An old man climbed a mountain once
At its summit, he met a sage
Pointing at the sky the sage proclaims
“Look my son-like the stars at night
Your children shall inherit the earth”
As down approached
At the foot of the mountain
He gazed the skies-No stars
The land filled with dried leaves
The heavenly smell of “white phosphorous”
From the bags of letters, a collection of poems by Eric Charles
Escape from Stavropol
It was early on Saturday morning when Angela called at the hostel in Kulakova. She was on her way to work. We spent a few minutes together sitting on the bench overlooking the Stavropol state university football stadium. Before she left I told her I was traveling to Rostov; visiting some friends. (Christopher a very good friend of mine and Jimmy aka “Elange Nchou” had moved to Rostov). Angela knew something was wrong and I was at pains trying to explain to her my reasons for a sudden visit to Rostov. To completely remove her from my world, I had told her the landlady had asked us to move out. There was work to be done, first of all, we had to cut the papers into dollar sizes, we had to paint them, and then made sure they dried enough and sealed into a fifteen thousand dollars bundle. We used stale urine mixed with perfumes, this content was placed in small bottles which we labeled chemicals; we also used “fairy liquid” as part of our Chemicals. Everything was sealed and labeled. Angela left the hostel not knowing she would be seeing me.
About Mid-day Lena and Nadeshda came to the hostel, they brought with them travelling documents ready for the traveling to Moscow. Lena and I went into Nashmuddin’s room a loyal friend From Makhachkala in Dagestan, and there for the last time we made love; I was filled with guilt; I knew I Would never see her again, I liked Lena. Later that afternoon Maga and his friends picked us from the hotel; it was time to go for our final transaction.
They came to the hostel with a convoy of three cars Njappi, Babila and I went in the first car, while Boss was in another car. The third followed slowly behind, protecting the pack. Nkelle our other colleague stayed at the hostel. Maga could not hide his excitement; he said “if everything went well, they would be able to throw plenty of business our way”. Maga had his concerns, not that he did not believe in the business but because he thought we had been sent by the law to try and set him and his friends up. We drove out of Stavropol unto to “the hills and far away” into the bushes. We drove for about two hours up the hills unto a level field somewhere outside Stavropol. When the car finally stopped, I was relieved. We waited for the rest of the team to join us before we made our way to a small house in the distance.
We were introduced to about five other people; most of them old. They had prepared roast lamb, and many combinations of different food items including bake bread, vodka and plenty of Piva. We had some food and a few drinks before we went into the main room via a stone wall and a dimly lit corridor. Maga sat down alongside me us as we watched Boss doing the packaging. Babila was going to do the “disappearing act”, as Boss built the package and Maga starring at him in awe, I started collecting as many dollars bills, the bills were then finely squeezed into my sleeves. When the packaging was done, and all the chemicals injected, we handed it to Maga. The package was then placed in a Freezer. All the processes that we invented were just to buy us time to do a switch between our fake dollars and their own authentic currency.
When all was done, it was Babila’s turn to perform his role of “exchanging motion”. Because it was a big bundle the idea was that we had to inject three doses of chemicals (this was enough to give Babila time to switch our home made papers with their money) into the bundle to ensure it all printed well. Everything went according to plan and Babila made the switch. Boss then injected the last dose of chemicals into the bundle and handed it to Maga; he was told to put it underneath the television so as to allow plenty of compression. It came with a warning that, “No one was allowed to touch the bundle until twenty-four hours had elapsed. In their innocence, they were going to make a ten thousand dollar profit. We knew twenty four hours was plenty of time for us to make our escape.
Once done, we all sat outside and talked about the prospect of becoming millionaires. We knew our job in that hill side location was done; we had to go back to the hostel; but in other to do that; we had to come up with a tangible excuse. Maga and his friend wanted us to stay on the mountains un- till the following day, as you can understand. This was not in our plans; our job here so far as we were concerned was finished. As I sat down contemplating, I knew that I was safe, I was just a mere translator, and Maga and his colleagues had bestowed their faiths in me. After some lengthy discussions, at the end they agreed that being just recently married it would be ill judged if I were to spend a night somewhere outside my marital home. As this thought played in my mind, I was momentarily save. If only I knew.
Extract from the Autobiographic text…Illegal immigrant By Eric Ngalle Charles