Saturday, 1st March 2014
Today was the day I felt like I was just entering a new world of things. When I opened Tiger’s notebook in the morning after having breakfast, I came across an order of writing I have never seen in my life. The title and subtitles of each page were written in meaningful English words, but the content consisted of a crazy jostle of the English alphabet and numbers and another foreign alphabet I could not quite apprehend.
The first page was titled “The Burning Ritual”. I strained my eyes through the content trying to see whether I could gather anything, but it all looked like computer-coded writing. I was just about to flip to the next page when I heard a knock at my bedroom’s door. I tossed the book under my pillow and went to the door. When I opened it, I met the grim looks of my little Harriet.
“Baby, I told you not to come in. Have you finished your breakfast?” I asked, trying not to sound peeved. I had left them still eating in the dining section.
“Yes. And I want to go out and play with my friends.”
“Not today, honey. You can watch cartoon or finish up your drawing assignment, a’ight?”
“Why don’t you want me to go out? Is there any problem in me going out?” she asked, trying to pass her eyes between my body and the doorpost to peep into my room.
“Um… no problem. Just do as I have told you. Where’s Tony? Is he still eating?”
“No. He’s begun watching. When is daddy going to come back, Mama? You know I miss him.”
“Daddy’s going to be back tomorrow, honey. Now, join your brother in watching, won’t you?”
“No. He’s watching animals… .”
I knew she loves watching cartoons. Tony himself does not like watching, but when he is forced to once in a while out of boredom or rules, he goes for animal documentaries. I had already told him yesterday that I did not want them to go out, for the sake of their safety as Tiger was now becoming a plague. Despite his inquisitive nature, his quickness in understanding situations is at length. He did not even chunter about my curfew order.
“A’ight. I can lend you my laptop today so you can watch in your room. Is that okay?” She nodded. I took out an apple laptop Georgie bought me early last year but which I rarely use and crossed with her to their bedroom. Georgie and I had saved some mature movies in the gadget to watch together. I therefore copied the cartoons in my 32-GB empty flash disk and logged into the computer on guest mode (for parental care reasons) and inserted my flash disk. When I had opened one of the cartoons containing a feminine character she loved, I noticed her turn lively, so I left her to watch.
I went back to my room and continued to peruse Tiger’s book. When I saw that it was all a waste of time due to the complexity of the text used, I locked it back into my wardrobe and went about doing other things. He could not just leave it to Faith so easily if he knew she was going to grasp all the information in it, I thought.
In the afternoon, I left home to pay Pastor Anthony a visit at Moderncare. The sky was all blue and the ground muddy, thank God I had put on some boots – it is a weeding season in most parts of the county. I walked to the road and took a motorcycle to the private hospital.
I found the pastor seated in his bed engaged in an animated conversation with a lady I was not acquainted with. When he saw me, his faced broke into a benevolent smile. I smiled back, feeling elated that he could at least now talk.
“Mrs Argwins, I’m delighted you came,” he said, shaking hands with me. “This is Pennina, my sister; she came looking for me this morning, and she was directed to this place.”
“I’m pleased to meet you, Pennina,” I told the young lady, shaking her hand. She nodded and replied, “Me too.”
“Pennina my sister, you can’t imagine how the Lord has still been gracious to me even after digressing. Standing right in front of you is Mrs Linda Argwins, the governor’s wife I told you is taking care of my treatment. Can you imagine it!”
I saw the lady’s eyes bulge out with surprise. “Your… Your Excellency,” she said emotionally, standing up and bowing. “Your Excellency, may the good Lord bless you. You saved my brother’s life. Oh my goodness! I… I couldn’t expect it from you. Thank you.” A stream of tears then cascaded her cheeks.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. Calm down,” I said, holding her close and caressing her back. “May God receive all the glory and thanksgiving.” When she had calmed down and withdrawn from me, she excused herself and left the room to allow the pastor and I to talk.
“Pastor, I’m glad you can now sit, even talk,” I said sitting down on the bed. “The last time I came in, you could barely lift your neck.”
“I’m grateful, Mrs Argwins. I couldn’t even believe it when I saw you here last time. And when I was told you were taking care of my treatment, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I’m really grateful. I don’t know how much I’m going to repay you.”
“You don’t need to pay anything. This is just the least I can do to someone who turned my marriage life around when everything was falling apart. The old saying is still true; if you do something good, goodness will follow you.”
“It’s still a wonder to me. How did you even know I was this bad?”
“I came to you for something else but found you in a miserable state. There was this morally reprehensive old man…”
“He didn’t say his name.”
“He’s called Jeremiah, used to be my church member. What did he do?”
“Um… I didn’t know that bit about him being your church member. Well, he’s the one who showed me where you live. And when I went in, I found you lying still on the floor, unconscious, breathing very slowly. I had to call a taxi immediately.”
“God bless you, my daughter; with that explanation, I can’t imagine how I would be had you not come. I lost myself after my wife divorced me and took with her a large portion of the wealth we had made for our children’s sake.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry for you, pastor. I understand depression and the hail it can bring along with it. I just hope you’ll be able to pick up your pieces and move on. You’ve helped many souls, including me, and many still are the souls that need you out there.”
“I know, my daughter. Thanks for acknowledging that. It’s just that this storm was too much I wouldn’t break through it, but thank God you came in time to salvage my life. I feel so grateful.”
