Adonis Diaries

He doesn’t know it: Sargent Alcide communes with the angels…

Posted on: October 3, 2012

He doesn’t know it: Sargent Alcide communes with angels…

This flat canoe lands me in Tobo, a town of 3 large thatched huts (in current State of Togo, Africa, a former French colony). The landing stage (embarcadero) was constructed with bamboo.  The molluscs ate the bamboo every month and the landing was to be rebuilt…

You have the fat Lieutenant Grappa, Sargent Alcide and a dozen hired aboregenous militias from the environs.

Sargent Alcide’s voice of “Garde a vous” can be heard miles away, while the bare-feet militias arrange sacs of dirt and engage in assault maneuvers trying to steal the enemy flag…

Sargent Alcide has established a side trade of tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol in his hut. The militia “soldiers” learned to smoke their monthly pay on credit, gathered by Alcide’s hut.

Grappa was judge on Thursday morning. The black villagers would walk two days to attend these curious trials and lodge complaints…Grappa invited me to attend one of these sessions. An old man received 20 blows from a supple baton that would make a mule moo for 8 days. Why?

Grappa hates these sessions and has been discouraging the indigenes to come and save him these boring trials of same “harms done” and same complainants…And yet, they kept coming for the last 3 years, walking two days attend these sessions.

A young guy was to receive 50 whips last Thursday and did the disappearing act, because his third mother was sick…He arrived late after the session was over to get over with the punishment, but he was turned down, to return next week. He insisted of being beaten but was kicked out by the militia. He paid a quick visit to Alcide and bought what he needed…

One evening I needed to send a letter and knew that Alcide kept the materials in a tin box, the identical box used by all French Sargent.  Alcide felt embarrassed and tried to delicately prevent me from opening the box.

He relented and I saw the head picture of a lovely little girl in the inside cover. Alcide was mumbling kinds of shy confidence behind my back. I could live without confidences.

Alcide went on” It is nothing. This is Ginette, the daughter of my brother. They are both dead. The father and mother…”

“And who is taking care of Ginette back in Bordeaux? Your mother?” I asked

“Oh. I am taking care of her. I arranged for Ginette to attend an expensive boarding school run by nuns…I don’t want Ginette to feel that she is a poor relative… She is ten by now and write to me occasionally. Do you think that taking piano is nice for girls? I want her to learn English too. What do you think of English?”

I said: “Do you visit Ginette when you go home on vacation?”

Alcide said: I don’t have the guts to go on any vacation before I retire properly. If I leave for vacation, Grappa will replace me and I’ll lose my side trade… Ginette had suffered from infantile paralysis in her left leg. A specialist is treating her with electricity. Do you think Ginette will recover? Does this disease recurs?”

Alcide was talking with extreme precaution as if he could harm Ginette from afar

I said: “She’ll be alright and back to normal”

Alcide has extended his stay in this rat hole for another 3 years, a place were people died from yellow fever and all kinds of diseases like flies, and every one, whites and blacks were all sick and barely functional…

Alcide was about to sleep as he said: “It is hard on little kids, having no one to share vacations with.”

Alcide was already snoring and I got up to observe his face up close. Alcide looked pretty ordinary. I never took seriously this guy and might have had a little contempt for him.that he project

It would be swell if we could judge correctly a person by simply capturing the signals that he projects in the first instant we meet him, just to be able to discriminate the bad and good guys…

Alcide to not know it: He is in communion with angels. And I felt such a little creep, an insignificant impotent louse, compared to Alcide sublime heart.

Alcide was enduring hell in that rat hole in Africa, annihilating his poor life, in this torrid monotony…He was sacrificing his life for a little girl, far away, to have the opportunity for a decent life…

Alcide must be conversing with familiar angels, but he doesn’t know it, and nothing to the matter.

Would this little girl appreciate the sacrifices that an uncle endured for enjoying a decent future?

Note: Inspired from a chapter in the French book “Voyage au bout de la nuit” by Ferdinand Celine

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