Historical note: The Conspiracy of the Slaves was a failed plot by Muslim slaves in Malta to assassinate Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca and take over the island. D-Day was June 29th 1749. Three slaves met in a coffee shop in Valletta to discuss the plot and began to quarrel. The shop owner, Giuseppe Cohen, overheard them and told the Grand Master. The men were arrested and, under torture, revealed all the details of the plot. The organizers were soon rounded up and executed.
Early in the morning on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States. The storm’s aftermath was catastrophic. Levee breaches led to massive flooding in the poor wards of New Orleans where many of the city’s musicians and laborers lived. The neighborhoods were razed to make way for new development, pricing out many of the people who had lived there for generations. It will come as no surprise that the African American community was the hardest hit.
“That’s him, there.” Banker gestured at the giant sitting across the barracks.
“Christ,” said Crowley. “He’s immense.”
“That’s why they made him a scourger, cob,” smiled Banker. “Strong as a bull. I saw him give a hundred to a shirker not two months ago. You could see the poor bastard’s backbone before he reached thirty.”
Crowley wanted to ask if the man had lived, but thought better of it. “What’s his going rate?”
“Depends on the sentence. This new superintendent’s a pitiless bugger. Never seen him give less than twenty-five, and that for lateness.” He screwed up his eye. “Payment up front is recommended.”
Crowley fished his pockets and pulled out two gold guineas. Banker snatched them and secreted them in his clothes. “This should help him to go easy. Not that you won’t feel it, mind you. But they’ll at least be cutting a living man down from the triangle.”
For almost 80 years, the first third of Australia’s urban existence, thousands of British convicts were transported to Australia for non-capital crimes. Some convicts were transported for life and many of today’s Australians are descended from these men and women. Its penal colony past still embarrasses many Australians and is considered a taboo subject, much like Germany’s Nazi past or America’s history of slavery and Jim Crow discrimination.
In the penal colony, punishment of all infractions was swift and severe. The preferred method was a flogging at one of the many triangles erected in the public square. The prisoner was tied with arms upraised and whipped with either a cat-o-nine-tails or a long whip made of bull or rhino hide. Sentences of twenty-five, fifty, or even a hundred lashes were commonplace. Sometimes it was possible for a convict to bribe a scourger to “go easy,” and not hit them as hard, but not always.
The convicts took tremendous pride in not calling out or groaning despite the agonizing pain. Convict J.F Mortlock wrote: “Silent composure under suffering is strictly prescribed by convict etiquette.”
Many Australians still prize personal fortitude and toughness as cardinal virtues.
Akunna stared at the laptop. It was a good one, a Dell he’d gotten from the Kenyan. He thumbed his phrasebook, scratched his head.
“Come give me your opinion,” he said to Chimaobi.
“I know you will be surprised at the tone of my letter to you, as I wish to send you greetings and tell you of a surprising new business relationship that is a singular opportunity of your life,” Chimaobi read from the screen.
“Is it sufficiently formal?” asked Akunna. “The sender needs to seem a man of great importance. A banker, perhaps.”
“I am not sure,” said Chimoabi. “I have never been in a bank.”
Kwento came back to the table holding a game board. “Come on, Chimo. Let’s play some Ayo.”
“What do you think, Kwento?” asked Akunna.
“It should be once in a lifetime opportunity, fool,” he said. “That is how bankers talk.”
Many undergraduates in Nigerian universities dabble in internet fraud. Nicknamed “Yahoo Boys” (pronounced Ya-oo), scamming has become a way of life for the young con-artists. The Nigerian Prince scam is seen as a crude, low-return scheme by the more experienced practitioners. They have moved on to far more sophisticated cons that employ online dating, nanny services, phishing, social media fraud and a host of other practices.
The once-ubiquitous Internet Cafe is fast disappearing from Nigeria as wireless broadband makes cyberspace more accessible to everyone, including these fraudsters.
Jolly Mrs. Benbow, arms a-jiggle as she lifts the cup to her lips, tilting the saucer to show the maker’s mark SPODE on its bottom. Her great-grandmother’s cup, she will invariably remind anyone in earshot.
To her left is Mrs. Wright, the eldest and most severe. Her only vice is the single slice of lemon she allows to profane her tea, perhaps the only nourishment of her day. I believe she dines mostly on spite.
Mrs. Teal and Mrs. Dogwood round out the party, born minutes apart, alike as two peas. Their late husbands could not have been more different.
The Lodge packed us a wonderful lunch of fried chicken, biscuits, and pie in an old-fashioned wicker basket complete with plates and silverware. We’d driven the station wagon to a secluded spot and hiked to a spreading oak at the base of a rocky bluff. I spread the red-and-white checkered cloth on the ground, leery of ants. A breeze wafted across the valley, so I anchored the cloth with a stone on one side and the basket on the other.
“Come here!” called Jeremy. “I want to take your picture.”
I went and stood in the mouth of a cave, turned to face Jeremy and the camera. Beneath the tree below, I saw a tall bear in a porkpie hat, collar and long tie. He sauntered over, picked up our basket and trotted away, a smaller bear following after.