Fiction | Short Story

The Man Who Collected Stones (Part Six)

The villagers were still enchanted by the strange shenanigans of Johnny Tenda…

‘The son of a very powerful man?’ thought Curious Silas.

These were the words his father used to describe Johnny ‘MaakDieBoereKwaad’ Tenda.
‘Whose son was he? How will I ever learn that information?’ the young Kamati asked himself.
Silas did not get the chance to ask his father during his report giving the previous night because shortly after telling his parents about his encounter with the strange Tenda, he was told to go to bed.
And it is here, with the soothing sounds of his younger brother’s snoring keeping him company, in their hut that his mind returns to the man who is now well-known for collecting stones in the village.
Having spent a day in Tenda’s company, Silas was convinced that there was a great deal to learn from the man.
And you couldn’t have imagined the joy he felt when his father had agreed that he would have to spend more time with the strangest man in his village.
Tenda had said that he used to ask a lot of questions too, just like Silas.
And yet, he is now a soft spoken man that largely kept to himself.
What had led to this change in personality?
Was it the villagers’ insistence on refusing to answer questions that led to Tenda to stop asking questions?
Did they keep dodging him, much like they do with the young Kamati?
Or was there something more to the story?
These thoughts kept flying through Silas’s mind, until sleep overtook him and he drifted into dreamland.
Mornings in the Kamati household were almost identical with the routine hardly changing.
Markus, as the elder of the family, was always the first to wake up.
No one was allowed to wake up before him and on the days that he didn’t feel well, the entire household would have to keep their movement to a minimum.
On such days, the neighbours would enquire why there is no movement in the Kamati household.
“Our sun did not rise today,” would be Aune’s response to such queries.
Everybody in the village would then know why movement was so slow in the Kamati house and most would come to make a turn to find out if there was anything they could do to help the father of the house.
But today was no such day.
Markus was up early, and as was custom, he would wake up his eldest in Silas while Aune kept sleeping.
Silas, in turn, would wake up his younger brother to inform him that he needs to wake his sisters up so that they, for their part, would go help their mother wake up.
At that time, Markus would have already taken stock of the night’s movement in his yard by doing an inspection of his three kraals, which had a few sheep, a lot more goats and just four cattle.
The family also kept chickens and it was the duty of the two boys to make sure that the man-made nest – a cage made from wood and dried out leaves-where they were kept in was not disturbed by snakes or any night-time intruders.
Silas remembers the day when he found a big line leading to the chickens’ cage.
Sensing danger, he had immediately run to inform his father of what he saw.
It turned out that a snake – a big black one at that – had entered the cage and helped itself to three chickens.
As a result of his feasting, the snake had just coiled up in a bowl and hardly moved.
Silas’s father had called his neighbours to help kill the snake.
Come to think of it, Johnny Tenda was one of the first people on the scene that day, Silas remembered.
But again today, there was no such drama and the cage was largely untouched.
After the inspection, Markus and his two sons would join the rest of the family around the fire, where his wife and his three daughters would have finished preparing their first meal of the day.
This mostly consisted of traditional porridge, eaten with some of the previous day’s leftover meat.
Well, at least, Markus was always guaranteed his meat while the rest of the family would have to do with soup, if they were lucky.
Today was such a lucky day.
In fact, there was enough meat that each of the children was given a small piece of meat.
Silas liked these kinds of days because he knew that this meant that fresh meat would be eaten later in the day.
Once the first meal was finished, it was then time for each to do their daily chores.
Silas and Lukassy would have to let the animals out for grazing while Markus would head into the garden.
His maize plantation was not one of the biggest but Kamati was known for making use of the space given to him.
The women would later join him when they have done cleaning the kitchen area.
The two boys’ would return to collect eggs from the chicken’s cage.
After which they too would head into the garden.
By mid-afternoon, most of the duties would have been fulfilled and some members of the family would take a nap while Markus would head out to the village centre, where the chief’s house is situated.
Here all the head of the households in the village would gather to talk about their morning and express their grievances.
Markus was determined to bring up the topic of Tenda’s strange behaviour at today’s meeting.
In all the years, no one has bothered to bring up the topic, mostly for fear that Tenda would use his magic on them but also because most were to more eager for him to reveal his secret by himself.
The second reason was quite familiar to the head of the Kamati household.
‘After all they do say: Wait and watch and eventually every man reveals his true nature,’ Markus thought.