Excerpt of A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez
(Page 2 of 6)
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Jack rubbed his head and stared out into the London night
remembering the tumult of sense and smell and noise as they
entered Kampala. His headache began to recede as he let the
memories flicker and spin. He remembered David exiting the
taxi, bending down and vomiting in the street, his skin pallid
as a corpse. Jack had crossed over to a stall, kids instantly surrounding
him, their little hands waving and clutching cheap
plastic objects he couldn't make sense of, old boxes of matches
and photocopied pictures ofMichael Jackson.He bought three
warm Cokes and came back to find Ben handing out crumpled
banknotes to the bright-eyed and smiling children.
They sat on their backpacks and drank the Coke, warm and
sickly sweet, and it was the best Coke they'd ever tasted.
The kids delighted themeven though they could see beyond
the smiles and welcomes to the grinding poverty which underlay
their lives. There were always more kids, more hands outstretched;
what they asked for was so little in English money
that it seemed mean to deny them, but then you found all your
time being taken by handing outmoney and you forgot to look
up at the buildings, the sky, the trees, the surly youngmen lounging
on every street corner.
They all went through it once: tears, jags of self-pity, wanting
desperately to go home even Ben, who'd travelled almost
everywhere by the time he'd got to university. 'Just good ol'
culture shock,' Jack quipped after Ben had come back from
the hostel toilet having found it overflowing, an army of cockroaches
big as baby shoes swarming over the bowl. When they
lay down on their pillows that evening they could smell other
men's nights, puke and booze and blood.
'I think we should pick up the car and get out of here,' Jack
suggested on the third day.
They paid twice what they'd agreed for the car back home
but it was still cheap they still thought in English money
and though the car, an old white Honda Civic, looked like it
would fall apart at the first kick of the engine, it managed to
glide effortlessly through the cracked and teeming streets of the
They took the MasakaKampala Road west out of the city.
In less than ten minutes the concrete gave way to flat pasture-
land, dry and cracked, small villages everywhere, circular patterns
of daub-and-wattle huts just visible on the side of the
highway. The road was empty apart from army vehicles blazing
down the fast lane, young soldiers bumping along in the beds of
open-backed trucks, their eyes lazily drifting to the three white
boys and then back to their cigarettes.
Theymade a detour down to the shores of Lake Victoria and
ate fruit and crackers as the sun flashed along the calm surface
of the water and Ben explained the history and naming of the
lake, the great foolish Victorians with their hats and pomp and
retinue of carriers and servants.
Jack suggested they head for Murchison Falls national park,
the name a siren song to him, its grandiloquence and archaic
quality like something out of a Sherlock Holmes novel.
'We could just stay inMasaka and check out the Ruwenzoris.'
Ben was consulting their second-hand guide book. 'What's
so special about Murchison Falls?'
'I love the way it sounds,' Jack replied, seduced as always by
the poetry of place names, the worlds conjured up by phonetic
'That's why you want to go there?' David had the gift of always
sounding flabbergasted, surprised at the world in all its
variance, an antidote to their measured and unearned cynicism.
The waters of Lake Victoria glowed like polished glass. 'Forget
the guide book,' Jack replied, staring out towards the dark
shadowed rim of the horizon, 'let's just start driving.'
Excerpted from A Dark Redemption
by Stav Sherez. Copyright © 2013 by Stav Sherez.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.