Road Trip, Part 6

Kasai River

It’s after 2:00 a.m.
Stan and Brad are exhausted from their long jarring road trip. They have finally arrived at the Kasai River across from their desired destination, Ndjoko Punda. Dr. David and several young men are ready to take them across the river in their canoe. Only one problem….

The young men from the village were almost finished packing the canoe when the policeman came. His drinking buddies trailed behind. Together the men formed a line, blocking Stan and Brad’s way to the river.

In a drunken drawl, the policeman yelled a demand. “Let me see your papers!”

“You don’t need to see their papers. These men are the children of former missionaries. They’ve come to help our village. They’ve brought supplies for the hospital,” Dr. David said.

“Are you interfering with me?” The policeman bellowed his question. He waved the doctor aside.

Stan and Brad produced their papers.

The policeman staggered over to the fire. He squinted at the papers in the flickering light. Teetering unsteadily, he returned to them. “State your business here.”

“We’ve brought supplies for the hospital at Ndjoko Punda.” Stan’s voice was quiet and respectful. Brad nodded his agreement.

Dr. David spoke again, “Alright, you’ve seen their papers. Now let them pass. We need to get these men to the village.”

“You can’t go across the river tonight,” the officer said. “The river is rushing too wildly. It isn’t safe to cross at night.”

One of the church youth flung his arms outward. “It isn’t safe to stay here at night.”

“These men are my guests.” The doctor stepped between the policeman and the brothers. “We’ll get them safely across.”

Four of the policeman’s sidekicks surrounded David.

“He’s the policeman!” one of the sidekicks shouted.

Another man screeched in a high-pitched voice, “He’s in charge! You have to do what he says.”

“That’s right. You need his permission to do anything!” a third comrade hollered.

A fourth man rubbed his fingers together. “Yes. Permission. You need permission.”

Stan and Brad collapsed under a tree as the argument continued.

“They want money,” Brad said. “And lots of it.”

“Yep.” Wearily, Stan rested his elbows on his knees. “All the authority, but no pay. It’s no surprise they depend on bribes to feed their families. A drowning man will grab at anything that comes along,” he quoted the Congolese saying.

Brad fanned his face with his hat. “I think he’s taking his courage from the bottle and his buddies.” He leaned against the tree. “I’m beat. A whole day just to get to the river. Now this.”

The babble of voices increased to higher decibels as several of the youth joined in the shouting match. Tempers flared. Arms flailed in excited gestures. Enraged shrieks split the night air.

“This is going nowhere fast,” Brad said. “What are we going to do?”

What would you do if you were in this situation?

Join us next Thursday to see what Stan and Brad do.
©2015 Hope4Congo

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