The Locust Boy
By Fareed Ismail (Sudan)
Excerpt from a Novel
A dusty breath of a wind blew and two dishes flew in the air, but the tray only turned over and rolled madly like a tire running straight in the street, so the restaurant master cried for the busy boy who was doing some services.
"Go …run boy and collect our dishes before the aluminum guys pick them up."
He meant the boys who were collecting everything made of steel or aluminum. Be it
a kettle, a statue or a pan, they take them all to be sent for the recycling centers, so they look carefully for even the cast spoons and trays. Thus the drinking cup handle was knotted with a thin rope to be more secure from a sudden stealth.
"Mayo….Mayo….Mayo…Ma…" the short man cried when a bus appeared.
Yabba hurried with the speed of a chased burglar who's escaping from ten lionized wreathing men. He ran toward the bus which stopped a distance from the crowd, but the mean conductor inside the bus never liked to open the gate for the flooding jostlers. So the door was strongly closed while some annoyed men began knocking it with fists.
"Open the gate," said an angry one.
"Soon!" cried another.
"We are not going to Mayo, oh guys!" said the driver.
"We are not going at all," added the hypocritical conductor.
But the knocks were serious and the conductor's gate would be broken in this way. So he opened it and Yabba wasn't far then so he just rushed in, throwing his body from among the crowd with the same skill of a thinfaced one-eyed ghost getting into a little hole. He did that carrying the steel bag which was like a miracle.
After minutes the bus filled, but the driver began to mumble, saying that he was forced to go to Mayo and so on. So he couldn't go. He hadn't taken a breakfast since the sun rose. He had just passed by the station and the man had cried "Mayo…Mayo…."
He was putting himself in the place of a victim, but that never worked. Soon some volunteers offered to give him a breakfast. Others said they would wait.
The driver couldn't add anything as the mirror showed his changing face to the passengers. He was a dizzy-like guy, homing a ton of tobacco that set his lower lip firmly.
"What a lucky guy!" whispered someone. "If not this old weary bus he would be an undertaker, a famous gravedigger, coffinknitter or any job in the slaughterhouse or mortuary.
"The ticket is five hundreds, oh guys, five hundreds for each person, not less!" the driver spoke at last.
"Five?" cried a guy.
"We would never pay you five!" another one argued.
"The ticket is three hundreds. Be a man," another voice called.
"Every insect who drives a bus pretends he's a pharaoh!"
"Yes, pharaoh. Five...five… If you don't like it, please get out of my bus!" replied the driver.
"YOUR bus? Ha…ha… Even the blind can't believe you are a bus owner." scorned one voice loudly.
So the driver knew that this crowd had got its fortress and there was no power on the earth that could let them out.
He pulled something and pressed the car up-once with the boot so the bus began to move and many guys clapped for that. Others whistled and others in the far corner called "God is great! God can do anything!"
The smoke fled again from the bus's broken exhaust fume, drawing circles and snakes in the air while the dust began to slap every face and the sun started to cook every skin for many windows were without glass.
For two hours bus-dwellers could enjoy the view of the houses beside the road. Their roofs were not in one level. Children were casting little pebbles and bottles while others were doing some sexy signs with fingers and hands and so on.
The earth began to disown more fine and coarse grains when the tires pressed them under great pressure on the unpaved road. This gave the driver a great tense mood as he struggled to control his steering wheel, which was an old design,
The conductor then began collecting the fees by ringing some coins together, giving a sound like "kishick…kishick" and so on. He went on that way, collecting the sums, smiling until someone gave him something.
"Yaaah" cried the conductor. "We said five hundreds, not two, one, two, three, four five. This is not a charity!"
"I swear… this is all I got," said the thin passenger and added "Today in the market I just slipped in the morning and…."
The conductor left him and moved to the other guys who seemed more gentle. They paid fours and five hundreds as required so the smile appeared again on his face, but the good time never lasted long.
Then, after these good guys, he reached another thread - a guy who simply said "I haven't."
"I have a shilling. I swear I have a drat in the pockets. I swear," the poor guy added.
The conductor whistled so the driver could pull over and drop that guy out, but the driver was overwhelmed with his scarecrow so he heard nothing.
Then another thread let the conductor forget the first one. It was an out-of date note so he seriously replied to the old woman that working with these notes has gone."
"Gone?" she replied.
"Yes…auntie. It's invalid," he replied
"Hi boy, the shopkeeper gave it to me.. a note made by the state. I have never understood politics. The shopkeeper is a good guy. Above all, he would never cheat anyone," replied the old woman.
This let the conductor hesitate so he left her to reach another guy with another excuse, but the bus kept moving.