Zen Questa VIII

The man who had ushered in Yolo was standing in the tent with an expression of utter astonishment. He was a tall man, who, from his built looked like he was used to doing heavy manual work. His hands were rough and well connected to the arms which seemed well built like a wrestler. His barrel chest was covered by a cheap wool and hemp cloth. His face was somewhat rugged and a small deep gash near the lips on the left cheek gave the impression of a perpetual smile to anyone looking from that side. He looked at Xandu in disbelief and shouted “What are these boys doing here?”. Then he pointed at Yolo and continued “I thought this one was a thief and now I see another one inside. What in the heaven’s name is going on? I demand to know .” He said in an almost accusing way. The women pointed at the terrified Xandu for explanation. The man looked at the boy and asked him gently about his presence at such a place and at such a time. The boy looked at him with a dread as if he were a lamb ready to be ripped apart by a wolf. To his surprise the man knelt down and put a hand over his shoulder and asked “What are you doing here kid?” Xandu felt a sigh of relief and stated his story minus the incidence of voyeuristic thrill. He said he knew that his parrot has been stolen by the man and it is his property. The man looked up and asked the woman to tell the name of the man. She replied that she has no idea who he was and that he had just been with her for a while and went away with the parrot. She could not help them in any way to find him. The man assured the boys that she isn’t telling a lie and they should leave. Xandu felt dejected and gave the anklet to the woman and left with Yolo towards the inn.

On their way back to the inn, they were mostly walking silent; and sadness hung around their faces like a flimsy cloud over a desert. Yolo looked at Xandu an spoke out “A least we tried to look for it. We know what the man looks like maybe we should look at the inn for him. There are two inns in the town and we should be able to find him by tomorrow…no?” Xandu was not in a mood to play the detective any more. He replied in a low voice “Maybe we should go to sleep at the inn and look for the man tomorrow morning. He wont be leaving soon and I am sure he will be hungry and would come to breastfeed again.” Yolo laughed and said “You know…I did not tell you guys but I know what he was doing in that tent.” Xandu looked at him with a puzzled expression and asked “Then why did you not tell us?” Yolo replied “Zimba is too young for such a thing and you too are not grown enough. This is what grown people do when they want to have some fun.” Xandu asked in a bewildered manner “So, when I grow up I would be breastfeeding too? again!” Yolo laughed so hard that it must have been heard for miles outside the town. Xandu was not impressed with such a mockery of his curiosity. Yolo composed himself with some effort and began “You see Xandu, there are certain things that can’t be shared or told without some sort of inkling inside you. You are still a kid and you will not understand. You need a few more years and then one day you would be laughing too.” Xandu felt like he was being cheated and Yolo was not telling him what he needed to know and he retorted tersely “How did you know?” Yolo said “I have seen it before and now do not ask me where…Oh! we are at the inn. Let us go inside and sleep in our beds. Its too late now and I do not intend to sleep with the street dogs tonight.” Xandu agreed and they both went inside.

The innkeeper opened the door and looked at them from head to toe in an angry manner. He asked “Why are you so late? Didn’t I tell you to come early otherwise I would not open the door? Where is the third rascal? You scoundrels, don’t you know that its not a good idea to roam around at night? What kind of parents do you have? Are you orphans? Who would let their kids out at such an ungodly hour?” Yolo winked at Xandu and said “We had lost something and we were searching for it and we could not find it and please do not ask us what it was. The little boy has gone to stay with is uncle and we are here now and please let us sleep because we are too tired even to stand. Please Sir, Have mercy on us poor kids” The man seemed to calm down a bit and said “Alright, just go in the basement to your bunk beds and do not make any noises; the other guests are sleeping and mind you if you stomp or thud with your feet, I shall cut them off with my ax. Go now!” The boys ran inside upon their toes and rushed downstairs in to the basement. The light was off and in whatever little light they found their bunk and settled down to sleep. The eyes were shut as soon as they dropped themselves and in a few minutes were fast asleep.

The sun shined in brightly through the basement windows and the lizards were wriggling to the few crevices in the side wall to find shelter. The boys woke up and they looked at the shining windows. They needed to get ready and get going if they wanted to catch their man. They did not take any shower or breakfast but ran outside. They went straight to the town square and looked around for their target. The man was found standing near a house and talking to someone with a stocky built and a bearded face. They did not look like nice people to know and the boys hesitated to approach him. Yolo and Xandu decided to wait till the man was alone. After a few minutes of a patient wait, the man finally said goodbye to his acquaintance and started to walk. The boys followed him through the streets until he stopped outside a shop. This was their moment and the boys ran towards him and almost stumbled over on their way. Xandu slipped and banged straight into the man from behind. The man turned around to see what had struck him only to find a young boy lying in the puddle in front of him. He picked him up by his arm and asked if he was alright? Yolo was also standing close to him and grabbed the man from behind. The man pushed a leg to his side, grabbed Yolo with a free hand and bent himself  while bringing the boy over his shoulder down on the ground to his senses. Yolo was staring straight into the sun now. He could not understand for a while for what had happened in that fraction of a second. The man approached Xandu who was standing there trembling with an mix of rage and fear and varying proportions and could not decide which one was stronger. The man had stolen their parrot and now he really wanted to get it back from this thief. The man again asked the boy if he was alright. Xandu said almost shouting “Where is the parrot?” The man stepped back and realized in a jiffy what was it all about. He then moved closer to the boy and asked “Are you the boys who were laughing outside the tent yesterday?” Yolo was back on his feet and looked at the man apologetically. Xandu replied in affirmation and stood in defiance as if it was alright to poke into people’s private affairs. The man looked around and came really close to Xandu and said “You know its a bad idea to do such things and if you mess around with bad people then bad things happen to you.” Xandu could feel his alcohol laced breath right in his face. He felt utterly disgusted by it and moved his face away from the man. The man changed his tone and said on a lighter note “I really like the way you guys tried to confront me. You are brave boys. Where are you from?” Yolo interjected before Xandu could say anything “Thank you for you nice words Sir, but we shall rather take our parrot and get going on our way.” The man looked them with a sorry face and said “Well, you guys are late. I just sold your parrot to somebody who offered me thirty ruppahs for it. You see, I never let go of a nice opportunity. And yes I do not know who he was; he just bargained hard for that parrot and got it. Sorry boys! I can’t help you much.” The boys were stunned. Everything they did since yesterday seemed to climax at nothing. Null. Zilch.

They were back on the road towards their home. Zimba was the least concerned. Yolo and Xandu were the ones with long faces and hunched shoulders. They had failed in their objective. On their way back, they again saw the man with the pitcher sitting under the shade. The man gave them a wave and called them but they did not respond and kept walking. Just a fleeting look gave them the impression that the man was grinning at them in a jest. The boys reached the village and said goodbye to each other before going to their homes. When Xandu reached home, he saw his father sitting in the same corner as usual. The moment he said ‘hello’ to his parents, his father jumped up and ran towards him as if he would smash him against the wall. The boy ran outside and the man followed behind him with his slippers in his hands and threw the first one like a missile at the fleeing boy that hit him on his back and the other one went singing near his ear. He was breathing hard as he ran as fast as he could through the narrow streets of the village. The tale of their adventure had reached home. When he ran past the last house he saw the open door and the cage with the parrot hanging on the same tree. He cried as he ran and his tears blurred his vision.


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