand above the din that rose with the dust as a convoy of cars carrying contrabands zoomed like gunshots past the detour, several miles from the Borders. He had been at it for nine years, as soon, we surmised, as he beat the dust and stigma of his past out of his shirt. The job fitted Facilitator; my brother visited him once and slept in his room fitted with new things. After three months. It seemed that this world had been waiting for him.
In three years, maybe four, Facilitator attuned his body to the areas. All the signs of the hustler showed up on him: the unyielding listlessness, the yearning for visibility, the lack of shame and self-respect. He knew the right people, he became one of them, he became big in their hands (he was not yet a big man) by making them feel big. He knew the women. The tough mamas who had spoused with the Borders when they were still teenage girls, each coupling with a bushpath, each monogamously tied to a detour, observing with the routes the kind of chastening matrimony that was impossible in their lives. He knew the men too, the actual lords of the Borders. To say the least, since we knew little from this distance, it was a risky job. You had to know people, you had to become one of them. He did become one of them; since they were big men and big women, Facilitator too became a big man. Like two hands washing each other, he liked to say, according to my brother who still reported his doings, mostly out of envy.
It was through this kind of gossip that we kept abreast of Facilitator, in the nine years that he had been gone from here. Three months ago, we learnt that he bought a car. It was a used car, second-handed-down from the Cold North. But no matter; no one had owned a car in this place in a long time. The only car ever claimed by someone from here (quite different from the passenger vehicles that stopped plying our roads four years ago when they became unmanageable) belonged to an official of the Party of the Right. It was a monument to the wild days. My brother hid inside its carcass, by the roadside across the school grounds, when he didn’t want to do chores. The party man’s enemies had waylaid him during the Farmers’ Uprising. They dragged him out of the Ford, hacked him prone, and doused the mess with petrol, which turned into a bonfire that blazed brighter than the high noon. You would think that Wetie! was a thing of the past, but in this place, regarding the past, there was little difference between four years and four hundred years.
So Facilitator owned a car. My brother, who had failed at various things — bus conductor, back-up singer for a fuji band, butcher’s apprentice, party thug — paid him a visit. He was himself trying to get into what everyone called ‘the port business’ at the edge of the waters across the Borders, since Wharf and TinCan required the kind of guts he no longer possessed. He visited Facilitator to see if there was a way for him, too. In spite of the resentment, they continued to be friends. Facilitator was a generous man, and Taye was always in need.
The day my brother visited, other friends were present. There was much to drink. The friends thought that Facilitator, now a big man, ought to come down home to have his car blessed by his blind father. It would lift the vegetating man’s spirits, they said. No one had given this family a chance, but see the way God works? A man everyone had written off had bought a car, the second man to do so in the entire village. Facilitator, a reasonable man, saw their point, but his wife said No! Our town, which she had never visited was, she opined, full of evil and spiteful people, who didn’t like to see a person succeed. They might cast a spell on the car’s engine, or turn something into a cat that ran across the road just when he was driving. Her husband wanted to know how she knew this; he wanted her to be exact.
A self-deprecating laughter escaped her, and she said: ‘There’s more than meets the eye in this world.’
Facilitator replied: ‘I want you to look at it this way. People will see the car being blessed, and that will be the right insurance.’
Others nodded, but the wife remained unconvinced. Facilitator remarked that he had not seen his father in nine years. ‘And when I was leaving,’ he said, turning to my brother, ‘I didn’t tell you this, Taye, but I made a promise to my father that I will return to him, but not on foot. He knew what I meant. God has made it so.’
‘Well’, the wife grumbled, ‘if you say that my mouth is smelly, I will hold my lips.’
Her husband snapped: ‘But you refuse to look at it that way. You don’t have to seal your lips.’
One week later, Facilitator brought his car home. My brother rode with him. It was the first vehicle to come to this place in four years, since the passenger lorry, Ledemsay, made its final trip. We said it was the bad roads, but we knew better. Or, we didn’t know better: we had no idea what had depleted the fleet of Ledemsay’s owner. When someone who used to have no longer did, we said it was an act of God. We rubbed our palms together in prayer, wishing his misfortunes didn’t spread to us. Since Ledemsay’s last trip, anyone traveling out of here walked the sixteen miles to the highway, the Express, where it was possible to catch a bus coming from the near North.
