Saturday, 31 August 2013

Sharing something I wrote a long time ago, I quite like it.

I never came up with a title for this one but I did just now. 

 'Remembering Chacha'

During my childhood years there were a few things I was really passionate about. Building houses out of cardboard, playing football, visiting Chacha and listening to his whimsical tales. His name was Raice Morgan but we all called him Chacha, which meant uncle in my native tongue. I was very fond of him, all the kids were. My friends and I would find excuses all day long to hang out at his place. He was a retired war veteran, with a twisted sense of humor which made the adults disapprove of him. His house was full of interesting things; there were war muskets and old scary looking books, a big collection of wall clocks, maps of places I had never dreamt of visiting, scrolls in other languages, dark and sinister looking paintings (some were nude too). My parents didn't like my visiting his place, most of the adults used to call him the Senile Bastard. 

I had told him that once and he had laughed gleefully and said 'I'll tell you what. I'd love it if you call me that young man.' He had winked. 

'But what does a Senile Bastard mean?' I had asked innocently. He had laughed his wacky laugh once more and rumpled my hair with his bony fingers. 

'Run along now, you'll get the meaning in due time.' And I did, I already knew it was a bad word and I was awed beyond belief at the fact that someone wanted me to call them that. 

I was 12 years old now and already knew how to curse fluently in five languages, had tasted alcohol 12 times, smoked 8 times (even Chacha's antique pipe given to him by an Arab Sheikh or so he claimed) I wonder what would Reverend Sendiye say if he found out about my so called notoriety. I was his star pupil at mass every Sunday. Our parents had already seen this coming, and my father had adamantly refused to let me see Chacha anymore. To quote him, 'That man is a dog; he needs to be locked up somewhere! All he is capable of doing is turning our innocent kids into cads like him!' and then in an undertone,'….that Bastard…' which had made me snicker but my father wasn't so enthusiastic about my reaction. I had gotten a beating that night and was forbidden to see Chacha from then on. 

Those endless conversations with Chacha had also taught me how to rebel and be stubborn. So I came up with a plan, there was a bridge near my house and it was always secluded. The only time the bridge showed some sign of life was on New Years Eve when it was all lit and twinkling. It was probably a fifteen or twenty minute walk and we could easily meet up with Chacha there. I managed to hand the note to Chacha explaining our place of rendezvous while shopping at the grocery store. He was buying cigarettes and I was buying candy. 

I told him, 'You'd die if you don't stop smoking, you sick fart.'

He guffawed and said, 'Oh it don't do me no harm. Quit being a little pansy you miserable fag and grow some balls.' 

The cashier was scandalized. I guess she would have never imagined a twelve year old and a seventy year old talking to each other in such a manner and hurling one swear word after another. That's what I loved about Chacha, he spoke to me like an adult and often treated me like one too. He never gave a damn about anyone's opinion. But it was always like some kind of role-play. We'd just pretend to be cool and say stuff to each other, but deep down I knew how to respect my elders and speak in a civilized manner. At least I thought I knew. 


The first day of our secret meeting took place when the sun had sunk. We were all giddy with excitement as we sat down on the bridge. Chacha finally appeared and sat with us, we had a great time and he told us many stories, tales of horror and adventure. Every week I'd look forward to our meetings on the bridge, time passed and before I knew it, my friends moved away while some lost interest. Soon I was the only one meeting Chacha, I liked it better this way. We could talk about other stuff too, anything I liked…my studies, how I hated my parents and the crushes I had on my class mates. I was almost thirteen when Chacha told me the story of that bridge. That was a memorable night for me, I was to leave for boarding school the next day and I was very excited about it. Unlike most of my friends, I didn't find the prospect of living in a hostel, under the scrutiny of a miserable warden so depressing. To me it was the perfect beginning to a new adventure, a giant step towards the freedom that was to come in my life. This moment signified my dreams, my hopes, my aspirations and the eventual path I'd choose to lead. We sat in silence, listening to the sound of crickets while occasionally talking about some random thing or person.

It had just occurred to me that the time I spent with Chacha would probably be the time I'd miss the most when I was away. I'd miss the scent of his spicy cologne and the strong smoke of the cigar he liked and most of all I'd miss the grown up conversations I had with him. Thinking about it now, I could almost feel the tears clogging my throat as I cast a glance at him. He seemed to be very preoccupied tonight and there was something different about him. I hope he wasn't feeling sick again. 

By the passing years, his health had deteriorated and his stories had become more imaginative and exaggerated. I had heard talks of him visiting the psychiatrist but dared not to ask. You didn't talk about things like that with Chacha. He hated talking about disease, his dead wife, growing old and dying. I was worried about his health and tried getting him to stop smoking. But he was a stubborn bastard, never listened. 

I wanted tonight to be fun and special since I was going away and I had sworn to myself that nothing would ruin this moment. Breaking the silence, I said, 'So Chacha, it's just like old times. How about telling me one of your spooky tales tonight?' I said as I played with his lighter.

