chapter nineteen

It was late and Danny was in a mood. His new girlfriend was the bees-knees but she just would not give it up for him. When he got home he was surprised to see a light on in his room. He opened the door cautiously to find Edie brooding on his bed.
"Hey li'l sista, whassup?"
"Nothing."
"Come on." He lay down next to her. He was horny as hell so finding Edie there cheered him immensely. She snuggled up to him and he could tell she was really down. He wrapped his arms around her. After a while she pulled away and looked at him.
"Aw, Danny."
"Tell me."
"Remember that movie we went to see."
"Ja, what about it?"
"Nothing. It's just," she shook her head sadly. "That was over a week ago, right."
"Sure. What of it?"
"Since then Salem hasn't slept with me. Not once."
"Uh-oh. You think he's found another girl?"
"I think he's found Justice."
"What kinda . . . oh, you mean brother Ice. You think your boyfriend's turned gay. What would make him do that?"
"Oh," she wailed. "It all started the day before we went to the movies."
"What happened?"
"I went to Salem's after work and they were all there, drunk. Salem, Fari and Ice."
"And then?"
"Well, it's like we all landed up in bed together."
"Edie! And you was the only one sober. Girl, you was taking advantage of them."
She giggled but then sniffed. "But see what's happened now."
"Hey, you don' need him. You know there's plenty more where he came from."
"I know Danny, I know. It's just, he's so fine."
"You mean in bed?"
"Mm-hmm." She gazed at him dreamy-eyed.
"You mean better'n me?" He pouted.
"Aw Danny." She wrapped her arms round his neck.
"Come," he said. "I hate to see you like this. I'm sure you just forgot how much better I really am."
"Aw Danny, Danny." She pulled his t-shirt up and kissed his titties. "Remember how we used to play when we was little."
"You still little."
"Seriously, Dan. You always told me I can do it with anyone I want and nobody I don' want."
"Yeah."
"And you always said I must never say 'I love you' cos it will ruin everything."
"Yeah, I remember. That's it, ya told Salem?" She nodded.
"Wabon."
"But you know what Danny, I love you for real."
"My baby. I love you too see, but don' tell."
"Mm-hmm."
* * * * * * *
The worst part for Edie was bumping into Fari at work. It was like he blamed her for everything. He would not speak to her at all. She had tried a couple of times. When he saw her around the house he would either look straight through her as though she was not there or he would give her the filthiest look. At least he had stopped hissing at her. She had almost quit her job when he started with that. But lately, thankfully, he just did not seem to be around at all.
Beth could not understand what was going on with Farleigh. A month ago he had told her he was marrying Edith but at least he was over that. She was just happy that he seemed far more motivated and no longer spent his days draping a sofa somewhere. In fact the past week she had hardly seen him at all.
Of course Fari was discovering a whole new town out there. The place was full of gay cruising spots. He had even found a gay bar that opened at noon. One of his new friends had promised to take him to a gay student hang-out with a reputation for being the wildest spot in town. No girls allowed. He had finally found something to do with his life.
Meanwhile Ice was busy telling Salem the rest of the Mamarasta story.
* * * * * * *
"So they weren't literally washed out of their house."
"No. Just everything they owned except what was with them in the car. The house was smashed. I think it was the pull of the receding water that did most of the damage. The stilts supporting the house broke and every window pane was broken."
"Wow. That's like the whole front of the house."
"Yeah. Well poor Jan and Jenny were happy to take whatever we would offer them for the place. They had had enough and decided to return to Canada. They really thought we would just demolish and build a new place."
"Hah!" shouted Mamarasta from the bedroom. She was still in bed while Ice and Sista-Boodycall were sitting on the balcony with all the doors folded back. They had been there from sunrise a couple of hours earlier.
"You awake my love?"
"Mmm." Mamarasta came out blinking in the sunlight, her dreads in disarray. "Morning Justice. Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah. You were right, that is the most comfortable couch I ever slept on. This place is real paradise. I'm so glad you put the house back together again."
"You should've seen it Ice. We really did want to keep the house. Besides the broken glass there wasn't that much damage. Only it was lying on it's side."
"I couldn't have organised it without you."
"She uses my body shamelessly."
"What did you do?"
"Well, first she made me put on my bustin' boobies dress." Sista-B giggled.
"There was this big building site this side of Mombasa, Justice. They had one of those huge trucks with a crane on the back of it. We just went there and asked if we could borrow it."
