· The Quatuor of African Novels in a single ebook
· Zapinette Baguette and Tagliatelle
· Eur-African Exiles
· Leodine of the Belgian Congo
· Adopted by an American Homosexual in the Belgian Congo
· Princes and Gods
· I-sraeli Syndrome
· Rome, my sibling, my empress
· Ode to Mamica mia, Mother beloved
· Mother beloved, Mamica mia
· The age of the pearl
· New York Bonus
· The spell of Mayaland
· Fast food Lisette
· Souk Secrets
· The writer as a chameleon - bilingualism in three continents
· Crisis and creativity in the new literatures in English
· To my fellow poets
· Pixel power, from his book, CWS2
· Lost identity
· Emotionally trashed
· Remembrance of a corrected past
· The little things that add up in life
· Cormorant of Yangshuo, from his book Futureyes
· Call of the Falasha, from his book Futureyes
· Now, then and forever, from his book CWS2
· Choo-choo boy, from his book CWS2 (The Crowded World of Solitude, volume2)
· Life Achievement Award for Literature
· fiction, poetry and photo books by Albert Russo
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young African torn between tradition and modernity
SPIRIT OF TAR
first appeared in Chandrabhaga (India)
It happened on a sweltering hot afternoon. A storm was gathering overhead. Lightning whipped the leaden sky, crackling ominously in skull-splitting resonance.
Having paid his respects to his parents, Karumi watched with growing impatience for a sign from the heavens. It was as dark as dusk and he was eager to get back to the city. Karumi had never really recovered from the fateful occurence which took place, while still a child, in this very same village. The elements had broken loose and he'd taken shelter under a mango tree when of a sudden a ball of fire licked the top of a beautiful eucalyptus, turned it ashen, broke it at its base and sent it crashing in flames across the village's outlying huts. Nature’s wrath had thus consumed half a dozen lives, among whose were Karumi’s two elder brothers and an old uncle. Secretly, Karumi was still holding a grudge against the gods and, year after year at the advent of the rainy season, that feeling rekindled in his heart. He would disclose this to no one lest he be reprimanded by his now ageing folks or scoffed at by his westernized friends. It was a war he obstinately waged against the spirits of his ancestors. A deceitful and solitary war of nerves.
Karumi scanned the horizon once again and concluded that the storm had passed by the village, heading for the hills. He then took leave of his parents and mounted the dashing chrome-plated bike he'd acquired the previous week. It wis a sturdy Belgian two-wheeler which cost him three months’ salary. Fitted with white-wall tires, four gears, a dual lamp and an electric hooter, the Flandria was Karumi’s pride. He cherished it almost like a person. Actually, hetreated his Faindria as though it possessed a soul of its own. Yet, at the back of his mind, Karumi wasn’t quite sure whether it had a soul such as depicted by the Christians who taught him catechism or a spirit descended from his African ancestry. This thought bothered him at first but soon, in the wish to dispel any superstitious fears, he settled for the soul, thus rejoining, so he believed, his more enlightened peers.
Karumi rode cautiously over the three-odd kilometers of dirt track that snaked through the savannah, avoiding, when he could, the potholes and those sharp-edged stones that treacherously jutted out of tufts of burnt grass. At the sight of the road, he took a deep breath. “Back to civilization!" he exclaimed as he felt his Flandria tires hug the tar. Now Karumi had wings in his feet and, bent over the handlebar like a racing cyclist, he cleaved the air in total rapture. Once in a while he’d dart a glance toward the opaque, low-ceilinged sky. The danger of a cloudburst had definitely shifted southward. As he gathered speed an unexpected feeling of anger gripped him. That feeling which in moments of high exhilaration stealthily and without warning slips into the opposite pole of one's being. A strange sense of relish spiced Karumi's aggressive mood. He was speaking loudly, cursing the spirits. Initially the words he'd hurl at them appeared incoherent. Starting at his ankles then spreading to his other limbs, a sense of power gradually permeated Karumi's whole body. The road belonged to him and so did the horizon. But there was something else too. It was that other thing which Karumi couldn't fathom that spurred his anger. It had to do, he surmised, with the spirits.
