The Cras-man

Recycling in Monrovia

We were walking to the hotel where there is the good restaurant and the many televisions so that we could watch the Olympics. I always get stopped on the street because maybe they assume that I carry all the money or because they think I will be protective of anyone trying to speak to ‘the lady’ beside me. The grown boy who stopped me this time was short and thick and round-faced and too-much smiling.

‘Excuse me, sir. I am a craftsman,’ he said, which sounded like ‘E-cuze me suh. Ah am uh cras-man’ in his thick local accent.

He kept fast pace beside us as we walked. I walk fast always and Jess likes to stroll but she walks very, very fast when somebody unwanted is trying to get her attention. I know this because she has suddenly begun walking fast many times when I am the only one speaking to her.

‘What do you craft?’ I said.

‘I make chess pieces out of bullet casings,’ said the cras-man.

He extended a faded, wrinkled paper that was his brochure and he withdrew a few samples from a plastic bag he held in one hand. The rim and the primer of the spent cartridges formed the base and the casing was hammered flat and cut roughly into the familiar shapes from a chess set.

‘Where do you get the bullets?’ I said.

He smiled.

‘The bullet are from everywhere after the war,’ he said. ‘There are two colors in the chess so one pieces I polish and one pieces I leave unpolish.’

‘So is this going to be a novelty on our coffee table?’ Jess said after I made the arrangements to have my own set of chess pieces made and we were again strolling to the restaurant.

‘Yeah, until we’re go to Toronto and I can ship it a wedding present,’ I said.

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