"Shame, it wasn't actually fair of us, you shoulda seen them. Nobody's ever asked them, like that, before. I was choking back tears when I explained how we'd lost everything except the house, but we needed the crane to put it back upright."
"They were fighting each other to help us. Eventually the construction boss and the owner of the crane jumped in our car to come and look. They had pretty much decided we were airheads, I think. But they really were very kind. I felt quite bad in the end you know, the way we were stringing them along about our loss and suffering when we'd actually been living miles from the beach when it happened. But Jan and Jenny had been visiting us at the time so we really did feel involved."
"The next day the truck arrived with about twenty big men and a load of those big concrete blocks."
"It was such fun, Justice. We were camping on the lawn. The whole environment was still looking totally shipwrecked and we were the stranded sistas. Within three hours they had built these huge pilings the house is now standing on while a few of the guys roped the house. Then they just did it. The roping was actually the hardest part."
"They were amazing. They really knew what they were doing. Next thing the owner of the crane called his brother-in-law who owns a glass place. Of course glass was scarce so soon after the tsunami but he called us a coupla weeks later and delivered the glass for free. He even loaned us a couple of his guys to cut and fit it. We just had to pay them and feed them for two days."
"You didn't pay for the glass?"
"Nope. He said he had made his fortune with the tsunami. We didn't pay for the crane either. It's amazing how much renovation can be accomplished just with a couple of pairs of boobies." Mamarasta whooped.
"You shameless hussies." Ice grinned.
"So we took the money we had saved and donated it to our favourite human rights organisation. That's how we got to have the bookshop/office. That was a big dilemma for us. The office used to take up more than half our home. It was just everywhere, in everything. So when we got this place we did not want to bring the office here. I've got my corner, you know, downstairs, but RASTA don' come home." Mamarasta grinned. "It's so much better that way, for our clients too. I'm going to shower. Has Sista-B showed you our fabulous eco-electricity?"
"No actually. She mentioned you had solar-power charged batteries."
"The beauty of the A-frame. It faces east so one roof faces north. There's a huge solar panel mounted on it. Above our bedroom is a small 'attic' but it just houses the batteries. We can go five days without sun before losing power. In the years we've been here it hasn't happened yet." She disappeared into the bathroom.
"What should we do Ice? Would you like to go swimming?"
"Yeah, let's do that."
"Don' be long," Mamarasta yelled from the bathroom. "I wanna hear your story when I'm outta here."
"Come find us on the beach then," Ice called back as they went downstairs.
* * * * * * *
Later they lay in the shade on the lawn while Ice told them about his experience at varsity and why he dropped out. "After that I really did not want to stay in England. But I did want to learn more about roman/european history. I still had one good friend left among the professors, Herbert Oldcastle, the English professor.
"I don't remember him, but I never did English. Why were you doing English? I thought you were doing engineering."
"He wasn't my lecturer. He was my lover, but it was a very casual kinda relationship. He gave me plenty of fuel for my fire, I mean the whole roman/christian thing. He gave me loads of stuff to read. He reckoned he was a dedicated follower of Jesus but he would never become a christian because the christian churches were not even vaguely following Jesus' teachings.
"Anyway he had a house in Spain on the Cabo de Gata. It's about three hundred clicks east of Gibraltar. He hardly ever uses it but there's a wonderful old spanish woman who housekeeps for him. I got to use it as a base while exploring Europe. I lived there for about three years n Herb used to visit seasonally. He's like the original International Herb. He just used the house in Spain to grow his weed. It had a huge overgrown garden with lots of sun and a few stunning weed plants in strategic places. But buried behind all the jungle, but visible from the sea was an ornate conservatory where he grew his special plants. All these exotic ganja plants and some psychotropic cactii from South America. He wanted to start experimenting with growing mushrooms too."
"Do you smoke, Ice?"
"Only whenever I get the opportunity."
"Oh goody. I've got some very nice stuff from Malawi. I'll make us one later."
"So anyway, every time Herb came over he would bring me more n more reading matter. Lists of places to go an explore; old churches, small museums or just historical places. He would hook me up with odd jobs sometimes in the oddest places. He just had so many contacts. He was such a cool old man. He was in his sixties."
"You talk as if he's not alive anymore."
