“The First Stone” by Dee Turbon, Scotland

Change July 19, 2011 20:31





topic: CHANGE medium: TEXT

I took an oath. My hand on the book and I said I would not go. Swore to her I would not. Trust me, I said. I am an honest man and though my pockets are empty, I am my father’s son and I speak truth always. I meant what I said. On the street the promise was that it would be a day of peace and soft-spoken words, and flowers there’d be and they’d offer them to the soldiers and call them brother and gift smiles to these hard-faced men with guns. Still I vowed not to go, and what worth is a man if his words have no value?

‘He is worth nothing,’ Hagar said, and she wiped away tears and kissed my hands and pulled our firstborn, Babafemi, close.

But some of us are made fools by what we say. Truly I did not mean to go. I sat on the step outside the house, one hand raised to make a shadow against the sun, and I shared my cigarette with Chibale. We talked of the times we were in. He said history was being written right under our very noses and I made a joke that I do now forget. Chibale laughed, that I remember, a gap-toothed crow-scatter laugh that turned heads in the street.

Then was a small gathering about us and Chibale repeated the joke I’d made and someone slapped my back and shook my hand and we were all smiles, even Ako who sits alone most days, begging to live. There was a tide then, in that small group of likeminded men, and it turned towards the square and what was happening there, and the promises we had made to our wives, to all our wives, those promises were forgot.

It was as the people had said it would be; at first it was. There were flowers and laughter and men held hands and kissed the cheeks of strangers. Music there was, too, and dancing and hearts raised. Like it was carnival. I thought of Hagar and wished she was by me. I thought she might forgive the breaking of my word, for a man should be where history is made so that he might one day tell his children, and his children‘s children; that would be my argument.

I do not know what it was that changed. Sudden it seemed to me. Maybe a word was said by one of the soldiers or something was thrown or the sun was hotter for a moment. On such small things does a day turn. There were angry words and shots fired and smoke drifted across the square and spilled blood was under my feet. The people screamed and the soldiers cursed. I thought of Hagar and Babafemi and history and what must be done to change the world. Promises are easily broken; it is blood that counts. And I was hot then with hate and I bent to pick a stone from the ground.

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