Christian Creative Writers

A FREE CHRISTIAN WRITERS' FORUM
 
HomeHome  PortalPortal  FAQFAQ  SearchSearch  RegisterRegister  Log in  SpotlightSpotlight  JesusJesus  
NO REGISTRATION**FEEL FREE TO COMMENT AS A GUEST**NO REGISTRATION**POST YOUR POETRY OR STORIES AS A GUEST**NO REGISTRATION**WRITERS RESOURCES**NO REGISTRATION**CHRISTIAN DISCUSSION**NO REGISTRATION**GREAT WRITING TIPS**
Post new topic   Reply to topic
Share | 
 

 The Profit Prophet

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
AuthorMessage
Anthony van
Guest
avatar


PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:43 pm

Chapter 11

 

 Wearied and now exceedingly hot, the two flustered travellers emerged from the Berbera airport. It had been a taxing flight; a three hour leg to Addis Ababa, a seven hour layover and then another two hour leg. The late afternoon atmosphere was a dusty, cloying, suffocating, jet exhaust tainted miasma. The arid port city was a palate of sepia and yellow grey colours.  Looking out at the desolation it was hard to believe there was a city nearby at all.

An old taxi pulled up. A wizened, wiry, white haired driver greeted them with a whiny Amharic accent.

“Selaam. Are you needing drive?” he spoke stridently as he hung his head out the window.

“Ahmah-sagahnalo … yes, a drive to the Maan Soor Hotel, i-bahkeh.”

The old man smiled a stained tooth grin. “Yes… the only hotel. You needing a drive tomorrow?”

By this time Daniel realised he was waiting for them to get in so he helped Naomi with her pack, stacked his in the back seat on top of hers and then they both sat in the remaining confined space. The driver looked back and repeated his question hopefully.

“Ah, no… we’re taking the shuttle to Hargeisa tomorrow.”

The driver’s lower jaw jutted, his bottom lip pouting as he nodded an unhappy acceptance of their plans.

Within ten minutes the driver had transported them along a dirt road, through the parched, barren outskirts, past the jumble of buildings and enclosures and past the port. The hotel was a surprise. Though not five star, in contrast to the rest of the town it looked quite habitable.

Once they’d settled into their noisily air-conditioned rooms and they had removed the dust and grime from the journey, Naomi had recovered enough to consider quizzing Daniel on a few things.  So over a light meal in the restaurant she began her tongue-in-cheek interrogation.

“Okay, so why didn’t we fly directly to Hargeisa?”

“Yeah, I should have told you. Apparently the runway is closed for repairs or extension… something like that.”

“Mmm…” she gave a slightly disapproving pout. “And how long will it take to drive?”

“I was told about three hours. Yeah, listen, I’m sorry for not filling you in. You have every right to grill me.” He pulled a guilty face.

Naomi rubbed her forehead and raised her eyebrows at the same time in resigned manner.

“I didn’t mean to grill you. I just want to know what’s going on. For instance, when did you learn the local dialect?”

“Amharic?”

She nodded.

“Well, to tell you the truth, I Googled it… thought it might come in handy.”

After some quiet exchanges over post meal coffees, Daniel thought he’d better divulge all he knew rather than damaging his credibility any more. Checking notes on his phone, he told her the common greetings in Amharic that he had listed and showed her the wad of Somalian Shillings that he had acquired for local expenses.

He shared that while Naomi was ‘freshening up’ he had learned from his virtual travel agent, Reuben, that the aid agency had sent messages so the clinic would send someone to meet them at the shuttle terminal in Hargeisa.

                                    …………………………………………

 

That night Daniel tossed and turned in a lather of sweat, even though the room temperature was pleasant enough from the output of the rattling air conditioner. Shadows of fearful thoughts, amplified by the darkness of the room, assaulted his mind. There was evil about. Weren’t there people trying to steal from him and harm him? And what about the harm aimed at his relatives and friends? Yes, the world was an evil place.

