Archive for May, 2009

Second Extract From Tribal Gathering

Posted in Extracts with tags , , , , on 30/05/2009 by Kenneth C. Ryeland
 
 
 

Author’s Wife (Right) and Friends:Ibadan Club, 1968

The Story Boom Town

[…] Later that morning, Charlie packed a canvas rucksack with clothes, spare bush boots and other personal items. He then visited Scroggins’ office at the site, which, due to its considerable distance from the branch, had escaped destruction. Some forty minutes later, Charlie drove to the bank in Sapula. After completing all his business there he clambered back into the company Land-Rover, drove a few miles out of town, engaged its four-wheel drive and took to the bush. As he negotiated the scrub and undergrowth, Charlie thanked all the deities he could think of for the vehicle having been saved from the inferno when the chief clerk used it to look for the parachutist.
When the main Sapula Creek came into view, Charlie carefully followed its meandering course until he came to a suitable spot, well away from any form of habitation. Having parked the vehicle he changed into the clothes he’d packed earlier that morning and left what he’d been wearing in a neat pile on the driver’s seat. He then locked the vehicle, deposited the keys into the tailpipe out of sight, and walked away through the bush. On reaching the main road some ninety minutes later, Charlie hitched a lift to Port Hassan in one of the many oilfield trucks that plied the roads day and night.
Before leaving the hotel that morning, Charlie had paid his bill and deposited a sealed envelope with the receptionist, telling the man to give it to the branch chief clerk when he called at the hotel. The hotel staff knew the chief clerk well, and Charlie had ensured he would visit the hotel the following day by arranging a meeting with him, ostensibly to discuss an insurance claim. Charlie knew no insurer would pay for an act of war, mentioning it was simply a smokescreen.
The envelope, marked ‘Strictly Confidential’, contained a letter to the chief clerk.

Dear Mr Atayi,
Please ensure the company Land-Rover is collected from the main creek, five miles east of Sapula. The ignition keys are hidden in the exhaust tailpipe. Please do not try to find me; by the time you read this I will have gone to a better place. The loss of my good friend Bruce McKinnon and the destruction of the branch, which I built up from almost nothing, are just too much for me to bear.
I gave the UK bank draft we talked about, which was due to be paid into the Chief Edenyi Estates’ account at the bank in Sapula, directly to Mr Scroggins at his office on the morning following the accident. Thank goodness I was able to save it from the inferno. The company’s total debt to the Chief for the land and building work is, therefore, cleared. The receipt I received from Mr Scroggins for the total amount is lodged with the bank manager. Our insurers will reimburse the company when you make the claim.
I have also arranged with the bank manager for you to sign on behalf of the company from now on. There is sufficient money in the company’s account to pay you and all the men’s wages for one more month, after which time you will all have to find other work. The oilfields are booming and, with the general shortage of manpower, none of you should have any trouble finding new work.
The balance of the company’s money has been transferred to a special account that only the directors in Laguna and the UK can access. The bank manager said they might have to wait until the end of the civil war before they can transfer the money to the UK. As you know Obiland has yet to organise its foreign exchange arrangements.
I have tried my best to balance the company books, but as you know most of the information was destroyed along with the branch. However, with the rough notes I kept in my room at the hotel, I have been able to establish that I owe the company about nine hundred Nibanan pounds. The attached balance sheet should show how I arrived at this figure and all the other figures.
All my personal belongings are deposited with the hotel and I have instructed the manager to hand them over to you so you can sell them to offset the debt, but the company will have to forgo most of it I’m afraid. I have no more to give and, by the time you read this letter, I will not even have my life.
Mr Atayi, please say goodbye to all the men and thank them for me, and I thank you personally for all your help and support through the tough times.

Yours sincerely,
Charles A Robinson.
Branch Manager, Warunda
[…]

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Third Extract from Tribal Gathering

Posted in Extracts with tags , , , on 27/05/2009 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

The Story The Visit

[…]Arthur’s dilemma ended when a man, wearing green silk robes of the finest quality, suddenly appeared to his left. He addressed Arthur quietly in Pidgin English, telling him to remove his shoes and bow low before walking towards the emir. The man went on to explain that Arthur would be permitted to sit on the simple wooden stool that had been placed about ten feet away from the base of the raised dais.
After bowing low and taking a last glance at his shoes, which had been neatly placed on the floor near the doors by a servant, Arthur walked forward at a slow pace. At the command of the green-robed figure at his side, Arthur sat on the stool. Suddenly the emir began to address Arthur in the Usmar language and almost immediately the green-robed man began to translate.
After about five minutes of welcoming speech from the emir, it was Arthur’s turn to speak. When he’d finished carefully explaining his reasons for requiring an audience with one of the most powerful men in northern Nibana, Arthur waited patiently whilst the green-robed interpreter relayed the message. For a fleeting moment, Arthur detected what he thought was a smile from the emir. He couldn’t be sure because only the man’s eyes were visible. Nonetheless, Arthur felt certain that between the heavy veil drawn across the lower portion of the emir’s face and the bright green turban covering his head, the dark eyes had twinkled merrily in response to the interpreter’s words.
The reply confirmed it. The emir, according to the interpreter, had expressed great pleasure at Arthur’s visit and looked forward to meeting his old friend Hyde-Beecroft again after so many years.
Somewhat relieved that the interview had gone so well, Arthur thanked the emir and made to depart. However, before he could move, the interpreter said the emir wished Arthur to remain for a while longer and partake of refreshments. Arthur’s heart sank. He had wanted to get out of the throne room as quickly as possible because his English suit and the dreadful smell from the torches and the smouldering sticks of incense were making him feel so uncomfortably hot and nauseous.
As suddenly as he’d appeared, the green-robed interpreter disappeared through a door to the left of the emir’s dais. Then, much to Arthur’s surprise, the two heavy-duty guards also departed through the same exit.
Somewhat bemused, Arthur found himself alone with the emir, wondering how he would communicate. Arthur’s command of the Usmar language was basic, to say the least. No more than ‘kitchen Usmar’, fit only for stewards and smallboys not the most respected Usmar leader in the whole of the Northern Region.
The emir beckoned Arthur to approach the dais and began unwinding the huge length of cloth that formed the veil around his face and neck. The turban was the next article to be discarded and, as the emir stood up, he addressed Arthur in perfect English.
“Mr Meadows, I do hope you will partake of a cooling drink in my private quarters. I meet so few Europeans these days. Please collect your shoes, put them on and follow me.”
Forgetting momentarily that the emir had attended university in England, Arthur hadn’t expected to hear such impeccable English from a man who looked as though he’d just time-travelled from twelfth-century Arabia. It took Arthur several seconds to realise he was staring at the emir with his mouth partially open. Closing his lips tightly, Arthur quickly retrieved his shoes and followed the now bareheaded figure through a door on the right of the dais.
The emir led the way through a number of dark passages for what seemed like an age. Finally they emerged into a beautiful garden with fountains, green lawns and wonderful flowering shrubs that must have taken an army of gardeners and many thousands of gallons of water to keep in such excellent condition. In the centre of the garden was a bungalow, not dissimilar to the one Arthur and his family occupied. Typically colonial in style it had large verandas on all four sides and large, glass-panelled double doors leading into the living, sleeping and dining areas[…]