'Are you sure Pansy? You wouldn't pee in your pants?' Chacha sneered at me and guffawed. 

'You old fart, I'm not a kid anymore. Why should I be scared? And I hate it when you call me Pansy.' I said, trying to sound all tough. 

'But you are my Pansy. OK, here goes. I haven't told this to anyone. It's about this bridge…' Chacha lit a cigar and I watched him in fascination.

'The bridge that we are sitting on right now…?' My voice was an octave high now, try as I might I was slightly disturbed. 

'Yes sir. This very bridge, do you know what they say about it? They say that when a person is depressed or has negative thoughts, this bridge makes them dream weird things. There's a spirit that lives below in the waters, it's probably the cause of this.…'

'A spirit…! Is it a bad one?' I interrupted before I could contain myself.

'Hush now, it's my story. Let me finish it first. Now I've heard a lot about those dreams and weird things but I never believed it, until 'that' happened. When I was 42 years old, I saw a dream or a hallucination. Anyways, it really isn't a spirit that lives under the bridge but some kind of ethereal creature, at least that's what I think it was. Been a long time now, but it sure was surreal. I was walking alone, lost in thought. That hadn't been a good night for me, you see I had just buried my wife the other day and was still suffering from the blues. I had a bit too much to drink, so I was staggering and I don't remember much. I decided to sit up here and finish the last bits of my wine before heading home. But before I could do that I think I passed out and that's when I dreamt. I dreamt that I had decided to kill myself, and I jumped off the bridge. It was scary, I closed my eyes as the wind rushed by me. I was prepared to die, waiting for the cold waters to embrace me. But they never did, I passed out then and when I came too, I was resting under the bridge and a figure sat across me. It was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her eyes were this bright blue of the sky; they shined brighter than the sparkling water about her. Her dark curly hair framed her face and she looked as though she had stepped out of some children's fantasy book.' There was a pause as Chacha took a satisfying puff of his cigar. 

'The first words out of her mouth were, "Settle down Mister and listen to what I have to say and you shall not be harmed." It was then I noticed her eyes were almost hypnotic. Her nails were long and polished, almost claw like and suddenly she didn't look too pretty to me anymore. Her skin was ghastly white, there were dark circles under her eyes and for the first time in my life I was scared. She spoke again then…"You are the next chosen one,"'

'Chosen one for what…?' I interrupted again and bit my lip.

Chacha gave me one of his patronizing stare. He was not too pleased by my constant jabbering. I fell silent once again and looked down at the dark shadows in the river under the bridge. It was eerily still, as though waiting to be disturbed by something or someone. Instinctively I moved closer to Chacha.

'I don't remember much, but that woman was wicked. She sat there and told me how she was my new master and that from now on my soul belonged to her. Upon my death I'd not go to heaven or hell, but live under the bridge to do her bidding like a minion since she'd saved my life and mind you she has a lot of minions, they prowl around late at night looking for forlorn souls of little spirits to ensnare. You can almost hear them at night, more clearly when you are upset or depressed. Have you ever heard tiny bells jingling at night, far away in the distance?'

'Sure, sometimes but I reckon my ears are always ringing,' I said. 

Chacha could see the fear in my eyes but he chose to ignore it, 'She liked having little sprites around her, and she was fond of humming for them. They circled about her even as she spoke to me, making a halo around her. I thought she was divine…'

I snorted and said, 'You were definitely drunk old fart…' 
'Oh hush, I wasn't. She was incredibly lonely and wanted me to be her companion…she seemed to have taken a liking to me'
'You were so dreaming! No lady in their right mind would want you as a companion!' I almost shrieked with laughter.
'She was no ordinary lady, she was quite bold both in her dressing and her manners' Chacha said with a glint in his eyes.

'Scantily clad you mean…?' I teased him.
'Well yes, you don't believe she was there and took a fancy to me?' Chacha said with a smile in his voice.
'Of course not, since it was just a dream anyways…' My voice trailed off.
'Don't be too sure pansy, I could toss you down there and you could see for yourself if it's true or not.' Chacha wagged his eyebrows and guffawed.

'You old fart, you really are crazy.' I said, shaking my head.
'She told me kids on the verge of puberty are her favorite, she would love to teach you a lot of things….'
'Oh, shut up! You old pervert!' I laughed, this time I knew Chacha was joking.
'You wouldn't laugh so much if I were to become that crazy woman's companion now, would you?' Chacha smiled as he got up and patted my head.
'If you do, I'll make sure to rebuild this bridge once I become an architect so that you two love birds could live happily ever after.' I teased him again.
'Please do that, and make sure to put lots of lights so that when I'm drowning in misery in the murky waters, missing you I'd look up at them and say, "Damn, that makes me happy!"' Chacha said dryly. 
'I'll throw pebbles down there for you to catch so that you won't feel alone and you could throw them back at me!' I chuckled. 
'Also throw down a bottle of wine sometime' he said, joining in the fun.
'I see you're warming up to the idea quite nicely, maybe you could steal a kiss or two from that pretty Mistress once in a while…' I said, impertinently.
'Why you miserable pansy…' Chacha roared with laughter and I joined him. We didn't care how loudly we laughed. It was the best night I have had in a while.