Facilitator rode into the town early in the afternoon, his Datsun covered in the water-resistant dust of April. I watched him from my window; I had been here only two weeks, on a research trip. He dropped my brother off at our house, near the outskirts. Then, trailed by a horde of excited kids and wonderstruck grownups, he cruised through the main street, heading for his family house at the edge of the bush. One elderly man walked up to the slow-moving car and raised his hand. The driver bowed in greeting.
‘Ah, Moradeyo, omo gidi!’ the man said. ‘O kare lae.’
Facilitator stopped the car, got out, and prostrated to the man. Impressed by the praise he gave the man his fist, and returned to the car. The man watched him drive off. Nodding thoughtfully, he turned in the direction of our house, examining the currency in his hand. He paused under my window, looked back again at the spectacle of the constantly interrupted car, and muttered to himself:
‘Olorun ma tobi l’oba o. Eda o ma l’aropin o.’
Many years ago, when Mr. Douglas still lived here, he would sidle up to me, eager to know what the man said, not minding that the astonished tone inflecting the words carried enough meaning. I wondered about that time, about my irritated paraphrases, and evasions if the comments were offensive. Were he here now, assuming he still required my services, I would mutter something about the greatness of God and the infinitude of human fate.
Within an hour of Facilitator’s arrival, the ‘Town Hall’ was raucous with noise. It was a squat building on a strip of land across from the acacia trees, and it had risen, I know, as a response to the degradation that had befallen our town: it helped the people’s civic pride to erect a hall when all else was going to seed. A part of it was visible from my window, but I would have to step out if I wanted to see the car. I had the urge to go walking by, but I decided to watch, knowing that Taye would return to brief me. He had long swaggered out the house; he was the celebrant’s best friend, and he had to support him. The house was quiet. A moment later, I saw my mother saunter out, a shawl on her head. Like everyone else, she would walk by the hall, hoping Facilitator would notice her. Failing that, she would go and greet his father. Since my arrival two weeks ago, I had not moved about much, outside of biking to the farms where I interviewed the extension service agents who bypassed our town in their Land Rovers. I had my reservations about Facilitator’s character, and I knew he would be eager for my approval. Finally, I too yielded to my curiosity.
The car was parked outside the building, a short distance from Galilee, Ma Israel’s drinking shack that, with the acacias, the doctor’s Hill House, and the town hall (sometimes called ‘Community Center’) formed the town square. I noticed Ma Israel at the store-front. Usually, she provided the drinks for occasions such as this; it was a common sight to see her workers darting about with cartons of beer and soft drinks. Now she stood alone, surly and irritable, and she pointedly ignored my greetings at the moment my brother flipped open the car’s boot to ease out a carton of Star beer. Facilitator had brought his own party things. Taye saw me, and smiling guiltily, slipped into the hall. From the opposite direction, I saw Facilitator’s father being led along. I paused by the Datsun. It had been painted anew in that hurried, functional way of dedicated artisans. The sheen of the bodywork dazzled in the sun, its stink of emulsion rising like a swarm of gnats to assail my nostrils.
The blind father was led into the hall. As I walked past, I saw someone call Facilitator outside. The two men bent down to whisper, and the young car-owner blurted out:
‘Ah, no problem for that one. If you have any load, just put it there.’ And he pointed at the car.
Farther down the road, a throng ambled along with pieces of luggage, probably seeking a similar favor. I couldn’t blame them: everyone could use a free ride.
‘Ha-ah! I’m in debt!’
