Excerpt from the first draft MS for PIRATES (Cutting Edge Press) © Greg Cummings
Johnny hesitated, scrutinizing the darkness. There was a chance predators would try to come near, but Derek had taken the precaution of erecting a fence of thorns around their campsite to keep animals at bay. Johnny turned back, and continued. “In time, they told me I was free to go, but I chose to stay, not least for the incredible tuna fishing. I’m telling you, Derek, it was Yellow-fin genocide all day long!”
“You sure do love your tuna, Johnny Oceans,” laughed Derek, as he stoked the fire, causing sparks to erupt from the embers. “So, you’re telling me that all this time you were in Somalia? Damn, you must have really wanted to get away from Uncle Bobby.”
“Somalia’s incredible, man; I love it. It’s nothing like people think it is.” Johnny glanced around their surroundings but, except for the fire and his and Derek’s glowing faces, there was nothing but blackness. “A bit like this place…”
“Even so, it would have taken a brave wise guy to venture in there after you.”
“Fuhgetaboutid! It took a while to detox the casino racket, that’s for sure, but Puntland had everything I needed. Man, they’ve got Black-finned marlin the size of Cadillacs. Five hundred kilos or more - I shit you not. And the diving, oh, you wouldn’t believe the diving. It’s like an underwater basilica down there.”
“You make the place sound like heaven, but this is Somalia we’re talking about...”
“Puntland. It ain’t like the south. It’s a semi-autonomous state. Sure, the people are Muslims, but they’re not Islamists. The Land of Punt is its own land, with its own people - mostly from the Majeerteen clan.”
“Did they make you feel at home, these Majeerteen?”
“Not to begin with, not until I earned their confidence. The Majeerteen are notoriously xenophobic. It takes a long time to earn their trust. I think at that time I was the only American in Puntland, but that didn’t matter. For the first time in my life I got a sense of my own identity, you know, my place in the scheme of things.” Johnny gazed thoughtfully at the fire, as he recalled the profound transformation he had experienced In the Horn of Africa. “After a while I immersed myself in their culture, converted to Islam, changed my name to Abdul Rahman, and married a Somali woman.” He paused and dropped his head, overwhelmed by the thought of his wife.
“Is she beautiful?” asked Derek, reclining back in his chair.
“Khadija? Uh, like no other woman.”
“Really?” Derek clasped his hands behind his head and gazed up at the stars. “Tell me, how beautiful?”
“Think of Iman, David Bowie’s wife, only 20 years younger.”
“Nice! Where is she now?”
“I had to leave her behind. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. But after years of living in peace in Puntland, our lives were in danger. I had to leave, and in a hurry, in order to free her of the threat.”