“Don’t go back to the ship,” she begged him. “They’ll kill you there.”
She was sniffing furiously, trying not to cry, trying not to hurt him.
“It’s my ship,” he said gently. “It’s my crew. You know I have to go.”
The girl is called Lisa Larsen. She’s speaking to her hubby, Thor Larsen.
Thor is the captain of The Freya, a massive supertanker ferrying a million tons of crude oil. The ship has been hijacked by Ukrainian partisans who want to take down the Kremlin. They also want two of their friends released from a German prison.
They’ve already killed one hostage because the government is refusing to play ball. Their leader is Andrew Drake. His band of terrorists is armed to the teeth.
They’ve placed bombs on the ship. Andrew is threatening to push the detonator if two of his friends are not released. He wants them airlifted to Israel where they can be safe. The Kremlin can’t allow that to happen.
Germany is put between a rock and a hard place. The leader is of the free world is right in the middle of it. The whole of Europe is holding its breath. The president of the United States is faced with one all-consuming conundrum: whichever option he chooses, men are going to die.
Thus goes The Devil’s Alternative –a novel by Frederick Forsyth. I’ve started and restarted this book a thousand times, but I quickly lose the patience for it. It’s full of World War crap, and the characters are like ants.
Frederick strikes me as the kind of writer that leaves no stones unturned. If there’s something to explain he’ll describe it down to the last T. History has never been my specialist subject. But I’m beginning to like this particular tale.
The news of the hijacking comes to Lisa while she’s in her back garden. The agent sent to inform her finds her bent down –feeding her daughter’s rabbit. She’s wearing gloves. She smiles as she slides off the gloves and walks towards the agent. The agent has been a long time friend to the Larsens. Their kids went to school together.
“So what brings you over?” she asks.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of the North Sea, Andrew Drake is holding a gun to Thor Larsen’s head.
Hi, I’m Mike. And I’m an addict.
I like to touch. I feel good when I touch. I can’t stop touching. On a good day I can touch more than three times. It’s such a good feeling, to touch. In public I excuse myself so I can touch. Sometimes when I’m seated at the back of the class and no one is paying attention to me, I touch. The risk of getting caught is strangely alluring. The rush is amazing. I want to touch all the time.
But I’m afraid it’s turned into a habit. It’s reflecting badly on my life. Touching has rendered me socially awkward. It messes up my concentration. My mind is foggy when I touch. The most useless thoughts come to me when I touch. I put my obligations aside just so I can touch. And after I’m done touching I get soaked with guilt and self-loathing.
I feel stuck.
And I’ve tried to stop. I pray about it. I open up about it. I even got a toy to play with so I could keep my hands busy. I can stay off for a day or two, but soon I’m back to my old ways, indulging in this despicable act.
I need help. Because I just can’t stop touching the hair on my chin.
It’s like cocaine. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up. And once I bring my hand up to my chin that’s it. I might as well just stay in bed. The day has already gone to the dogs. I can’t be saved.
For the rest of the day I will be lost in my idle thoughts. My fingers won’t leave my chin. The sweetness of tugging at the strands clouds my judgment. You will tell me to get up and fetch you a glass of water and it will take me five minutes just to decide whether to go or not.
And then, realizing that you’re my old man and I can’t say no, I will walk to the kitchen –hand still on chin- and it’ll take me another four minutes to remember why I’m in the kitchen in the first place.
Then I’ll take a glass from the cupboard, splash some water inside, and bring you the glass, all the while remembering my class 5 Science teacher who once said: “Clear water does not mean clean water.”
Whatever happened to him, I’ll wonder. Does he still teach? Does he know I now have hair on my chin? What is the difference between sandy soil and loam soil?
(Hehe, I was so touching my chin when I wrote that last part)
But the beard is not even the real problem. It’s the hair on my head. It’s been two years since I cut it, or ran a comb through it. The result of which has been long twisted brownish hair. There’s not a day I’ll go to town without some bugger having to shout the word ‘Ras’ from all the way across the road.
The hair has made me friendly with street kids, too. They sniff me out from a crowd. They approach me with wide grins. Some even go ahead and call me Bob Marley. It’s flattering as hell. But I’m not too particular about all the attention, to tell you the truth.
It’s even worse in school, because when I’m late for class the teachers look at me as though I’ve come to peddle drugs. “Why don’t you comb your hair?” they ask with a concerned face.
And I want to get off my seat and shout, “Excuse me, miss. But have you seen this hair? Does it look like a comb can go through it?”
“Then why don’t you cut it?”
And the reason is that I simply don’t want to. Going to the barber depresses me. It has always depressed me. You take a seat in front of a mirror and watch as another man runs a machine through your head.
Now, granted, that shaver buzzing near your ear is one of the most pleasant feelings in the world, almost as good as touching, but in the end you come out with little or no hair. You feel the air sitting on your head. Your kisogo is exposed. And do you know what my kisogo looks like?
Like a bean, my friend. Like a fucking bean.
So it’s either my hair or the bean. It’s pretty much like the devil’s alternative if you ask me.
Plus it’s my hair for chrissakes. I can do whatever I damn well please with it. Otherwise if it’s such an eyesore you have the right to put a hand over your eyes and move along.
And don’t even get me started on the cops. I see the way they look at me when I walk past. Once I even got stopped by a traffic cop to tell me I looked like a criminal, and that I should cut my hair. Man, fuck the police.
And it’s the same story when I walk into a formal meeting, or church, or virtually anywhere else. I stick out like a rusty nail.
But it’s a nice ice breaker, though. Take this girl I met the other day for example. She asked why I didn’t comb my hair.
“I can’t,” I said, “It’s too twisted.”
“Then why don’t you cut it?” (I swear if someone else asks this bloody question)
“It’s the source of my strength,” I said.
She held back a smile and said, “Like Samuel?”
“Haha, yes, exactly like Samuel.”
I didn’t bother to correct her. But she had a pretty face, though, and I started to feel bad. So I touched my chin and asked her name.
“Lola,” she said.
“Nice to meet you,” she said.
“Is it what?”
“Nice to meet me?”
She smiled and looked away. Maybe I made her shy. Maybe she didn’t want to be seen talking to a boy with unkempt hair.
“I’m an addict you know.” I said.
“What are you addicted to?”
She went all wide-eyed and asked, “You do cocaine?”
Hehe, pulling her leg was so fun. From where she was standing I must have looked like some lost reject. But I could already tell she was judging. People just don’t get that this touching thing is a disease, and that it could happen to anyone.
Maybe even Samuel had a similar ailment. How do we know he wasn’t touching when God called him? Hm? Who’s to say?