H for Hostiles

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Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (FN SCAR) Courtesy: Deviantart

Three Days to the End of Lieutenant Ousmane’s Second Tour in Somalia

Monday,

September 28, 2015.

15:30h

Kismayo – Somalia

There are six men in Kenya Army Uniforms and Standard Issue Military weaponry, inside the armed forces Jeep. Among them are the 32-year-old Lieutenant Ousmane Tazama and a younger soldier, 24-year-old Senior Private Mascone Kwame.

There is a ongoing joke in this platoon, that affects the next man of note inside the jeep. This is 36-year-old Senior Sergeant Davidson “Charcoals” Akala. He is noticeably dark, so dark right now is his face, that it is downright shiny. Resembling a younger version of Idd Amin Dada, the joke is that his mother met the god of charcoals on her way from the river once, way back when she was a virgin and put Akala into her.

“I think that joke is an insult to women,” Lieutenant Ousmane has been known to mention, but this is never taken seriously especially because Akala doesn’t mind it. “At least she fucked a god, right?” he laughs.

The soldiers’ bodies are being tossed from side to side as the Jeep drives on the rough road fast. They have their assault rifles tucked between their legs, their brown boots reminiscent of the desert sand right outside the Jeep.

Akala: Can’t wait for the end of this patrol so I can go back to base and kick back with lady Tusker in my arms.

Ousmane: And how do you like them ladies Sergeant? Warm or cold?

Mascone: (Laughs)Look at him. He wouldn’t know what to do with a warm one if it crawled into his bunker and called him daddy.

A scattered laughter arises from various parts in the jeep.

Akala: Oh, I’m going to make your daddy call me daddy.

Just then, loud splattering is heard all over the Jeep – like loud torrents of rain landing on iron sheet roof. This is followed shortly by the sound of men yelling and Mascone sprawls on his tummy on the floor.

The Jeep pulls over; there are small holes on its side through which Akala and Ousmane put out their rifles and return fire.

A soldier in the jeep with them screams, “Can you see them?”

Akala:(Firing sporadically) No! But I can hear them.

Loud machine gun fire is heard as the Jeep’s side comes alive again with that prrr sound of bullets landing fast and Ousmane and Akala fire back.

Akala is especially grinning happily as if he is having a time of his life. His reloads his rifle screaming;

Akala: Just another day at the office ladies. Just another day at the goddamn office!

Two Hours Later

17:53h

KDF Base

Kismayo – Somalia

The sun is setting in the distance, showering the compound with a orange setup. Ousmane is cast as a silhouette as he sits cross legged on top of a tank in the compound facing the distant setting orange ball.

He has a can of beer in hand, ostensibly deep in thought. The base is a hubbub of activity as soldiers move around engaged in their various tasks.

The tank door opens at the top beside Ousmane and out climbs Akala, with a cigarette hanging limply from one corner of his lips.

His green t-shirt written “ARMY” at the front is greased up, his hands are covered with grease and he is holding a pair of pliers in one greasy hand and a closed toolbox in another.

Ousmane: (Greeting) Sergeant

Akala: Lieutenant.

Ousmane: Feel like a warm one?

Akala: Always. But with a heart that beats.

Ousmane: I’m afraid I can’t help you there.

Akala climbs out of the tank, shuts the heavy metallic cylindrical door behind him and sits beside the lieutenant. He places the tools beside him and fetches a can from a nearby six-pack which he opens noisily and gurgles a generous portion down.

Akala:(Belching) Then a warm but heartless one will have to do.

Ousmane:(Slight smile) Help yourself.

Akala: Hey Ousmane,

Ousmane: Yeah?

Akala: This thing; this… (Spits) War. You think we’ll ever win?

Ousmane finishes his beer, tosses the empty can down on the dust below, fetches another can and opens it.

Ousmane: Ever heard of that World Bank and the Village Women story?

Akala: Is there sex in it?

Ousmane: (Laughs) No you piece of shit.

Akala: Then no. I have never heard of it.

Ousmane: You’re hopeless. Anyway, so it is a village back home, right? In Lamu. One of those places at the coast where everybody’s poor and everything is dry.

Akala: Including pussy?

Ousmane: Will I tell my story or not?

Akala puts his hand up with mock surrender –

Akala: Alright. Alright. Tell your story.

Ousmane: Down there, these village women walk ten kilometers every day to the river for water and ten kilometers back home with their twenty-liter containers weighing heavily down on them. One day, the World Bank swings by and doesn’t like this. So they decide, hey, let’s build a big well right here in the middle of the village. So we can put an end to these sweet sweet ladies’ suffering. And they do. To their dismay however, when the well is done, the ladies never use it. They insist on using their river so World Bank asks, “What? You’re too good for our well?” And the women go like, “Your words. Not ours.” Turns out the women’s lack of interest in the well sprouted from the fact that yes they might have walked all the way to the river and back and yes it might have been tiring as hell, but that was the only time these women could get together and hang out. And talk. And share. And enjoy their friendship with each other. That was all they had. Each other. And now the World Bank had stepped in and taken it away.

Akala: OK. And you’re saying that to say what?

Ousmane stares into the setting sun’s direction –

Ousmane: I’m not saying anything Sergeant. Other than you have a brain. Use it.

About a hundred meters North West of their location is a tent from which loud upbeat music is playing. The tent’s full of soldiers holding beers, talking, laughing – there is a party vibe going.

At a corner with a beer, is Mascone, who is fondling with his phone absentmindedly. He is all alone. Ousmane enters the tent, with a beer of his own in hand and everybody stands up at attention.

Ousmane: Sit the fuck down, will you?!

The men relax and go back to what they were doing. Those who were playing cards go back to playing cards, those who were dancing atrociously to the upbeat music get back to that and Ousmane joins Mascone – who sees him approaching and stands up stiffly.

His hand is headed to the side of his head for a salute when Ousmane waves at him carelessly –

Ousmane: If you salute me again I’ll chop your paws off.

Clueless, Mascone sticks his hand out for shaking –

Ousmane: Sit down. Jesus, you’re embarrassing me.

Mascone:(Awkwardly)Sorry sir.

Ousmane: And if you call me sir I’ll cut your tongue out.

As they sit down.

Ousmane: Private Mascone, right?

Mascone: Senior Private.

Ousmane: My best friend is a Senior Sergeant but I don’t “include” the senior while addressing him. Too lazy. Even my mother knows it.

Mascone: It’s OK Si… um, It’s OK. I don’t mind it.

Ousmane: I wasn’t asking your permission. I take it this is your first tour in Somalia?

Mascone: Yeah.

Ousmane: You get used to the shoot outs after a while. And the explosions. And the bodies too.

