The Commanding Man and the Nun
December 25, 2012
Many years ago in Africa….
The Chinaman Cocoa planter who stood ramrod for hours on the hill scanning the Northern horizon with his field glasses knew that trouble was brewing up north in Uganda – three days ago a strange metallic pod was found on the Western part of his lands – he had picked up a fragment of this cigar shaped container and surmised, it was a recently jettisoned fuel tank from a jet fighter – the Cyrillic and Arabic markings with the hyphenated “Jin,” suggested it was a Sudanese jet, probably a MIG-21 – through the whole of last week, the Chinaman had stood on the same spot and traced out jet vapor trails high across the far Northern steely skies – he could make out from the neat trident shape of the vapor trails high above, they were military jets probably on a bombing sortie – even in darkness, the Chinaman Cocoa farmer had stood on the same spot and watched the eerie glow of arklight throughout the whole week, as they waxed and waned in the distant horizons to the far North – he knew it to be heavy artillery.
Even in the early morning, the Chinaman had still stood on the same spot – he had noticed how even the red footed falcons that usually only began their long epic flight home to the Russian steppes in July had began their journey earlier that year – he noticed, that his fine feathered friends who flew in from the North were all tired, so tired that some even rested in the rectangular apertures that the Chinaman had constructed to allow many of his fine feathered friends to rest, hunt and fatten themselves before they began their aerial marathon across the Ugandan Great Rift Valley and swung off sharply Southwards towards the Indian Ocean through to the Himalayas to make the 10,000 mile flight all the way back to the Ukraine. The Chinaman had even looked closely at his fine feathered friends – he noticed the tips of their feathers were stained with a fine powdery white substance – when he plucked the feathers out and brought it close to his nostrils, he recognized instantly the deadly yet sweet smell of cherries that he knew to be phosphorous mixed with paraffin – napalm.
Even the yellow fitches that usually flew through Kenya and rested in Lake George of Uganda to the far South did not come his way that season – the man surmised his fine feathered friends had taken the treacherous route northwards through the falcon invested Sahara instead of the northern arid plains through Chad and Egypt that led to the Mediterranean – the Chinaman realized even his fine feathered friends, the yellow fitches knew that there was trouble brewing somewhere northwards.
In the evenings, when the Chinaman strained his ears to listen to the wireless – even that only seemed to confirm his suspicion that something was amiss – he had been in Africa long enough to realize that the white man was the first to leave a sinking ship like crafty rats – for the last three consecutive days, the VOA, the Voice of America had began to play, Bing Cosby’s, “White Christmas.” Even though it was only June – as for Radio Moscow, it had been more subtle yet equally revealing – He had noticed how the news announcer who usually spoke with a fake Bostonian accent had used two consonants on three consecutive sentences during the beginning of each news broadcast of the African service for the last three days – this the Chinaman realized were secret codes that something terrible had broken out to the North. Neither could he count on the UN which the man considered to be the UNITED NOTHING. As for the legion he surmised even those cowards had secretly pulled out in the cover of darkness and had now begun the long retreat back to Djibouti.
That evening the Chinaman drove to the German school teacher’s house at the edge of his plantations – this time, he had insisted that she pack up her bags and he was here to drive her all the way to Kampala proper where he knew she would be safest in the German embassy in Kololo – the nun had refused vehemently and even protested at considerable length, but the Chinaman was in no mood for a prolonged conversation – and when it seemed a war of words was just about to flare up between the school teacher and the Chinaman; the latter had slapped her so hard that even her habit had come clean off. He had regretted instantly what he done and when he had reached out for her, the woman cringed away. And though she was none the wiser as to why he had behaved in such a brusque manner – the nun began to pack up her belongings.
That night as the Chinaman sat behind the half sobbing nun in the car; the car stopped on the fork road – the road to the South, he reckoned would probably be filled with LRA militia and the entire Acholi tribe all the way to Kampala by now – so he instructed the driver to take the longer Southern Westerly less used village road which would have doubled the journey time to Kampala. Hardly had the car proceeded more than 20 kilometers – the car was stopped at a makeshift checkpoint. In the half glow of the crescent moonlight – the Chinaman could just make out a man in his thirties armed with a semi auto along with a couple of other kids perched like birds on the metal railing blocking the car – he saw the way the man looked at the European woman with the long flowing blond hair – he knew what would happen next – without even so much as a word, the Chinaman stepped out of the car drew out his revolver leveled it at the man and shot him squarely in between his eyes – the boys immediately cocked their AK-47’s but the man could make out these weren’t battled hardened child soldiers, their weapons lacked the patina that came with regular use. So he stood his ground fired another shot into the man and after lighting a cigarette he shouted in a booming voice,
“Aki Shahidi, name tombu mama kaba di mabuto jia-kimba!” (I am the Shahidi, now run or I will kill you all like this pig. Obey me!)
They dropped their weapons promptly and ran like hell. The Chinaman looked relieved. His gamble had paid off.
That long night as the German nun and the Chinaman sat at the back of the car as it barreled towards Kampala –– it was as if both of them were hermetically sealed in their own world – the Chinaman features looked distant and implacable as the few passing cars from the opposite direction illuminated his granite face and blood stained bush jacket from time to time – it seemed as if he might not even have been aware that the nun had gripped his hand so tightly throughout the entire journey. Harder if not impossible to really know whether he was even thinking why she needed to do such a strange thing – perhaps she realized then that she had meant much more to the Chinaman – perhaps she realized how naïve, stupid and irresponsible she had been to have kept on insisting to stay on even when he had previously pleaded with her to leave and now that she had pushed him to this point….this point when all hell had been unleashed….the point when the man even knew deep down. It was really impossible for him to ever run away from whatever he was running away from – when he decided to settle in Africa to turn the well of life as the Shahidi – she knew only too well at that very moment the Chinaman may have once lost someone dear to him and he was not going to ever let it happen again – he had crossed an invisible line in his head to that other world that had brought him all the way to Africa – but when the Chinaman had made a decision to protect her no matter what the cost. He not only cared. He went back into that other world in his past – a world that he once turned away from. In that world, he did not have the luxury to care. He had after all made a decision to protect her.
Even if it meant that she had to see a part of him that he had never ever wanted her to know about him…..never….never ever. A part of him that had probably brought this Chinaman to Africa in the first place. And with these thoughts she griped the hand of the man who she knew probably cared more about her than even the God she served and worshipped with all her heart – the man who she knew may very well have been the devil everyone said he was….but that night Eva Meyer, the woman and not the nun had crossed an invisible line….like the man who now sat beside her in the speeding Mercedez……he too had crossed a line….. with these thoughts her grip on the man’s hand tigthened further as the car barreled through the velvety night towards Kampala.