restricted access Chapter 17
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87 17 They were unusually quiet on this trip, very unlike Sanko detainees. Teacher Efuet for one sat at the edge of the truck with his right hand dangling out wearily. His head, the baldness given sharper luminosity by the sunrays that bounded off it, was stationed close to a plank railing. They were heading to court, most of them in the hope that their matter would come up for hearing and they would know whether they were prisoners or free men; but quite a few of them too with no illusion about their own fate. Shechem belonged to the latter category of detainees, His Lordship Justice Dan Mowena having decided that his matter would enjoy indefinite adjournment. What he could not explain, though, was why he’d been called among the detainees to travel to court that day. He’d smuggled an appeal letter to the President of the Supreme Court quite alright, but nothing had come back to say whether the letter had reached its high destination or for that matter whether its strongly pathetic style had had any effect on the man. The rough and tumble of the lorry settled him into a sub-conscious rhythm that blotted out the journey, replacing it instead with readings from the book of Maccabees…Her temple has become like a dishonoured man, the precious objects that were her glory have been carried off as booty, her babies have been murdered in the squares, and her young men killed by the sword of the enemy. What nation has not received part of her treasures and taken possession of her spoils? She has been stripped of all her adornments and from the freedom that was hers, she has gone into slavery. Our beautiful sanctuary that was our pride has been laid waste and profaned by pagans. What is there to live for? He didn’t come out of his reverie. He only steadied his mental button on the big question the book of Maccabees asked him: what is there to live for? Down life’s road paved with graft, murder and lust, what indeed was there to live for? Mattathias, son of Simon, had cried out in protest: Alas! Was I born just to witness the ruin of my people and the destruction of the holy city? Shall I sit by while she is in the hands of her enemies and her sanctuary in the power of foreigners? Shechem planted his feet firmly on the elusive floor of the lorry and opened out his hands. It was an unusual posture for a detainee travelling to sure conviction, but he took it. The other passengers looked up at him, Teacher Efuet most keenly. 88 “I will not let it happen,” Shechem bellowed. Even without knowing what occasioned the threat, some passengers rang out in their turn: “No! no!” “No!” he proceeded, strengthened by the chorus of protestation that had greeted his first pronouncement. “Like Antiochus Epiphanes I will make him sing out: Now I remember the evils I did in Jerusalem, the vessels of gold and silver that I stole, the inhabitants of Judea I ordered to be killed for no reason at all. I now know that because of this, these misfortunes have come upon me and I am dying of grief in a strange land.” Teacher Efuet jumped to his feet and almost fell out of the lorry, so high was his performance. “Listen to him. Listen carefully. This is the voice of reason that speaks. Sin shall be repaid for sin, crime for crime, injustice for injustice! I say this particularly in what concerns Dan Mowena.” “My invocations are on Motine Swaibu,” Shechem cut in. “The noose is tightening. Something tells me it is.” “The noose of justice never loosens,” Teacher Efuet trumpeted, and the rest of the passengers chorused after him: “Never! Never!” The lorry sped on, then swerved out of sight, swallowed both by dust and the deep bend in the road. ...


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