Mascone sits stiffly across the Lieutenant and caresses his beer bottle in his hand, only taking small sips here and there

Ousmane: What are you doing here Private?

Mascone: Talking to you sir? Um, sorry… Talking to you.

Ousmane: (Rolls eyes) I meant, what are you doing here, in Somalia?

Mascone: Oh (Nervous chuckle) Earning a living I guess. Like everyone else.

Ousmane: By killing? Ain’t much of a living if you ask me.

Mascone: Aren’t you here for the salary?

Ousmane casts him a brief glance, chuckles, shakes his head and faces his boots.

Ousmane: Haven’t done something for a salary in a long time. For me, the salary is just a bonus.

Mascone: So you’re here because you love your country so much?

Ousmane: (Gravely) You don’t love your country Private?

Mascone’s eyes widen, he shifts nervously in his chair and clears his throat –

Ousmane: (Still seriously) Are you about to shit your pants now Private? A traitor and a coward. Jesus Christ. We’re never going to win this thing if you’re the kind of soldier they’re sending me.

He takes a sip of his beer and stares the Senior Private down –

Mascone: (Sweating) What I meant sir is…

Ousmane: You are here for the money, not for your country.

Mascone: No sir, I…

Ousmane: You would sell your motherland for little notes with Jomo Kenyatta’s pictures on them!

Mascone: No sir I…

Ousmane leans closer to him menacingly –

Ousmane: Are you Al Shabaab Private?

Mascone: (Eyes widen even further) Jeez, no! Sir I…

Ousmane: Does the idea of 12 or 72 or whatever the fuck number of virgins these dickheads are promising bombers today make you hard?

Mascone swallows hard and wipes a layer of sweat from his brow.

Mascone: Sir please let…

Suddenly, Ousmane grins so widely, one can see the back of his mouth from across the room –

Ousmane: Private?

Mascone: Yeah?

Ousmane: I am just kidding. Jesus kid, relax. You’re sweating so hard, I can smell the sweat on your balls from here. Sip a beer. Calm yourself.

He slaps Mascone lightly on the shoulder, leans back on his chair, takes a sip of the beer as he watches the Private relax. Then he places his feet on the table –

Ousmane: Do you love music Private?

Mascone: Um… What?

Ousmane: Music. Those beautiful vocal and/or instrumental sounds… do I have to draw you a picture?

Mascone: Um…sorry sir. I was just…

Ousmane: Recovering from my bullshit? (Sweeps the air carelessly with his hand) It’s understandable. I’m well acquainted with my bullshit. I know just how much it stinks.

Mascone chuckles nervously. Almost obligatorily. Ousmane is watching him intently and when he (Mascone) says –

Mascone: I love music

– the lieutenant doesn’t appear to hear him. He is just staring at him. Without letting his eyes off the Private, he swings his feet off the table, places his beer on it and leans close to him.

Ousmane: You have to relax. People here die every day. It is a way of life. So the next time the Al-Shabaab attacks our convoy and I see you whimpering on the floor like a little bitch, I’ll tie you to the front of the Humvee and let them turn your body into a nice little sieve as they cry “Allahu Akbar.” Do you understand me Private?

Mascone: (Stammers) Ye.. ye.. yes sir.

Ousmane unleashes his huge grin again, pats him on the shoulder and pulls him close.

Ousmane: Alright. What say you we play some music.

As the evening wears on, it finds the men are on their feet in the tent and on the make shift stage at the front stands Mascone and Ousmane singing.

The Lieutenant has a guitar on him which he is playing passionately and him and the Private are Eric Wainaina’s “Daima.” The way the lieutenant strums the guitar makes it sound like a country song, as he half shuts his eyes and sings –

Ousmane:

Umoja ni fahari yetu
Undugu ndio nguvu
Chuki na ukabila
Hatutaki hata kamwe
Lazima tuungane, tuijenge nchi yetu
Pasiwe hata mmoja
Anaetenganisha

From this line, comes the chorus which the Senior Private joins in and soon, so is everybody else in the make-shift mess. There are tens of voices in there, buffed up men, small built men, some shirtless with their dog-tags hanging around their necks, some in green t-shirts issued by the army, most holding beers in hand, some shooting pool at the corner – voices shoot from mouths and permeate the cigarette smoke filled air with a welcome happiness.

Voices:

Naishi, Natumaini,

Najitolea daima Kenya,

Hakika ya bendera

Ni uthabiti wangu

Nyeusi ya wananchi na nyekundu ni ya damu

Kijani ni ya ardhi, nyeupe ya amani

Daima mimi mkenya

Mwananchi mzalendo

When all voices go quiet and Lieutenant Ousmane strums the guitar alone, a woman’s voice rises to sing the next stanza and Ousmane, who was playing the instrument with his eyes half shut, now opens them and looks to the source of the feminine voice.

Feminine Voice:

Kwa uchungu na mateso

Kwa vilio na uzuni

Tulinyakuliwa Uhuru

Na mashujaa wa zamani…

Ousmane, over the initial surprise, joins her at this point and their voices make this perfect duo.

Hawakushtushwa na risasi

Au kufungwa gerezani

Nia yao ukombozi kuvunja pingu za ukoloni

The woman springs from the back of the tent in her uniform. A Silhouette donned in complete uniform including a cap and boots even though it is downtime.

Heads turn as she sings and slowly walks towards the stage. A path is cleared for her as whistles and catcalls arise from various corners of the tent.

Once the song ends several minutes later, Ousmane leaves the stage, guitar in hand and hurries out of the tent, leaving the men hungry for more live performed music.

The woman follows him outside, hurries after him and plants herself firmly in his path.

Her name is Samantha Wendoh and she too, like Ousmane, is a Lieutenant in the army.

Wendoh: I would say, ‘you look like you’ve seen a ghost Lieutenant‘, but I never developed a penchant for clichés.

Ousmane: I would smile and say ‘It is nice to see you’ but I never developed a penchant for lies.

He tries to push his way through her but she holds her ground. The outside is lit dimly by lights streaming from various tents and bunkers.

Wendoh: Seriously Ousmane? You’re going to be a baby about this too?

He pushes his way through again, this time successfully so she grabs him by the arm and forces him to face her

Wendoh: What’s wrong with you?

Ousmane: Nothing. I’m good. Can I go now?

Wendoh: I looked everywhere for you.

He sticks his hands out to say “Voila”

Ousmane: Well, seek and you shall find. Even though whatever you seek, probably doesn’t want to be found.

He turns and walks away. She calls after him –

Wendoh: Where are you going Ousmane?

Ousmane:(Without turning back) Somewhere you ain’t.

Two Days to the End of Lieutenant Ousmane’s Second Tour in Somalia

Tuesday,

September 29, 2015.

