A Handful Of Sand (excerpts from a work in progress)

She arrived the house of her employee and immediately put her mind off home. The next day and Stan’s father hadn’t left as he had made her believe. Two days later and she was beginning to wonder if anything was wrong but then he had acted normal except that he took the entire work off her shoulders since the boy Stan was naturally endeared to him. he prepared his meals, bathed him, got him ready for his art lessons, helped with his homework, drove him to school, listened to him while he chatted along, took him out for rides on his shoulders in the evenings and took them out with them to occasional dinners. It had worried her that maybe things had changed and she would soon be relieved of her services, but her employer did nothing to suggest that, he seemed to be enjoying doting on his son. She kept her path from crossing his, but it proved to be so easy a task for the man always locked himself up for hours on end in his bedroom when Stan was off to school.
One evening, he had taken them out to dinner in an African restaurant, Stan had liked nothing on the menu and so he had been promised a large burger on the way home while he made do with a bottle of Coke as the adults savoured the ‘strange’ foods served in hollowed out wooden blocks. They had come back home a bit before 8:00 pm because thunder rumbled in the skies, the air became wet and the air windy and so they had hurried into the car and driven home. It had still been too early to go to bed and they had sat in the parlour watching a boring program on TV while they awaited the network new at nine. The rain had started the dull patter and wet air lulled one to sleep, but the both adults seemed to defy the lure of sleep but then they had started a conversation. With Stan in his pajamas snoring lightly on his father’s lap, the man had given answers to the many questions nudging at her heart. He had told her about Stan’s mother.
He told her that the woman had disappeared shortly after the child’s second birthday, he had come home to meet the boy all alone in the house his eyes sore from crying for too long. He told her that he never went after looking for the woman for she was the kind that was found only when she wished to, she had disappeared once before in the first month of the pregnancy only to reappear seven months later. She had refused to give details of her past whereabouts when he had pressed her for information, but had cried instead and so he had let her be. With her second disappearance, he had moved away from the house with their child and severed every connection that might lead her to him. He said he never wanted to raise his child in a trauma-prone environment but wanted a secured future for his son. Life, he said was hard enough for a man, without the additional haunts of childhood adding to it.
That night she lay under the blanket in her bed in the friendly darkness of her bedroom thinking. She wondered the nature of woman Stan’s mother was to have abandoned the prospects of a stable family life for some unexplainable wandering. Such a family life was the dream of many a young girl and yet a woman had dumped it in the bin without probably a second’s thoughts. She must either be mad or possessed by a water spirit she concluded because there was one woman she had known to have acted just like that, the woman they had said, was demon possessed.
She couldn’t recall the woman’s name for it had all occurred a very long time ago when she was still a little girl who ran in along the dirt streets naked except for a pair of dirty cotton panties. The woman was very beautiful, fair of complexion and tall with dark eyelashes that stuck out of the lids like though it were the art of some makeup artist, she never walked by without a man turning back more than once in her direction and she was always of good cheer, but then she was given to priods of aimless wanderings. She would wander for days on end into the bushes away from human habitation only to reappear when the spell had left her and when asked, she couldn’t give any accounts as to what had propelled her to wander or where she had wandered to, she would think hard and then begin to cry, embarrassed and then the futile attempt at getting her to narrate her wanderings would be dropped. She had gotten married thrice and had been a widow thrice until no suitor had dared knock on her father’s door. Age came and with it a different king of beauty, everybody came to accept her as she was and her periodic wanderings became a normal part of the village life.
Maggie also wondered as she lay in the darkness; she thought about the kind of childhood the child Stan has: so protected and insipid in essence. The child would grow up not knowing what it felt to play in the sand, not knowing the courage to be learnt in getting into squabbles with peers, the thrills of shooting stones with handmade catapults at birds and scurrying lizards, the wisdom to be learnt from upturning ant hills, he would never know all this for childhood was like a pebble thrown into a river; it was gone, never to be gotten back. Such a childhood was very different from hers but stale when compared to hers. However, she envied the assured future the child had in store for him, that she didn’t and still never had, for if she had been so privileged, she wouldn’t have had to squat in a room with two other friends so that they had to make known their discomfort at her inability to become complying symbiotic. She lay in the darkness comparing the child’s life to her childhood experiences until sleep like a blanket shrouded her consciousness; it was such rare nights when she slept and never dreamt.


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