The next morning I hired a taxi to take us around town and to the beach. We got in and the door handles were missing. I looked how to close the door and saw the owner had fitted a sliding lock, the kind one often sees on gates. I was amused by his ingenuity. He turned the steering wheel and asked me to hold it. He got out and started to push. Manoli jumped out and told him to get back in and he push started us. I think he was laughing so much he hardly had the strength to push us.
At least once it got going it kept going, though we decided not to chance going out of town. We were shown a number of boring things, like their hospital, where he told us they do not have medicine; the Government House, or whatever they called it where Nyerere lived as President. We asked him to take us to a good restaurant by the beach. We found ourselves driving on a sand road amongst coconut trees and arrived at a shack. It was soon apparent he had brought us to the right place, for we saw most of the clientele were white businessmen. We were both amazed to find that ordering a whole lobster or tiger prawns was cheaper than ordering a portion of chicken. We stuffed ourselves till we were bursting with both of these luxuries. I had never seen prawns of this size, they were almost half a kilo each.
We took a walk along the beach to help digest the meal. A local came by walking on a leash a lobster. I had never seen a lobster so huge. He suggested we buy it and get the restaurant to cook it for us. He weighed it for us and it was nearly five and a half kilos. Apart from already having eaten our fill of lobster and apart from the probability that it would be too tough to eat, it was impossible to imagine killing it. To have reached that size it must have been a grandfather of a lobster. I almost imagined it had acquired some wisdom and would know what we are about to do to it.
Our taxi had waited for us and after pushing we got back to our hotel. The lady greeted us as we returned, asking if we’d had a good day. We told her the anecdotes of our day’s experiences. She brought us the menu of the hotel restaurant and showed us the prices. Here too a portion of chicken was more expensive than a lobster thermidor, which includes expensive topping made of mushrooms and cheese. She explained that after independence, a government minister woke up with the idea that it was stupid of them to be importing chicken meal when they have so much maize. Within a couple of years the chicken population went to almost zero. The minister in his wisdom had ignored the fact that imported chicken feed includes medication.
The next morning I took a walk and bought from the pavement some second hand books, a couple of green coconuts, mangoes and a fruit I seemed to remember that turned out to be a custard apple. All I’ll say about them is they are now definitely my all time favourite fruit.
We spent the day either in our room or in the lounge. As we sat there after lunch (lobster thermidor again of course), an elderly Greek came in. After shouting good-naturedly at the lady owner he came over to us.
“You are Greeks?”
“I am, my friend is English, but he speaks Greek. He usually lives in Athens.”
“If he speaks Greek then he is a Greek. Who cares about passports. I am Dimitri Kalogeropoulos.”
We made all the polite noises and offered him a drink. As everybody else seemed to do, he ordered a beer. He asked us a few questions and then got around to telling us about himself.
“I used to own a very large sisal estate about forty miles outside Dar. Then they began to nationalise. Most Greeks gave up and left. I fought them in court and refused to leave my farm. They let me keep my house and three hundred hectares of sisal.”
“That must have taken guts.”
“No, it only took stupidity. All those who left, they got on with their lives and made enough money to be comfortable. I have stayed here, stuck with this miserable land, the sisal market collapsed and I have not a cent to my name. Years spent without even the bare necessities while the fat politicians destroyed this country. Guts! Pah! Stupidity I tell you.”
“Well, maybe a mixture of both.” I thoughtlessly answered.
His bushy eyebrows gathered in what he must have thought was a thunderous frown; I grinned at him and he chuckled, hitting Manoli with his elbow in the ribs. “See? I told you he is a Greek! Why are the two of you wasting your money staying in a hotel?”
I grinned. “Just an unreasonable preference for having a bed to sleep in when I can. A roof can also be fairly useful.”
“Without air-conditioning? It is the best way to suffer. Come stay with me on my farm. I have a very large house, lots of rooms. There is also a large tree to keep the sun off the roof, so it will be much cooler at night. No food though. You can walk over to the local hotel and eat there.”
