LEONARD FONG ROKA | Crocodile Prize
AMI’AU LISTENED ATTENTIVELY to the sound of crushing dried leaves and twigs littering the forest floor. Is this another silly wild dog wandering about she wondered?
‘Bekenenu, is it you there?’ she called out to her husband who she had just left further uphill inspecting their cocoa plot.
No answer came so she ignored the strange sound that was now gone and lowered her body into the hole she had dug tracking the huge yam tuber.
Now, a heavy foot was approaching her, crushing the dried leaves of the galip-nut and cocoa trees that hosted her yam. She ignored it.
But exhausted with strained back, she dragged her head carefully out and spotted through her armpit not a black foot but rather, a muscular red-skinned foot of a New Guinean about to attack her. A rapist!
‘Oiiiiii, Bekenenu! Bekene…nu, ere’rengkong mosika*,’ she screamed hysterically for survival.
They rolled holding onto each other downhill under the consoling shade of the cocoa trees. Ami’au’s muscular body was determined to liberate her from her New Guinean rapist who was struggling to strip her.
As they hit a rotting bole she removed the infiltrators sweat ridden palms and yodelled: ‘Help! Someone help!’
‘Where are you?’ Bekenenu called.
To Ami’au’s relief, the Redskin darted off as the sound of running feet crushing dried out cocoa leaves littering the ground drew nearer and Bekenenu swiftly approached the scene angrily and ready to attack.
‘Did the infiltrator of Solomon touch you?’
‘No,’ Ami’au sobbed in shock.
Bekenenu tracked the foreigner with his bush knife down Kirokai Creek but withdrew early in fear of been killed by the Redskin strangers in the land.
‘Did you see or talk sense to the Redskins?’ old Taruko asked, with sympathy as Bekenenu returned with sweat freely rolling down his balding face.
‘Ee, send me not into the red ants’ camp for I shall return to Doko’toro as a firefly, uncle,’ Bekenenu sniffed brusquely as he sat on the mat of dried leaves.
Taruko eyed the couple thoughtfully. With the sun burning above their heads, their anger and self- pity was like magnesium burning in the night sky.
The Redskins’ town below was booming with heavy traffic. Taruko’s aged eyes were locked on the great Arawa General Hospital. Slowly, his blinking eyes left the hospital and crept up Siopa Place and then settled at his feet.
‘This was our land when I was a child,’ he said, wiping off tears, ‘but today it is the Redskins’ land, not yours.’ The couple listened like children adsorbing every bit of parental advice.
The grey haired prudent one sneezed and continued, ‘ When their government muddled us and impertinently began the Panguna mine, planes and ships brought them day by day into our land. Here they make the money to build their country that is so far away across the sea.’
‘Really true,’ Ami’au spoke after a long silence, ‘all schools in this town belong not to us, all is for these foreign rapists, looters and terrorist of Bougainvillean harmony. At Toniva, Kieta, down here, at Loloho and Panguna, it is they who roam with absolute freedom and we are the dogs having our tails glued to our bellies.’
‘That’s why I often say don’t be a lone bird in the tree for a sick dog to harm you. This race of people is parlous to our Solomon ways,’ Taruko said, and skinned an areca nut to ease his mind.
‘You are children, I saw that fading sun before you; as this town was developing the Whiteman feared not the Bougainvillean but rather was afraid of the Redskin that raved in the night like the bats.’
The trio climbed—a troop of defeated warriors—up the Sirovii brae for the ridge so infested with swaying orange trees. Like those fruit trees, fear was snarling and scurrying in the air that they breathed into their lungs. Bougainville was not theirs.
Taruko spat reddish betel nut phlegm into the bush with a sigh and calmly called out to the couple, ‘As long as the New Guinean is on your land, there will be fear and tears.’
* Red skinned dog
Leonard Fong Roka (33) was born in Arawa and grew up in the Panguna District during the years of the Bougainville crisis. He began writing poetry as a student at Arawa High School and has now compiled a collection of short stories and poetry which he hopes to publish. He has returned after a break as a student at Divine Word University and is working on an autobiography of his experiences in the Bougainville war in his spare time. He had some of his earlier work published in the 2011 Crocodile Prize Anthology