By Kur Wël Kur, Adelaide, Australia
December 25, 2016 (SSB) —- “Call me Zacchaeus,” he said to one his soldiers. Zacchaeus loathed those who addressed him by his ancestral middle and last names. His full names were Zacchaeus Bol Chol. Part of his protest was rooted in the fact that his new-founded faith, Christian faith preaches life after death; that righteous Christians will resurrect and be addressed by the angels with their Christian names. And part of his insistence to be addressed by the name of Zacchaeus is the relic behind the name.
He fancied the boldness and determination of Zacchaeus to climb up a Figtree in order to see the Son of God, Jesus. Zacchaeus was a corporal in 1996, a rank he earned after series of battles that left him with bruises, but thanks to God no broken bones. At least not yet in October, 1996. He lived with a wife whom dowry was unpaid, two small children, and 4 -year-old daughter, and 2-year-old son.
In one of the sunny days in the summer of 1992, he emerged from summer-withered shrubs that peeped into his mum’s homestead. It was his second home-coming since he became a trained guerrilla soldier. His mum froze with a broom in her hand; she was about to sweep under the granary. “Mum, I am here” he said, opening his arms to embrace her. She hugged him with tears blurring her vision; the tears burst onto his right shoulder. She tried to mumble some words, but choked up with bitterness in her throat.
Bitterness in the tears of her son’s second home-coming because she knew without cows for his dowry, his son would die a single without a descendant. Her throat remained clogged, not comparable to the time of his first home-coming from Bilpam, Ethiopia, those tears she wallowed in, were tears of joy. For her “son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
A year earlier, a neighbouring tribe received a political propaganda from one of its high commander in the army of All People Liberation. The propaganda was that a leader from Zacchaeus’ tribe was running the All People Liberation as “his property;” that their tribe was being used as a human shield in the liberation war. That propaganda angered the tribe so it attacked Zacchaeus’ tribe.
After the attack, survivors were left for the hunger to finish them off because all cattle, goats and sheep vanished with the raiders. “Mum cut it out” he said, fighting back his own tears. But his mum lost herself in the streaming tears. “God gives and He takes; you must trust God”, he continued consoling her as he patted her shoulders.
He spent two days and left; his battalion was stationed at Torit in Equatoria. Zacchaeus was determined to hike a distance of 320 kilometres from his village that was around Bor town to Torit in Equatoria, but with luck he stumbled to the side of the road, giving way to a UN land cruiser. The driver eased his foot on the accelerator and the engine relaxed with just a vibration shaking the car near Zacchaeus. A biblical call, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
The driver signalled him onto the land cruiser. “Where are you going?” the driver asked, hoping Zacchaeus would understand English and sure, he guessed. “Torit”, came the answer. “Lucky you, Torit as well” he said, referring to himself. Reading from the cold eyes and an empty smile, Kamau switched to his baby-Arabic. “Ana Kamau” he said. Zacchaeus, having been Arabic secondary school first-year dropout, bombarded Kamau with an overdose of Arabic Al Khartoum (Arabic of Khartoum- the written Arabic).
“Arebii basiit”, Kamau tapped out. One of the UN articles prohibited UN employees from allowing armed people or guns on UN properties, however, the ongoing civil war in the country had ignited all types of criminal minds in the southern parts of the country. Organised or individual criminals made it a lucrative business to attack travellers including UN personnel. Kamau, allowing Zacchaeus on the land cruiser was a befitting strategy given the earlier horrific ambushes on the same road.
Sure, his day had already began with a knack of blessing. Because in about an hour from the time of Zacchaeus’ lift, an attack of which kamau’s decision to lift Zacchaeus would have been useless, hit. They drove in a ghost-quiet silence given their geographical poles of language barrier. As the land cruiser rocketed along, Zacchaeus enjoyed the streaming acacia trees that paraded, and whose invading canopies covered the road. The land cruiser had cruised over an hour distance when an angel of life punctured the right front tyre.
The tyre in which the gas was escaping sent a rumbling sound into the car. Another heavenly call, “Zacchaeus, hurry! Get off the road, for you must stay alive today.” “Fuck me”, Kamau swore under his breaths as he steered the car to a stop on the side road. Without talking, they hopped out. Kamau fetched the spare tyre with tyre-changing tools. Zacchaeus rolled up his khaki shirt sleeves and helped Kamau changed the tyre.
As the hurdled themselves into the land cruiser, another UN land cruiser sped pass them. It was carrying three passengers and a driver. All were Kenyans working with the UN. When passing Kamau’s car, they saw Zacchaeus with Kalashnikov slung on his back. They debated with temptations of reporting Kamau to the regional co-ordinator for carrying the armed people. Little did they know, their debate was useless in the life after death, whether in paradise, or hell.
In an ear-shot distance from Kamau’s car, the car hit an ant-tank mine (AT mine) and it melted into flame, the sound of the explosion was deafening; and it sent fears into Kamau’s and Zacchaeus’ minds. Within minutes the blast consumed the car into unrecognisable object so when Kamau and Zacchaeus arrived at the scene, they found ghost-looking metal and flying black ashes. The burnt fat filled the air.
“Thank God for a flat tyre”, Kamau said it again under his breaths. Although he knew the occupants who fell victims to the desire of feeding their loved ones; a desire that sent them to work in a war-infested country. He coveted not to have taken their fate. Images of horrors bloated his mind and he shed tears of joy, celebrating his being alive over ashes of his countrymen.
In his inability to identify Kamau’s tears (tears of sorrow or of joy?), Zacchaeus hugged Kamau mumbling his condolences to him. They covered rest of the journey in a horror motivated silence and arrived in Torit after 4 hours…..
To be continued… Lookout for part two…Disclaimer: It’s a work of fiction, nothing is real in this story. Any information in the story that seems real is the purest form of coincidence, a figment of my imagination.
Kur Wël Kur has a Bachelor Degree in Genetics and Zoology from Australian National University (ANU). He was the former the General Secretary of Greater Bor Community in Adelaide, Australia. He can be reached via his email contact: kurwelkur @ yahoo.com
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