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40 10 On the day of the trial they were loaded onto a Renault lorry – Levi, Shechem and thirty other detainees whose hearings were scheduled for the same day. The lorry was yet unknown to people in Tole as it was only three days old in Sanko, having been sent there recently by the Justice Ministry to replace the Hino truck whose engine had knocked from negligence. As Shechem wanted to refresh his eyes with scenes of normal life in Tole, he paid the five hundred francs tip to deserve a place by the side instead of being buried behind the rough-shaven skulls of other passengers. The prison gates released them quite early to enable them to arrive at the court in good time. Eight months in Sanko had changed the face of Tole so drastically that he could not make out the streets and paths as they trundled on towards the court. Somehow the town had grown older and dirtier and the pace of activity seemed slower than he’d known it to be. They drove into Edini gate with its line of bars and sawyer stands. The smoke rose as usual from the many fires on which the meat roasted, and the early hours notwithstanding, people milled about in search of things to satisfy their individual wants: men looking for women, women looking for money, bar tenders looking for customers, drinkers looking for alcohol. Shechem noticed that the place had lost much of its steam. There seemed to be fewer people about, fewer women especially, as compared to when he used to walk past headed for home from work and not responding to the inviting hisses from hang-about women eager for activity. The place looked somewhat neglected in spite of the apparent bustle, so that if it was a person one could say it was emaciated. They left Edini gate into Kossala climb, but his mind refused to follow them. It remained behind, and went from bar to bar, from meat stand to meat stand; it roamed on the faces of the women, entered their heads and mingled with their yearnings and deceptions. It continued like that, rebellious in its freedom, until it caught up with a schoolgirl and her schoolbag, and a young, jobless degree holder who sat in one of the bars and watched her return home from school, day after day for three weeks. He’d sat in that bar with no drink before him for he could not afford any. The bar-tender had threatened to throw him into the street if he continued to occupy space for nothing, and had only relented 41 when he heard the percher’s diction. The bar tender himself did not have only one but two degrees in his pocket. So he’d left the young man to his own devices and only watched with interest to see just why a well-educated young man would burn away his days in a bar staring into the street in sleepy idleness and only shaking to life when Benedict Tongley High School released its day-students into the street at the end of school. The young man had stopped visiting his bar during the holidays, and the next thing he had received from him had been an invitation to a wedding. Kossala climb was a small mound of seawall that had been dumped for resurfacing work and abandoned to be compacted by feet and wheels into a permanent feature of Tole’s road network. The town slab lay just off the climb. That was one place Shechem recognised distinctly. He had a fair knowledge of the volume of business going on there for having done a special paper on the meat trade in Tole. In its good time the slab handled fourteen slaughters daily. It also ran a cattle market which attracted buyers from as far off as Gabon. Although they were driving past early in the morning when the sale and slaughter activity was supposed to be at its peak, he was baffled at the dry aspect of the place. The pens were empty and rundown and only a few scrawny dogs were to be seen sniffing the ground for the scant smell of blood. The clang of butchers’ knives rising above the hubbub was gone. It was a dismal place they went past. “Your house. See there,” the detainee standing closest to Shechem said, nudging him hard on the shoulder and forcing his gaze towards his...


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MARC Record
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