Monday, 4 August 2008

shiny new thing

The scrape of my shovel against soil is reassuring. I tilt the assorted garbage; sticky, old rice, torn cardboard, some faded scraps of cloth and rotten fruits into the back of the truck. I stop to adjust the handkerchief tied over my face as inadequate protection against the dust and the smell. Despite the morning cool my forehead is already beaded with sweat and I grab the corner of my flourescent vest to wipe my forehead.

As I lean forward again, shovel extended, I see it. Panic hits me quick, the fear that this is the time. It has been months since one of us last encountered something and the tension had almost gone. Sensing my fear my team also suddenly stop and turn to face me, I am stuck in a tableau, bent forwards, muscles straining as though i am posing for one of the Dictator's celebrations of the workers.

My team assemble in a semi-circle of orange jackets around me to inspect it. Many start to exchange and light cigarettes, their smell bitter over the acrid, rotting food.

Pretty quickly there are two major opinions. The first quickly concludes that it is a militia IED, like the one that claimed Hassan a couple of months back. But the second faction quickly weighs in pointing out how shiny, how manufactured and secretive its design is. American, they say.

I look at it. It is oval, like a pebble worn by a river, with a quicksilver glow marred only by a little fleck of egg stuck to its side. It looks like a bomb but it doesn't feel like one. I stretch upwards, relieving the growing pains in my back and reach out for it. As one the semi-circle take a couple of steps back. I pick it up. It feels cold and heavy. It doesn't explode. Somewhere deep inside my chest my heart picks up its rhythm again.

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