Romney Charles Tabara received an MBA from the University of Papua New Guinea, and has served in government and corporate management.
Streets of Gerehu
Tuck Tuck Tuck! The sound of an M16 echoed through the street. This was Gerehu stage two, Tauriganika drive, or back street or back turf, it was often referred too. Part of a Gerehu Stage 2A locally referred to as “Home boys.” The last street along the back road heading towards Gerehu stage six, right adjacent to the notorious Tete settlement.
It was just another Friday evening, a Police White Horse (10 seater Toyota Land Cruiser) had just intercepted a stolen motor vehicle on the back road heading toward Gerehu stage six. Several shots were fired and the small White Nissan sedan that had been stolen about a day earlier was now lying on its side with two of its four wheels still reeling in air.
The occupants of the vehicle were all males, the eldest about twenty four and the other two nineteen and seventeen respectively, all Papuan boys, one Goilala, the others Kerema and Kairuku. They were definitely dead, one shot in the back of the head, the other two succumb to wounds from the crash, the fumes from the crashed car were a deadly fusion of burning rubber, alcohol and marijuana.
As a policeman pried open the driver’s door with a wheel spanner, in-order to drag out the occupants. Out from the hands of one of dead men, fell a home-made gun, further search of the car, revealed small sig pistol and several bullets.
As the on-lookers flocked to the scene, the sirens flashing in the background, the crowd now becoming more hostile, there were frantic calls over the police radio for more units to come quickly to the scene.
This was Gerehu in the 1990’s a typical and ordinary Friday evening between 7.00pm to 7.30pm. Gerehu was home to a lot of working class people, mainly public servants, the initial stages of government home ownership scheme which was initiated in the late 1970’s and early 80’s.
Gerehu was not a place for the faint hearted and you had to be tough to grow up here, or let alone live here. People would often joke like the ‘Bronx of New York’ so is ‘Gerehu to Port Moresby’ With only one road leading in and one road leading out, Gerehu was a place you did not want to get stranded in, and it was a place that was un-kind to new faces.
The notorious Tete settlement was located on the hills at the back of Gerehu stage two and along the back road to Gerehu stage 6. Tete is a maze of little shanty houses, made of timber off-cuts and corrugated iron pieces. Home to mostly settlers from Goilala in the mountains of the Central province, but now a mix with other ethnic groups including Engans, Eastern Highlanders and various other groups.
Tete is a dry, and dusty unforgiving looking place, its youths’, were well known for car-jacking, murder, armed robbery, rapes, and break and enters. They often terrorized the nearby stage two residents and would also occasionally combined with other youths in Gerehu to commit more serious and daring crimes that would hit front page headlines of the Post Courier or the National.
Along the back street behind the Kisiani’s residence was Wawin’s Timber Yard. The yard was the only sign of development along this stretch of grassland between the back road and the residences. It was right opposite the entrance to the Tete Squatter settlement.
Tony was one the boy’s from the yard he was a nephew to Mr Wawin the owner of the yard. At six foot, four inches, Tony was a big Tolai guy, an imposing figure, broad shoulders, buai stained teeth, brus smoker, often dressed in whitish blue jeans and a blanket shirt with three buttons missing from the top, a blade grass slotted through his ginger hair aligned against his forehead, and tucked under his arm would always be his tolai basket (arat).
A typical ‘saw boi’ (saw boy), his big arms and club like fists were enough to make other boys on the street think twice before taking him on. The Gerehu streets were a savage place and everybody sized you up if you were a new kid on the block. But Tony un be-known too many was gentle giant with hardly fighting bone in his body.
The Kisiani’s lived in thirteenth house located on the left of Tauriganika Drive, or the back street. They were among the original residents of the street. They had lived here since the early 1980’s. Donald Kisiani the old man from Samarai was the Father of the house, and was better known as Father DK. He had watched just about everyone on the street grow up in front of him. Father DK was now in his fifties, one of PNG’s first draughtsman and soccer gold medalist from the 1969, South Pacific games. He loved his beer and always had a few words of wisdom for anyone who had the time to stop by and have a chat with him.
Father DK had long separated from his wife who now lived with her new husband at Boroko. He had two sons and a daughter. His eldest son Victor still lived with him, while his second was serving a prison sentence at Bomana for armed robbery, and his daughter lived with her mother.
At the top of the street were small match box sized houses, often referred to as the NBC compound, it housed a lot of former National Broad Casting service staff. Then the remaining houses were all high post H-90 houses. The Kisiani’s residence however, was the only L40 house on low posts.
It was the only property not fenced that stuck out like a sore thumb among the other high post houses.
At the back of the Kisiani’s residence obscured slightly to the right was the Warwick’s Timber Yard.
Apart from the timber yard the back of all the residences located on the right of the back street, were all buffered by a stretch of uninhabited savannah grassland that lay about 25 meters in length from their respective fences till it was met by the back road to Gerehu Stage 6.
This made the residences easy pickings for the rascals at Tete who were strategically located on the foothills over-looking the residences of the back street or Tauriganika drive.
The Kisiani’s residence had a huge okari tree at its centre and on each of the four corners were large mango trees, the trimmed hibiscus hedges acted as a make-shift fence for the Kisiani’s yard. The shadow of these big mango trees obscured the view from outsiders making the yard itself a short-cut and gateway for Tete settlers who often passed through the Kisiani’s place to make their way to the market or TST.
It was another evening much like every other Tony made his way back from the market and through the Kisiani’s to get to the timber yard. This was his usual routine, apart from the distant cry of Police sirens from yet another incident on the back road or possibly at tete. Nothing much was out of the ordinary. It was between 7.30-8.00pm and the place was just getting dark.