"Yeah. It was just the greatest three years, until one morning Maria collapsed on the doorstep. I ran to help her. I'm just so glad I was home at the time. She had just collected the post and as there was a letter addressed to her, she had opened it immediately. It was from Herb's lawyers. The old man had died of a heart attack. I found out afterwards he had been drinking at one of the student hang-outs at the time.
"I was lost. It was really sad, like I had just lost my father or something. Maria was great. I had run to her assistance but we ended up supporting each other back into the house. Then she called Ricardo, her younger brother. He was a fisherman in his forties, with a little speed-boat. He rushed over with a bottle of this powerful spanish red wine. We all got trashed together and I found out that Ricardo had also been one of Herb's lovers.
"So, sometime during the course of the next few days, I decided it was time to go home. But I wanted to go overland through Africa. I wanted to see it for myself and meet people. I had no real plan or anything. I jus' thought if I started talking to people, spread the knowledge I had accumulated, just maybe I could meet like-minded people and get something started.
"Ricardo was keen to be my ferry-man. Said we could do the crossing on one tank. Unfortunately when we got to Oran, which was the closest point on the Algierian coastline, they would not let us in. When they heard I was entering the country they insisted we go to Algiers which was really far. Ricardo did all the haggling and in the end he got his tank refilled so he could go home and organised another ship to take me to Algiers. Luckily I had had the foresight to get a visa before leaving Spain or I don't think they would have let me in at all."
"Justice! Obviously you must get a visa before visiting any country."
"I don't get that Rhetha. I'm an African. Why should I need a visa to go anywhere in Africa?"
"Yeah, Ice yeah! Why do we still have all these borders that were erected by the colonial invaders in the first place? It's bullshit."
"Hey Sista-B, you on my side. The reason we still have these borders is cos certain African people, that is those in government, are benefitting from them and the African Union is a bunch of roman puppets. Amongst all people you get the ones who crave power. African people are no different.
"But like you said, Algeria was harsh. I had decided I wanted to experience the desert while I had the opportunity. I even got to ride a camel. For three days! It was great but it was enough. I don't think I ever want to ride a camel again."
Mamarasta was in stitches but Sista-Boodycall just sat there wide-eyed.
"Anyhow, on the morning of the fourth day we got to a place called Reggane. It's on the road to Mali but still about a thousand clicks from the border. I paid the owner of the camel and found a place to spend the night. The next morning I was jus' kinda milling around wondering how to go from there when this beautiful man in an old landrover pulled up across the road." Ice sat back and smiled.
"And then?" Mamarasta wanted to know.
"Well that was Bergen. He had just brought one of his father's friends to Reggane and was about to drive back to Sikasso. He was a bit nervous of me at first. I guess, my size, and the fact that I had no definite destination made me seem a bit dodgy. But it was a long drive. Three days in fact, so we had plenty of time to get to know each other. He was so cool. Wherever we were when he had enough of driving, we just camped. The second day he let me help with the driving and the night before we sot to Sikasso we became lovers."
"You lead such a romantis life, Ice."
"Don't say that."
"Why?"
"Even romance, I mean just look at the word. It's an invention of the romans to justify their on-going heterosexuality. It has no place in the real culture of the world."
"No," Sista-B was disappointed. "Is that true?"
"Sure. Romantic love is just lust with a make-over to look like love. It's all bullshit I'm afraid."
"That's very harsh Justice. Don't listen to him Sista; you know I love you." Ice chuckled.
"But lust does become love after spending years together. Love is the family feeling; you two have been together more than long enough to feel that way bout each other. But actually it's fine to be romantic, or in other words to be as romans, if you're gay. Or as long as you're not breeding."
Mamarasta cleared her throat and looked contrite. Ice looked at her confused. "What? Don' tell me you're not just obese." He grinned at her.
"Justice. I am not fat okay. I'm six months pregnant."
"From where?" Mamarasta looked at Sista-B. Ice looked at Sista-B.
"I told you what I was studying. So I developed a technique whereby I could impregnate my girlfriend. The first like half a million times it didn't work. But this time it worked!"
"Get real! And you're sure she doesn't have a boyfriend. Oooof." He doubled over as Mamarasta thumped him. "Okay, okay. Truce." He held up his hands. "So now you gonna get famous and become a millionaire."
"No ways. This is our secret. Although we are planning to put my details as the other parent and see what happens. We were actually thinking of going to South Africa to get married, but we're just too busy."
"And, as both of you are female your baby has to be a girl."
