“So we are not going to talk about the fact that the Bible chronicles Africa, and we are in Africa, the savages we preach the word to, that they created the word?”
He turned towards brother Sam, drawing the cigarette from between his lips and down to his sides. The ocean waves roared, his feet felt cold on the beach sand, Brother Sam kept his gaze away, towards the oceans beyonds.
He had pretty much given up on an answer when Sam finally replied,
“So what do you want them to believe? That they are Kings? That they are better than us?” When Sam turned to him it was with an oddly disinterested look, like what he had been thinking about since the Queens ship docked at Elmina bay was not worth a conversation on. He drew the cigarette back to his lips, Sam turned to walk away before he could think up a reply. “Im taking a walk John, forget about this nonsense”
Sister Mary and the girls preferred evening mass at the beach, never mind the mosquitoes, women… At 6 they came with the castles truck to the beach side, sweaters pulled to their sides as if too much time under the sun had rid their blood of English weather, Mary in the front seat chattering away at Ato, the local driver, two sisters behind, two more in the trunk with the chairs, napkins, chalices, wine. Ato came back for the men later.
As was ritual, after mass, Brother John and Sam took a walk along the beach, each dependent on the other on the mutual denial of their tobacco addiction. John was relatively new, this was Sam’s third, he had come from Nigeria to the Gambia before here, painfully bored with the whole process. His grey hair and blue eyes hid it well, but sometimes harbored racist sentiments seeped through the father figure demeanor.
That evening as he sat behind his writing desk, the candle light looming over his face, his large shadow cast over the room, he thought about Sam’s reaction. “Do we want them to think they are better than us?”
In the morning he had Breakfast with Sister Mary, bread toast, bacon, coffee, it was easy to forget once inside the castles walls sometimes that he was truly away from England, away from the smell and plush of the parish, the transient walks after Sunday Mass, from his mother, his fragile Ma who had held him by the face when he was 12 and said, “well Jonathan, you can be whatever you want to be you know? And a Priest is a very fine thing to be, you go ahead and do what your heart tells you to”
Mary spoke as she often did about everything that could be spoken of, it was a Tuesday and they were expecting fresh supplies from the Dock.
“Oh my John, your arm”
He tilted the back of his hands and saw the bright red spots, “Damn mosquitoes, must be from mass last night”
She fell quiet, he knew she thought of her brother who had died from Malaria last March.
In the afternoon, he met with Brother Sam again. They spoke a little, then rode off on their bicycles, Sam was heading towards the western area, he was never too pleased about the Western area.
In the quiet, John made his way towards the North, there he knew Peter was waiting in his discolored robes, a smile on his face, he had been through so much and yet he always met him with a smile and bad English. “Wekcome broza Yon, Peace bi to yiu”. He found himself hoping Peter had taken initiative and prepared a crowd, he hated going from hut to hut to invite the locals, the way these people lived…. His heart sunk. Was he to feel guilty for being born lucky? For living a life that people like Peter didn’t even believe possible? Peter had been disowned by his family, he wasn’t allowed to ever return home, people spat on the ground after he passed them by, and he had witnessed this himself a couple of times, all this, for God, and yet God had placed them on different parts of the world. All of Peters sacrifice to God and he, the one questioning God’s existence even now was the one who drank tea and brushed toast crumbs off his white (in the proper sense of the word) robes every morning…this morning.
The sermon was on being your brothers keeper. After, he sat back up on his bicycle, the women, and they were always more than the men, waved him goodbye, their naked children clinging unto their feet, awed by the paleness of his skin no doubt. “Bai Bai Broza Yon”, and the children waved too, the brave of them chased after him “Broza Yon! Broza Yon!” Why had he stuck to the almanac….why didn’t he tell them they were kings?