As Tony walked past the big okari tree he shouted, “Ohoo! Abinun Fada”, to old man DK, sitting on his veranda drinking tea.
“Abinun Son”, responded Father DK, Tony continued on to the back to an old wrecked car that lay in the yard just before the short cut.
“Wshh! Wshh! Eshh! Suiii!” Punch! Punch! Lower block, thrust kick, back fist, round house. “Aish!”
Victor, Father DK’s, eldest son was going through his paces. Victor was an avid martial artist and season street fighter. He was a practioner of the Wing Chung style of Kung Fu, a black belt and notorious both in the ring and on the street.
At less than 170 centimeters, Victor was your typical mangi, samarai, but he was built like a brick with cobra shaped rib cage, a physique that more than made up for his lack of stature. Victor was known for belting guys twice his size he was well respected and feared by most of the so-called “big boi’s” in and around Gerehu and elsewhere.
Tony stood leaning against the old wreck as he lit his brus and puffed slowly as he watched Victor repeating his paces. He marveled at the speed and swiftness of Victor’s moves, fists, legs moving in flurry through the air, all in one motion. “Wow”! He thought to him-self “I wouldn’t want to be caught on the head with one of those kicks”.
Having finished his brus after a watching for good twenty minutes he bid Victor good night walked off slowly.
Warren, Tony’s younger brother had just arrived from Rabaul. Warren was skinny scrawny kid about seven years younger, no-where near as big as Tony. Mr Warwin had sent for him in order to come over and help out Tony in the timber yard.
The brothers were familiar with operating woka-baut saw mills in the Baining area so having them both work in the yard was a bonus.
This was a pleasant surprise to Tony who had just come back from the market. Unable to contain his joy and of course this being his fortnight. After shedding a couple of tears and asking about the family back at home which took up a good part of the night, Tony turned to Waren.
Small bro! kirap nau kam yumi tuplea go painim wanpela six peks lo rot. Warren looked at his watch “Aiee! Em I twelve kilok pinis”.
“Relax, I gat black market stap lo tamblo, mi bikpela pes lo hia, kam na yumi go,” replied Tony.
The two headed off into the night through the Kisiani’s yard and followed the back street down to an area known as Koke street.
Koke street was in stage 2B in part of an area locally referred to as Bulldogs. At the back of Koke street was the Gerehu industrial area, an assorted array of factories leading all the way to Gerehu stage six. Located along Koke street just before the factories was a black market run by Engans.
Surrounded by a Spiked Timber fence, it resembled a medieval fortress, fenced in by sharpened pencils. This was a 24-hour, seven days a week one stop shop for alcohol, gambling, darts, snooker and prostitutes, always a hive of activity.
Having ordered their beer they gulped down the first six pack, before each shouldering a carton. Making their way down Koke street till they arrived at the junction between Koke street and back street. The orginal bush track from Tete to suburban stage two was located here, and so was a big grassy patch before the Gawi’s residence the last house along the right of the back street.
As they approach the grassy patch, despite his drunken gaze Tony spotted several figures emerging from the grassy patch behind them. The glint of steel in the moonlight, quickly shook Tony to his senses. He shrugged the carton of his shoulder and placed it onto Warren’s shoulders.
“Warren kwan, yu sixty go lo haus na sapos me no kam bek hariap, toksave lo ol bois na yuplea kam antap na painim mi.”
Warren wasted no time, pwump pwump pwump! his slippers paved the colatr and cling! cling! cling! The beer bottles echoed in the carton as he sprinted down the street.
“Oi Naraia, Naraia! Oi sanap pastaim! Ere sini oi lau? Yu sanap pastaim yu laik go we?” “Sampela lus bottle kam? Na salim wallet to I kam! There were six guys altogether, Tony could tell from the hoarse police motu, these were Goilala boys. Each of them stood at his elbows, and the tallest of them, who was apparently the leader stood at about the height of Tony’s chest.
The leader drew a long bayonet, pointed on both ends, its razor edges glistened in the moon light. He thrust it at Tony’s throat, now standing less a metre from Tony, waving it to and through in a small circular motion, indicating what he would do to Tony’s thorax. Three others pulled out similar blades while the remaining two pulled out long pointy screw drivers.
Like of pack of wild dogs that were about to pounce on their prey. They surrounded Tony and drew closer to him ready to devour him.
Then as if by instinct, Tony stepped back and took a fighting stance. A serious glint in his eyes, he clenched his left fist tucked it under his elbow raised his palm and fingers pointing upright in chopping motion, right leg pointed in tandem with his pointed fingers and the left leg, placed back with toes pointed off to the left.
He gazed squarely at the lead attacker with pointy bayonet, “Auyiii, Azimei!” he shouted. His fingers quivering held in the chopping motion as he clenched his fist tightly and dug his feet into the ground in a fighting stance that he had often seen Victor do whenever he began his training.
“Kai Kai Karr! Kung Fu Man ya!” shouted the leader as he stepped back and lowered the bayonet. The others also paused and took a step back. This gave tony ample time to quickly scan his attackers, through the corner of his eyes as soon as the last man lowered his blade, tony broke from his fighting stance and was off like a like a flash.
In a gush of wind he pushed leader with the bayonet, who had lowered his blade for no more than a minute or two. The others were also stunned as the within the split second that they paused, Tony had caught them all off guard and jetted passed them.
They turned and looked at each other in disbelief. “Blarry Singagai! Kisim em!” They chased after him but by this time it was too late Tony was long gone.
They shouted, “Iauro miplela holim yu honest yu bai dai ya! “as they hurled rocks, and empty bottles at him.
Tony raced on into the night back to the safety of the Kisiani’s yard where Warren and the rest of the timber yard boys were waiting. Tony Kung Fu Man had lived to see another day
© 2018 Romney Charles Tabara