1.2 Island of Thora
Soon, the boat approached the shoal and beach. A broad strip of a white sandy beach glazed by the pink in the sky reflected on the surface and that made it hard to separate land and water. There were many small boats rolling on the swells and fishermen on the beach cleaning the catch. They cut fish on the shore and throw the waste into the sea. Water pooled in blood.
There was no landing wharf and all had to jump into water. They did at hip-level and climbed the beach. Imagine, that load of band instruments in heavy wooden boxes would be unloaded on shoulders. Muaz caught his toes on a soft spongy thing as soon as he jumped down. It gave him a shudder but then it was an intestine from a dissected fish. He saw those many bowels of gut standing upright in water of many a hundred fish caught that day. More boats rolled to beach on the shore for the night.
He met his grandmother on the beach. “I am sure you’ll be tired after four hours on a bumpy ride. You are soaked to skin! Let’s go home!”
“Grandma! Are you alone?”
“My daughter prepared tea. That kid is Ryan, one of my grandsons. He is not going to come home anytime soon. It is sundown and he is still playing on the beach. Your bag!”
“I can carry this, grandma,” said Muaz.
They climbed up a path between the hedges and ploughed their way through loose sand on a wooded trail that made his footsteps heavy until they turned to Irshad Lane to touch some toughness in the soil. It was around five-thirty and fallen silent. Low boundary walls on either side covered of ferocious growth of red hibiscus flowers. They arrived at his grandma’s place called Donveli with a tall boundary wall and a green gate facing Irshad Lane on Giruva Magu. And a huge gooseberry tree spread over.
Though his grandma turned into a narrow trail beside the gate with pink oleander trees aligned on both sides and a canopy darkening the lane. At that hour, he could visualize an opening and an orange wall lit in the falling light. When it came clear to his eyes, he saw a set of French windows on the wall and a paved threshold to this newly erected quarters of the main house. Through the dark interiors in the falling dusk, he caught a shadow of a ghost-like thing cross the empty hall. He heard those footsteps very clearly since the windows were left open. His grandmother seemed not to notice. He saw this little dark figure dart across the hall a couple of times. It could be a child, he thought.
At the far end, his grandma switched on a faint bulb and ushered him into a tiny room with a double bed and a table, again lit by a 5W bulb. Electricity provided by a neighbour who owned a 32kW generator.
“Shower is behind the house,” said his grandma, “Touch some freshwater and we sit for tea. Have you got a towel?”
“Yes grandma,” he replied.
This shower reached from the main quarters of the house was walled and in the light of the waning sky. A water well stood with a paved bath stone and a squat toilet sheltered separately. Two doors on the wall gave access to two different rooms.
Back in his room, as he dressed up, a neighbourhood girl lurched to the door with a shy smile on her face. She wore a green frock torn at the seams with short hair and brown skin. He thought this was the girl who crossed the floor in the dim light.
“Mom is calling you for tea,” cried the young girl and her mouth gapped wider than he anticipated.
“Where is your mom?” he asked.
“In the kitchen,” said the girl.
“Are you from this house?”
She giggled behind the door, “I am your cousin. My grandma is your grandma.”
“Cousin! What is your name?”
“You’re the darkest fellow in the family,” uttered the girl bluntly.
He frowned lost in words. It wasn’t the first time he was referred to as the ‘black sheep’ of the family. He was dark-toned and a misfit who belonged to a different father. His skin glowed in walnut shine. Family at home in the capital, his half-brother and half-sister, were light skins. Sometimes relatives would tease around about his skin tone or mischief he made and troubles he got into. And they did discreetly in absence of his mother. He got different relatives and they got different relatives too. His bed placed by a corner in mid-hall while others located in inner quarters. Muaz was a dark boy at school as well and his classmates called him ‘madiri’ – meaning ‘mosquito’ and a nick he hated so much but learned to live with it.
He crossed the inner hall and out of the house to reach the kitchen shelter located separately few yards away in the backyard garden. He heard that twelve-year-old girl yell back, “My name is Nazima.”
“She is my daughter,” said his aunt moving from behind a large dining table holding a glass chamber lamp in one hand. Her dress knotted on the midriff rendering both legs at length though it was dark. The amber in his eye hooded a dark surround. “She hasn’t come out of age to caution with a tendency of shyness.”
Another blatant utterance and he ignored, drew a chair beside the table and sat down.
“I can’t eat much.” There was a bowl of cream he wanted to try and demanded, “Aunt! Can you please pass me a spoon!” At home he used not to eat with fingers.
Aunt Nabila fetched a spoon and wiped it with her gown and passed to him, undoing the knot dropping it down the legs, “Have some bite and a cup of tea. Dinner will be ready in an hour.”
Muaz took the spoon and decided not to use it.
“I’m going out on a call,” cried his grandma from the backyard. And she left with a wooden box of herbs to perform a fanditha ritual on a pregnant woman. There he remembered what she did to him. When he was a boy at his age of six, he happened to be sleeping too much, oversleeping and drowsing like a cat in the classroom; a dull boy who couldn’t keep up to his grades. So, on a tour, his grandma drew a talisman and placed it under a pillow in his bed. Few weeks later, he was alright with his sleeping habit but then in his recent life he realised that he lacked sleep. He did not need to sleep and he could not sleep in the night. He was a light sleeper. Sometimes disturbed by a noise or a movement or a light or the heat or weather. His natal clock switched to keep him up awake all night. And at times it caused him boredom in passing the hot nights with a lack of sleep.
“Ouch!” he cried burning his lips from contact with the hot cup of tea.