Not only that, deep down he knew he was evil. Not with explicit villainous behaviours; he wasn’t a tyrant or anything like that, but it was a subtle, duplicitous evil. Wasn’t he carrying on a charade of interest in Naomi’s religion just to be near to her? What shred of decency did he have? Wasn’t it his pride that had sucked them into this vortex of violence and intrigue? If his ego hadn’t spurred him to publish, none of this would be happening. His boast to his aunt was that he was self-sufficient. Materialistically, he, to a large extent, could satisfy his wants. But what good was that when he was confronted by the darkness of his own soul?

Suddenly, sitting up in bed, the pall of his indiscretions, no his transgressions, became a stifling shroud and weighed heavily on him. Tremors shook his body. Was it too much rich Arabian coffee? Or was he under attack? Had he only now become aware of an evil adversary because he was considering ‘faith’? It was no longer intellectually abhorrent to him. Maybe Satan (as Naomi had personified evil) had ignored him till now, but if he was considering changing sides that could be stirring things up!

Had he really been on Satan’s side? If it meant living for the kudos from his colleagues, being absorbed by material satisfaction and viewing others patronisingly as intellectual inferiors—then yes. There was nothing humble or selfless or kind about the way he had lived his life. Was his attempted change genuine or just an opportunity to court Naomi? He was filled with doubt.

She was too good for him… too pure, too innocent. How dare he think that somehow a simple change of mind could make everything okay? His thoughts were unworthy of her. His attitude to life had always been disdainful of others, but who was he? 

While he sat shivering from the wringing moisture in his tee shirt, the idea came back to him that God was mindful of him. Daniel turned on the light, grabbed his computer and randomly searched for bible readings. The one he opened confronted him with its relevance.

 

Leave your troubles with the LORD, and he will defend you; he never lets honest people be defeated. Ps 55:22

 

His first feeling of consolation evaporated as he focussed on the qualification… honest people! That wasn’t him. His life was a lie. Maybe he was heading for defeat. He found another site.

 

            So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Is 41:10

 

Again, Daniel was initially comforted. Here was a promise of strength and support. The qualification seeped into his consciousness that it was addressed to a devotee. Could he claim Him as my God? The synchronicity of the notions struck him with force. Was he being told something? Could he try a third time and have the illusion shattered by a totally unrelated theme? Twice could be coincidence.

 

            Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.

 

He almost gasped at how appropriate the text was. Had God been sitting on the end of the bed instructing him? The impact of what he read made it seem as if he could sense an invisible presence that was emphasising the significance of those three texts. Wasn’t it exactly as Naomi had said? You have to surrender. ‘Submission’; how alien that term was to him. ‘Submit to God…’ This was the battle that was churning his innards and repelling the sweet unconscious slumber he craved.

The thought occurred to him that he wanted to ‘resist the devil’, but his whole life had been going along, so to speak, for the ride. The only way he could succeed changing sides, he figured, was to mutiny. As the verse suggested; ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you.’ He put down the lap top and grabbed the bible. It was his only clue to getting near to God. He went back to the passage about denying himself. This was a struggle for his soul so he wanted to find out more.

He read the whole chapter again—wondering as he read how the disciples of Jesus must have felt. Here was their leader, doing miracles, claiming to be God and then telling them that he was going to die; and if they had a problem with that then they were caught up in human concerns and not with God.

Those thoughts resonated with him. That was the dichotomy! That was the contradiction in his mind; earth versus heaven, human versus God. His mind wound through a maze of possibilities. Before he knew it he had fallen asleep, book still open, mulling over the challenge.

                                                -----------------------------------

 

An early checkout had them waiting impatiently outside the airport for the shuttle to Hargeisa. It seemed that schedules were not sacrosanct in this country. The van turned up half an hour after their expected departure. The driver then explained, in broken English, that he would wait for more passengers. It appeared two customers were not enough to make the trip worthwhile.

Soon after, three backpackers arrived, and after that a young couple also backpacking. These seemed more informed as to the casual nature of local transport. A further half hour was endured before it became apparent that no one else would turn up.