07:43h

Kismayo – Somalia

Major Origi’s office is a small administrative office with files and cabinets and nothing fancy. The Major in his mid forties and in uniform, sits behind his desk, facing Lieutenant Ousmane.

Origi: Is it that you don’t like female officers at the front Lieutenant?

Ousmane: I have no problem with female officers at the front.

The Major sighs and places his elbows on the desk in front of him. His manner is friendly

Origi: Look Ousmane, I wish I could help you but I can’t. She was sent over from headquarters. What should I tell the general? ‘Take her and shove her up your fat ass?’

Ousmane: Highly unusual having a female officer at the front.

Origi: That’s what I said. But my hands are tied. She appears to be well connected. I’ll give her that.

Ousmane: Please Major, there must be something you can do.

Origi: (Smiling) What do you have against her? Because if you can prove to me that she’ll be a liability to this mission, then I can have something to approach DoD with other than my dick in my hands.

He leans back in his chair, combs his hair with his fingers and sighs deeply.

Ousmane: Shit.

There is a knock on the door, which is situated behind the lieutenant. The Major looks up and waves the knocker in.

Origi: Come on in Lieutenant.

Ousmane stiffens in his seat as somebody enters the room behind him and shuts the door.

Origi: (To the new entrant) We were just talking about you behind your back.

It is Lieutenant Wendoh. Origi waves her to a chair next to Ousmane.

Origi: Sit down

She sits beside Ousmane who is busy resting his eyes on everything in the room but her. She tries to look at him but since he’s ignoring her, she turns her attention to the Major.

Origi: You two used to screw?

Wendoh: You could say that.

Ousmane sits up and interjects, his voice too strong –

Ousmane: That was forever ago. Childhood mistakes.

Wendoh: Ouch.

Origi:  Look. I don’t care if you accidentally fell on each other and found your respective genitals banging against each other’s vigorously. Whatever creases you’ve got on your history, I suggested you iron them out ASAP. Do I make myself clear?

The previous friendliness is replaced by an icy stare and demeanor. His authority as the senior office, the commanding officer here, permeates from his aura as evidenced by how suddenly the two soldiers stiffen in their seats.

Wendoh: Yes sir.

The Major turns to Ousmane.

Ousmane: Yes sir.

Origi: Dismissed.

They rise up, taking care not to make too much noise with their chairs as they push them back, and slowly ease themselves out. Once outside, Wendoh, who had taken off her cap while in the office now puts it back on.

Wendoh: So you just had to go running to daddy huh?

Ousmane: I could find a very smart thing to say right now, but you’re not worth the hustle. Just stay out of my way, yeah?

Wendoh: Hey! What did I ever do to you?

He turns and walks away.

Wendoh: You can only run so far Ousmane; without finally hitting a brick wall and turning around to face your past.

Ousmane: You keep telling yourself that.

And he heads off for the barracks East of Major Origi’s office, leaving Wendoh cussing under her breath.

He enters the barracks (one of the “dormitories” housing soldiers) and finds Akala just taking off some greasy clothes –

There are other soldiers in there – some are playing cards, others draughts (checkers) and Mascone is alone at his bunk reading a book.

Ousmane: Sergeant!

Akala: Yeah

Ousmane: You up for a beer run?

Akala: You asking?

Ousmane: I’m saying.

Akala: Can I change out of my mechanic clothes first?

Ousmane: Nope.

He turns around and starts heading out; then he says over his shoulder –

Ousmane:  Take Private Mascone with you. The sight of him alone with his little book depresses the very hell out of me.

And he leaves.

Akala, in his greased clothes, heads for the soldiers playing cards.

Akala: You heard the man. (Turns to Mascone) Come on Pinocchio. You waiting for someone to shove a stick of dynamite up your ass? Move it.

Soldiers get on their feet and start moving as ordered just as Ousmane steps back into the barracks –

Ousmane: You know what? I think I just might tag along on this one.

Akala: (Heading for the door) Sir yes sir. (Turns to the men) Chop chop boys! Those beers won’t fetch themselves.

08:49h

Akala is driving the truck and the lieutenant is riding shotgun. At the back of the truck are other soldiers including Mascone. They are in full combat gear and fully armed.

As they drive out of the gates, Ousmane spots Wendoh watching him. She waves. He ignores her.

Akala: Should we take her along?

Ousmane: Who?

Akala: Lieutenant Wendoh.

Ousmane: (Acts completely stupefied) Who?

Akala’s lips lift up on one side with a tiny conspiratorial smile.

Akala: Sir yes sir.

Kismayo Port City Street

SOMALIA

10:12h

The truck is driving along a thin stretch of tarred road and the city of Kismayo emerges in the distance. There are acacia trees lining both sides of the road but the rest of the ground is pretty much dry.

There are men in Kanzus, burqa clad ladies and sheep along the road and they increase in number as the truck gets closer to the town.

All this is in the backdrop of lively Somali music.

The soldiers at the back stare outside with no interest at all. Children run after the truck and wave at them. Only the smiling Mascone waves back. The rest are quite stone faced. He realizes that and stops grinning and waving.

The truck drives past a place where water is being sold to residents carrying yellow plastic 20-litre containers. Just past this water spot is a building in front of which the truck pulls over.

Most eyes are staring at the truck and at the soldiers as they disembark. The building of interest is a stone building with a corrugated roof.

Ousmane opens his door and jumps out instructing Akala –

Ousmane: Keep the engine running.

He goes to the back of the truck. There are three soldiers on the ground; the rest are still inside.

He points at Mascone and other soldiers, Corporal Handi and Lance Corporal Ntinyari.

Ousmane: You, you and you, come with me.

He points at the only two other soldiers left in the truck;

Ousmane: You and you, stand guard. Let me know if anything, anything at all, feels suspicious.

He looks around. Female eyes shielded behind netted black burqas stare back. Men’s rough eyes stare back and children, now standing at a safe distance, stare back.

Ousmane: Should be in and out in five. These stares never stop giving me the heebie-jeebies.

Though it is bright outside, the interior of the simple bar with plastic chairs and wooden tables, is dark.

Ousmane leads in the company of three uniformed and armed soldiers and they head straight for the counter.

At a table at one corner sits A MAN STRUMMING a SOMALI GUITAR and singing in Somali. His voice sounds like a lamentation. There is A WOMAN in a hijab at a close-by table, looking on and nodding softly.

At the counter is the bartender.

Bartender: Gentlemen

Ousmane: As-Salaam-Alaikum

Bartender: Wa-Alaikum-Salaam

Ousmane slides comfortably on a high stool at the wooden counter while Handi and Ntinyari, the two soldiers he brought with him, stand at the door keeping watch, their eyes darting to and fro and their guns at the ready.

