Evening. Her coach pulled into the park of the busy restaurant perched on the lip of the ravine. In the realm of the circling vultures beyond the bridge lay a territory of known marauders. Their journey through the forest would continue, but in the morning. As Marsha climbed down blearily, someone bumped into her from the rear, but she was already clutching her precious Blackberry with the interrupted conversation and did not turn around. It was only as she made to pay for her dinner of rice and stewed chicken that she realised that – despite her Lenten fast – the Devil had struck again and her wallet was gone. There was not much money in it, she thought, wincing at the insults of the buka madam, who, having spooned red-oil stew onto white rice, wanted to know who was going to pay for it now. Not many in that restaurant were impressed by the distress of the robbed girl, a distress that was to continue all night, for the buka madam cooked like a witch and the sweet aroma of fried stew filled the car park. Marsha huddled miserably in her seat, trying to sleep, thinking on the ATM card she would have to cancel, and her late mother’s photograph that she had particularly liked. Yet, the greatest trial was the hunger; she had not eaten since breakfast, and the restaurant stayed open all night as the park continued to fill up with vehicles. Her neighbour, a jolly trader from Agenebode, had bought a takeaway bowl with portions of the stewed chicken, which kept Marsha’s salivary glands busy. Naturally the Devil had ensured that – now that she had no money for a meal – the chicken portions were the largest she had ever seen. Somehow, that night passed.
Morning. The bus park that never quite slept slowly roused into the fevered rhythm of daytime. Milling passengers emptied from the park concourse into the dozens of slumbering buses and trucks coughing into life. One by one, the vehicles rejoined the expressway and sped across the bridge straddling the ravine. The first calamity struck just before 7am: the refuse truck pulling out of the restaurant ahead of Marsha’s coach stalled as it entered the expressway. A car with screaming brakes skidded into a collision, but the truck driver had the presence of mind to jump out of his cabin so that no life was lost. A reputation was lost in the second calamity, though: broken bin bags of fiercely secured kitchen refuse now littered the roadside with the bloodied heads and feathers of butchered vultures. Hapless travelers recognized the provenance of the larger-than-life poultry of their midnight feast and the air was rent with the sound of retching. As the Agenebode trader joined the mob tearing down the restaurant, Marsha decided that it was not the Devil that had starved her all night after all.
It was God.