“Thank you, that would be nice.”
“What are you doing here. On business?”
Manoli answered for me, his sense of humour getting the better of him. “No, we are hiding. This English Greek man is crazy. He married seventeen wives and now they are after his blood.”
“Po-po!! That is serious, we must help him.” I found that the conversation with him seemed to verge on the serious at times, but would soon turn to the ludicrous. I got a sort of feeling of how it must have been for my Cherinians to have to deal with me. I rather liked the effect.
He drove us out in his old battered Landrover, never going over thirty kilometres an hour. He explained there are no spares, what can be found has been stolen and black market prices are charged, so he has to be careful. None of us were in a hurry and spent the trip chatting. Amongst his remarks, when he tried to poke fun at us, he would let some little gem of information slip through. Listening to him I began to get a feeling of what a strange and lonely life he must have lived.
“Dimitri, if you went to Greece you would get a pension. Especially if you have family there, you could be comfortable. Why stay here like this?”
“Never! Me live on a pension! You think I am a beggar? Listen to me carefully. Do not start a fight, especially with those who have all the power, but if you do, you carry it through to the end. If I left now it would make a mockery of twenty years of suffering, of living as if I were in a prison. I will stay to the end.”
Manoli looked over at me with a grin. His thoughts were obvious because I think I was having the same ones. The old guy dropped us off at his house, told us to walk in and choose whichever rooms we want and he drove off. Manoli stood there as if bewildered. He spoke to me over his shoulder.
“Since meeting you my life has been stranger than it has ever been before. Are people truly able to stand being around you for a long time?”
“I’m told it only gets worse with time.”
“That was meant to reassure me? Roberto, I like the old guy. I hope I still have his spirit when I reach his age.”
“At his age, if things go well with us, you will still be a child.”
That made him turn around to look at me. “You are serious? You would want me as a Cherinian?”
“It is not what we want that matters. If you want to be one, you are one.”
“Then we must make things turn out well, for I want to be one. I want to see the Sparklers and those millions of Worlds you speak of. I even dream of them.”
“It is almost impossible to phone overseas from here. How do I get hold of my girls?”
“This healer of yours, it cannot tell the protector where you are and that you want to talk to them?”
I hit my forehead. “I should be hung for stupidity!! I could have been sending them messages every day! Thank you.”
I promptly told my healer to tell them where I am and that I cannot phone easily, but all is well. I looked down from the top of the hill where we were till I was gazing out to sea and told it to send the picture of what I had been looking at so that they can see the beauty.
Within a minute Candy appeared and then Irene and the twins. They ran straight into my arms. My joy at seeing them made me forget all, neither the danger nor Manoli crossed my mind. When I finally did notice my surroundings, it was to see him sitting on the dirt road, staring at us with eyes popping out of his head (I trust you stupid kids of the future still realise that it is just an expression, his eyes did not really pop out).
After kissing my girls and hugging them to me I led them to him and introduced them. “My twins will take you with them Manoli. Just close your eyes and when they call to you just let yourself float to them. Girls, take him to the void and taste him, let him see our World and introduce him to the Sparklers. That way, should anything happen to us, he will know and be known.”
Things were moving too fast for him, but he sensed my urgency and closed his eyes. When his body fell backwards I knew he was there and I was happy. I knew that if I am attacked he is likely to be killed and had worried about it. Now it will not matter so much. I pulled Irene and Candy to me.
“Tell me your news my sweet loves. No, first let me kiss you again.” Their voices were music to my ears, I hardly paid attention to the words, just the sound, the happiness in their voices, their excitement, it was all I had missed and had dreamt of. For one short hour I was in heaven. We had to stay where we were to watch over the twins and Manoli, but we were too filled with our joy and love to care. When my sweet Wendy also appeared, I felt my heart would break as I held her to me.
Αλέξανδρος Ζήνον Ευσταθίου(Alexander Zenon Eustace)
9th April, 2019
* posted on Steemit: 9th April, 2019