A quarter of an hour later, I returned from my walk. The hall was rowdy in a pleasant way. Lively dance-music blared out, rigged from a dry-cell-battery cassette player. A band of kids tussled over a bottle of Coca-Cola. Next to the car, there were two sacks. I remembered the man who had whispered to the car owner. Apparently he wanted a ride to the City; there was no telling when the next car would stray to our town, and the extension service people gave no lifts. A goat ambled by, and started picking at one of the sacks. Out of reflex, I stomped the ground to scare it off. But moments later, it returned. A little girl, ten at the most, broke off the band fighting for a sip of the warm Coke. She picked a pebble and threw it at the adamant goat. The stone flew, missed its target, bumped against the sack, and landed on the car’s front windscreen with the lightness of a butterfly’s perch. It didn’t make a clean piercing, but cracked at the edgy glass, whose whinny ripples turned the crystal silver of the windscreen into an opaque sheet, slowly misted by the disturbing impact of stone on hot glass. A noise welled up all around, while the goat scurried off, a piece of green plantain in her mouth. The clamor overwhelmed the sound of merriment inside the hall. A few people tumbled out, Facilitator ahead of them. A glance at the spreading mist of his windscreen was enough to rile the young man, who piled his hands on his head:
‘Ha-ah! I’m in debt!’
Without another word, he ran inside the car and kicked it alive, forcing Taye to struggle with the other door. He raised a heavy dust as he backed out of the dead-end lying between Galilee and the hall, and once my brother managed to get a foot in, the car made a murderous turn that sent the few sympathizers fleeing for safety. The cloud of dust was the last thing we saw. Silence fell all around. The bickering kids had gone totally quiet, and the girl who threw the stone was now drenched in her own tears. A boy led Facilitator’s father back to the house at the edge of the bush. The owner of the load stood like a stump, plantains dangling from his hands. The elderly man who had marveled at the ways of God leaned on the largest of the acacia trees, muttering. Then he beckoned the man with the plantains.
I went back to my room. Hours later, looking out from my window, I saw my brother trudging along, his swagger gone.
‘He threw me out of his car,’ he said as he walked in.
It started raining at about seven o’clock that evening. I was trying to read by the light of the storm lantern. Taye slipped out of the house, and when my mother called out to him, he responded with a careless sound that the rain swallowed up.
The roads were bad. Facilitator was close to the market village ten miles to the Express when his car ran into a ditch, partly because, with the windscreen now an opaque whiteness, he could not see far ahead. The force of the car entering the crater crashed the weakened glass into a pile across the dashboard, and allowed a deluge to gush at him. He soldiered on, driving against the rain and the wind, until both ceased to matter, until he got to the market village, and decided to maneuver the vehicle under a stall by the side of the road. The headlights shone on a man lying on a bench at the far end of the stall, who scrambled to a sitting position.
‘Are we safe?’ the man asked, and a report accompanied his question: he was drunk. Facilitator, whose time at the Borders had put him in touch with army top brass, understood the question: it belonged to the vocabulary of soldiers. Feeling his way out of the car, the sound of his shaky hands heard through the car keys, he laughed and offered the appropriate response: ‘No cause for alarm.’
The drunk peered closer at his face, and belched.
‘To God who made me.’
‘If so, then make yourself at home.’ The man moved a little on the bench so Facilitator could sit. The car’s headlights were bright, and each man saw the other’s face.
Then the drunk brought out a flashlight which he shot at the car.
‘But alarm don blow for your windscreen.’
Facilitator told him what happened.
He was still talking when a female voice tore through the rain from the other side of the stall:
‘That’s me,’ the drunk said to Facilitator, ‘but is just wife trouble. Continue with your story.’
‘That’s all. And it started raining. And I got here.’
Bentigoor was quiet for a while. Finally, he felt his pocket for something. He gave the flashlight to Facilitator to free his hand. After the sound of a closing door, the voice came through again: ‘Bentigoor, alias palmwine drinkard! One day, the thirsty jerry can inside your stomach crying to be fill with Paraga will take pity on you and set you free! Bentigoor, are you deaf or ignoring me?’
Bentigoor made a grunting sound as he pulled something out of his pocket.
Facilitator trained the light on the raised hand. The man was holding up a roll of peppermints.
‘You see this Trebor? Even if I drink thirty thousand pails of ogogoro and Paraga, once I chew three of this thing, that’s the end. My mouth will smell, I will be belching, but I will know what I’m doing. You must be a man…’
‘Bentigoor, who are you talking to? Where you get this car?’
