1/24/2014

THE CULPRIT

One summer morning, I woke up to find maize, in my kitchen garden, all flattened. They were laid in incongruous position; supporting each other like the leaning Tower of Pisa and some were, beyond the hope of recovery, completely collapsed on the ground. There were only few erect maize plants and almost all were affected.

I climbed down the steps of my house, overlooking the garden, entered and looked carefully to inspect the cause of the catastrophic mess. The poor crops weren’t uprooted so, I tried to erect them. I lifted one. Oh my! What did I find? Nothing terrible but all the cobs were missing. They were removed in a hurried manner, not skilfully though. It was theft. And I am robbed. With the most treasured possession gone, the garden looked insipid to me. Frustrated, I wondered.

Who could the culprit be? Probably, it won’t be the neighbour’s masculine daughter. Being illiterate, she’s always prone to such misdemeanour. The crop was harvested unknown by its owner – a good hand. I contradicted myself; the girl won’t be up to such height of guts to take away my thing without my consent.  She would have forethought already – what if I find out and complain to her mother. Even if not out of respect for me, for fear of her austere mother, she won’t dare to commit the theft. Therefore, I removed my suspicion on her.

The indigenous fence was flawless. Not single bamboo was broken. Even the few metres of barbed wires were not bent or paired together. All the materials circling the garden were in usual condition. I wandered around with sense of a detective, hoping to find some clue. Evidence found might eventually lead me to make out a part of the suspects portrait. But I found nothing; nowhere could I find a single thing connected to the culprit apart the affected and victimised crop.

An itinerant mynah perched on little faraway fence. Its selfish twitters irritated me that I chased it away with a gesture of picking up something to shoot at it. Foolish bird. Birds! Can it be birds? My neighbour rears enough birds, enough to fill up space in my garden sufficiently. Perhaps those creatures would have flown in without my knowledge and scratched the ground so hard in quest to find edibles that weak rooted plants would have succumbed to consequent instability. Few still persistent plants would have resorted in bending little. That’s how they might have come up making my area horrible.

But what about the cobs? How could they succeed in removing the maize cob as done by human? Perhaps they may not have been thieves at all. Moreover, nowhere on the ground and around could I find the dug mark by the claws. The instinctive question freed the birds from my doubt.

Other than them, the only possible suspect I could point my finger on was dogs. They are so rampant, especially in the hot summer days, that they always take refuge under the cool shade of our shelter. But the impossibility of being able to pluck maize by them forbade me to doubt them either. Though omnivore, as far as my knowledge and intellect can stretch, dogs are known to be strict enough on diet as to avoid raw grains of maize, at least. Choosy animal.

Unsuccessful, I felt.

On one oppressive, similar afternoon, a couple of weeks from the incident, I was taking siesta. The relieving cool breeze mixed with the piping of the flute blended with lozey of a sentimental singer, from the radio of the neighbour next door, lulled me to sleep. I don’t know how I woke up. When I did, it was the plucking and breaking of some stems and sticks that I heard. It was originating from the garden beneath. I was distracted to continue my sleep.

An instinct rushed in my lethargic head, suddenly – won’t it be a robbery again! If it’s, then the flowering beans would be at great jeopardy.

Loading my catapult, I neared the window. Delicate with steps, I reached the open window. Frequent losses has made me so cautious and substituted my patience with frustration and hatred for the thing stealing my possessions away.

Next, the thing I saw entirely punctuated me from shooting the promising shot to the exposed target. Camouflaged and hidden though, the soil-brown back was visible as it’s turned towards me. Long and sinuous tail disappearing under its haunches; munching the immature bean pods, expected; it’s a solitary wandering monkey, apparently neglected and cut off from its parliament.

I didn’t interfere. Sumptuously did it munch, unaware of the fact that a boy, whose beans he’s taking, was right behind, ready to take him down anytime. I could catch the culprit red-handed finally.

The moment he discovered me, he leapt off the fence and disappeared in the clearing. Perhaps he was really ashamed of breaking into someone’s garden uninvited. In the evening, I talked of it to my father, who was amused to hear of the culprit.

All he said was,” well, he isn’t a criminal but one hungry monk in desperate destitute.” He laughed again.

From my writing portfolio.


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