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The office was on a little side street not far from the port and the market where a butcher was caught just the other day trying to sell dog as goat. The building was a colonial wreck of jaundiced paint and scuffed wrought iron. The man I needed was on the second floor at the top of a vertiginous set of stairs. Meeting you at the top were a half dozen reedy young man in preppy finery trying to make an impression. They expected a tribute even if it was only a handshake. They knew they were being watched and evaluated.

His name was Tonton Viande - Uncle Meat. That's all he ate and he ate his fill. He ruled the roost from behind a large desk that was probably lifted from some embassy. He wore what was left of his hair slicked back and his eyes darted on an owl swivel. I tried my best to catch those eyes by producing a roll of American green.

"Give me you passport," he said. He paged through it as he always did, pausing to look at the stamps and then scouring my face. But today, instead of reaching for his stash to finish the deal, he reached for the morning paper. He rushed to a section he must have read earlier. "Aha," he said. He turned to one of his gorillas and demanded a bottle and glasses be produced. He handed me the paper and then poured me a glass of firewater. I noticed that the page was a reprint of a legal document. "I have bad news," he said. "You overstayed your visa. But the new constitution gives you amnesty. You must stay."


"You belong here."

Story by:

Timothy Dugdale

8 June 2015