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Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 16

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When they finally arrived at Abba, it was dusk, the windshield was coated in ocher dust, and Baby was asleep.


Richard was surprised when he heard the announcement that the federal government had declared a police action to bring the rebels to order. Kainene was not.

"It's the oil," she said. "They can't let us go easily with all that oil. But the war will be brief. Madu says Ojukwu has big plans. He suggested I donate some foreign exchange to the war cabinet, so that when this ends I'll get any contract I bid for."

Richard stared at her. She did not seem to understand that he could not comprehend a war at all, brief or not.

"It's best if you move your things to Port Harcourt until we drive the Nigerians back," Kainene said. She was scanning a newspaper and nodding her head to the Beatles on the stereo and she made it seem normal, that war was the inevitable outcome of events and that moving his things from Nsukka was simply as it should be.

"Yes, of course," he said.

Her driver took him. Checkpoints had sprung up everywhere, tires and nail-studded boards placed across the road, men and women in khaki shirts with expressionless, disciplined demeanors standing by. The first two were easy to pass. "Where are you going?" they asked, and waved the car through. But near Enugu, the civil defenders had blocked the road with tree trunks and old rusty drums. The driver stopped.

"Turn back! Turn back!' A man peered through the window; he was holding a long piece of wood carefully carved to look like a rifle. "Turn back!"

"Good afternoon," Richard said. "I work at the university in Nsukka and I am on my way there. My houseboy is there. I have to get my manuscript and some personal belongings."

"Turn back, sah. We will drive the vandals back soon."

"But my manuscript and my papers and my houseboy are there. You see, I didn't take anything. I didn't know."

"Turn back, sah. That is our order. It is not safe. But soon, when we drive the vandals back, you can return."

"But you must understand." Richard leaned farther forward.

The man's eyes narrowed while the large eye painted on his shirt underneath the word vigilance seemed to widen. 'Are you sure you are not an agent of the Nigerian government? It is you white people who allowed Gowon to kill innocent women and children."

"Abu m onye Biafra," Richard said.

The man laughed, and Richard was not sure if it was a pleasant or an unpleasant laugh. "Eh, a white man who is saying that he is a Biafran! Where did you learn to speak our language?"

"From my wife."

"Okay, sah. Don't worry about your things in Nsukka. The roads will be clear in a few days."

The driver reversed, and as he drove back the way they had come, Richard kept looking back at the blocked road until he could no longer see it. He thought about how easily those Igbo words had slipped out of him. "I am a Biafran." He did not know why, but he hoped the driver would not tell Kainene that he had said that. He hoped, too, that the driver would not tell Kainene that he had referred to her as his wife.

Susan called some days later. It was late morning and Kainene was at one of her factories.

"I didn't know you had Kainene's number," Richard said. Susan laughed.

"I heard Nsukka was evacuated and I knew you would be with her. So how are you? Are you all right?"


"You didn't have trouble evacuating, did you?" Susan asked. "You're all right?"

"I'm all right." He was touched by her concern.

"Right. So what are your plans?"

"I will be here for now."

"It's not safe, Richard. I'm not staying here longer than another week. These people never fight civilized wars, do they? So much for calling it a civil war." Susan paused. "I rang the British Council in Enugu and I can't believe our people there are still going off to play water polo and have cocktails at the Hotel Presidential! There's a bloody war going on."

"It will be cleared up soon."

"Cleared up, ha! Nigel is leaving in two days. Nothing is going to clear up; this war will drag on for years. Look what happened in the Congo. These people have no sense of peace. They'd sooner fight until the last man is down-"

Richard hung up while Susan was still speaking, surprising himself by the rudeness. There was a part of him that wished he could help her, throw away the bottles of liquor in her cabinet and wipe away the paranoia that scarred her life. Perhaps it was a good thing she was leaving. He hoped she would find happiness, with Nigel or otherwise. He was still occupied with thoughts of Susan, half hoping she would not call again and half hoping she would, when Kainene came home. She kissed his cheeks, his lips, his chin. "Did you spend the day worrying about Harrison and In the Time of Roped Pots?" she asked.

"Of course not," he said, even though they both knew it was a lie.

" Harrison will be fine. He must have packed up and gone to his village."

"Yes, he must have," Richard said.

"He probably took the manuscript with him."

"Yes." Richard remembered how she had destroyed his first real manuscript, The Basket of Hands, how she had led him to the orchard, to the pile of charred paper under his favorite tree, her face all the time expressionless; and how afterward he had felt not blame or anger but hope.

"There was another rally in town today, at least a thousand people walking, and many cars covered in green leaves," she said. "I wish they would stick to fields instead of blocking major roads. I've already donated money and I won't be held up in the hot sun just to help further Ojukwu's ambition."

"It's about a cause, Kainene, not a man."

"Yes, the cause of benign extortion. You know taxi drivers no longer charge soldiers? They get offended when a soldier offers to pay the fare. Madu says there is a group of women at the barracks every other day, from all sorts of backwater villages, bringing yams and plantains and fruit to the soldiers. These are people who have nothing themselves."

"It's not extortion. It's the cause."

"The cause indeed." Kainene shook her head but she looked amused. "Madu told me today that the army has nothing, absolutely nothing. They thought Ojukwu had arms piled up somewhere, given the way he's been talking, 'No power in Black Africa can defeat us!' So Madu and some of the officers who came back from the North went to tell him that we have no arms, no mobilization of troops, and that our men are training with wooden guns, for goodness' sake! They wanted him to release his stockpiled arms. But he turned around and said they were plotting to overthrow him. Apparently he has no arms at all and he plans to defeat Nigeria with his fists." She raised a fist and smiled. "But I do think he is terribly attractive: that beard alone."

Richard said nothing. He wondered, fleetingly, if he should grow a beard.

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