Mascone stands behind the lieutenant, his own eyes on the lookout.

Ousmane: (To the bartender) I have a few boys whose thirst I would love to quench.

Bartender: Then by all means, quench their thirst. Beer, as a wise man may have once pointed out, is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Ousmane: In Kismayo of all places, I come across a Benjamin Franklin quote.

Bartender: I hope I will get Benjamin Franklins in return.

Ousmane: Where I come from, a man who doesn’t pay his debts is no man at all.

Bartender: Then in that case, (In Arabic) Aietabar nafsak fi baytik.

Ousmane: What does that mean?

Bartender: My house is your house. (He gives a short laugh) If my mother is to be believed.

Ousmane joins in the laughter and looks over his shoulder to the soldiers at the doorway.

Ousmane: How’s everything looking boys?

Handi: Good sir.

Mascone had turned to look at the doorway too. He and Ousmane look back to the bartender only to find him pointing an AK-47 rifle at Ousmane’s chest.

The lieutenant puts his hands up as Mascone jumps and aims at the barman.

Mascone: Put it down, NOW!

The two soldiers at the door see what’s happening and aim their rifles at the barman;

The Somali singer at the corner puts the guitar down and stands, pointing a pistol at the soldiers. The woman in the hijab remains seated, calmly as if nothing is happening.

When Ousmane speaks, he is calm. But there is a hint of disappointment in his voice.

Ousmane: (To the bartender) I thought we were friends. You even told me in Arabic that your house is my house. You’re breaking my heart here man.

Bartender: You talk too much.

Ousmane: Yeah. Must have gotten it from my wife. So, how do we get out of this Mexican standoff, huh? Do we shoot at each other until we are all dead?

Bartender: I was thinking that your should tell your boys to put their guns down.

Ousmane clicks his tongue.

Ousmane: Tsk tsk tsk. Wish I could. (Shrugs helplessly) But they never listen to me.

The bartender cocks his gun and Ak_47s tend to make a very loud “Kwa! Kwa!” sound when cocked.

Bartender: TELL THEM!!

Ousmane faces his three armed men. Ntinyari has pointed his rifle at the singer while Mascone and Handi are pointing their guns at the bartender.

Ousmane: (Calmly) No.

His hand gun is still in its holster. He doesn’t have a rifle.

Bartender: If you and your fellow infidels don’t put your guns down right now…

Mascone: Sir?

Ousmane: Just a second Private. You never interrupt a man when he is in the middle of threatening you.

Mascone: There are more outside.

Ousmane looks over his shoulder, then turns completely around to face the door.

There must be at least six al-Shabaab militiamen out there, all armed with AK_47s. Their faces are covered with black dungarees. They and Akala and the other soldiers outside are pointing their rifles at each other.

The soldiers with Akala look nervous and itching to pull their triggers. A calm and collected Akala is hissing at them –

Akala: Relax gentlemen. It is just another day at the office.

Back inside the bar, Ousmane smiles at the bartender –

Ousmane: You were expecting us.

Bartender: If you put down your weapons right now, you and your men will live to see another day.

Ousmane: Ah yes. Another day when you will parade us in front of a camera and chop our heads off live on the internet. (Smiles) I’ll pass. (Over his shoulder to Mascone) How about you Mascone? You want to put your gun down and live to lose your head on your knees another day?

Mascone: Today is as good a day as any other sir.

Ousmane: (To the two Corporals at the door) How about you boys? You up for dying on your feet or on your knees?

Ntinyari: I think I’m all for going out in a blaze of glory sir.

Ousmane:  (To the bartender) Like I said, they don’t listen to me.

Bartender: I’m sorry to hear that.

Ousmane moves fast. The muzzle of the bartender’s AK_47 is close to his chest. He grabs it, pulls the gun away from his body just as the bartender fires and the bullets fly wild, missing him.

And the firing begins.

The woman in a hijab goes down on the floor and crawls under a table as the singer’s body goes red and down under a hail of bullets from the two soldiers.

Ousmane pulls the AK so hard from the bartender’s hands that the man crashes on the counter. Then he (Ousmane) fast retrieves his sidearm from his holster, puts it on the man’s temple and blows his head off at close range.

The soldiers crawl to the window and door with a view of what’s happening outside – from whence rapid gunfire can be heard.

Outside the bar, Akala is shielding himself from al_Shabaab bullets by leaning against the thick back tires of the army truck.

From his view, he can see a dead KDF soldier on the ground. He blows his cheeks. He is under rapid fire from terrorist AK_47’s.

Akala:(Mumbling)Just another day at the office. Just another day at the office.

He leaves his hideout and fires rapidly at the firing terrorists, hitting two before leaning against the tires again before he can be shot by those returning fire.

Inside the bar, Ousmane is issuing orders;

Ousmane: Mascone, I am going to run for the truck. You will provide the covering fire. (To the other two) I’ll draw their fire and two you better put them down. We clear?

Soldiers:  Yes sir.

Ousmane: Alright. You better not get me dead. I have a son waiting for me back home and other unborn children just hanging around in my balls waiting to come out and I would very much hate it if I died with them in there.

Mascone: We’ll keep your balls safe sir.

Ousmane:(Shakes his head) I don’t even know what to say to that.

He blows his cheeks and casts his eyes out to the truck where Akala is receiving fire

Ousmane: Here goes nothing.

And he dashes out.

The dust around Ousmane rises as bullets land with a vengeance. They tuck themselves in the dust around his boots as he zigzags to avoid getting hit.

The soldiers in the bar fire at the shooting terrorists putting three of them down then Ntinyari shouts –

Ntinyari: RPG!!!

He referring to one terrorist shouldering a bazooka pointed at the bar. Him and Handi run further into the bar and duck as the terrorist fires his missile and the building goes up in a cloud of dust.

Ousmane ducks on the ground with a clear view of the terrorists and he and Akala kill the rest of them. They rush to the half crumbled building, Ousmane shouting –

Ousmane: Private!! Private!!

The area residents have just started collecting themselves from the ground and are dusting themselves and casting hostile and also sympathetic looks at the soldiers.

Ousmane:  (To Akala) Cover these people! (He calls out running for the building.) Mascone

From the building comes out the soldiers, Handi and Ntinyari and Mascone, covered in dust from head to toe. Even their eyelashes are covered in dust.

They are carrying the woman in the hijab between them. She is also dusty. Ousmane stops. He and the woman make eye contact. From the corner of his eyes, he sees an oncoming army truck.

He grips at his pistol firmly and says to Akala –

Ousmane: How are we looking there Sergeant?

The residents who Akala is keeping an eye on, gripping at his rifle and darting his eyes to and fro, answers back –

Akala: I’m not sure Lieutenant. They seem a little afraid. Something doesn’t feel right.

