So what is Eben up to these days?
I looked at Moses as he stared down at the desultory flickers of the flames at our feet.
I was struck by how he had not aged.
The small licks of light managed to push back the darkness enough to let me make out his features.
Its warm yellow hue reflected softly and surreptitiously off his skin, thereby imparting it with a wrinkle free smoothness.
Whatever blemishes there were, if any, were removed by the faint ripples of the shadows on his countenance. The effect was to impart a polishing, almost a honing to his outline.
Also the taut lay of the muscles of his face as they tightened over his cheekbones and spread down to flex with his lips and chin, suggested a toughness which had resisted the rigors of the passing years.
It seemed that time had burnished his face into agelesssness like the leather of a cavalry saddle.
In a strange way it had made him into an even more handsome man than the one I remembered.
I dropped my eyes back to the mesmerizing flames and leaned forward as I spoke
– The last I heard he was up in Nigeria.
I could feel the fires hypnotic effect, and it was almost as if I had to force myself away from its grip as I continued,
– I saw this in a post on FB from one of the veterans.
Moses slowly extended his arms above his head, and looking up he lazily dovetailed his fingers with the palms of his hands facing up towards the swathe of the Milky Way.
At the same time he stretched and straightened his body in a gesture of relaxed contentment as if offering a supplication to the heavens overhead. Or maybe it was just to dissipate the unaccustomed stillness of his body, after all we’ve been sitting together in this way since just after sunset.
Uncannily I could see that from his position opposite me he was sitting directly between myself and the moon. And its fresh fullness almost seemed to be cradled in the upturned palms of his hands. It was as if they were pushing the moon up through the latticework of leafy branches etched on the night sky by the trees between our fire and the river bank.
Yes, he is there a lot of the time.
Moses still had a deep timbre tone to his voice, which was almost deceptively slow. It gave a simple profundity to his words.
His lips barely moved when he spoke. Everything about him was as such. It was as if there was something ingrained into his being which caused a conservation of energy in all he did.
Why move his lips more than was necessary to convey his thoughts. And he could stay as still as the shadows of the moon across the ground around us when he wanted.
Thus Moses spoke quietly
– He is probably the most senior consultant to the Nigerian Army in their fight against Boko Haram.
He paused before going on.
– That is where I have spent the last few years. I was part of his team. At least the Nigerian government got it right and had the balls to hire the right type of advisory group. You know what they call us these days.
It was a rhetorical question and he continued almost immediately.
They no longer call us mercenaries, we are now PMC’s, or private military contractors.
The Nigerians were clever enough not to use any of the other foreign PMC’s, the Americans, Russians and even some Israeli’s. They all are operating in Africa. They have never fought on this continent, let alone fought here successfully. They bring all their silly ideas and methodology from the far or middle East, A few of them even act as if they are still fighting the old Soviet campaigns.
Sheesh! I retorted with a slight whistle of my breath. PMC’s. All this political correctness Bullshit.
There was a hint of bitterness in my voice as I picked up on the thread of the subject.
I remember how Eben went into Siierra Leone with 200 men and with Nellis and his Mil24 gunship. They sorted out everything and PC pisspots come in and give the word mercenary a bad press rap, because the 18000 UN ‘peacekeeepers’, who had done fokall, suddenly found themselves with Peace and no need to keep. All the bureaucrats back in UN HQ suddenly found themselves without a job. And all the suppliers and logistic parasites with no more contracts. And the pisspot countries like Zimbabwe who are paid to send their soldiers. All of them with no conflict to feed on. They all could no longer suck money out of gullible Western taxpayers. UN peacekeeping is one huge big racket.
I was silent for a while as we both sat and listened to a lion roaring not too far up river.
– Eben is pretty smart, It was Moses turn to speak. So I’m surprised he hadn’t thought of this marketing gimmick, which the PC gurus came up with to make outfits like ‘BlackWater’ politically correct – just change the name to an anacronym, and say they are in the PMC business. But it is good that they did, because it has allowed us to keep going ever since those first EO days.
– Yes, I agreed quietly, Sheeesh, PMC, it sounds like some post menopause woman thing.
Moses chuckled as he murmured Haven’t lost your barrack humor!
The lion was roaring again, and somewhere down River a hippo was snorting. Strange that it had not left the river to feed I thought. I also thought how strange it was, that considering the outward and apparent differences between the two of us, our lives had linked together again and again in so many ways to produce such a wonderful bond. Even though we had not seen each other for years it was as if the last time we had nodded goodbye was only yesterday.
The fire had died down by now, and neither of us had kicked any of the branches in towards its center to keep it burning.
Okay Jackie, I used the nickname the yanks in the unit used to call him, time for us to turn in. Tomorrow I will take you up river by boat to meet our neighbors who are also involved in this whole anti-poaching gig.
As we rose and moved towards our respective tents, I said to him,
– On the way up I’ll show you some great fishing spots.
(to be continued…..)