The driver started the engine, grumbling something in the local dialect that didn’t sound particularly pleasant. He then asked the passengers to get in and got them to pay their fares up front. The three experienced backpackers bartered the driver down to a reasonable price, suggesting that another shuttle would soon arrive and get their custom. And all passengers were happy beneficiaries of their travel nouse.   

Finally, they were off. Heading through the dun coloured landscape, there was little to see but hardy desert scrub, washouts and dunes. Soon, one truncated cone and another, almost perfect, cone of two adjacent dormant volcanoes came into view. Wending gradually upwards, on what could dubiously be called ‘the main road’; they passed a number of small settlements and historic sites as commented on by the young German couple for the benefit of their fellow travellers.

Kurt and Marta, the German couple who had arrived last, were more sociable than the three male passengers. They asked how long Naomi and Daniel had been together. The two glanced awkwardly at each other before Naomi diplomatically replied that they’d known each other for only about four months. Fortunately an elaboration wasn’t expected and Marta explained that they had been together for two years and decided to travel together before settling down.

Kurt shared that he had quit his software writing job to travel, but had been promised a position when he returned. He went into some tedious details about the software, to which Daniel politely feigned interest.

Before either Daniel or Naomi had a chance to tell their stories, the van pulled over at a roadside stop which provided overpriced drinks and a rest ‘facilities’. The locals, who also sold souvenirs of trinkets and postcards, were clearly in collusion with the shuttle drivers to extract foreign capital at every opportunity.

Standing outside the air-conditioned van, waves of heat hit them. In the distance, slate grey mountains tinged with pale streaks drew their gaze. Dan pointed and indicated the higher elevation as their destination. A number of vehicles had pulled over at the wayside stop.

A short distance away a goat herder was edging his flock behind the settlement. The pungent odour wafting past mimicked the heat haze blurring of the seared landscape so that smell and swelter were a sordid duet.

There was no hastening the practised ritual of hospitality and greetings between the tribesmen and the drivers as one by one they stopped and were offered drinks and qat. The qat was a ubiquitous narcotic leaf chewed socially for its stimulant effect. Daniel suggested to Naomi quietly that the prolonged stop had the passengers spending more than they normally would have. Just standing in the heat incited their thirst, and all the passengers bought drinks from the stalls at inflated prices. Cokes and Sprites were drawn from generator powered coolers and provided a brief respite from the stifling temperature.

Eventually they boarded the van and continued toward Hargeisa, fleeing the oppressive conditions of the lowland cauldron. The climb through the desiccated foothills, past salt pans and wadis gave little indication that there was civilisation anywhere near. Ascending the escarpment required more power from the engine and Jamal, the driver, explained that the air conditioner had to go off. A token consolation was that the temperature was slightly more bearable as their elevation increased and soon the wind rushing through the open windows was almost pleasant.

Sections of the traffic pulverised road were torn away by recent rains. Paved stretches gave way to gravel and washouts. The occasional war relic and accident wreck added to the roadside detritus.

The tedium of travel and the wearing stress of wondering whether they would make it in one piece on this dangerous road had Naomi clasping Daniel’s arm tiredly. Her head rested against his shoulder and Daniel reflected on how pleasant the contact was—a balm for the journey.

 Even though the dusty port city of Berbera was only about 140km away (according to the travel brochure) from the even dryer, dustier city of Hargeisa, the state of the road made it seem double that.

The grinding, interminable journey was finally nearing its end. The nominal capital of the autonomous state of Somaliland greeted them with the smell of a recent downpour still in the air. Dropping down off the ridge the large inland town spread out before them. They saw a clutter and jumble of low lying buildings, ramshackle industrial properties and numerous trucking companies that eventually gave way to some semblance of order near the centre of the city.

Passing old buses, water trucks and an old MIG fighter that was displayed on a pedestal near the city centre, the previously sleepy passengers were now all taking in the sights. Because of the bustle of the afternoon city commerce, the van crawled the remaining kilometre to the van terminus.

