Teaser 216: Hama Learns About Twiddle My Thumbs

I looked over to Alfred. “Alfred, this is your command. You're in charge. You make the call.”

Alfred smiled as he responded, “You and I both know we have to open the greenhouses or the heat at times will burn up the plants.” He looked over to Chuck. “You're pretty handy, Chuck.” Chuck laughed. “I think it's a simple way to do it and if we're overconfident on whatever seepage we do get, cutting the openings above the pathways will keep any damage to minimal, so it works for me.”

“Some time today, Alfred,” Chuck suggested, “let's you and I go through what material we have for the openings. I think the strips for the entryways are too thick. Better they be thin and lighter in weight, so if we need something thinner and lighter, you can get it ordered. There's no rush on those openings yet, agreed?”

“Agreed. Let's do that.”

I engaged Hama's gaze and when his eyes met mine, his face broke out into a big, toothy smile. Hama lived in Gossi and was one of the first to volunteer. Hama smiled a lot. It was his nature and he also spoke and understood English reasonably well. “That's what I like, Hama,” I said, stepping up to him and slipping my arm over his shoulders. “Other people coming up with the really good ideas and pushing me out of the way so they can do the work without my interference so, more and more, I sit in my tent and twiddle my thumbs.” Matthew and Chuck laughed.

Hama looked at me with uncertainty. “What is this 'twiddle my thumbs,' Gregory?”

Obligingly, I replied, “Oh, that's this.” Dropping my arm from his shoulders I showed Hama how one twiddles one's thumbs, to the great delight of Chuck, Matthew and Alfred.

Hama looked at me like I was insane, until I lifted my eyebrows and smiled wide. Suddenly, he smiled, shouted, “You don't have time for that!” He pushed me hard and I stumbled as I laughed. “We don't have time for that!” He pointed to me with mock severity. “That's play! You need to work, Gregory.” Hama started to walk to the next greenhouse. “Come, Gregory!” Hama ordered. “We have boards to gather for next one. You work!”

We didn't get very far in grabbing boards since a large semi with an open bed pulled up off the highway coming from Bamako. Since it was an open bed we could see the wine barrels the truck was carrying. The whole crew walked over to the truck and met the driver and I inspected the paperwork and signed it. Alfred drove across the compound to grab the little tractor and we all lifted the barrels off the truck down to the ground. Chuck brought his battery-powered drill and zapped a dozen holes, each three-eighths diameter, in the bottom of each barrel. Alfred began running two barrels up to the rock area to load the bottom with two inches of rock, then to the dirt area to fill each to about an inch, then to the first greenhouse, where we all helped to lift each off and set inside the greenhouse on the long edge. The truck was long gone but nine more trips like that and the first greenhouse contained ten barrels along two sides. We rolled the remaining forty-four close to the rock area but out of the way of the trucks still on loan from the contractor in Gao. With our first delivery of wine barrels in place, the first set in its greenhouse with rock and dirt, Alfred and one of the crew started the planting, this set holding tomatoes. Alfred planted four tomato seeds in each planter and watered them thoroughly, though only two would remain. The weaker plants would be thinned from each. When Alfred and his helper finished and he stepped over with the rest of us finishing up the next greenhouse, I moved over to him and put my arm across his shoulders. “There you go, Alfred. We now have a garden.”

- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-SevenLost on the Dark Continent” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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