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Ferial: 2 July 2012

Why does ferial sound so much like feral?

Tonight I double lock the door and shut the curtains completely.  And pray.  And wonder… if only just a bit.

… I pray the Lord my soul to keep… 

Last week I called a friend of mine in California, who had been out this way last January, and she said on the call that Br. D. had told her that there were still people out in the bush, near the villages near the monastery who were eating people.  And I laughed, and said that that was silly and that Br. D. is a jolly joker and had spun her a tall tale.  And thought nothing more of it.

Today I drove the sisters from Ssanje to Masaka to do some banking and some shopping and to begin with them a formation on Internet, and social media, and blogging, and the like.  And we stopped to buy bread and French beans and carrots for the monastery.  And we stopped in Kyotera for a bite to eat and to take a photo in front of the “California Bar”, drinking instead proudly milk.

And as we were heading back to the village where one turns off the tarmac and onto unpaved track out to the monastery, some nine kilometers distant, Sister A. remarked that she did not want to stay to chat or eat or anything at the monastery, because she did not like driving in the dark.

“You know, they eat people out there.”

I laughed, and asked her who had such a thing.

“Br. D.”

I said surely she knew when she had been had.  I said Br. D. was a regular comedian, and that people know longer did such things.

She laughed.  The other sisters laughed.  But when we did arrive back, they took no time in leaving.

For dinner, we ate beans and rice and papaya in the refectory.

After dinner, I washed all of the dishes and cups and serving pots, and stepped outside the cloister to chat with my friend the superior.

I told him why the sisters hadn’t stayed for dinner.

He said it was true.

I said surely not.

He said he knew of some people who had eaten human flesh.

He said Br. D. met a boy who had just escaped for being someone’s dinner.  He had been locked up in a house in a room.

He said that it was a local custom for a groom to present human flesh as part of the dowry.

He said once a man appeared on a Sunday ready to attend Mass with the brothers, and that this man had a reputation for eating people.  And he had asked the attending brother to seat him close to the doors.

He said best not to walk far into the villages around seven or so, when the sun sets, and it gets time for the evening meal.  They will smell you, and lock you in a house, and put a pot on a fire.

I laughed.

He smiled a smile which could be pulling a prank or a more subtle subterranean something.

He said that maybe the monks would have a changing effect on this, in an evangelizing sort of way.

I said that they could change the dietary taste to pineapple jam.

He laughed, and said they did not like eating the jam so much as the man who made the jam, smiling that certain smile.

I smiled.

I said that the Simbas ate people back in the Congo, during the Rebellion of ’64.

He smiled and said yes, and that they had preferred the taste of a muzungu.

I said that I had lost so much weight, that I would not be very tasty or worthwhile.

We smiled.  The superior, an old friend, has such a dry, wry deadpan sense of humor you feel you want to do always a double take but you don’t want to give him that slight sly satisfaction.

The bell rang.  And we walked back into the cloister, to the church, for Compline.

In Africa, in recent years, I have eaten monkey, and antelope, and crocodile eats, and grubs, and termites, and turtles, and snails the size of a man’s fist.  I have even eaten bat.

If one drives on the highway out of Masaka, and if one passes Kyotera, and if one passes the turnoff to the monastery, eventually the tarmacked highway will take one to the border with Tanzania.  And on the border is a border town, and that town has the name of Mutukula, which, in the local language, means “People who eat people.”  Loose translation.

I am now showered and locked up in my room until 3:30 a.m. and the bell for Vigils.  I am secure under a mosquito net carefully tucked in all around the bed’s perimeter. I have been religiously taking my Larium once a week, every Sunday.

I hope the sisters got home safely.

They had asked me to pray for them until they called me.

My cell phone never rang.

I guess I will ring them in the morning, after breakfast.

Is any of this true?

Is there any fact lurking behind such feral fictions?

Certainty is hard to say.

The bits of dialogue and items have been laid out mathematically like Steve Reich or Robbe-Grillet.

But out here the Earth is stretched so flat that it can conceal an infinite parallel worlds behind an equally infinite number of scrubs, so that a single gesture with the words “Over there” requires a great leap of faith in the calculations.


It should be noted that one of the things I most admire about my old friend the superior is his jest and his wit, which itself is a most sublime expression of hospitality and gentlemanly friendship.