The woman stood above them, a tin-lantern in her hand, an umbrella dripping water resting on her shoulder.
‘Isioma, cool down. You see me with a visitor.’
‘Which useless visitor, ehn? These are the people bringing you cannabis and stone under the cover of darkness!’
‘Show respect, Isioma! This is a visitor. Don’t you have eyes? As I was saying, my friend, there’s nothing coming from above that is too big for the ground. You bought this one, and you will buy a bigger one. A solution may be small, but is bigger than the problem.’
‘Thank you,’ Facilitator said. ‘It’s what I told my wife. People will see the car’s blessing, and that will be the correct insurance. It did not work out that way.’
‘I said, No problem. We are all together. You can’t go tonight. Sleep in our house.’ He turned to his wife still towering over them:
‘Isioma, we have a visitor for the night.’
‘Is food ready?’
‘Food will ready when you come inside to cut the meat.’ She turned and went back into the house, the level of the rain rising as her umbrella unfurled again. Midway, she paused:
‘Papa is hungry and angry.’
‘I’m coming,’ Bentigoor shouted back.
The two men sat in the dark while it rained. Facilitator’s listless hands played with the car-keys. Bentigoor had resumed his supine position, his back slightly raised, resting on a post upholding the stall.
He said: ‘You have something, I don’t know what it is, but it makes people like you. Is in your blood.’
‘Thank you,’ Facilitator said.
‘If is another person, he will still be crying. Or at leas’, he will refuse to talk. You understand life.’
‘Well, there is no use crying when the head is already off. What would happen has happened.’
‘I like you, and I respect you,’ Bentigoor said, with touching thoughtfulness. ‘I am also like that. My wife followed me all the way from Delta because she saw me like that. But now she complain about my drinking.’
Facilitator was quiet.
‘Drinking is good,’ Bentigoor said. ‘What is bad is overdrinking. Abi I lie?’
‘It’s true. Moderation is the key to life.’
‘You also like to drink?’
‘Sometimes, but not much.’
‘I can’t do without drink.’
They were quiet again, and Facilitator’s keys had found a resting place in his pocket. ‘Before she starts shouting again, let us go inside,’ Bentigoor said finally, rising. Walking ahead, he stopped just as he went past the car:
‘The smell of Star is coming out of the boot.’
‘Oh,’ said Facilitator. ‘It is the rest of the drinks we were using to wash the car. I think the bottles broke because of the bad road.’
Bentigoor said: ‘If there are some unbroken bottles, it means that the road has drunk enough libation.’
And he began to fumble with the car’s trunk.
‘A long speech is a haven of lies.’
Late that night, after the rain had dropped to a mere drizzle, Facilitator and a few friends that Bentigoor had rallied from the village sat over the beers rescued from the car. Isioma, it turned out, was not averse to guzzling. Although no one invited her, she joined them on the pretext that her mouth was not at the washerman’s. She opened a bottle with her teeth, bent a tumbler in her left hand, and filled it to the brim, lapping the foam with a relish that elicited a sudden, unified noise from the men:
‘Bentigoor, your wife sabbe am oh!’
‘Million upon million shine-shine don go inside.’
Isioma belched and said: ‘All of you dey craze. You think only men know how to drink?’
There was a knock on the front door. Bentigoor said: ‘Better hide your bottle. More guzzlers on the loose.’
‘You think people care for your drink?’ Isioma retorted, holding the bottle between her legs.
One of the drinkers said, ‘You give them Sungbalaja instead.’
Nobody rose to answer the door. The knocking continued.
‘What’s that you said?’ another asked.
‘Ha, hear this novice-o,’ Isioma crowed. ‘You drink for this village you don’t know Sungbalaja?’
Bentigoor pulled out a bottle of Schnapps without the label. Against the lantern on the window pane beneath which he sat he held up the bottle to measure the level of its content.
‘See this? That’s Sungbalaja. Strong pass Paraga.’
‘But what it means is what I want to know.’
‘As the name implies,’ Bentigoor said. ‘Knock-Out. Knock you out flat. You sleep like a log of wood. Like stone.’
