Sunrise

Liviu Radu • 11:03 - 02.06.2008 • 

When I first met him, Halting Sam was very old. He got to look like he was made of skin and bones. Black, rippled, shriveled skin. Bones pricked through it, trying to get out…
Although, he was very well dressed, considering the local fashion. His old time fashion that young people were not entirely following. He was wearing a big ornament made of wood and feathers in his nose. On his left nostril he sewed a nacreous button, a counterpane one. The holes in the ears’ lobes were so large, that they stand for pockets. He put in two bamboo pipes, in which he was keeping all sorts of little things. The only concession made to the modern age was the tie around his haunches, a dirty texture hiding his sex. If he would be young and strong he wouldn’t probably wear it…
His left leg, shorter, with the foot twisted to one side (consequence of some untreated fracture) was giving him a strange amble. He seemed to unceasing crumble to one side…
His name was not Sam. I called him like this, because I could not utter his real name. A succession of strange sounds, something like „Ouni-tuni-tami”, that in the local dialect (which only few old people were talking, the rest of them preferring a mixture of Papuan and English) was meaning, „Halting man that knows ancient things”.
At the beginning I hated him, then I tolerated him. Finally, we became friends…
I hated him because every morning, at dawn, before sunrise, he was installing himself in the center of the little village, in front of the huts covered by palm leaves, and was starting some sort of litany, accompanied by knockings in a little drum. The long roar, modulated in a bizarre rhythm, without any musicality, was exactly what I needed after a hardworking previous day in the jungle. He was terribly getting on my nerves. I hardly mastered my temper to loose some bullet on him, to make a hole in his parchment-like skin…
Finally, I became inured to his early yells. In fact, after some time, I was waking up before he started his concert. I was adapting the rhythm of the jungle life. I was going to bed as soon as the sunset, and I was waking up at dawn. I couldn’t do anything else. First of all, in that hamlet lost in the forests of the Papua Mountains there was no entertainment. There was no way to spend the night. Women look terribly there. Aged before their time, deformed by births and hard work… And the local way of making up (white and red paint, striping the black complexion) and the short, bashed in noses, but with large holes in the cartilage, in which they were sticking all sorts of filthy things of wood, bone and feathers, making me to throw up. One should have a terrible sexual appetite to be attracted by such women… Neither listening to the radio broadcasts from Borneo, Sarawack, Singapore and Darwin didn’t lure me more… On the other hand, even if in that place forgotten by God would exist a thrilling night life, like in Las Vegas or Acapulco, it wouldn’t interest me. I was coming back from the jungle so tired that most of the times I was asleep before dinner was ready…
I was having a serious contract with an Australian company that had granted the right to rummage the New Guinea Mountains, searching for copper. I don’t know who got the idea into their heads that there were huge deposits.

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