For three days Kollie could not take the incident out of his mind. Each time he thought of it and the certainty that it could have been him, and not the men, a sudden coldness, as one might feel from being jabbed in the buttocks with a hypodermic needle, made his legs trembled. But as he had not yet found his family and had nowhere else to go, he thought it best to forget the whole unfortunate incident and think of his own survival. True, there was a one 100-percent change he could come to suffer the same fate as the men. However, with the right amount of attitude and a keen knowledge of his surroundings, he felt it was more than likely that he would survive.
For a few minutes he had only wandered Red Light market on the first day. Then he found some boys with marbles at play in front of a merchandise store, converted now into a video club were men, women and small boys in search of something better than the boredom, fear and lethargy that often followed those days of the war would flock for a little bit of entertainment. Although there was still much entertainment to be had in the market, what with the daily fights, quarrels, and killings in plain sight; but at least one could not get hurt or killed from looking at a movie screen. Besides, it had been many long months since the war had broken out in December of 1989. No one since that time could have imagined been in a cinema, let alone been able to sit at home and watch TV. The very thought would have been impossible even. But here there were video clubs scattered all over the place, making those many long months since the beginning of the war look as if they never were. But what was even more important was that these video clubs made the days a lot more bearable, especially if one felt idle. They could even have been said to infuse some sense of peace into a war thought of as made and senseless.
Kollie noticed that many of the boys were more or less of his own age. From the way they were dressed, many with barely a shirt on their backs, he could tell that they were urchins, pickpockets and yanna boys who often came to loiter about in the market. One boy was dressed in a pair of denim shorts with holes that left his buttocks peeping like two black eyes, and one foot of a pair of yellow shower slippers. Another boy had on a pair of slippers that was almost ten times his size. But most of the boys went about barefoot and one of them had a slight limp and a dirty bandage tied round his leg.
Kollie stopped in front of the video club and looked at the movie posters, done on canvas by local artists and with life-size figures that were almost as tall as he. There were three movie posters on display. One featured ‘Diabolo’, the other ‘Who Killed Nancy?’ and the third ‘Invasion USA.’ Kollie looked at the poster of ‘Diablo’, a beast with the head of a man and the body of a big black snake. A small crowd had gathered to take a look at the posters. A small boy, one had pointing at the posters tacked on the wall, the other holding a pan full of potato leaves on his head, was talking about the movie ‘Diabolo’. Often, someone else who had seen the movie once would interrupt him. But the others only looked on or asked questions.
Apparently, ‘Diabolo’ was about a man, a wealthy Ghanaian, who would convince one or another young girl to become his bride. Then he would take her to some place, usually a hotel room, lure her into a deep sleep, transform into a snake, and enter her body. Then a few minutes later he would come out of her and transform back into himself. And it would follow that when the girl became conscious again she would immediately start coughing, which would be followed by brand new American bills that came out of her mouth, as if from a gambling machine. Diabolo would then collect the money into a large bag and, after his victim was dead, disappeared. Often used as an allusion for women who would follow a man merely for his money and so sell their souls to the Devil, ‘Diabolo’ soon became a favorite in those days of the war.
He ought to see the movie, thought Kollie. He reached into his pocked for the five Liberian dollars which, since travelling from NPFL territory the day earlier, he had brought as his only means of sustenance. But he realized it was only a little amount of money, could be best used only for food, and would probably last three or four days at most. He sighed and shook his head then turned away from the movie posters. Placing his old traveling bag beside him, he sat down on a block next to the video club and began to watch the boys with marbles at play.
He noticed that many of them, especially the small boy whose buttocks peeped out of the back of his trousers and the other with the bandage round his leg, were skillful. The two often aimed and shot at their target with startling precision, and most of the time they did not miss. It would be fun to play, wouldn’t it? thought Kollie, observing with growing interest how the boys went about their play.
But a game of marbles wouldn’t have come as something new to Kollie. Probably he was even capable of showing the same mastery as one of the boys. But it had been long ago, two years or more. Perhaps he was no longer as skillful as before. But why not try and see what he was worth? And besides, wouldn’t it be interesting to feel the child he had been before the war, especially now that he could no longer feel the weight of the AK-47 rifle slung over his shoulder? His eyes glinting with delight, like a child on seeing a parent return home after a long, long absence, he got up.
Almost immediately, like a flash, a thought struck him. He would need to buy the marbles with which to play. That meant spending half or perhaps the whole five dollars. And where would he get the money with which to buy food?
For a moment he did not know what to do, like a man who finds himself at an unknown intersection and knows not which road to follow. I would like to play, he decided, shrugging his shoulders. He put his hand into his trousers pocket, removed the five-dollar bill, and sauntered towards the nearest group of players.
To be cont’d.