“Well, it goes without saying that every tree must face rain and sunshine, and we are no greater than God’s creation in this universe. Personally, I’m experiencing another storm in my family that I’d be happy if you lent me a helping hand as soon as you come out of this place. So you can see what I mean when I say people need you, pastor. You must not allow the devil to take charge anymore.”
“I won’t. Just on that issue of storm, tell me, what is it this time round? It’s with your family or what is it?” I could see that he was filled with curiosity.
“Something distasteful is rocking my marriage, but let’s put your situation behind us first before we can delve into that.”
“Er… we can wait, but problems can’t. Please.”
“It’s about a certain gold ring and a man called Tiger,” I said in sotto voce tone.
“Tiger! Did I just hear you say Tiger? Oh woman!” His reaction perturbed me.
“Yes. Do you know him?”
“I hope it’s not the Tiger I know. The one I know died some years ago.”
“What!” I exclaimed, almost loudly. “Maybe not… maybe he’s a different one.”
“I hope so, because the one I know was a thug who died a year after living in prison and his spirit has come back to haunt people.”
I nearly fainted, dear sister, when the reality of what he had just said hit me. In fact, I remained subconscious, staring blankly at the half-dirty floor for close to thirty seconds before I felt his hands touching me. “Mrs Argwins. Mrs Argwins,” I heard him calling out my name, “come back to me. What is it? Is he the one?”
“Oh, I’m here. I’m sorry,” I said shaking off myself from the little reverie. “No, it can’t be. Faith said he returned home after some time.”
“Faith is right; his body wasn’t found, and he actually returned home, but not in a human form.”
“Then how do you know he’s not human if it’s true that he returned home?” I shouted, almost unaware that I was in a ward and was speaking to a patient. “I’m sorry,” I indicated my guilt. The nurse who had spoken to me on my previous visit rushed in. Pennina followed closely behind.
“Oh, Your Excellency, you’re here,” said the nurse, bowing slightly.
“Yes. I am.”
“Um… I’m sorry to say, but I heard a scream. Is he giving you hard time?”
“No. We’re good.”
“Okay. In case he does, beckon me. And… the visiting time is just about to end, so kindly do not take too long.”
“It’s okay. I won’t be for too long.”
“Fine.” She left to attend to other patients in another room.
“Sister, we’re good. Give us another moment please,” said Pastor Anthony. Pennina nodded and left. He went on, “I’m sorry for that. I’ll tell you what I know about him later. But first, I need you to carry out a simple test for me. Do you have a Bible?”
“Has he ever come to your house?”
“Yes, many times; he’s my husband’s friend and a messenger of some secret organization that goes by the name ‘The Allied Brothers’.”
“Oh! We’ll speak about it later. So this is what you’re going to do. Buy the Holy Bible on your way home and when he shows up at your house, carry it in your hand. When you leave the house too, carry it in your pouch or handbag. Come back and tell me what you see when you meet him.”
“Okay. I’ll do that. How am I even going to approach my husband about this whole issue? He’s been keeping a lid on the cause of his relationship with him. Really, why would a man befriend a ghost? Tiger said he is the organization’s messenger and then again that the gold ring and him are one thing. Oh, isn’t that mind-boggling?”
“A-ah! Calm down. That bit about the gold ring is new to me. Is the ring in your possession?”
“No. Georgie has it.”
“We’ll see what it has. Meanwhile, do as I have told you.”
“Can you imagine the same Tiger warned me not to come… .”
“Your Excellency,” called out the nurse. I turned and saw her standing right beside me. “Visiting time is over, and I bet you should now go. Please.”
“Okay, I’ll be out in two shakes, dear. Thank you.” She did not reply; she remained standing right beside me. I stood up and bid Pastor Anthony farewell with a nod. “I’ll organize for your release once the doctor notifies me that you’re fine to leave. Okay?” I added, for an explanation.
Pastor Anthony nodded back, yet with eyes that seemed to beg “I need to leave this damn place and return to normal life”. I left the room. I found Pennina seated on a bench outside the hospital building waiting. I went over to her and said, “Thanks for coming, my sister. He’s doing pretty fine as I can see and will be out any time soon.”
“Thank you for your invaluable support, Your Excellency,’ she replied. I nodded, shook her hand and left.
At the hospital’s gate, someone dressed in a raincoat and hood walked up to me from a nook in the surrounding. When I recognized the person, I swallowed a huge ball of saliva and took a step backward. “Tiger! What are you doing here?” I managed to ask when he had drawn just too close.
“Checking on your safety. And you, what are you doing?” he replied.
“You know what I came to do, stop kidding me. Why do you keep following me? How did you know I was here?”
“Oh, Tiger is always several steps ahead, darling. I told you to stop coming here but it seems you never listen to requests. You’re treating a dead man.” With that, he turned and walked away, leaving my mind trying to mold meaning out what he had just said. Was he going to kill my pastor or what did he mean I was treating a dead man?
I walked away to the junction, to hire a motorcycle home, feeling entangled in a web of questions and dilemma by that single utterance.
As I close this entry to take on with other activities, dear sister, I’m wondering whether I’ll ever set my eyes on Pastor Anthony’s genuine smiles again and whether Tiger is really a ghost or a human being. And, oh my God, I forgot to buy the Bible. You will agree with me that having too many balls in the hair sets the heart ablaze.