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THE SEARCH - Adodo Ruth

For the time I’d known this grandfather of ours, he had been a strange creature. He was bald and rarely spoke a word, so we concluded he was either mildly retarded or plain mute; his mornings began at 3am, with him fixed on his balcony, peering into the darkness, or reading something and though I searched his room, I could find neither a scrap of paper nor a book. He was put compulsorily under my care by my father in a letter, but I had never met him until after my parents passed. Why was he kept a secret from us? was the real question, and since the man wouldn’t say a word, we thought it best to leave the mystery alone.

There were moments he would stretch his lips in a little smile when my daughter or wife came around, but when I tried communicating with him in signs or words, he would grimace and an intense sadness would fill his eyes, then he’d roll himself to his balcony, away from my presence, for unspoken reasons. He was paralyzed and never told us what happened in Mali when he was sent on a peace-keeping mission; my siblings and I only discovered it by our father, in one of his tales about ‘him,’ that it was as that time he lost his legs.

Night after night I wondered and lost sleep; I’d wake with a start at three in the morning to watch him and per-chance catch what he was always reading and made sure to keep from anyone else. I was burning with curiosity, but when I confided in my family, they concluded I was being paranoid and that all the old man needed was time to get used to us, so I gave it a rest, until a year passed and nothing changed, instead, it worsened. He no longer left his room, only ate lunch, and began to talk to himself, and weep silently when he thought everyone was asleep; so, I lost it. I had to do something to bury my doubts.

I waited till the following Wednesday when he was to have his doctor’s appointment. He made sure to key and strap his door, but I had spare-keys to every room, so, I comfortably made my way into his private space for my search. I combed every inch, but found nothing, so I went over to sit on his rocking chair, pretending to stare into an imaginary night like he did, hoping to see something peculiar, revealing or strike a clue. I sat a while before realizing how pointless it was; so, I upped in disappointment and running my eyes around in thought, they caught a tiny breach in the ceiling just above the mantelpiece. I went eagerly to pry it open and behold, a picture album had been tucked into that breach and carefully covered with the board. It was a large book, with pictures of slightly familiar faces. I flipped page after page, wide-eyed with perplexity, until I saw the liking of a family photograph and could only recognize my grandfather; all of them appeared youthful, yet there was a baby in my grandmother’s arms and my father was nowhere to be found in it; this excited my suspicion, but it wasn’t concrete enough to ask any questions, so, I looked on, till I reached the last page. I was grateful nonetheless, that I had found a trail that could lead me somewhere.

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My father spoke very little of his family, told us his parents were late and come to think of it, I’d met none of his siblings. When my mind began to connect the dots, the mystery widened and my itch to find more, grew intense, so I went seeking for anyone in the photograph. I visited their hometown and asked questions, then I got a lead on a certain May; a girl from the picture, who was identified by a high-school mate of hers, who also told me she had gotten married and moved to Jobe, a city in the West. I got on the road as soon and finding her residence with great difficulty and currency, I was told she would return the next day, so, with eagerness I waited. Meanwhile, my wife and siblings had said I was raving mad, seeking some ‘non-existing secret’.

May was beyond surprised to find that I could exist, because, apparently, they all thought my father was dead. According to her, in their younger days, Luke, my father, had been a wild stump and was constantly in bad company. There was an incident, and though Luke had not been party to it, he was present at a gang rape initiated by his friends and the victim had seen just him, so he risked getting accused; hence, their father sent him to the mines, as he told them, and two weeks later, he revealed again, that Luke had been caught in a violent riot on his way there and murdered; but he had really sent him off to a relation of his, living in Southern, Sierra Leone; but though Luke had absconded, the girl abandoned a baby, the fruit of her assault, at their doorstep and that explained the baby in the photograph. I was just getting around my bewilderment when May unleased the last bit of information.

Apparently, their parents were in accord to eliminate this baby.

Therefore, the sadness that lingered in that man’s eyes could only have been mothered by well-deserved guilt! And the prevailing thought on my mind was that after all that time, he did not think to tell them that their brother was still alive. Or did he want his son to remain dead, because of all the pain he’d caused him? and this May wore no concern in her eyes. I could tolerate an ancient infanticide, but this, my heart could never forgive; clearly, my father was a castaway and never cared for by anyone in his family!    


ABOUT THE WRITER

I am Adodo Ruth, a lover of prose and poetry. I fell in love with writing when I realized the weight of empathy it bore and its ability to open my eyes to the depth of the thoughts of diverse people and most importantly, it gives me the opportunity to tell incredible stories that inspire me and portray characters that are themselves representatives of entities and values and embodiments of a societal idea or phenomenon be it good or evil. My primary purpose for writing is expanding my imagination and creative prowess to enable me relate more deeply with every subject matter, under whatever genre I write.  

 

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