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7 4 He was resting on his bed, in the book of Maccabees, when two policemen, one tall, the other short, knocked at the door. Bertha had carried his little girl to town, so he was all alone. He did not rush to open, but pressed on with his reading… The inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them. She became a colony of strangers, and was a stranger to her children who abandoned her… The bang persisted, and he persisted too, his pace faster… Her sanctuary became empty as the desert, her feasts became days of mourning, her Sabbaths were ridiculed, and her fame became an object of contempt… The knock swelled into a bang, still he read on… As her glory had been great, so now was her dishonour, for her greatness was turned into grief… The frame started to vibrate, as if it would come off. No word accompanied the banging, but the power of the action told of their utterances if they opened their mouth. A chunk of earth flew from the door-frame and shattered to the ground… Ah! If he didn’t open they would do it for him, their own way. He closed the holy book away and dashed to the rescue of his door. “Are you Shechem Nu’mvi?” the tall one spurted from inside a boiling anger. He did not answer immediately. Instead, he reached for his Bible again. The two men looked at each other, the tall one down at the short one and the short one up at the tall one, then together at him. The tall one especially was minded to wrench the holy book from him and fling it in his face or maybe into the glassware in the wall unit. The thought of the glassware shattering into bits caused his whole body to quiver. He closed his mind’s eyes and heard the ware jangle under the sweep of flying pages, cutting wounds in the teak. A lifelong collection of painted glassware representing some of the best treasures from the Upper Adone blowers stood threatened with spectacular annihilation. Let him do it if he cared, he challenged inwardly. Are you Schechem Nu’mvi? As if they did not know he was. Were they claiming not to know him? Who in Tole, save for strangers –really fresh ones - doubted the name Shechem Nu’mvi? That name rang through the streets and paths of the small-size town with the peel of a village church bell. That’s what it meant to be one of the noted journalists in the town’s only and popular daily: you found yourself in 8 ways totally unaccounted for by your own will in the running streams of gossip, praise, criticism. Small towns made big demands on their celebrities, quite often investing their hopes in them, very often too blaming their disenchantments on them. Take Makuiri’s death by suicide. Not that he was not a strong man. He was. Accusations were known to break against his stamina the way a high wave would break on a vast sandy stretch. This time he’d failed to secure a place for the lone Tole candidate in the National Military Academy, even with all the money the town had gathered to oil their son’s – and the town’s - way into fame. Makuiri had dutifully handed over the money, all of it, to the Academy Commander and had returned to Tole confident that the town would soon be the proud progenitor of a military officer. But the list of selected cadets had come, and Tole had stared in disbelief. The look on the face of the town had been too much for Makuiri to bear, and he had sought refuge in death on a kola tree, leaving wife and three children to the cares of chance. What a question. Why hadn’t they entered another house, any of those many plank structures that lined Tabi Lane on which he lived, and that looked like chicks of the same hen? Take the one across from him, Sabitout’s. Its roof of old zinc was just as brown, both from rust and dust, its front hedge equally as likely to harbour snakes. Why hadn’t they made their way into that one and asked its owner the same question? Are you Sabitout? They should have done that and seen how he would take it. Sabitout had not gone to school, but he knew where his rights were...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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