Burridge Unbound
It will all be made good
. The People’s President. Suli Nylioko.
    There are walks along the river with Joanne, in rubber boots in the rain, water into water, summer gone, an old memory, autumn too sliding away so quickly. The leaves turn their colours and the sky deepens and one or two warm spells fool no one, the real weather is the rain and cold wind, dragging us down into winter. Every step, strangely, the name courses through my body.
Suli Nylioko
. A breathing thought,intravenous energy, hope, and grace.
Suli Nylioko
. The whole world watches the American president twist in the wind over his silly little affair, every apology getting worse and worse. He needs a name, a cure for his own staggering stupidity, something soothing in his veins.
    Suli Nylioko
.
    Suli names her cabinet – half are women. Suli opens the first safe house for teenage prostitutes in Santa Irene. Suli cracks down on the sex trade. Suli knocks on the doors of the United Nations to ask for money to build a new police force, set up a system of health care, combat the drug trade. It all comes down to money. Possible now, perhaps, because Africa is so hopeless, money sent to most countries there seeps away and resurfaces somehow in Switzerland. And money sent to the rest of Asia evaporates in the economic free fall. But money sent to Santa Irene goes through Suli Nylioko, the beautiful woman in the blue
saftori
, whose bright light, by so many accounts, has transformed the whole country into a place of song and prayer and good works. She stood between the tanks and the soldiers melted, dissolved into boys who loved her. Everybody loves her. Suli.
Suli Nylioko
.
    A political widow who plays the innocent, claims the high road. Too shining new to show any of the mud. I know this. And yet …
    Say her name once and then again and it steals inside you like a spirit. Why not? Other spirits hide inside us all the time. Viruses lurk inside our organs, come out for a while to announce themselves, lure the drugs, then hide away again. Like the Kartouf camped out in the darkness of my brain. There’s treatment but no cure. Burn one part of the forest and they move to another; destroy a mountain village and theyreappear somewhere else. Like spirits. Why not a spirit of light? Why not an angel called Suli Nylioko?
    A U.N. delegation becomes the first international group to visit a prison in Algeria and somehow they fail to talk to even one of the twenty thousand prisoners held for terrorism. Somehow they have nothing to say about the murders and bombings and other atrocities. The U.N. commissioner for human rights visits China but does not visit a single political dissident. T.J.’s cousin is not heard from despite my pleas to the prime minister, but one man does escape from a secret prison in Vavuniya, torture marks all over his body. He holes up in a church and is saved from the militia by a priest and by the police. The police!
    The world turns in all its old ways. But now there’s Suli Nylioko. “The difference is like night and day,” writes a gushing columnist. “For a time we were killing one another and now we sing together every night, clean streets together, help in the markets and the fields. It is hard to believe the difference one person can make.”
    One person. Suli speaks on the radio and expatriate Santa Irenians double their foreign remittances. Suli brings inflation down to double figures from triple and then to single. Suli negotiates with Kartouf fighters and two thousand rifles and small arms are collected in one weekend. And yet where is Kartan Tolionta? He’s nowhere and he’s everywhere, in the back of everyone’s thoughts (in the recesses of my mind), in a cave somewhere up north, in the jungle, in Welanto, safe in some village in Thailand – no one knows where the leader of the Kartouf is, and no one knows what he thinks of Suli Nylioko. One blast and he could bring her down. She moves without security, passes among the

Similar Books

The Antique Love

Helena Fairfax

Sexual Hunger

Melissa Macneal

Borrowed Baby

Marie Ferrarella

Guardian Hound

Leah Cutter

Odd Hours

Dean Koontz