Things happen fast from here.

Mascone and company have just stepped completely clear of the building but are still carrying the lady.

Ousmane points his gun at the lady screaming –

Ousmane: PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!

The lady pushes Handi and Ntinyari away and grabs Mascone who was walking in front of her, by the throat. Ousmane can’t shoot her without shooting his Private.

She has A DETONATOR in one hand and she lifts that hand in the air and yells –

Woman in Hijab: Allahu Akbar!!

Her finger goes to press the detonator but just before it gets there, her head blows up into a huge mash of red and gore, some of which splashes all over Mascone’s face and head, and her decapitated body slumps slowly to the ground with the detonator still in hand.

She leaves Mascone frozen to the ground and Ousmane notices that he (Mascone) is trembling.

He follows the line of the bullet with his eyes and sees Wendoh on one knee on the road, still pointing a Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (FN SCAR RIFLE)

She is still looking through the sniper’s scope.

He looks back at the still trembling Mascone who has now wet his trousers and places a comforting hand on his shoulder;

Ousmane: You’re OK now Private. Come on, let’s grab some beer and head on back to base. That sound cool?

Mascone: (Shaking) Y…ye… yeah. Yes sir.

Ousmane: You OK?

Mascone: Ask me that after the first four beers.

Back in Base

Kismayo – Somalia

20:45h

Lieutenant Ousmane is in the mess, seated at a table with a beer in hand. He spots Major Origi at another table and the two men lift their beer bottles to each other with tiny smiles.

Wendoh approaches the table with a six pack. She dumps it carelessly on the table and takes a seat facing Ousmane.

Ousmane: By all means, make yourself at home.

She pulls a can from the six pack, opens it and takes a small swig.

Wendoh: I say your life, and this is the motherfucking thanks I get. So this is where we end up, huh?

Ousmane: I’m not sure I follow.

Wendoh: Here. With you acting cool instead of honest.

Ousmane: Still don’t follow.

Wendoh: You might be here, killings terrorists and being a hero for your country, but you’ve deteriorated into a coward.

He glares at her before smiling –

Ousmane: Nice talk Lieutenant.

He rises up and leaves. With his beer bottle in hand.

Final Day of Lieutenant Ousmane’s Second Tour in Somalia

Wednesday,

September 29, 2015.

06:51h

Kismayo – Somalia

In the makeshift boardroom which serves as the soldiers’ briefing room, Major Origi is standing in front of tens of soldiers, a room full of them; Ousmane, who is his second in command, is standing beside him.

The Major, using a pointer, is pointing at a map plastered across a whiteboard at the front of the room –

Origi: We have intelligence that fresh arms have just been supplied around Kismayo and al-Shabaab are planning an assault in the near future.

He points at various points on the map featuring Jubaland, with specific emphasis on Kismayo –

Origi:  A shipment of arms was being transported to Kismayo to be supplied to Ras Kamboni but the al-Shabaab jacked that show and took the arms for themselves.

Turns to Ousmane –

Origi:  Lieutenant, take it from here.

Ousmane steps forward

Ousmane: Thank you Sir. (Points at the map) The mission is to go to Kismayo and contact our confidential informants. We need to know who grabbed the arms, where they are and what exactly they are planning to do with them.

Faces Wendoh seated at the front of the room –

Ousmane: Charlie Company, headed by Second Lieutenant Wendoh will take point on this operation.

After the briefing is over, the Lieutenant leaves the room and is heading for the Major’s office when Wendoh intercepts him, just outside the briefing room.

Wendoh: Lieutenant.

Ousmane stops but doesn’t face her.

Wendoh: Ousmane, please.

His eyes hit his boots and Wendoh proceeds beseechingly

Wendoh: Look, please let me in. You can’t keep blocking me out like this.

Ousmane: What do you want from me?

Wendoh: You know what the saddest thing is Ousmane? We love each other. I know you love me. Yet here we are, wasting so much time. For what?

Ousmane: I forgot to thank you for saving my life.

Wendoh: (Chuckles) I saved you and your boys from being blown to smithereens and what? It just escaped your mind to mumble a thanks?

Ousmane: (Smiling) Yeah. I have the memory of an eighty-year old.

Wendoh: Say it now.

Ousmane: Say what?

Wendoh: Say, “thank you lieutenant for saving my ass”

Ousmane: (Looks her in the eye) Thank you Wendoh. For saving my life.

Wendoh:  You’re welcome.

Ousmane:  I didn’t mean from the bomb. For everything.

Wendoh: Don’t mention it.

Ousmane: What are you doing later?

Wendoh: Well, some idiot Lieutenant has just sent me on a mission, but after that I don’t know. Maybe have insane sex with some hunk I’m planning to hook up with?

She smiles brightly and punches him lightly on the shoulder.

Ousmane: Do you think you could blow the hunk and grab a coffee with me?

Wendoh: Don’t know dude. I hear coffee here sucks.

Ousmane: Maybe then we could sit atop a tank and grab a beer. Sunsets here are something to behold. Especially with a beer in hand and your ex beside you.

Wendoh: (Chuckles) Sir yes sir.

Mascone, emerges from a corner and calls out to Wendoh-

Wendoh: We’re ready to go Lieutenant!!

Ousmane spots him and frowns.

Ousmane: (To Wendoh) Whoa whoa. What’s going on here?

Wendoh: Private Mascone volunteered to join us on the mission.

Ousmane: That’s bullshit. (Waves at Mascone) Come here Private.

Mascone runs over to him

Ousmane: What the fuck do you think you are doing?

Mascone:  Sir?

Ousmane: What are you trying to prove?

Mascone: I have to keep going out on these missions sir. It’s why I’m here.

Ousmane: Nobody here thinks you’re a coward, OK? Now stop fucking around and join your own company.

Mascone: But sir…

Ousmane: That’s an order Private. Now fall the fuck out!

Wendoh: (To Ousmane) Sir, can I talk to you for a minute? (She pulls him aside.) Sir, I think it’ll do him good to keep going out. And what could go wrong with this mission? We’re just going to collect intel. Should be back in a five hours tops. He needs this.

Ousmane: Fine. But keep an eye on him. I don’t want him playing hero out there trying to prove a point and getting everybody dead.

Wendoh: Yes sir.

She starts to fall out but he calls her back

Ousmane: Hey

Wendoh: Yeah?

Ousmane: You and I, we had a great thing going back home…

Wendoh: We don’t have to talk about it right now. We can talk about it later as we grab that beer atop that tank and watch the sunset.

Ousmane: Please just, let me put this out there right now, is that OK?

Wendoh: OK.