We walked at a leisurely pace and to be honest I didn't want tonight to end. I promised to write him a letter from school each week and to give him full details and descriptions of everything. I finally decided to ask the question that had been bothering me for a while, 'What would you do if it really wasn't a dream Chacha?' 

'Then I'm screwed, aren't I? I don't know Pansy, I guess I'd be more than happy since my final destination wouldn't have been heaven anyways.' Chacha said, almost seriously. I laughed again, he never took anything seriously.

'It's all about the scantily clad Mistress of mine anyway. Don't worry, it was probably my old geezer fantasy. It didn't make much sense anyway. Why would she want a companion? If she's so pretty she could've gotten any man she liked. Perhaps it was just my lucky day or she knew of my legendary skills in being ladies' man' Chacha said, amused at my confusion. He smiled and winked at me.

'Yeah, you and your legendary skills,' I said sarcastically, then added, 'Take care of yourself while I'm gone and don't smoke too much,' 

'Ah! Piss off, you. I can't live without smoking, you know that!' Chacha said, feigning a hurt look.

'Don't you dare die while I'm away Old man!' I said sternly and hugged him. He hugged me back and promised that he won't.


16 years later

It felt odd to come back to my ancestral home, back to my roots. Every time I came here I could hardly recognize it, so much had changed. I had been working on the rebuilding of the bridge for almost a year now and tomorrow would be the inauguration. It was my first solo project and I was very proud of it. 'Mr. Mekaal, I have checked out the schedule for the following week and all the arrangements have been made for tomorrow. We can head back to the hotel now,' my secretary informed me. 

'Thanks a lot Mary, you go ahead. I'd like to stay for a while' I smiled and watched the car disappear into the night. It was a pleasant night, fragrant with the smell of jasmine. A strong gust of wind blew as I stood on the bridge, reminding me of the long forgotten days that I spent here with Chacha. I shook my head in disbelief. May God rest his soul but he sure knew how to feed cock and bull stories to children. Sometimes I wondered if there was any truth in his tales. I hope so since much of his image was based on them. I smiled fondly as a vision of Chacha appeared in my mind, smoking his beloved cigar and talking about lewd stuff. 'Senile old Bastard...' I said, the smile still lingering on my lips. I extracted a cigarette from my pocket and lit it. Winter would be making its appearance soon enough I realized, as another gust of chilly wind blew past me. I sat down then, just like I did in the old times and cupped my hands to light the cigarette. 

I better cut down on my smoking if I don't want to follow in Chacha's footsteps, I though grimly as I inhaled in the pungent aroma of nicotine and tobacco. Sadly he hadn't been able to keep his promise since he died three years after I went to boarding school. I gazed down at the shadowy waters and I could hear the faint whisper of waves. Soon, this place wouldn't be quiet anymore. There was a big shopping mall a few minutes away and recently a big cinema chain had bought land around this area. I stubbed out the cigarette butt and picked up a handful of some small stones and pebbles, probably left on the corners from the time of construction. Absently I threw them in the lake, liking the ripple they created. I glanced at my watch and stood up; it was almost 11 pm, time to head back I thought. Dusting the seat of my pants, I began to leave and I heard it then - the sound of a stone ricocheting off the pavement. 

I turned around and saw a medium sized oval stone lying on the side under the lamp post. Was it there before? I wondered in surprise as I bent down to examine it. It was perfectly oval and smooth, mossy on one side, exactly like the ones found near the lake. I picked it up and could almost feel the dampness of the moss. Smiling like a little boy I pocketed it as I walked away from the place where I had created my fondest memories. 


Been awful long

I have not forgotten this place, truly I have not.

It sure looks like it. I'm sorry.

Work has a funny way of sneaking up on you and stealing all of your free time. I really should stop proclaiming that I'm married to my work. Do not want to give it any more ideas.

It already hogs all fun out of my life. Anyways, by the time I got done with work, preparing to welcome a month long vacation during which I'd lose myself into the world of fiction and visual cinematic, I became sick.

Rather badly.

The vacation never happened, all I got was weeks of being bed ridden, depressed, and just blah.

I still feel pretty Blah! This illness is taking way longer than expected to leave my system. Yep, that's me. Viruses can not seem to resist my charm.

Wish it were the same way with people! *chuckles*

To cut my whining short, I've been feeling better lately. At least enough to want to write, and read.

Maybe go back to reviewing too. I can feel a build up of snarky comments inside my mind. Among other things.

So here I am, whether you want me or not.

You've been warned. ;)