Furiously clutching at the handlebar as he pedalled, Karumi had the certainty he could conjure up those ancestral spirits of the dead. He began to address them in unabashed defiance. At some point he even seemingly engaged in a two-way conversation. He felt uneasy about it and would provide the answers to seIf-formulated queries. Contrary to their assertion, the spirits did not wrench that ball of fire from the heavens with the intent of killing his uncle and two brothers. That was witch-doctor talk and Karumi had been to school long enough to know about the laws of physics. Why then did they still harass him? Karumi passed that one. With all their will, they couldn't change the course of progress. Their wisdom was of another age. If they had truly created the world out of nothingness and were so omniscient, where were they hiding when his people stood under the yoke of colonialism? Suddenly they were all reappearing after so many years during which the nation had become independent and endured countless hardships. And with what purpose? To criticize the behavior of the young folk, instilling fear and remorse in them that were far more vicious than anything the European devils might have inflicted upon them.
Pumping away at maximum velocity and with reinforced invective, Karumi dared the spirits to challenge him. A thunderbolt rent the air, chilling the young man's spine for a fraction of a moment. He shrugged off the warning and made an obscene gesture with his fist. For some unexplainable reason, while still flinging abuse at the spirits, Karumi's eyes became glued to the tar under the bike's front wheel. It was fascinating him. His attention was focused on the front wheel and the tar simultaneously. Tire and tar ... tire and tar ... tire and tar ... His mind got obfuscated, for he couldn't figure out which of the two was being swallowed by the other. He didn't even realize that he had started the descent of a slope. So far the road had followed a rectilinear course. Then it happened all at once. Karumi missed the curve. When he tried to redress the handlebar it was already too late. He and the Flandria tumbled over together as if they were made of one single piece, then they came crashing against the heavy metal railing. It took Karumi several seconds before he could face reality. The front wheel of his Flandria was spinning above ground, whirring like a wheel of fortune. His knee was bleeding profusely. Yet, Karumi was more concerned about the state of the Flandria. It had fortunately only suffered minor bumps alongside the frame. He just had to straighten out the handlebar and swivel the saddle to its original position. The downtube though was besmeared with layers of molten tar. That, he decided, would be dealt with once he reached home. So relieved was Karumi that his Flandria had survived the accident virtually unscathed that he forgot his own wound. Back on the road, the young man resolved to maintain a steady if moderate speed. He was whistling a popular tune when he felt the sting on his knee. Upon looking closer at each consecutive movement of the leg, Karumi noticed the black and purple clots which had formed over his wound. It no longer bled but appeared large and charred. A dark square of cinder against the amber-hued surface of his skin. The pain subsided and soon he gave it but a scant thought. He rode past the one and only milestone announcing the city. Merely 15 km. away. The sky hung in front of him like a silk veil of mourning and though the rain held off, Karumi's eyes were now rivetted to his knee. The scar had spread all the way down to his ankle. Might it be an optical illusion? Ancient images raced through his mind. He gazed at the road, then at his ankle, at the road again, and recognized an awesome similarity between these two. Yet, he couldn't make out what it was. At the far distance he perceived the city's twinkling lights. It was too late. Slowly, gradually, irreversibly, the surrounding darkness engulfed him.
Site: within The Crowded World of Solitude, volume 1, the collected stories
Reader Reviews for
"Spirit of Tar"
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|Reviewed by Damien Rickner
|Very interesting, full of things to ponder for such a short write. Well done.|
|Reviewed by Sandra Mushi
|Wonderful! Another cultural topic addressing the tug of war many African youngsters (from the rural areas especially) have to face.
You write extremely well, Albert. The words and imagery are very strong. You have the ability to draw the reader right in.
|Reviewed by Richard Hiebner
|Wow, well written, great use of description. Can almost feel the tension in the young man. Excellently told.|