-Put your hand up his bottom.
-But he’s dead.
-If he’d been alive he’d have done it himself…and? He’s got the biggest diamond, it belongs to all of us, he wouldn’t have been able to make the deal all by himself, he didn’t even have a saucepan to barter with them anymore.
-Listen, let’s go, let’s leave him here, its too dangerous, if the soldiers show up with their double-barrelled elephant-trunks we’ll take a bullet between the eyes before we can say “bye, dickhead” and all to get into this poor wretch’s bottom, like it was a bank vault.
-Shut your mouth, boy.
– You dragged him in procession like a village chief, thirty damn kilometres of forest, his legs over his neck or what’s left of it – there’s not much left after he played hopscotch in the minefield.
-Who played hopscotch, you little jerk? Couldn’t you have been blown up by the mine yourself?
– Brothers, I’m Adam, your little angel, ok? Get a move on, if you have to, we’ve left a trail of blood as broad as a motorway, red signposts, that’s strong stuff.
-You look for the diamond, angel, a little boy’s hands fit better.
– Leave him alone, arsehole, do it yourself, you can be sure the dead guy won’t complain about your big hands.
-It’s not there.
-What do you mean it’s not there? Shit.
– Not even that. Perhaps the explosion moved stuff around a bit, the intestines must have shifted…
– Into his skull? Goodbye diamond, then, this guy never had anything in his head.
-Stop talking crap, I need a knife.
– I swear I’ll kill you, Adam, shut that mouth of yours. Will one of you jerks deign to give me a knife? We’ll have to open him up, the diamond must be there somewhere, ok, I’ve slit him from the neck down to the bladder, now one of you gentlemen put your hand in, you, yes, well done, congratulations fuckwit, if you find his piss you can disinfect yourself, perhaps you can fill his water bottle for this angel here: he’ll have to keep hidden a good long while at the border – the soldiers only arrest little boys, they eat them. Hey, good job partner, clean the shit off his guts otherwise you can’t see, what a lot of blood there’s still left in this guy, come on partner, you’ve got the makings of a surgeon, hey Adam, do you want to be a surgeon when you grow up? Perhaps you’ll go and study in Europe to study, or the United States, “the great internationally renowned doctor, from Bakua Lukusa to Houston, no-one disembowels people like he does”. “I studied at the school of life”, you’ll say and other shit like that, and you’ll remember your first anatomy lesson, the corpse of a Congolese blown up by an anti-personnel mine with a diamond as big as that in the British crown jewels shoved up his arse… but if we don’t find the diamond how will you get to Houston? This is your scholarship fund, boy, this is how we give out scholarships in Africa … ahhhhh ahhhhh…”
He was the boss, brothers, a former soldier in the army of the Congo, a deserter who traded in diamonds, like me, but I worked for myself. I’d got into Angola with them, anyone in this line of work has to find themselves an escort (paid, of course) to get in and out: there are thirty, fifty kilometres of border and if you don’t know them like the back of your hand there are loads of mines and you can blow yourself up like an angel in paradise.
So we were all laughing behind that gangster’s back: savage, ferocious gorilla faces who hadn’t eaten for a month, but they were scared, fuck me if they weren’t. And it wasn’t true that the soldiers only looked for boys like me. Congolese and Angolan soldiers, this side and that of the border, shot at everyone without a clue how to identify them, they spoke the same dialect. Anyone with a smattering of Portuguese was obviously from Angola, but that didn’t guarantee they’d get home safe and sound: the Angolans had been fighting a civil war since ’75 (twenty years more or less) and they loathed Roberto and his guys who had run away to Congo to save their own skins – and no-one knew, when you came face to face with a black snout at the border, if he was a Roberto-supporter from Angola trying to get back home from the Congo (perhaps a spy) or a Congolese. And even if he was a Congolese: what was he up to in Angola? Bartering food and clothes for diamonds? Taking those imbeciles in the villages of Lunda Norte for a ride? They had nothing and needed everything, from frying pans to manioc to blankets. That wasn’t at all ok with the Angolan soldiers.
Well, that’s how things were, brothers, a Congolese went to visit those nutcases in Angola at his own risk: there were anti-personnel mines scattered all around the forest at the border, the soldiers had a map but even they got it wrong often enough, fuckwits that they were, and blew themselves up with their jeep.
Yeah, brothers, I tell you, a Congolese would do all this to buy diamonds in those wretched villages, devoured by the civil war between the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, manoeuvred by the USSR and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola backed first by China and then by the United States. Hyenas always wait for there to be a corpse before they show up to eat. And that’s not even counting the National Front for the Liberation of Angola led by Holden Roberto who was in Congo. Well, at least us guys from the Congo, or Zaire I suppose I should call it, that’s what it was at the time, weren’t hyenas. We organized ourselves into groups, almost all aged between twenty and thirty, but there were also some kids of around seventeen (we called them ‘suicide boys’). We would load ourselves down with stuff and set off with a Congolese Chokwe guide until we reached the villages, then we would lie in wait – one here, one there, at a safe distance, and wait. How long? It could take weeks, months. You needed the patience of a hunter or a fisherman. Well, to be honest, we weren’t hunters, we were the bait, little succulent scraps of well-being: the women would approach slowly, timidly, then increasingly determined and confident: they would look, touch and then the long, exhausting negotiations would begin. They paid with diamonds, they had lots of them. When they offered him a huge diamond (that was somewhere in Lunda Norte), that poor wretch who went boom on the mine sent his companions a message asking for a bit of something to barter, because he had nothing left. And they… why not? This was business, they would sell the stone and split the profits. And now his partners have to look around in the guts of a corpse: the diamond is in the colon – well wrapped inside the condom and just beneath it is another condom with a few little diamonds. “These are his”, says the boss – we have to give them to his family with his share of the big diamond.
-What will you tell his family? That we cut him up?
-It wasn’t me that got blown up by the mine.
Right. The boss washes the condoms, there’s always a bit of shit left, then cuts them open. The dead guy had done a good job of it, the diamonds are dry, well protected by paper and plastic. Divine stones of light: they have passed along the filthy stinking paths in the belly of an ordinary many without slipping indecorously into the anus: but we’ll have to shit ours out, there’s no choice. But, with all due respect for the stones of light, it’s better that way.