Once off the van they paused expectantly and looked around. Eye contact was gained with a couple of likely contenders. But no one was waiting for them. Daniel wondered about the effectiveness of the communications with the missionary society.

After fifteen minutes waiting they decided to make their own arrangements. Nearby, not far from the city centre, they found a hotel with rooms that cost twenty five thousand shillings a night each. It sounded formidable but in reality it was only fifteen dollars US each in total. Surprisingly, the room had hot water, washing facilities, Wi-Fi and a television.

“So what’s the plan?” Naomi had held off as long as she could. Daniel had contacted Reuben asking him for details of their contacts and he had responded by forwarding an address and a digital map image of the location for the medical centre.

“It’s here,” Daniel said pointing at the digital map on his screen. “Not far from the camel market… this unmarked building. I think it’s the medical centre; that’s where my father’s humanitarian group is stationed at.”

“It’s fairly late. Do you want to wait till tomorrow?” Naomi sounded exhausted.

“No. I want to catch up with him as soon as possible. Why don’t you wait here and I’ll go check out the centre?”

“Um… no!” She smiled sweetly. “I think I’ll tag along… you know… just for company.”

It was clear Naomi had no intention of being left behind, alone in her hotel room, wondering where he was.

They headed off at a brisk pace through the milling crowds of the city. Daniel had his backpack with his light weight computer. He wasn’t prepared to risk leaving valuables such as money or documents in the hotel. Naomi also wore her pack.

Their walk slowed as people pressed to view the strange couple and, Daniel was sure, ogle at Naomi, who was a rare sight with reddish blonde hair escaping from a hastily wrapped head scarf. They stood out being two pale skinned travellers amongst the dark skinned, dark haired locals.

Traffic was everywhere along the congested, electric wire cluttered thoroughfares of urban Hargeisa. Trucks, buses, vans and tankers almost outnumbered the surprisingly modern cars. Stall fronts and ramshackle lean-tos housed vendors of food and clothing and almost anything else imaginable. Goats wandered randomly, cars were parked haphazardly; the whole city seemed to be a chaos that somehow worked.

By the time they reached the open field of the camel market, interest in their progress had waned. Children were playing soccer on the large open field vacated by the morning crowd of hagglers and herds of camels and goats. Vestiges of the rank animal odours still wafted about.

“Where to now?” Naomi breathed tiredly through pursed lips. The back of her blousy khaki shirt had a sweat stain down the centre. She put an arm on his shoulder as he stooped against a car and glanced again at the map he had transferred to his phone.

Daniel indicated a position about a mile west of where they were. Twenty minutes later they had arrived.

“Just over there.” He pointed to a concrete building with commonplace blue doors and windows. Next to it were two small residences. Some distance beyond those buildings were rows of other buildings. Daniel assumed these to be the orphanage and school.  The bare concrete structures were surrounded by earthen playing fields.

                                           ----------------------------------

 

The front door creaked as they entered. A bell jingled. Inside the building there was a desk and chair that attempted to convey the idea of a reception area. Through the connecting passageway cries were heard.

A young woman emerged wearing a nurse’s uniform. Her complexion was shiny and almost black. She looked up and smiled with dazzling white teeth. Her high cheekbones and glistening dark eyes accentuated her classical beauty.

“Can I help you?” she almost sang the words in perfect English.

“I hope so. We’re looking for Doctor Richard Treloar.”

“Ah, Doctor Rick… he’s not here. He’s gone inland a bit to visit some of the smaller towns. I don’t think he’ll be back till tomorrow night.” There was interest in her dancing eyes. “Why are you after him?”

Daniel stared at her still not connecting the educated English accent with the speaker. “Er, my name’s Daniel Treloar. I’m his son. I have to speak with him.”

She laughed delightedly. “His son! Of course you want to see him. I’m Ellen. I’ve only been here a few months… but your father… he’s a saint, such a lovely man.” She looked at Naomi and smiled. “Is this your wife?”

Naomi shook her head vigorously as Ellen sucked her lips in as if to retract the question. “Er, no… this is Naomi. She’s a travelling companion,” Daniel explained. Neither Ellen nor Naomi appeared to think much of that description.

