Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Chris Spedding

A Little Night Musing

‘What goes around comes around’. So it is said. Mewling infants and whining, piping old men. Having nearly seen off both, I’m left clutching their T-shirts, knuckles white, wringing out the occasional memory.
You see, I’m sitting here once again sipping the local firewater and watching the sun drop from view. It silently slips off the edge every night at this time. A daily throwing in of the towel. A mute observer of our patch. A signal for the crickets to start rasping. For the mosquitoes to begin trading their stings for a drop or two of akpeteshie-enriched blood. And for the drums to start their fontomfromming.
‘White man’s grave’, they used to call it. The missionaries lasted a few weeks, then died in an ecstasy of doing Goodness. They blamed the air or the Devil and His Works. They never thought of the tum tum, did they?
When I first arrived, an aeon ago, early one evening, to join a prestigious, religiously-inclined girls’ school near the coast, it was already dark. We sat around a long, rectangular table for Grace and supper. The doors, one at either end of the dimly lit dining room and wisely covered with mosquito proofing, remained resolutely open. Whining mosquitoes jostled with swiftly swooping bats. Nobody flinched, and I did my stoical best. Clarks’ sandals and white ankle socks evidently seemed every bit a deterrent as the repellent cream I had put on. Or perhaps it was just Faith.
Two years’ later, I chanced upon another school, secular, safe, coeducational, further down the coast. A wonderful crashing, crunching, spray-filled, white-foamed coast. The sea as hungry for the fishermen perched in their narrow boats as they were for its fish. Their boats fashioned from forests and crafted in clearings two hundred miles away.
Tonight, my memory is particularly clear. The creases and folds of my mind seem anxious to drag me back. Yet, I don’t want to know. Not now. It’s too late. Perhaps the drink and the drumming from the nearby village have prompted some cerebral actors to enter stage-front and present their stories. Maybe I’ll share them with the night watchman. He’ll soon start his rounds. His arrows are tipped with the bile of some unfortunate creature. He scored a direct hit a few weeks ago. The doomed intruder crawled into the bush and died an agonising death a day later. Better, though, than being beaten to checkmate. At least he had time to review his life, to audit himself, to decide whether he was deserving of another.
I wonder where my Beyond is? I have flirted with the Church, communism, atheism, humanism and all shades in between. Camus was my God, indifference my shield. Have they set me up for a safe passage to a comfortable Valhalla with all mod cons? I doubt it. I have Erred once or twice too many times. Perhaps, my friend, you will persuade me otherwise.
__________________________

Now the night was black and still. He rose unsteadily, sweat falling freely, and headed for his damp bed. The watchman had not appeared and his story would wait. Geckos looked down on their landlord. They were gathered near the strip-light above the patio door, waiting for moths to be drawn to them. Waiting patiently, as he had waited these years. The drumming died away.
A black ribbon of ants threaded and scurried its way across the bright verandah into the darkness.

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