The sound of knocking had not abated, but it was gentler now, as though the person at the door was about to give up.
‘Isioma,’ Bentigoor said carefully, ‘finish your drink and open the door.’
The woman glared at him: ‘They tie your hand?’
‘Okay. I know the beer is entering your sense.’ He rose and went to open the door, but instead of letting the intruder in, he remained at the threshold, his back to the rest of the drinking company.
‘Yes?’ he began, but seemed to change his mind. ‘Ha! This is a delegation. Two, three…five. No, four people. Also a small boy. Isioma, please bring the lantern.’
‘Let them come in, ah beg! At leas’, they are not spirits.’
Bentigoor walked away from the door followed by four people, including Taye, whom Facilitator recognized the instant the visitors came within the glare of the light. Bentigoor was right; it was a delegation from our town: Taye; the old man who’d paused below my window; the man with the sack of farm produce; and the little girl who threw the pebble that shattered the windscreen. Facilitator rose to meet them, and the revelers stood up one after the other, making space for the company dripping with rain. Just as he had when passing a gift of cash to the old man, he went down on his hands, prostrate.
‘Ha, baba, you should not have worried. And you brought this child.’
Bentigoor ensured that each had a place to sit. From what Taye told me afterwards about the meeting, down to Facilitator’s account of how he wound up as Bentigoor’s guest, it was clear that they had set out as soon as he walked out the house, replying my mother’s query with a flippant noise.
The old man spoke, and the night listened. He stared at the floor and spoke in short sentences. For a long time he spoke. He did not tell a tale, and this disappointed his listeners, including the night, the revelers, and Facilitator, the man at the center of the gathering. He did not talk about the accident. From what he said, this is what Taye recalled:
‘Moradeyo, listen well. Taboos arise when the world is full of uncertainties. There is order in our world. God is great. Fate is infinite. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. Sometimes we don’t understand what yesterday has revealed to us. When a meteor falls from the sky, nobody knows where it lands. This does not trouble the world. The same face is home to laughter and to tears. All is well with reconciliation. Let there be restitution first. Let the world live inside you. This is why we have come. A long speech is a haven of lies.’
The old man had made a long speech but his truth was patient. Facilitator too stared at the floor. Taye gripped his shoulders, and when his friend turned to look at him, his face broke into a smile.
‘How did you know I was in this house? You heard our noise?’
The old man spoke again: ‘As an elder, I would say we followed the light of your good spirits…’
‘I heard it too,’ Bentigoor interrupted. ‘The smell of Star.’
‘…but, in truth, it was your friend who suggested that we take shelter from the rain.’
‘I knew you wouldn’t go far,’ Taye said. ‘In the rain.’
Isioma stood at the kitchen door, beckoning Bentigoor.
‘I’m looking at that girl, and she is hungry,’ she said.
‘I’m not ready.’
In the morning, the old man was gone, with the little girl, and the man with the sack of plantains. Taye woke up on the wooden bench and, finding the house quiet, moved toward the door. There was no one in sight. From where he stood, his view of the market area was blocked by an ailing stall directly in front of the house. Farther down, in the general direction of the village’s outskirts, on the way to the Express, came the regulated sound of hammer on wood. He turned back into the house, listening. He had dropped out of the drinking company soon after the meal hurriedly prepared by Isioma; Taye might boast about his toughness, but a night tired him out fast. Dropping into a slumber, he had felt estranged from whatever bond the mixture of warm-hearted beers and gins with the old man’s conciliatory words had created. He was not surprised to have woken up alone; what intrigued him was the absolute silence of the house.
There was, after all, another sound, a general kind of laughter, audible in the pauses of the hammer, except that its direction was not clear. Taye stepped beyond the crumbling stall and walked into the open air.
The market was not in session; it convened every five days. But the villagers made use of some of the stalls, and seeing people clustered around a grate here, a table mounted with a basin of boiled rice there, he was amazed at the power of the initial silence in the midst of these activities. Others might have wondered about the meaning of a discrepancy, but Taye was more interested in what he could see. Next to the food-seller was a man splitting wood upon an upturned mortar–the sound of hammer was not as distant as he’d thought, and it was not a hammer. It was an axe. When he was close enough to be noticed by the man chopping wood, he realized the source of the laughter, and was relieved. Halfway to the edge of the bush where the village ended stood a group of people around a car, and among them, Taye saw his friend. He walked up to them.