Daniel registered the uneasy, perhaps disapproving, glance and knew some clarification would be necessary; but he had more urgent business.

“Is it possible to contact him?”

“Not really… we usually hear from him if anything is required.” Her demeanour changed. “It’s a bit strange though. A man came earlier and also wanted to see Doctor Rick.”

“What did he say?”  Daniel’s tone was insistent.

She was taken aback by his abruptness. She replied slowly, “He said he had a message for the doctor from you.”

“What did he look like?”

“Tall, blond… Germanic if I had to guess.” A crease appeared across her brow as she noted Daniel’s agitated questioning. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, no, not at all… did he leave a name?” He orchestrated a calmer manner but, within, his stomach was knotting.

“No, he just said he had a message from Daniel Treloar for his father… I take it you didn’t send him,” she deduced. Ellen’s bearing became more resolute like someone accustomed to dealing with crises. “Come into the kitchen for a cup of tea and tell me what’s going on.”

Both followed the statuesque nurse off to the right, through to a small kitchen – dining area. She got cups, a teapot, deposited tea leaves in a practised motion and put in hot water from a stainless steel urn. Ellen turned her head over her shoulder and instructed them, “Sit down, I won’t be a minute.”

With a packet of cookies opened in front of them and the pot brewing, it felt very English.

Tilting her head inquisitively as she started to pour the teas, Ellen went right to the heart of the matter, “So, why would someone pretend to have a message from you?”

“Someone wants something from me, and they’ve decided the best way to get it is to threaten my friends…” he gave Naomi a glance, “or members of my family.”

“So, your father is in danger?” Ellen’s wide eyed concern was accentuated by the contrast between her dark skin and the whites of her eyes.

“We have to warn him. Maybe take him somewhere safe.”

“What, away from here?” The nurse was dismayed. “I don’t think he’d go.”

“He has to. In the States he can be protected.” To Daniel it had been a foregone conclusion that his father would just up and leave.

“Well, you can try.” She took a sip of the tea thoughtfully. “I will try and find out where he headed and let you know tomorrow. Maybe one of the boys here could take you to him.”

“That would be really helpful,” offered Naomi, genuinely grateful.

 

Then, after giving Daniel a wide eyed ‘well-here-goes’ kind of look broached a new topic. “Listen Ellen, I’m a qualified nurse. I’m happy to help out here while Daniel looks for his dad. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I came.”

Ellen had a slightly bewildered look, as though someone had a hidden camera and all this was a prank.

“You want to help. That would be marvellous, but I will need to get approval.”

“I have these,” Naomi said quietly and, retrieving a sheaf of paper from her pack, handed over the documents from the aid agency. The resultant puzzled scrunching of her face revealed that the young nurse was struggling to decipher the unusual turn of events.

While she was paging slowly through the sheets Daniel asked if he could use a computer to send some emails. Ellen directed him to his father’s small office before sitting down opposite Naomi.

“So you were planning to help here all along? What was the business about Doctor Rick all about then?” She was shaking her head.

“Oh, it’s all true. It’s just that Daniel needed someone with a genuine reason to come here, and I really wanted to serve here. You were meant to be informed by the agency. We were told someone would meet us.”

Ellen sighed, “I’m afraid communication with Doctor Rick is notoriously bad. They send emails, but the doctor is very slack in reading them, and our phones are more often down than not. We can check his inbox if you like.” Then she remembered that Daniel was using the computer.

“Maybe later,” she added.

As Ellen pored over the documents, the cloud of concern evaporated from her eyes. Soon the two young women were exchanging life stories. Naomi noted that Ellen appeared to be of different stock from the locals, and she commented about her British accent. The tale then unfolded of how Ellen was born to Masai parents in Kenya, but she was orphaned by conflict between two tribes over land. She related how she was looked after by missionaries and then moved to England with one couple, her adopted parents, when things became a bit dangerous in Ethiopia.

Naomi shared how her father had been killed in Ethiopia, but had served in Kenya before that.