"Exactly. And so far, touch wood, I've had a perfectly normal pregnancy."
"That machine in the corner next to the computer?"
"Yeah, it's an ultrasound machine. I actually had a gynae practice for a couple of years, but that's all I've kept of it. And my little bag of tricks. Mamaraste and myself are my only patients now."
"You two are bloody amazing. I think definitely you deserve each other."
"But I want to hear about your pilgrimage."
"Oh yeah, well as soon as I told Bergen the story of my life, he was hooked. He's into agriculture, especially alternative type solutions. He did a lot of preaching about it to whoever would listen. And he was friendly with these Australian dudes who were installing solar power wherever they could in Africa. Who did yours by the way?"
Mamarasta shrugged and looked at Sista-B. "You don't remember? It was that guy from New Zealand. He's been naturalised now and still lives in Mombasa. That tall, skinny guy, man. What was his name? Something odd."
"Oh, yes. Bushy. He's a real rustic but he knows his stuff. Actually he's cool, just a bit of a loner."
"I must put him in touch with Pete and Kenny. They're just constantly moving around Africa every time their visas expire. They haven't been back to Oz in more than five years. I like to try and hook people up like that.
"Anyway Bergen met them in Tahova in Niger. He was working on a wheat farm, teaching his alternative practices, when he bumped these dudes in town with all their solar gear. Crazy thing is they'd done an installation in Zimbabwe and the farmer had paid them in grain cos it was worth more than the Zim dollar. So they had sacks of Mabele and Bergen bought some from them and sowed alternate rows of mabele between the wheat.
"I don' know if it was just coincidence but the birds and the locusts just skipped that farm altogether that season. And the people loved the mabele. They just threshed and ground the whole lot together and they said it made the tastiest bread.
"Anyway Pete and Kenny were in Addis at the time I met Bergen. They had scored a huge project so the Ethiopeans had given them a two year visa."
"That's rare."
"Yeah, they had really made an impression. Anyway Bergen had always wanted to visit Addis and they promised him an appointment if he made it there. So we decided to take a slow drive to Addis. Hah! Slow drive. We took nearly three years getting there."
"What? His friends must have been long gone by then. How do you get to stay so long? Most of those countries will only give you thirty days, three months if you're lucky."
"Oh visa, shmiza. They only check it when you're entering the country. As long as you stay outta trouble an keep a low profile nobody troubles you. And when you're leaving the country and the visa's expired, well you're leaving aren't you."
"It doesn't bother you?"
"Nah. And Bergen was great. Somehow he get's like unlimited access through all those countries and he knows just how to talk to officials and when n how to grease their palms. He was the bestest travelling companion. Nothing phases him. We even broke down in the middle of nowhere in Chad. He got us towed to the nearest town by the first truck that came along; and within twenty-four hours we were mobile again.
"But yeah, Pete and Kenny had moved on by the time we got to Addis. Then January last year they were starting a new project there for six months. So just before our visas expired they appointed both of us and our visas got extended another six months. When we finished up we convinced the authorities to give us another three months for touring. Ethiopia is such a fascinating country. So I parted with Bergen in September last year. He headed back home and Pete n Kenny promised to visit him for christmas.
"Meanwhile I headed for Somalia. Bergen had helped me get a three month visa, but by then I had learnt some of his tricks, so when I got to Mogadishu I got it extended to six months."
"Huh."
"Yeah. Anyway it was about to expire when I got robbed."
"Oh," Sista-Boodycall was disappointed. "What happened to the enlightened person who rescued you from your baggage?"
"Oh yeah. Heh-heh. But it's true. Somehow with Bergen's van to move around in I had collected a huge load of unnecessary junk. So it was kinda a relief. But my passport was a blow. I was so proud of it. I had so many stamps in it and you could see, if you took the time to figure it, how many times I had overstayed my visa. It was the only thing I was really sorry to lose.
"My friend Tamil rescued me. He advised me not to even try to sort it out in Mogadishu. Even he was impressed that I got my visa extended there. He reckons Mogadishu is a bureaucratic nightmare and that Nairobi was the best place to get everything done. So he spirited me away to his family's village near a town called Buurhakaba.
