Liz slid out of the taxi with the other travelers. The six-hour trip left her drained and grungy, but she didn’t have time to clean up. She needed to shop at the African market before it closed for the noon rest.
She took a short cut through the seafood aisle and lingered a moment to breathe in the tantalizing aroma of frying fish. Then she stiffened her spine before wading down the next shopping lane, which was always strewn with garbage. The stench brought tears to her eyes. She waved her hand to keep the buzzing flies from landing on her face. Then she picked up her pace to reach the adjacent aisle of shops.
Customers shouted salutations across the crowds. The shoppers pressed in and shoved her forward. Everyone talked to friends and caught up on the local news. People paced. Buyers bargained. Sellers settled on prices.
Stopping at a little table, she bought mangoes, papayas, and bananas. Then she headed to a booth that sold office supplies. When she spotted an open box of ink pens, she picked up one and took off the cover. A couple of the merchants sold used pens that were out of ink, so Liz tried writing with it. This one worked.
The ebony-skinned trader rubbed his palms together. “The pen is one hundred francs.”
“Will you sell me two for one-hundred and fifty francs?”
He nodded and handed her another one. “Give money.”
After testing the second pen, she reached for her coin purse as several women shrieked. Liz turned to the cries.
Shoppers screamed, leaped out of the way, and darted in every direction. A giant naked man glowered and stomped toward a teenager with a baby clutched to her chest. People scattered so he had an open path to the terrified girl.
Liz sprinted toward the teenager, stopped in front of her, and faced the goliath. Sometimes the shock of her white skin among the Africans frightened people, but a gigantic fellow like he was, wouldn’t scare easily. His defiant glare sent shivers down Liz’s spine. She would try to distract the crazed man long enough for the girl to get away.
Saliva dribbled from his lips as he growled loudly. With both his hands, he lifted his blood-covered machete. Sweat poured off his face, down his chin, and onto his glistening chest. The powerfully-built fellow didn’t take his eyes off Liz as he raised the blade higher over his head.
Her heart beat faster. His bloodshot eyes riveted her to the ground as he stared fiercely down on her. Shudders ran up her backbone.
Lord please help.
Taking a deep breath to stay calm, she pressed her shaking arms to her sides. A hush fell over the horde of onlookers as everyone stood still. Silence filled the air. Her pounding heart beat like an African war drum. A sudden movement might prompt the livid man to lower the blade.
Liz held her ground.
Confusion flittered across his tattooed face. He shook his head as if to rid himself of one of the insects on his cheeks. Lowering the machete to his side, the crazed fellow roared and twisted away from her. He hadn’t gone more than a few steps when the market policemen seized him.
Taking a deep gulp of air, Liz pressed her hand on her chest. Feeling a little dizzy, she staggered backward.
Someone caught her by the shoulders and steadied her. She turned to the side and looked up into the tanned face of a handsome man and mumbled, “Please excuse me. I’m sorry for stumbling into you.”
“You didn’t.” The crinkles around his piercing blue eyes deepened. “I was trying to catch you before you fell.”
“Thank you.” Her heart raced again, but this time it was fueled by the good-looking gentleman before her.
He whispered, “That crazy man was about to lower his cutlass on your head.”
“I know.” Her breath caught. “When I saw that terrified girl with the child, I had to do something.”
“Did you think you could stop him?”
“It was impulsive, but …”
A security officer interrupted her. “Did that lunatic hurt you?”
Liz turned to the cluster of market police. “He didn’t harm me, but how are the girl and the child?”
“They are fine. That crazy man killed his wife. His family bound him with chains to a tree. He broke his bonds and ran to the market after slaughtering several animals. You are lucky. That murderer almost cut your head in two.” The officer made a slicing motion.
Liz shivered and looked around. Then she realized her backpack was gone.
The tall stranger held up her bag. “It slid off your shoulders when you tripped, so I grabbed it.”
“Thank you.” She reached for it. “I thought it may have been stolen in the commotion.”
He extended his hand. “I’m Andrew Thomas.” His Midwestern accent gave him away as American.
She took his hand. “Elizabeth Connor, and you’re the first American I’ve met in this market.”
“This is the largest shopping center in the city. They have almost everything for a price.” Andrew pulled out his handkerchief and wiped sweat from his face. “We met two years ago when you boarded a flight north. I was the pilot. You were the only woman on the plane, and I invited you into the cockpit.”
“You have a good memory.”
He put his handkerchief back in his pocket. “You told me about Jesus, but I wasn’t ready to listen.”
She lifted her hand to her unbound hair and wrinkled her forehead. She always wore her hair in a neat chignon while traveling in public transportation. Where was her hair clip?
Liz looked down. Andrew looked at the ground. Everyone around them looked at the dirt.
He asked, “What are you searching for?”
“My barrette. It must have fallen out when I ran.” Liz had to look demented herself with her uncombed hair blowing around her face.
“I don’t think you’ll find it in this crowded place. Do you have another one?”
“Back at home.” She ran her fingers through her curls and shoved them behind her ears. “I remember that conversation we had in the cockpit. You tried to warn me that the country was dangerous and suggested I return to the States.”
“No, I didn’t want to give up and fail God. Staying here was a challenge, but the Lord carried me through some frightening situations.”
“Just like the one today in the market?” She lowered her voice. “Maybe we can talk later, but not here.”
“Where?” He asked.
Staring down the lane, she slapped her cheek. “Oh no! I’ll probably be arrested.”
Then she turned her back on him and ran down one of the passageways.
A Little Mercy by Celeste Charlene is on Amazon books.com for .99 today.
I pray it will encourage you as a Christian, show you a glimpse of God’s Mercy, and entertain you.
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