When she mentioned his name Ellen erupted with excitement.

“John Stockton! He was one of the missionaries at the mission. I remember the couple who adopted me kept referring to his bravery and commitment to helping others.” She stared with renewed interest at Naomi. “So he was your father?”

“I hardly knew him before he was killed,” she stated flatly.

“Oh, I am sorry. That must have been awful.”

 

There was a pause in the conversation as Naomi considered her response.

“At first it wasn’t so bad,” she said stoically. “People cared for me… and, I guess I was too young to really understand. Later, I wondered about him. Maybe I became a bit resentful. Other relatives had to cope with some of my anger when I was a teenager, and now Aunt Marcie has had to cope with my moods,” she added pensively.

 A bond began to develop then, between two girls who were victims of the brutality of Africa and who shared the heartache of always wondering what regular family life was like.

Quiet settled over them as both cast thoughts back to childhood memories.

Ellen observed, “I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to … to know my parents and have a … a normal family.” Even as she said it Ellen knew it wasn’t what she meant. Naomi nodded. “I sometimes imagine that my childhood is like a photo album in which all the pictures have been spoilt so that the images are blurred and fuzzy. Nothing comes into focus. There are names and vague memories. Only Aunt Marcie remains clear, tangible; she’s my only real reference left to the concept of family—and she’s not even real family.”

“So, how did you meet Daniel?” Ellen probed a little curious. Interpreting her question as inferring a more than platonic relationship, Naomi hastily replied, “Oh, we’re just friends. His Aunt Marcie has been my guardian for a number of years. We’ve sort of been thrown together by a trust fund. And, of course, this trip to warn his father and…” she searched for the right words, “and, well, we’re not in a relationship or anything.”

A smile crept onto Ellen’s lips and within, a clear feeling. There was something more; she sensed it. “Oh, I see,” she nodded as if she appreciated the situation. And in truth she probably did.

Both looked up when Daniel returned. He informed them that he had relayed their safe arrival to Marcie, his friends and colleagues and Reuben. He had also answered some queries related to some methodology he had recommended and read a missive from Reuben describing the State Department’s chronicling of his flights to Somaliland and registering their concern, perhaps even irritation, that he left the country without proper notice. This latter information he only hinted at.

“Are you in trouble?” ventured Ellen.

“No, not so much trouble… After all, as a citizen, I’m free to travel. It’s just that they’ll think I’m a nuisance because I don’t follow their recommendations. And, Reuben said that if anything happens they are limited regarding what they can do. The onus is on me.” He again glanced at Naomi and added softly, “…on us.”

Ellen nodded slowly, but the portent of the unspoken threat was evident in Naomi’s eyes as she looked at Daniel, and Ellen had seen enough of fear to breathe a prayer for them then and there.

The brief hush was interrupted by a shuffling noise at the door and a couple of long strides. A voice sounded in the corridor.

“Sweetie, where is the new delivery of antiseptic solutions?”

Ellen gave an explanatory smile, “That’s my husband Joel.” She raised her volume. “Joel, come in here. We have visitors.”

A tall man with close cropped curly hair appeared at the door. He was not quite as dark as his wife and his face wore a quizzical expression.

“Visitors?”

Ellen interpolated for him. “Daniel, Naomi, this is my husband Joel Odiah.”

Daniel stood and received a firm handshake while Ellen continued. “Daniel is Doctor Rick’s son and Naomi has come to do a short term mission with us.” She looked across to confirm with Naomi. “That’s right isn’t it?”

Naomi nodded while at the same time also receiving an exuberant handshake greeting from Joel.

“Oh, you’re a real blessing. Ellen is run off her feet with looking after patients and training the nurses’ aides.”

His wife continued proudly, “Joel is a doctor. We’re learning the ropes here before considering going to the refugee camps in the southeast corner of Ethiopia.”

“Ah yes,” Joel added in his rich English voice, “I don’t know how your father has lasted here so long.” Then, remembering what he was about, he reiterated, “I’m after some alcohol or some quats to clean out a putrefying sore.” He said to Ellen.

