Every saint has a past; every sinner has a future
If we were having coffee right now I would tell you about my grandfather. He was one of a kind. Sad to say, he wasn’t always there in my life. Actually he got in quite late. My earliest recollection with him actually happened on our compound. It was on a hot afternoon and he had come to visit and make amends. I had overheard his argument with my mum that morning. He had cut her off for getting pregnant out of wedlock. In addition to that he despised my father for he too had been a bastard. He said that their relation wouldn’t amount to anything and that she would come back to him begging. Well, that wasn’t the case for my mum was reminding him of all his words that morning. She was so bitter. Yet she still loved him. He had been a wonderful dad. Despite not being ‘blessed’ with a son, he never felt shortchanged. He treated all his daughters with utmost affection. He took them to school, respected them and even empowered them; Things that were unheard of when it came to the girl child at the time. He didn’t think of his daughters as commodities like all his other clansmen did.
We had been seated under the shade of the tree for some time. Mum had left us alone. It was his chance to say goodbye to me. I had just known him some days ago when mum welcomed him home. My dad was on a business trip. I sometimes think he made that up to avoid the encounter. I looked away, far away into oblivion yet my mind was very present. I just didn’t want to have eye contact with him. It was his last day with us for he would be returning home the following morning. He was sorry, it was clear from his gestures, but he didn’t know how to say it. He couldn’t even notice that I didn’t want him to say anything at all. This impasse made me uncomfortable. Being a pleasure seeker, I had to find a way out. I wanted to hurt him and my sadistic side predicted, quite accurately, that the best way to do this is to give him a glimmer of hope and then watch him suffer inevitable misery as it is taken away. With this in mind I thought of a challenge that would be impossible to overcome.
‘You’re a changed man… Everyone is a sinner… No man is perfect… Which of these stupid phrases are you thinking of right now?’ He was shocked. He opened his mouth but no sound was forthcoming.
‘Well, let me make it easy for you. I’m guessing you want me to forgive you or at least disregard your earlier views that I overheard this morning else we wouldn’t be sitting here in silence and you wouldn’t be rubbing your thumbs together in that manner,’ he stopped. It would seem that it was a subconscious autonomic action. It was then that I gave him my suggestion.
Mum was surprised to see me happy. My grandfather had also seemed pre-occupied.
‘You guys patched things up?’ She just had to ask.
‘Nope,’ I replied picking one of the tomatoes for a snack. It had been strange to everyone that tomatoes were my favorite fruits when they weren’t even fruits to begin with. Anyway, kipendacho roho…
‘Then how comes you look happy? Even more unsettling is his new mood. He seemed revived! What did you talk about?’ She asked as she continued peeling the potatoes.
‘Well, I just gave him what looked like hope to make it up to me but it’s anything but that.’
‘Details, my dear, details…’
‘You know how much of a nuisance night runners have been? Well, I asked him to help us catch the creep. A more than impossible feat if you ask me,’ I laughed but she didn’t join me. She had frozen and her eyes stared far into the distance.
‘He’ll do it!’
‘What!?’ She was bluffing. She had to be.
‘He will catch the night runner,’ it sounded like a joke but in her own words she had never been more serious. I was willing to bet the entire week’s house chores against him but I thought better of it. I know this wasn’t a competition of whose father is greater but my own dad could not get a hold of this culprit despite being the most agile adult in the entire neighborhood. I still recall how he came back home panting after he pursued the creep. He explained that he almost caught the guy but at one point the creep fused into everything- total darkness! We ate early that day for we had been accustomed to the night runner’s presence before eight o’clock. I had helped grandfather with the preparations and boy was it tiresome. At least he told me tales of the moon goddess and alignment of the stars as well as other night running folklore as I worked.
At 10 minutes to 8, it was game time. A whistling sound came from our gate. This was nothing strange as there was a frequent breeze in the evenings. I secretly hoped that it was the night runner. In a few seconds we heard fast footsteps approaching. This had never happened before. Now I understood why grandfather had made me pour sand meters to our doorstep. He was not asleep but he was not alert either. The sound of the footsteps brought him back to the center of the action. We had dragged 2 chairs to the entrance area near the door and had sat there in silence awaiting our esteemed guest. The door had been unlocked but grandfather’s cane leaned against it so that it would seem to be locked. He now sat in a standing position. Once the door was hit for the first time, he placed his hand on his cane. After the second hit, he removed his cane and to my surprise…
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I am still traumatized from the events of that night. It’s not easy to live with the sight of a dark black grown ass man pitch nakedly falling from the blackness of night into your home. It would seem the idiot was hitting our door with his bum for he fell with his back to the ground. The guy even had the audacity to lift his legs up. Not exactly the kind of nudes we describe in the infamous phrase ‘send nudes’. Thankfully, grandfather was there to teach him a lesson. The cane was properly utilized. Mum made haste and called the neighbors who were more than happy to take the creep. I doubt I had ever been more proud than I was that night.
The next morning, I was sad that he was going away but I would forever cherish the memories from the night before. I couldn’t stop speaking about him. I nagged my mum even as she made dinner to tell me more about my new hero. She didn’t seem too excited though that was to be expected. The reason behind this, however, was what was unexpected.
‘Who would you task to catch a thief?’ Mum asked.
‘Grandpa,’ I had to shorten the name for I had uttered it too much. ‘If he can catch a night runner, then a thief is no match. Don’t you agree?’
She hit her head to signal to me that I wasn’t getting it.
‘Let me put it this way then: Set a thief…?’
‘To catch a thief!’ That was easy.
‘Exactly! So now, tell me, whom would you set to catch a night runner?’ My lower jaw fell as my eyes widened.