Ousmane: Look, I was juggling between being a single dad after my wife died, and being a soldier, and being a son to a demanding mum, I didn’t know how to be there for you and I am very sorry about that Wendoh, I am. And I am sorry I blamed you for how things turned out. But it is really stupid that you followed me to this God forsaken place.

Wendoh:  Who said I followed you here?

Ousmane: I thought we choose honesty over sounding cool.

Wendoh: I have to go. The mission won’t conduct itself.

Ousmane: Hurry on back. That six pack won’t drink itself. And our lips won’t kiss themselves either.

Wendoh: Getting ahead of ourselves, are we?

She winks at him. He smiles and winks back. She hurries off and waves at Mascone to join him.

Mascone: (TO Ousmane) Thank you sir.

Ousmane keeps his eyes on Wendoh until she disappears.

Akala, who was under a tank fixing something there comes out, his clothes and hands and face greased and catches him watching her leave.

Akala: I wouldn’t waste anymore time fighting her if i were you Lieutenant.

Ousmane: (Smiling) I don’t intend to. You will have to find another person with whom to drink your beers on a tank in the evenings.

Together, the two men head out.

The KDF Military Base – Mess Hall

20:10h

Kismayo – Somalia

Ousmane enters the mess where Major Origi is shooting pool at the corner with a couple of other officers.

“Yoh, Ousmane,” the Major yells at him from across the smoke filled room. “Are you all packed up? You are shipping out at 06:00.”

Ousmane: Yes sir, I’m all ready to go.

He crosses the room to where Akala is standing, beer in hand, watching one of the Corporals, Corporal Ntinyari, is singing on the stage, strumming a traditional instrument – but not very many people are listening to him.

Ousmane: Jesus Christ. That fucking guy is still singing that song?

Akala: Like clockwork. That girl must have done a number on him.

The two men stand in the middle of the room, among a group of other soldiers, all watching and listening to Ntinyari sing his heart away to the woman of his dreams. Well, to the woman of his dreams, who came and stole those dreams, leaving him with depressing songs.

Ntinyari:

Mpenzi leo naenda safari, safari na ni ya mbali

Ukiwaza kuni miss my darl, tabasamu kidogo

In every stage and every song I play

Every fan that would scream my name

I will always be wit you in my heart

I will miss you forever

Akala: I will give it to the guy. He can sing.

Ousmane: Yeah, but listening to him singing this song, of all songs, makes me want to drive a screwdriver through my eardrums.

Someone screams at Ntinyari from somewhere on the other side of the room to sing another song, but the Corporal’s fancy fingers strum away with new zeal.

Somebody: “Ntinyari, why don’t you sing the other “Coming Home”? The Nameless one that’s a little happier, you old sentimental cunt?”

Ntinyari: I like this one better. And your mother is the old sentimental cunt. Why else would she be sending me, “I miss your big dick” messages in the middle of the night?

The entire hall erupts in laughter and hands slaps mouths as Ntinyari proceeds with the Sauti Sol’s “Coming Home.”

After he has wrapped on his little performance, Ousmane calls him over and they both leave the mess hall, with the Lieutenant’s arm draped over his shoulder.

Ousmane: Listen Corporal, it’s a good song…

Ntinyari: I know what you are going to ask me….

Ousmane: Then don’t make me ask. Just sing another song that doesn’t make my men want to go home and kill their wives. Do you think that’s what those guys in there want to be thinking about? That while they are here getting shot at, their wives and girlfriends back home are shoving other people’s dicks inside them?

Ntinyari: That’s what they are doing though.

Ousmane: I could order you not to sing that song again, but I won’t because I am not Officer Dick. Look, your woman, the mother of your child, cheated on you. These things happen. Are they OK? No. Fair? No. But they happen. Get over it. Or don’t. But you coming here to my base and reminding my men that somebody else might be eating from their plates back home, messing with their heads like that, I can’t have that. It’ll distract them, they will make mistakes and they will die. So if you want sing sad songs because you’re grieving about finding your woman having anal with some dude in your bed, take your little guitar, go someplace where nobody is listening to you, sing your heart out, cry your tears away, then come back here ready to kick some al-Shabaab ass.

Ntinyari: Is that an order, Sir?

Ousmane: No man. This is me asking you, man to man, soldier to soldier. Same man, same soldier that is telling you, I am really sorry about your woman. Nobody deserves that.

Ntinyari: Thanks. Hey Lieutenant?

Ousmane: What’s up?

Ntinyari: That Nameless song, I listen to it… there is that place where he sings, “Check me out, out in the horizon, coming home, I am coming home…” It makes me think of heroes, running home to their children, arms out, ready for big and warm hugs, but there is nobody waiting for us back home with a big hug at the airport, is there? It’s just a big old country that doesn’t give a fuck and why should they? We are not heroes man. We are just boys, out here in this fucking desert, just trying to stay alive.

Ousmane: I don’t know about you dude, but I didn’t come here to be anybody’s hero. I just want to stay alive long enough to go home in one piece and interrupt my son’s video game. And hopefully if he can enjoy my company long enough before losing his mind, I can take him to a movie. Have some father son time with the goddamn kid. In the meantime, I am stuck here with you pigs, because you are my brothers and I have to watch your backs.

Ntinyari: (Chuckles) You should be a motivational speaker someday.

Ousmane: Yeah. That will be the day golden coins will start falling out of my ass and I will finally be rich. No more depressing Sauti Sol songs in front of the boys, OK?

Ntinyari: Sure thing.

Ousmane: And hey,

Ntinyari: Yeah.

Ousmane: At least she’s still alive. The mother of your daughter. At least you can still get drunk and call her in the middle of the night, crying your heart out, screaming your love into the phone and asking her why she did it. Me, what am I going to scream at? A gravestone?

Ntinyari: I’m sorry man.

Ousmane: Yeah. Go on. Get out of here.

Ntinyari leaves for his barracks. He lifts both arms high above his head, guitar in one hand and the other clenched into a tight fist and he screams into the air –

Ntinyari:

But now I’m on a mission

To represent my nation

But now I’m on a mission

To get that victory

So switch on the TV

And hope that you see me

Getting that victory

That will make you proud of me

 

I’m coming hooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooome

Home where I belong (whoo o o)

Narudi nyumbani, nyumbani

Nyumbani, nyumbani

Ousmane stands outside the mess hall, watching his junior get swallowed into the darkness, slowly and slowly turning into a silhouette but his voice staying a powerful overcast in the evening air.

Ousmane: Corporal!

Ntinyari: Yeah!

Ousmane: Sing the last part!

