The last respect

The boys broke into uncontrollable sobs, I was touched. Even the eldest boy started crying too but I remained glued to my seat. Tears or no tears, at times like this you need people around you. This was the prize they were paying for keeping to themselves. When the boys calmed down somewhat he asked about their relatives. The eldest boy said they had an uncle who stayed somewhere in the rural areas. The tenant said he should go and fetch him. He gave the boy some money. The boy was not sure if he would find his uncle because he had the habit of floating all over. The tenant said the boy had to find him by all means giving him more money. I decided to stick around so I was there when the uncle arrived. A dubious fellow you could smell him a kilometre away. He apologized for not being there when his sister was sick and that the funeral had to come at such a bad time. Things were not so well at his mine. He said he had a mine somewhere but right now he was just waiting for payment from . . . He actually went on and on about the mine and how his landrover was stuck somewhere in the mountains. His shoes, clothes and general outlook told a different story. I tried to visualise his hands on a steering wheel and my creative mind got stuck. He wondered if anybody could help him with money so that he could bury his sister. The tenant gave him and of course the moment he touched base at his mine the money will be as good as paid. Beer was bought and meat to roast. With more beer in his tummy the uncle just became an expert on every subject and by the following day when we were getting ready to give the woman a final send off the uncle was asking for more money. Soon after the funeral, the uncle was ready to go. His manners were just right. He gathered us all, “I need to thank you all.” He said. “Without you people I wouldn’t have been able to bury my sister. I would have wanted to stick around and tidy up things but the mine and the rover up in the mountains need me. I will be back of course in a few days to clean up this place. I have to take the children with me and I need the rover for that. I could have taken the Nissan but it is just too small for the journey.” He was lying, I had heard the tenant saying he would hold the car until he got all his money back. He was just too smooth. He asked for the kind tenant to look after the children and the house until he came back in a few days. He would bring his money then and he wondered if he could still borrow some more for his fare back to the mine. I was surprised when the tenant gave him. The uncle wanted to see the papers for the house and his sister’s bank account. The eldest left to get them. We were sitting outside and the tenant also left hurriedly mumbling something about his phone ringing. He took his time and the boy too. The boy brought back a lease agreement for the house and some bank cards that he didn’t have pin codes for. The boy said his mother sold the house to pay her medical bills. The tenant backed the story saying she told him in case the true owners came. The uncle took an uncertain glance at the papers and grumbled something about women’s foolishness. The tenant came with the money and the uncle took off. The gospel about coming back very soon was already in subdued tone. Two weeks down the line I was talking over the fence with my new friend from next door and he told me the uncle had not come back and he didn’t think he would. I wondered what the three boys would do. “They will pull through. The eldest is turning eighteen next year and he can take over. In the mean time I will stick around.” “But the house . . .” I was about to say something about the rentals and all. The house was never sold I realised. “I had no idea the fool could not read and write. I took a gamble and I won.” Just then, the youngest of the three boys arrived. He was wearing a soccer uniform and looked very excited. “Uncle,” he said struggling to catch his breath. “I am going to join the junior side of a real club and you’re going to be my manager. Here is the letter for you. You have to meet the club manager tomorrow.”

March 2006
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