Three pebbles

The problem with the old watchman was that he was too hard to read. He left people no choice but to smile uneasily at his unchanging face. So all people the people at the housing colony knew of him was his love for radio soaps.

He’d walk up and down with it held against his ear until he made a swift escape at dawn. Like most watchmen he was a little more than a part of the background in most peoples minds. Unfortunately not everyone had forgotten the old watchman and he was compelled to train a new heir. The colony was on the outskirts of town where leopards were still seen and was build like a maze, so experience in navigating it was mandatory.

The new watchman was happy enough but could hardly take the boredom or the old watchman’s love for soaps. His uneasiness put them both on edge. To make matters worse monsoon brought with it many other problems. A few days in he was saw the old watchman walk through the rain.

He was about to follow when he heard someone throw rocks at the main gate. He saw nothing when he went to investigate. But he knew the loud clang he heard was deliberate.  This place was too far away from town and too isolated to be of much interest to any miscreants. But his complaints were brushed aside.

The old man’s face showed no change as usual. He took a long look at the calendar. He turned his radio off and motioned for the young watchman to sit.The rolling of thunder and the rain only made the young man more agitated. He looked at the old watchman and told him he’d rather go out again. In all honesty it was the old watchman who made him uncomfortable.

The old watchman grunted and the storm thundered outside, as if in agreement. The young watchman sprang to his feet and seemed to be trying hard to think of something to shout about. The old man, noticing the panic that was overwhelming his companion, sighed. He began to narrate a story, for the first time showing for the first time the wight of his age and drawing up his wrinkled face.

His companion shifted in his chair very indiscreetly.

The old man began “When I was about your age there were a few houses nearby. The farms were gone but people didn’t want to leave their old houses. I didn’t know them but one of them always interested me. He never seemed to sleep. If he wanted to find me he’d throw stones at the gate till I turned up. He’s the one that got me interested in the radio soaps. Well one day he just stops turn up. I was more than a little annoyed. A few months later I hear a pebble that was thrown against the gate. I was still angry so didn’t bother going.”

The old watchman pulled out a beedi as slowly as he could and took his time lighting it. He continued “The next night I heard two rocks being thrown. The night after that three. It was only next week that I heard my friend had died after a long illness . The poor man must have spent all his energy trying to contact me.”

The old watchman waited for the next thunderclap and said “Yesterday I was certain I heard one stone being thrown. I have no doubts about what will happen after the next three stones tomorrow.”

The young watchman was not willing to find out what really happened after that, much to the disappointment of his would be employers and his drinking buddies who had been told the story a million times. But he did not count it as a total loss, after all this was where he had picked up a love for radio dramas.

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