Ellen directed him to a box, as yet unopened, in a storage nook and he left hastily with a,

“Nice meeting you,” salutation.

“He uses quats?” said Daniel ambiguously, thinking of the common chewing leaf.

“He was talking about quaternary ammonium compounds. We managed to get some stronger anti-bacterials to cope with some of the infections,” she explained. 

After a quick tour of the buildings, which testified to their struggles with hygiene and trying to attain some semblance of medical orderliness, Daniel and Naomi thanked Ellen for her time, left the name of their hotel and headed back toward the city centre. It was quite a trek back after such a full day.

Several times along the way Daniel glanced around at the bobbing heads streaming up and down the edge of the road. There was one in particular that drew his attention. Clad in the traditional embroidered taqiyah type cap called a koofiyad and ankle length macawiis, his efforts to look like a genuine local failed miserably. He stood out amongst all the jeans and tee shirts of many of the citizens, partly because he was younger than those who usually wore the old-style costume and partly because he wandered about without any purpose. Then another face emerged. He’d seen him before—dark glasses, western style clothes—and he loitered across the street for no apparent reason. The stranger then turned and walked in the other direction.

As he examined the market area Daniel feared that he was becoming neurotic.

Instantly his eyes latched on to the man ostensibly dressed as a local. He was much nearer and fingering beads at a stand for female adornments; a somewhat incongruous scene.

“What’s wrong?” demanded Naomi after his fifth hesitation and furtive scan.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” He took her arm firmly and side stepped a fruit stand. Striding purposefully, he hustled her along the way through the crammed pedestrian traffic and mingled amongst a crowd of shoppers before darting down a narrow alley onto the next road.

They found that this street had several eateries, cafés and snack stalls just adjacent to the road their hotel was on.

An Ethiopian owner hawked them into his establishment with promises of ‘anything you want I will cook for you’. So they happily went in, relieved to be away from prying eyes. Willing to risk a bit of local cuisine, both deferred to their host to concoct a tasty local meal. Ahmed, the owner, introduced himself and his family. Then he went behind the counter and helped out cooking with his wife. Because there were only a few customers, he regularly came to his honoured guests. He brought deep fried triangular snacks that had to be dipped in hot sauce. Then he delivered tall glasses of apple drink.

There was little chance of making like a couple of carefree tourists with Daniel and Naomi sitting in the darkest corner.

“What were we running from?” her low voice still sounded too loud for Daniel.

He tried to lower her volume by placing a finger to his lips. He whispered, “I’m sure we were being followed. I think there were two guys. One was the same European looking guy I saw earlier.”

“What do you mean, European?”

“Well, not a local. He was a white guy… dark hair, jeans, casual light shirt and sun glasses. The other was dressed in traditional costume, but it didn’t look right.”

“Do you think they saw where we went?”

“I don’t know. I doubt it. We were pretty slick.”

“You were,” she gave a nervous giggle. “I just got dragged along.”

Daniel looked at her then shook his head slowly. “Look, I could be just imagining it. With all the things that have happened I’m becoming a bit paranoid.”

She put her hand on his. “We didn’t imagine those other things, so it won’t hurt if we are on the alert for anything unusual.”

Ahmed came with their meal. He served goat meat and a sweat concoction of cracked wheat and spices. A trickle of local customers increased to a steady flow the later it got. The two weary strangers ate slowly and watched warily as Ahmed’s family members came out and attended to the growing throng. No other foreigners joined them amongst the boisterous restaurant customers.

A rich aromatic, sweet coffee capped off a highly satisfying meal. With the late orders being taken by one of his daughters, Ahmed went about socialising. Arriving at their table, he sat down and spoke like a familiar acquaintance.

“So, you are Americans, yes?”

“That’s right,” Daniel answered cautiously.

“If you stay some nights, I cook you good Ethiopian food, yes?”

Daniel nodded abstractly, and Naomi forged a lifelong friend with her response.

“Ahmed, the food was delicious. It would be wonderful to taste some more of your cooking. If we’re still around we will come back.”

