Joost The South African – 4

Fahd joined Joost and me today for our Alamo Road office tea party. Fahd is an impossibly thin man with a lovely shock of white hair and a classically handsome face. He is the only contractor’s engineer at the site whom I can usually trust to tell me the truth about why things are askew with some aspect of the project (like when Captain Gotti began shorting the bitumen content on the asphalt mix…). Fahd will only tell me an outright lie when in the company of Captain Gotti, and then he will look tortured and shamed as he tells it. The engineers will all lie to agree with Captain Gotti since Captain Gotti is, in the absence of the owner of the company, a mafia-like enforcer and financial power base at the site.

While Engineer Fahd stops by the office each day that I visit in order to shake my hand and inquire of my health and happiness, only occasionally will give into our urging him to stay to chat with us.

“Today I will sit with you,” Fahd announced, lowering himself into a dusty chair next to me. He told us that the Bedu had come to the camp earlier, trying to get more money out of Captain Gotti. “I would like to be here with you, where I am in no danger of being invited to negotiations!”

“Before two years [two years ago] when we come here to build the Alamo Road,” Fahd told us, “we all think Bedu are like the western cowboy in your country, Seren. Like in the movies, a wild, free man, yes? Very romantic!” He laughed.

“But they are not good people, the Bedu,” Fahd admitted. “They are not smart people, we find. They are thieves! And they are dirty.”

“I would like to be a Bedu,” Joost confessed.

Fahd laughed, then got a thoughtful look on his face. He looked Joost up and down and nodded. “We will turn you into a Bedu!” He said enthusiastically, staring off into space, obviously lining up the details of how this could be done.

“It will take time,” Fahd told Joost. “You must practice patience!” He held up one finger. “First, for one year you do not bathe.”

We laughed.

Fahd held up two fingers. “Number two!” he continued with a straight face. “You eat only meat! No vegetables, no bread. We feed you only meat, and you get very skinny – skinnier than me!”

“Impossible!” Joost cried. Fahd is so very, very skinny …

“It is necessary,” Fahd told him apologetically. Joost shrugged with resignation.

“Then,” Fahd concluded with a grin, “we dress you in dirty white sheet, and with one tent, and you stealing things from us … there! You are Bedu!”

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