FEB 9, 2023
"You are going soft on me again."
"No. I'm trying my best."
She gently squeezed the trigger and the revolver barked loudly. Though she had fired numerous rounds, she had not grown accustomed to the sound, or the acrid smell of gunpowder that made her feel villainous. However, she was impressed by how effective the gun was.
"You have four more bullets. Don't miss."
She squeezed and fired over and over again and struck her mark twice out of the four bullets. It agitated him to see her laxity, and this irritated her.
"Look at your shoulders. You are tense. You need to relax. Calm down."
"Just leave me alone to figure this out," she retorted as she emptied the revolver and reloaded it.
He took a step back and watched her fire again. Three out of five. She emptied it and reloaded took her stance and fired again. Three out of five once again. Her frustration finally flared up and she dropped the gun onto the makeshift table and trudged off angrily towards the beach.
"Banou, where are you going?" Mzee Tembo shouted at her.
She waved him off as she pulled out her cigarettes, put one on her lips and lit it. Mzee Tembo cleverly chose to remain by the table. He picked up his own revolver, loaded it and fired five shots, dead centre at the same spot. He loved this craft and was utterly grateful for this talent. He only missed targets by choice.
"Why," he wondered, "was he the only one who loved guns the way he did?" He reloaded and fired again.
"Perfect," he muttered under his breath, as he took off his browline glasses and wiped the lenses clean with the corner of his shirt.
So intense was that moment, that he did not see Banou as she stared at him as he repeated the exercise. Now calmer, she approached him slowly with her partially smoked cigarette stuck between her fore and middle fingers on her left hand.
"You really love guns. Do you know that? Like, in an unhealthy manner."
That perplexed him.
"Unhealthy? This has been my life. I am a military man, so guns come with the territory. Also, look at how well they control a situation. Yes, Gwafa briefed me on how well you handled your end of Cote d'Ivoire."
"So they gave reports on me? Backstabbers!"
"No Banou. Not like that. It was your first time in action with a gun. It was important to know you could handle yourself and there is no better place to get tested than in the field in real action. Whatever outfit we have become, I train you guys and set the plan, and it would devastate me if anyone was injured because I could not do either of those things effectively."
"How about if you had chosen to ask me? I could have told you everything you needed to know."
She dumbfounded him and he drew similarities to his experience from the constant arguments he had endured with his adolescent daughter and infrequently with Una. The significance of her position failed him.
"Banou. . ."
"No!" she cut him off. " I don't like people discussing me behind my back. I know what I am, what I was, and how I ended up here and it was this vilification that nearly ruined my life and destroy my career."
She pursed her lips furiously round the cigarette, drew heavily from it one last time, flicked it, wrapped her palm around the revolver, loaded it, took her position, and fired in quick succession. She got five hits squarely.
"Ha! You see. You could do it. Right there."
He celebrated. She didn't.
Mapacha watched the fatigued sweaty labourers pile onto the Toyota Dyna 1900 armed with their tools. Their skin glistened from their labour and the intense afternoon sun that had punished them. The foreman closed his final review of the work his men had accomplished, beamed with satisfaction at a job well done and shook Mapacha's hand in agreement. Mapacha counted the day's wages and handed them over, and the foreman grabbed his hand again with as meaningful a sense of obligation as he could master and quickly strode to his lorry. As it drove off and left a trail of dark putrid smoke, Mapacha finally heard the silence surround him and suddenly it was the waves and the birdcall of the cormorant, the overhead shrill of the gulls, and the silence once more.
The residence he had elected to build upon his land, though simple in design was large, by island standards. Five bedrooms that all faced the beach, each ensuite. He failed to see the contradiction of the house yet he really just wanted to live alone. His shack on the desolate beach that only a handful of people dared to approach was a testament to that.
He walked round the slab and the round his land for the umpteenth time that day. By now, he recognised every rock and grain of sand. He leapt over the ditches and furrows and reached the estuary where he watched it silt as it poured its wealth into the Atlantic. He then walked back up to the main road where he had left his EFS and stared at the tiny seedlings that he had planted that day. Some day, they would obscure the view from the road, and he would have total privacy. He followed the trail of sand that covered the trench he had dug over the past few days. Within it, he had personally laid the water pipe and now only needed the council to come and connect him. He could almost taste the fruits of his efforts.
The foreman had assured him that while he was away, he would drive out twice a day and personally wet the slab to ensure it cured properly. Mapacha's next stop was the tiny makeshift corrugated iron store that housed the construction material. Unprompted, his mind raced to Abril. Was it peculiar she had not asked him to bring her to the site? There was no way he would know that this was partly out of respect for his space, and partly because she had partially succumbed to the fears that his future plans did not involve her. He picked a bucket, fetched water from the large plastic tank and drenched the slab. The persistent questions plagued him again. Why did she love him? Why did she have to love him?