Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 8

"If we had more men like Major Nzeogwu in this country, we would not be where we are today," Master said. "He actually has a vision!"

"Isn't he a Communist?" It was the the green-eyed Professor Lehman. "He went to Czechoslovakia when he was at Sandhurst."

"You Americans, always peering under people's beds to look for communism. Do you think we have time to worry about that?" Master asked. "What matters is whatever will make our people move forward. Let's assume that a capitalist democracy is a good thing in principle, but if it is our kind-where somebody gives you a dress that they tell you looks like their own, but it doesn't fit you and the buttons have fallen off-then you have to discard it and make a dress that is your own size. You simply have to!"

"Too much rhetoric, Odenigbo," Miss Adebayo said. "You can't make a theoretical case for the military."

Ugwu felt better; this was the sparring he was used to.

"Of course I can. With a man like Major Nzeogwu, I can," Master said. "Ugwu! More ice!"

"The man is a Communist," Professor Lehman insisted. His nasal voice annoyed Ugwu, or perhaps it was simply that Professor Lehman had the same fair hair as Mr. Richard but none of the quiet dignity. He wished Mr. Richard still came. He clearly remembered his last visit, months before Baby was born, but other memories of those tumultuous weeks were faded now, incomplete; he had been so afraid that Master and Olanna would never reunite and his world would crumble that he did not eavesdrop much. He would not even have known that Mr. Richard was involved in the quarrel if Harrison had not told him.

"Thank you, my good man." Master took the bowl of ice and clinked some into his glass.

"Yes, sah," Ugwu said, watching Olanna. Her head was supported by her clasped hands. He wished he could truly feel sorry for her friend the politician who had been killed, but politicians were not like normal people, they were politicians. He read about them in the Renaissance and Daily Times-they paid thugs to beat opponents, they bought land and houses with government money, they imported fleets of long American cars, they paid women to stuff their blouses with false votes and pretend to be pregnant. Whenever he drained a pot of boiled beans, he thought of the slimy sink as politician.

That night, he lay in his room in the Boys' Quarters and tried to concentrate on The Mayor of Casterbridge, but it was difficult. He hoped Chinyere would slip under the hedge and come over; they never planned it, she just appeared on some days and didn't on others. He ached for her to come on this exciting night of the coup that had changed the order of things and throbbed with possibility with newness. When he heard her tap on the window, he offered up a bashful thanks to the gods.

"Chinyere," he said.

"Ugwu," she said.

She smelled of stale onions. The light was off, and in the thin stream that came from the security bulb outside he saw the cone-shaped rise of her breasts as she pulled her blouse off, untied the wrapper around her waist, and lay on her back. There was something moist about the darkness, about their bodies close together, and he imagined that she was Nnesinachi and that the taut legs encircling him were Nnesinachi's. She was silent at first and then, hips thrashing, her hands tight around his back, she called out the same thing she said every time. It sounded like a name-Abonyi, Abonyi-but he wasn't sure. Perhaps she imagined that he was someone else too, someone back in her village.

She got up and left as silently as she came. When he saw her the next day across the hedge, hanging out clothes on the line, she said "Ugwu" and nothing else; she did not smile.


Olanna postponed her trip to Kano because of the coup. She waited until the airports were reopened, the Post and Telegraphs up again, the military governors appointed to the regions. She waited until she was sure there was order. But the coup was in the air. Everyone was talking about it, even the taxi driver in the white hat and caftan who drove her and Baby from the airport to Arize's compound.

"But the Sardauna was not killed, madam," he whispered. "He escaped with Allah's help and is now in Mecca." Olanna smiled gently and said nothing because she knew that this man, with his prayer beads dangling from his rearview mirror, needed to believe that. The Sardauna, after all, had not only been premier of the North, he had also been the spiritual leader for this man and so many Muslims like him.

She told Arize about the taxi driver's comment, and Arize shrugged and said, "There is nothing that they are not saying." Arize's wrapper was pushed low, below her waist, and her blouse was loose-fitting to accommodate the swell of her belly. They sat in the living room with photos of Arize and Nnakwanze's wedding on the oily wall, while Baby played with the children in the compound. Olanna did not want Baby to touch those children in their torn clothes, milky mucus trailing from their noses, but she didn't say so; it shamed her that she felt that way.

"We'll catch the first flight to Lagos tomorrow, Ari, so you can rest before we start shopping. I don't want to do anything that will be difficult for you," Olanna said.

"Ha, difficult! I am only pregnant, Sister, I am not sick, oh. Is it not women like me who work on the farm until the baby wants to come out? And am I not the one sewing that dress?" Arize pointed to the corner, where her Singer sewing machine was on a table amid a pile of clothes.

"My concern is for my godchild in there, not for you," Olanna said. She raised Arize's blouse and placed her face against the firm roundness of Arize's belly, against the stretched-tight skin, in the gentle ritual she had been doing since Arize became pregnant; if she did it often enough, Arize said, the child would imbibe her features and look like her.

"I don't care about the outside," Arize said. "But she must look like you on the inside. She must have your brain and know Book."

"Or he."

"No, this one is a girl, you will see. Nnakwanze says it will be a boy who will resemble him, but I told him that God will not allow my child to have that flat face."

Olanna laughed. Arize got up and opened an enamel box and brought out some money. "See what Sister Kainene sent me last week. She said I should use it to buy things for the baby"

"It was nice of her." Olanna knew she sounded stilted, knew Arize was watching her.

"You and Sister Kainene should talk. What happened in the past is in the past."

"You can only talk to the person who wants to talk to you," Olanna said. She wanted to change the subject. She always wanted to change the subject when Kainene came up. "I better take Baby to greet Aunty Ifeka." She hurried out to fetch Baby before Arize could say anything else.

She washed some sand off Baby's face and hands before they walked out of the compound and down the road. Uncle Mbaezi was not yet back from the market, and they sat with Aunty Ifeka on a bench in front of her kiosk, Baby on Olanna's lap. The yard was filling with the chatter of neighbors and the shrieks of children running around under the kuka tree. Somebody was playing loud music from a gramophone; soon, a cluster of men by the compound gate began to laugh and jostle one another, mimicking the song. Aunty Ifeka laughed, too, and clapped her hands.

"What's funny?" Olanna asked.

"That is Rex Lawson's song," Aunty Ifeka said.

"What is funny about it?"

"Our people say that the chorus sounds like mmee-mmee-mmee, the bleating of a goat." Aunty Ifeka chuckled. "They say the Sardauna sounded like that when he was begging them not to kill him. When the soldiers fired a mortar into his house, he crouched behind his wives and bleated, 'Mmee-mmee-mmee, please don't kill me, mmee-mmee-mmee!'"

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