Ntinyari:

Check me out

Up in the horizon

Coming home, I am coming home

Check me out

Up in the horizon

Coming home, I am coming home

Ousmane closes his eyes, and sticks his arms out beside him. He looks up in the starry sky, stars he cannot see, and imagines himself at Wilson Airport in Lang’ata, Nairobi. He is just alighting the small aircraft that has brought him from Kismayo, his bags on him and even before he can clear the taxiway, his son Stanley runs up to him, arms outstretched, calling out, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”

The lieutenant, looking like a million dollars in his uniform, goes down on one knee, ready to receive his son in an embrace, but just before that can happen, a heavy hand rests on his shoulder, bringing him back to the reality.

It is Major Origi standing beside him, peering into the starry sky.

Origi: What are we looking at?

Ousmane: Dreams, I guess.

Origi: I just heard from Charlie Company. They won’t make it back until morning. The CI’s are waiting on some intel that Lieutenant Wendoh felt was important enough to wait for. She said to tell you that the beer will have to wait until your third tour.

Ousmane: That’s unfortunate. I was rather looking forward to it.

Origi: She came here for you, didn’t she?

Ousmane: Yeah. We were stationed at Kahawa back in the day. We got closer than we should have and I freaked out. To focused with being a single father and a soldier to give her the attention she deserved.

Origi: Has any of those wise old philosophers ever said that love is the stupidest of God’s creations?

Ousmane: Not in those exact words.

Origi: Well, there. I have said it. (He looks up to the sky) You hear that, you old man with a big white beard? (He taps the Lieutenant on the shoulder again) She will be here when you come back.  But Lieutenant, I cannot have any lovey dovey bullshit happening here. You know that.

First Day of Lieutenant Ousmane’s Holiday

Thursday,

October 1, 2015.

09:00h

Nairobi.

When he gets off the plane, Wilson Airport in Lang’ata is as half dead as it almost always is. There is no son to hug him, and why should there? Stanley is off at school. His mother isn’t here either because they never had that kind of huggy-huggy-lots-of-love relationship.

He loads his luggage into the awaiting truck. He is in the company of tens of other soldiers who are just coming home from their various tours in other countries, Somalia just being one of them.

Some salute him, “Lieutenant” he salutes back as he walks on to the truck, his bag in tow. Most of his belongings will be shipped to his station, Kahawa Army Barracks, where he will be waiting.

Second Day of Lieutenant Ousmane’s Holiday

Friday,

October 2, 2015.

16:08h

Garden City Mall.

Thika Road – Nairobi.

Ousmane and his 8-year-old son Stanley are seated at Moca Loca Coffee Lodge, out at the balcony, facing the superficial waterfalls downstairs and the park where lovers walk hand in hand and children run around.

There is soft jazz music being played by a live band and Stanley is holding onto a glass of milkshake while Ousmane sips a beer straight from the bottle.

Ousmane: You never told me how school is.

Stanley: (Shrugs) It’s good.

Ousmane: Yeah? What does “good” mean?

Stanley: (Another shrug) I don’t know. Just good.

Ousmane: OK. Are there good teachers, or good friends, or good stories?

Stanley: I guess.

Ousmane chuckles to himself thinking that it gets harder and harder for him to have a conversation with his own son with every tour he takes. A silence descends upon them during which he observes his son swinging his feet from there chair and thinks for the millionth time about how easier parenting would have been had his wife been alive.

Stanley: Dad

Ousmane: What’s up buddy?

Stanley: Do you think God hates us?

Ousmane: Wait, what?

Stanley: Do you think God hates us?

Ousmane: No! What made you think to ask that?

Stanley: Nothing.

He leans closer to the boy, trying to smile with encouragement and hoping the stretch that shows up on his face instead doesn’t reflect the pain he is feeling inside.

Ousmane: It’s OK buddy. You can tell me.

Stanley: The other time grandma was talking to someone over the phone and she was upset. She said that my mommy died and you left and her entire body was in pain and maybe bad things happen to us because God hates us.

Ousmane holds his breath, his brain working like a clock. His son is still swinging his feet nonchalantly and rotating his glass of milkshake in his small hands, with his eyes on the table, unable to meet his father’s.

Ousmane: God loves us very much. I promise you that. And I didn’t leave, OK? I love you and I would never, ever leave you.

Stanley: I am sorry.

Ousmane: You have nothing to be sorry about.

Stanley: I asked grandma how come I don’t have a mummy like everybody else and she said that my mummy died while I was being born.

Ousmane mumbles a curse because this is a conversation that he was supposed to have with his son, when he figured it was the right time.

Ousmane: Can I tell you something?

Stanley: What?

Ousmane: You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Stanley: But you are a soldier.

Stanley’s eyes light up with excitement.

Stanley: And I have seen pictures of you standing in front of huge tanks holding big guns. I think that’s cool.

He makes an imitation of a pistol with his hand, pointing the index finger at his dad, then makes shooting sounds with his pursed lips.

Stanley: Pshh!! Psshhh Pssshhh! Die! Psshshh!

With every imaginary shot, Ousmane’s body jerks and jerks, acting as if he’s being hit by his son’s imaginary bullets and he finally collapses against the back of his chair and closes his eyes and sticks his tongue out.

They have played this game a thousand times before but today, he cannot help but wonder if it is right to keep playing it. He cannot keep the sounds of gunshots out of his brain, bombs going off, men screaming and dying…

But when he opens his eyes and finds his son laughing so hard that he can see his molars, he smiles and feels that maybe, just maybe, they can play this game one more time.

Ousmane: Hey buddy, I’m going to hit the John.

Stanley: Can I come with you?

Ousmane: I was hoping you’d ask.

He requests a waitress to watch their drinks as he takes his sons hand and they both make their way to the washrooms where they find a bunch of Somali teenagers; boys and girls. The boys make their way into the gents and the girls into the ladies.

Before one girl can enter the ladies section, she calls after someone, “Ahmed!” she calls and raps her way fast through a Somali sentence, which the long haired, dark skinned boy called Ahmed replies to.

Ousmane takes a booth at the urinal while Stanley enters one of the toilets because he is too short to use the urinal.

After they’ve relieved themselves, Ousmane washes his son’s hands then takes him to the drier. The Somali teenage boys are chattering on excitedly while Ousmane tries to use the mirror. It is becoming increasingly hard to use it though because the teenagers whip out their phones and start taking pictures of themselves in front of the mirror, then selfies.

One of them bumps into Ousmane roughly, shoving him aside. The soldier waits for him to apologize but the boy acts like he isn’t even there. Stanley has finished drying his hand and is now watching these boys chattering away in a language he cannot understand and laughing and shoving his father aside.