There were three men besides Facilitator. Bentigoor was not in the group. There were men who crowded around the remainder of Facilitator’s drinks the previous night, before and after the old man’s benediction. Now Taye recognized one of them, but didn’t know his name.
‘Morning,’ he said, with a good-natured parting of his lips. Unsure who he was, they nodded, striking the sullen poise of strangers who would help if they knew what was required. Facilitator replied him:
‘No longer morning here. The day is old.’
‘Is still morning for a late-riser,’ someone ventured, drawing titters.
Taye was intrigued. Something about the people was unsettling. How had Facilitator managed to know these people in such a short time, even without Bentigoor, the friend he’d met in a moment of desperation? He contributed to the titters, and shuffled around. Facilitator moved closer to him and, wordless, pointed. Taye followed the finger and his sight came to rest on the car, and then he saw it: the car’s windscreen. It was there, sure and clean as new, as if it came with the car.
Turning back to his friend, Taye wore a face full of questions he didn’t need to ask.
‘That moment,’ he told me later that day, ‘was when I saw myself unlike him. What I could not be. The things I used to fear about him were crawling all over me.’
For the first time in over a decade, he called his friend by his given name: ‘Moradeyo, how come?’
Instead of answering, Facilitator turned to the other men:
‘This is Mayor, my new friend. Bentigoor put me in his hands. While you slept, he changed everything for me.’
One of the men, the one Taye remembered from the night at Bentigoor’s house, said:
‘Mayor, Bentigoor, Facilitator. All names resemble. I want to be like you — o!’
‘It’s not me,’ Mayor said, seriously. ‘You have Brigadier-General to thank. He’s not here, but his spirit is here with us.’
‘Yes, Brigadier,’ the aspirant said. ‘A good man, Brigadier Igida.’
‘Brigadier-General Igida,’ Mayor corrected him.
‘Two-in-one,’ the corrected man noted without a feeling of embarrassment.
‘So,’ Facilitator said, addressing Mayor and others. ‘All it remains is to go back to City.’
Taye did not understand what had happened, but it was clear that Facilitator had solved his problem. He continued to stare around, as if hoping that the riddle would yield its own truth if he waited long enough. But the longer he stared the less wanted he felt in their midst. Once the name Brigadier-General was mentioned, Facilitator didn’t bother to look in his direction again. Indeed, they suddenly got clannish and retreated some way off, leaving him to wonder. He wandered back to the house, and found Bentigoor in the kitchen, skinning a wild-rabbit.
‘Welcome! You slept well?’
‘Yes, thank you.’
‘Your friend is lucky. Without a penny he has a new glass for his car. Is the Brigadier at work.’
Taye grunted, but remained standing.
‘I went to check my traps, but I knew it would happen. Is just a matter of time. Brigadier Igida make everything happen here.’ He turned to look at Taye who stood over him, unable to move or speak.
‘It surprise you?’
Taye managed a smile, but the confidence didn’t hold.
‘Your friend understand life better. To people who don’t understand life, it will surprise them.’ He pulled a bowl of soapy water closer, and threw his knife in it. He picked up a small machete, and began to file it on a whetstone.
‘You want to meet him?’
‘Yes, Brigadier. Your friend will drive to his house to thank him. I can’t go, but you can follow them.’
Finally Taye decided to ask one question:
‘How do you know all these things? You weren’t there.’
Bentigoor took the carcass in one hand, and the machete in the other. He paused, as if to listen. He did not shift his gaze from the small counter on which the meat rested. Then, very haltingly, as though unsure of his words, said: ‘Never ask the coconut how come it has water, since it has strong shell. Otherwise, it is angry and dry up the sea. And sea never dry.’
Taye was quiet. He sat down, watching chunks of meat fall into a plastic basin. Finally, he said to Bentigoor:
‘I’m not ready.’