Friday, July 01, 2005

One Day in the Life of Sisyphus – (afternoon)

PART II: Can a man who has control over the air conditioner understand a man who has no control over the air conditioner?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part II of a three Part serialization. For part one, click here.

Sisyphus’ glasses fogged up as he stepped out of the hyper-air conditioned hut 7 and into the humid Cuban air. He had often complained to the warders about the over-cold air conditioning, but the answer was always the same: petition rejected. Can a man who has control over the air conditioner understand a man who has no control over the air conditioner? Sisyphus wiped the condensation from his glasses and fell in with the rest of gang 104.

Nothing is more important for a zek than having a good activities coordinator. Sisyphus was fortunate to have just that in Saeed. Saeed had been captured early in the Afghanistan invasion and had been in Guantanamo ever since. He knew the ways of camp life like few others.

Saeed recited the day’s itinerary to the assembled gang 104: “All right everyone, here’s the plan for today. In the morning we convert the recreation area into a soccer field. After lunch, we have a match with gang 86. Then after dinner it’s time for interrogations.”

Saeed handed out the jobs: “Ahmed, Ziad, Samir, and Ibrahim you are to set up the goal frames. Mohand, Hamza, Ahmed, and Marwan go find the netting and attach it to the frames. Satam, Waleed, Abdulaziz, and Wail gather up the soccer balls and equipment. Mehan and Sisyphus, you are to apply the boundary lines.” Sisyphus was not surprised. The application of the boundary lines was the most difficult job, and as usual, it fell to the two most skilled workers in the gang.

It is very important for a line-painter to have a lime machine that has two good wheels and a lime reservoir that does not jam. But the rule was that all lime machines were collected at the end of the day and it was a matter of luck the machine you got in the morning. So Sisyphus had diddled the groundskeeper out of a good lime machine one day. He hid it in a different place each night and got it out each morning if there was line-painting to do. Now he only had to go behind the mops and brooms in the janitor’s closet, and there it was.

The large, round thermometer attached to the groundskeeper’s building read 89 degrees, but Sisyphus barely noticed the heat, so focused he was on the line he was painting. He was putting in the goalie crease when he noticed that the gang working on the adjacent field had put down their tools and started to lunch. Sisyphus was not about to put down his lime machine before the job was complete and he was too much of a perfectionist to rush through the final lines. But there would be hell to pay if he was late for lunch. Finally the last line was laid – a perfectly proportioned field lay before him. He stashed his lime machine behind a golf cart and hurried off to the mess hall.

Fortunately, he did not arrive too late. He quickly downed his Fish Amandine, long brown rice, pita bread, and finally his donut. Sisyphus asked Saeed, “Would you like me to fetch your prayer blanket, Saeed?”

“Only, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, Sis’.” Sisyphus ran to hut 7, careful to avoid the safety officers. One of these bureaucratic, OSHA-rejects spotted him as he reached the door of the hut, but he was inside before he could be told to slow down. He grabbed Saeed’s prayer rug, tore back to the mess hall and presented it to Saeed. Camp protocol says that a zek fetching a prayer rug for another zek ought to be rewarded; Sisyphus stood there waiting, too proud to ask. Saeed looked up, “Thank you. Why don’t you take my donut, I’m stuffed.”

Sisyphus sat down and ate half of the donut and put the other half in his shirt to eat during the soccer game. Saeed led the gang out onto the field and assigned the gang to their positions; he made Sisyphus the goalkeeper to take advantage of his cat-like agility.

Some people with nothing better to do play soccer of their own free will. Silly devils should try playing for extra rations, after painting lines all morning, in this humidity.

Sisyphus had no trouble finding time to eat his half donut. He did not face a single shot the entire game. Gang 104 had managed to score on a penalty kick. There would be an extra three ounces of Tandouri Chicken Breasts. Life was a bed of roses, no need to die just yet.

TO BE CONTINUED (click here for part III)


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