Ousmane quietly moves away from the teenagers to another tap where he washes his own hand whilst looking at his head for the occasional white hair. The teenage boys moves closer to him again, taking selfie after selfie. Ahmed has his back to Ousmane and his steps on the soldiers shoe, quite hard actually, then takes another selfie, grinning at the camera. He runs his fingers through his long hair, tries to look at cute as possible and takes yet another selfie. They all act like Ousmane does not exist.

Stanley folds his brow, angry, heads to the teenagers and kicks Ahmed in the foot. Ahmed offers a yelp and looks at the angry boy who is literally half his size.

Ousmane: Stanley!

Stanley points at Ahmed angrily and screams;

Stanley: Al-Shabaab! Stop being rude to my father! Al-Shabaab!

Ousmane quickly collects his son in his arms and turns to face the shocked boys. “I am so sorry guys,” he apologizes and quickly leaves the washrooms. He goes back to Moca Loca and quickly settles the bill without even finishing their drinks, then take the escalator down.

It is while they are outside the mall waiting for an uber, that he asks his son;

Ousmane: What happened in there Stan?

Stanley: They were rude to you.

Ousmane: So you called them terrorists? You know that’s discrimination, right?

Stanley: It’s only discrimination if you’re wrong. I have seen them on TV. They kill people.

Ousmane: People who look like those boys in the toilets kill people. But you can’t go around calling all Somalis al-Shabaab.

Stanley: Grandma says al-Shabaab are Somali. And al-Shabaab kill people. So, Somalis kill people.

Ousmane: Wow. I am starting to think we should start taking everything grandma says with a pinch of salt.

Stanley: Huh?

Ousmane: Never mind.

Their uber has arrived.

4th Parklands Avenue – Nairobi

18:48h

Ousmane is in the living room with his mother and Stanley is in his room playing a video game on Ousmane’s phone.

Ousmane: Is this what we’re teaching the kid now, mother?

Mother: What? That these people entered a university and killed everybody? Yes.

Ousmane: You know he kicked some kid earlier today because he’s Somali?

Mother: What did the kid do to him?

Ousmane: Does that even matter? He’s not even supposed to be fighting.

Mother: There are no dirtier people in this country than those people.

Ousmane: Oh, so let’s go punching them in the face then, aye? Jesus Christ! Sometimes I think you are just trying to send me a message through Stanley.

Mother: What message? That you shouldn’t be over there in their godforsaken country trying to get yourself dead? Because I know I don’t want to be left here alone raising your child.

Ousmane is suddenly very tired of this conversation.

Ousmane: (Over his shoulder) Stanley!

Stanley: Yes dad?

Ousmane: Go wait for me downstairs. We’re leaving.

Mother: There you go again; being all melodramatic.

Ousmane stands up and so does his mother.

Mother: Where are you going?

Ousmane: To my house Mother. I’m taking Stanley with me.

Mother: To that lonely house of yours? You need a woman to keep it warm for you. Bring some life back into it.

Ousmane: Between now and then, can you please stop teaching my son hate? I listen to you now and I wonder, who’s the terrorist between you and those kids in the washroom?

There are car keys beside the television. He picks them up saying, “I’m taking dad’s car” and follows Stanley, who is on his way out of the house.

Ousmane: Say goodbye to grandma.

Stanley: Bye grandma. (To his father) Are there video games where we are going? Is there Wi-Fi?

Ousmane: (Rubs his kid’s head) There is everything we need buddy. (To his mother) I will bring him back on Sunday evening.

Mother: OK. I’m sorry you’re disappointed. It’s just, it’s a new world now, things are changing too fast and I am having trouble keeping up.

Ousmane: (Smiles) See you Sunday.

In the car heading to his house upcountry, he says to his son;

Ousmane: Hey buddy?

Stanley: What’s up dad?

Ousmane: Those boys in the washrooms earlier, we might be different from them, but we are all the same, OK? Does that make sense?

Stanley: (Nodding “no” vigorously) Nope!

Ousmane: They look different, talk different, they are different, but they, just like you and I, are human beings. We are different, but we are equal as people. Does that make sense now?

Stanley: (Another nod) Nope!

Ousmane: OK. Don’t kick Somalis, OK? Matter of fact; don’t kick anybody, even if they don’t look like you. Does that make sense now?

Stanley: Yeah.

He takes a deep celebratory breath and accompanies it with a tiny smile. As he is about to switch on the radio in the car to kill the silence, his phone rings. It is Major Origi calling.

Ousmane: Hello sir?

Origi: Hey Ousmane, I have some bad news.

Ousmane: (Suddenly chill) What happened?

Origi: Charlie Company came under attack. There were casualties. Senior Private Mascone was one of them.

Ousmane: And the Lieutenant?

Origi: She just came out of surgery. Sustained a gut shot. Kept her screaming for an hour.

Ousmane: Goddamn it!

Stanley: Daddy said a bad word!

Origi: But the doctors said she will be OK. The bullet didn’t mess with her spinal cord and missed important organs by inches.

Ousmane: I’m coming back in.

Origi: Negative. Your kid over there needs you more than we do over here. As a friend Lieutenant, can I ask what the fuck you think you’re doing?

Ousmane: I’m lost.

Origi: They are shipping Second Lieutenant Wendoh back home at first light. If I don’t hear wedding bells soon, I am going to shove my boot so far up your ass; you will smell the shoe polish. And don’t even think for a second that I’m fucking around.

Ousmane: (Slight smile) Copy that. The kid, urm, Mascone, I will notify the family.

Origi: I was hoping you would offer to do that before I made you do it. Good luck lieutenant.

Ousmane: Thank you sir.

For the first time in a long time, Ousmane feels a semblance of actual peace. Like the broken pieces of the future are coming together into one complete organism that he can actually see and look forward to.

He is running and running, and Stanley and a woman are running to him. Stanley runs into his waiting arms just as the woman runs into the light and he sees it is Wendoh. The three embrace.

Stanley: Why are you smiling daddy?

Ousmane: Because I feel like a hero, son.

His foot heavy on the fuel pedal, the soldier drives along Thika Superhighway, heading home, singing loudly;

Check me out, up in the horizon, coming home, I am coming home! I’m coming hooooooooooooome, home where I belong, whooo, Narudi nyumbani, nyumbani, narudi nyumbani….”

Stanley is seated beside him, buckled in his seat, watching his old man, completely bewildered. Ousmane looks at him, his entire face beaming and rubs his son’s hair.

Ousmane: We are going to be OK buddy. Everything’s going to be OK.

 

(Listen, there are still copies of my novel ZOO, left. One copy goes for 900/=

To grab a copy;

Photo Credits: Robert Asimba

a. Send 900/= to Paybill Number 762362

b. Use Account Number ZOO

c. Wait for a call from me regarding delivery.

d. Delivery within the CBD is free; but outside that, you foot any delivery costs

e. Enjoy the book)

 

 

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