Fiction | Short Story

The Man Who Collected Stones (part 3)

A magician of note or just a smart fool? The village could not decide…

So there was Curious Silas… ready to run and yet he found his limps unresponsive.

“What kind of strange magic is this,” he asked himself; still not sure if he spoke the words aloud or whether he was just thinking them.
Unable to move, Curious Silas kept looking at Johnny Tenda, who after spotting the young man went back to what he was occupied with.
The young man again tried to turn and run but his eyes were fixated on what Mr. MaakDieBoereKwaad was up to.
Slowly sorting out the many stones he has collected over the months, Johnny kept hitting them with a solid iron tool that Silas had never seen before.
The ones that broke, Johnny threw away.
But the ones that did not were put into a separate box.
Silas could not see how many stones were in this box and his curiosity saw him coming closer.
According to the legend, Curious Silas could not explain why he went closer.
And yet he was awakened from his inactivity when Johnny Tenda finally spoke.
“Are you just going to stand there? Or will you come in and help me?” the older man, without looking away from his work, enquired.
Curious Silas could not find the words but he found himself getting even closer.
“What?” he started softly.
“What do you want me to do?” Silas asked.
“Sweep the floor and afterwards tell me your name,” came the instruction.
Although finding the request strange, Curious Silas found the broom and did what he was told.
When he finished his task, he went back to the older man.
Still unsure of himself, Silas again spoke softly.
“My name is Silas Kamati,” he informed Johnny Tenda.
“Ahh… you are the first born son of Aune and Markus Kamati,” the older man responded.
Silas knew that the fact the older man knew this was not strange because, generally everybody in the village knew each family member that forms part of the community.
But the next question did surprise him.
“So you grew tired of bothering the rest of the community and now want to bother me?” Johnny asked.
This caught the young man totally by surprise because he did not think that his reputation would have reached Mr. Tenda, who always appeared to be withdrawn from the daily activities of village life.
“Well since you refuse to answer a simple question, let me ask what it is you wish to learn by coming here?” Johnny went on.
Still a little flustered Silas –for perhaps the first time in his life- did not know what to say.
The normally cheeky and curious boy was lost for words.
But not for long it turned out.
“What are you doing with the stones?” Silas blurted out, after a few minutes’ silence.
This drew a smile from Johnny.
“You don’t want to answer my questions but yet you ask me questions,” he said, now looking away from his work.
Getting up slowly from his makeshift work station, Johnny went into the kitchen.
“Follow me,” he instructed Silas.
“Now, I know you have many questions but in order for you to get answers, you must ask the right questions,” Johnny said while turning on the gas stove –considered a luxury in the village- that he brought back with him on his recent return.
“What are the right questions?” Silas wanted to know.
“Once you know why you are asking questions, then you’ll know what the right questions are. So again let me ask, what do you hope to learn by coming here?” Johnny asked.
“Well,” Silas started slowly.
“Actually I don’t know. It’s just… ehh. I want to know why… uhmm… why people do what they do.”
“Okay, and what do you wish to do with that information, once you know?” Johnny probed.
“Well, then I can figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life,” Silas replied, a little bit too quickly.
“Ahha, we are getting somewhere,” Johnny said, handing Silas a plate with some meat and traditional porridge.
Once the younger man – In the modern world Silas would still be considered a boy as he was just to turn 14- had finished eating, Johnny resumed talking.
“I used to ask a lot of questions, just like you… that is until I learnt that you can learn more by watching than you can ever do by talking.
“At least that is what my father told me. And as you’ll learn, that is the philosophy of this village and every other African community,” he said.
“But as I grew up, I learnt something even more important,” Johnny added.
“WHAT IS THAT?” Silas wanted to shout… I’m sure you – YOU reading this – also want to shout that.
But that will only be revealed in the next part of The Man Who Collected Stones: an original story by Hector H. Mawonga.