"They kept me there for a month while they dressed me up and taught me how to behave like a local. Then one of his uncles took me on horseback to the next town where we stayed with his in-laws for about ten days. From there we got a bus to the town of Luuq. We only spent one night in Luuq and then we headed for the hills, literally. We spent nearly a week tramping the hills, eventually running into a bunch of total cut-throats. I thought it was the end; my bones were gonna rot undiscovered in those hills.
"But when they recognised my companion there was great festivity and back-slapping. They took us much higher into the mountains where they had a hide-out. It was like a village. There were at least fifty men and I saw about half a dozen older women. If there were any younger women they kept them well hidden."
By this time Sista-Boodycall's eyes were bulging and even Mamarasta was speechless.
"Wait Ice," interrupted Sista-B. "Let me go get us drinks and we can make that spliff. But wait. I don't want to miss any of it."
"Yeah, please, all this talking has made me real thirsty."
"And, my love," Mamarasta called after her. "Bring that big box of crackers and all the dips n spreads n stuff. I'm really hungry now. What do you think Justice?"
"Yeah I could do with nibbles too."
"No, no. Bout me gonna be a momma!"
"That is so fuckin insane, dawg. I jus' never see you as like a baby person. I mean, yeah, you were always motherin' everyone, but they were all big peeps. I jus' don' see you with a little baby." He shook his head.
"You're right actually. I'm not much of a baby person. But Sista-B will be the stay home mommy, not me. She started experimenting the other way, trying to get pregnant from me. But she was too subjectively involved. She found it too hard to have the professional detachmemnt she needed. So after quite a few non-starters on herself I eventually agreed to be her surrogate.
"I think I must be mad. I mean in three months time I have to give birth, you know, like a dog. But she's convinced me that natural birth is much easier to recover from and besides she couldn't do a caesarian here at home. We really keeping this thing as quiet as possible. But I've told her that's it. One baby is quite enough. She's proved it's possible, no need to do it again. Just pray there's no last minute setback and we lose the baby."
"I'll keep my fingers crossed. Ah here's mommy2. Thanks Sista-B. Just pour me water first. I'll have a scotch after sampling your smorgasbord. Mmm, looks good."
They all tucked in but soon the scotch was flowing and Ice resumed his tale.
"So Balli stayed with us for about a month while I got used to being an outlaw. It was quite fun actually. After he left we packed up the entire village and moved much closer to the Ethiopian border. Except it's like there's no real border there. They used to tease me a lot in the beginning, asking me to guess what country we're in, until eventually I twigged that nobody knows.
"We were moving on foot, spending a couple of nights at each stop while a small party checked out the way forward. Where all three countries meet, that is Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, there's a small town called Mandera. It's actually in Kenya, I think."
"Yeah, Mandera is Kenyan. Kinda UN hang-out."
"Exactly. The place is apparently crawling with officials but that's where we were headed. So when we were about two days from Mandera we had to hole up for a coupla weeks while they monitored the activity there. I don't know how long we wandered in those mountains but it was weeks. The crowd I was travelling with was constantly changing as one group would leave to take advantage of some opportunity and then another group would arrive laden with booty, mostly food and drink, or at least that was all they were showing me. Mmmm, that smells good."
Sista-Boodycall smiled and passed him the joint. He inhaled deeply before continuing.
"Anyway, eventually they woke me in the middle of the night and told me, this is it, we're crossing into Kenya. I was confused cos they'd told me the border was two days away. Then I saw they had a car. It was mind-blowing. It was an official UN vehicle. They gave me a jacket and a cap to wear and off we went.
"The UN guy took me all the way to the next town. It was called El Wak. That got me laughing. Anyway it was dawn when we passed through Mandera and lunch-time when we got to El Wak. He dropped me at the bus-station and took back the jacket and the cap. Then he gave me enough money to get a bus to Nairobi and to get something to eat. I was so giddy with relief I couldn't thank the man enough. He jus' gave me this cold kinda stare and tuned me, 'Just watch yourself. I never forget a face and I wont help the same person twice.' Then he jumped in his car and left."
"So you got to Nairobi when?"
"It was twenty-seven June and I was robbed on twenty-four March. That's four months. I felt like I had walked all the way."
"And how long is your visa Justice?"
"Oh . . . er . . . thirty days."
"So when we go back to town, Sista-B is gonna do you a letter of appointment. Just a three month contract. Then you wont have to run away too soon."
"That'd be great. I could do with a bit of a holiday. But I can leave before the baby comes?"
"You big sissy. The baby is due late September. You can go whenever you want. You have been warned."
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