Ahmed gave a toothy grin. “I get one of my boys show you Hargeisa, yes?”

Daniel couldn’t help smiling at the distinctive consistency of his sentences. He took his cue from Naomi, who obviously was more adept when it came to people skills.

“Thank you Ahmed, but we are here to visit the medical clinic… the one near the camel market,” added Daniel when he saw Ahmed’s questioning glance. It was apparent that he needed to be more specific when it came to medical clinics.

“Ah, Dr Rick, yes? He’s a good man… the children’s refugee,” he mispronounced. “You help him, yes?”

“Well, Naomi is a nurse and, I hope to help him too.” As an afterthought he asked, “Do you know where to find him?”

“You look the children’s village, yes? Sometimes he move to camps and villages. He come back.”

After assuring himself that his American customers would return, Ahmed went on to speak with some of his regulars. Daniel was resigned to the idea that their tail, whoever he was, would be waiting at the hotel if he really was determined to find them. Nothing would resolve that. They paid the bill with a bundle of shillings which equated to a sum of ten dollars and cautiously skirted the block. There was no sign of their mysterious shadow.

Within five minutes of arrival they were both ensconced in their rooms. A light knock on his door signalled that Naomi wasn’t quite ready for sleep.

“Do you mind if I use your computer? I want to email Marcie, let her know what we’re up to.”

“No, go right ahead. Do you want to take it to your room?”

“Could I use it here? I was hoping for some company.” She squeezed her face into a scrunched squint with hopeful inquiry, mildly abashed at the inconvenience of her intrusion.

Daniel insisted that it was no trouble and lay back on his bed. He watched her type her email, once again warmed by her presence.

“What if you can’t find your father?” She spoke softly glancing up from the screen as she said it.

“I’ll just keep on looking until I do. Ellen didn’t seem to suggest that it would be a problem.”

“What about that guy that was following us? What if he finds your dad first?”

“Let’s just hope he doesn’t.” A feeling of helplessness made him sigh deeply. The hollow sensation in his stomach conveyed his inner anxiety.

Since Naomi was attending to her emails, Daniel pulled out his C.S. Lewis book. He felt she didn’t need his interruptions so to keep from falling asleep he read. Daniel was reading the chapter ‘The Obstinate Toy Soldiers’2 and musing on the suggestion that he was resisting God’s offer for him to become not just a real human—the one he had been created to be—but a begotten son of God; that choosing his own way was obstinate and limiting, and in the end a futile, meaningless existence.

According to Lewis, the ‘timeless spiritual life’ has been appropriated for us by Christ. In essence, Christ died his death for us so that we wouldn’t have to suffer that ultimate punishment, and he acquired a resurrection life to share with us.

Daniel closed his eyes. Was he prepared to alter the focus, the whole premise, of his life? All he had to do was believe it, accept it, lay himself open to it and the ‘good infection’ would do its work. Could he admit his need? The situation he was in was evidence enough. Selfishness, ego and his materialistic living was a damning case.

He prayed then. He acknowledged his wasted life. He wanted life. The kind that was generous and humble, not the tin soldier existence that had him marching to the materialistic, fulfilment of selfish desires tune. He prayed that he would be near enough to catch the good infection. He prayed that he could surrender his will—that he could take up his cross and follow.

Then he prayed for his father. And then he prayed for Earl and Virginia. Somewhere amid petitions for other family and friends Daniel yielded to fatigue and rasped the heavy breath of deep sleep.

In the early hours of the morning he woke, finding blankets draped over his clothed body. He stayed awake long enough in his somnolent state to undress for bed, before sinking once more into sleep’s insentient embrace.
Back to top Go down
 
The Profit Prophet
View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Share this topic...
Link this topic
URL:
BBCode:
HTML:
Page 1 of 1

Permissions in this forum:You can reply to topics in this forum
Christian Creative Writers :: CHRISTIAN WRITERS' FORUM :: Fiction Novels & Short Stories-
Post new topic   Reply to topic