It all happened in the years marking the last decade of the twentieth century. The hit song of the age was playing from the turntable. And the disc jockey was moving gracefully to the rhythm as the bar was accommodating the first–class members of the community. There a hatted man was seated in the bar, together with his companion. His hatband flashed the inscription: “Transformation”.
“Comrade,” the man said to his companion, “never get distracted by the propaganda. You can see we have the solid backing of the majority. The police are well informed, and our manifesto can speak for itself.”
“You are right, my chair.”
“If we can’t handle challenges at the local government level, how do we handle it at the federal where we are heading? It’s simple: Encourage those young men to continue pasting our posters, even at the doorstep of the opposition. …”
Comrade looked exhausted. He held the neck of the bottle on the table and puffed. “Chair,” he said, “your resolution is one of the reasons I can vouch we will get to the federal level someday. But the desperation and external backing of the opposition is alarming. We sent letters but got no response; the press, silent. I must confess: democracy is now crazy.”
The music kept playing, and the disc jockey was jiggling to the song of Lucky Dube, Prisoner. His simple lifestyle as a freeman could barely alert him there was danger at his doorstep.
While the chairman was signalling the bartender, only Comrade could sense the tension in the atmosphere. A hefty dark-complexioned man, who had a piece of earring in his left ear, had just taken a seat by the entrance of the bar. The sight of him soaked Comrade in awe.
“And what did you say?” the chairman asked.
Now Comrade was uneasy; he digressed from their conversation with a whisper. The chairman must be informed about the deadly man, who had convenienced himself in the bar. He had to elude in time without much inquisition. But his nerve was as thick as hide, wanting to see his fear.
“Who is that bastard?” he asked with a scowl.
He turned around and saw the man, now folding his arms at his table. Still, he poured another drink into his glass and filled his gut. His nonchalance puzzled Comrade.
“I’m going nowhere,” he said. “They can only send him to threaten us. But I will get him arrested if he plays that card.”
“You are weighing him less than his worth,” said Comrade, “prison to Stoic is like home to a kid. And you know our security doesn’t match J.F. Kennedy’s.”
Comrade stilled and looked into his eyeballs to allow his words sink in. His reference could have deepened the chairman’s outlook about the power of an opposition.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (or J. F. Kennedy) was the 35th President of the United States, elected in 1960 and assassinated in a motorcade on November 23, 1963. The reference could have hinted the chairman that no level of security can guarantee the absolute safety of a leader.
“We need to sleep with an eye,” Comrade mumbled. “I suspect he’s trailing us. Besides, they can influence this ingénue with the bucks they throw around – just a pinch of drug in our drink, and our ambition is over. And the news would broadcast tomorrow: ‘The aspirants of TPP have committed suicide.’”
They were mute as the barmaid was approaching. She swayed toward them and dropped a bottle of wine on the table. Comrade stared her like a dog sniffing its meal. “First Lady,” he called.
She beamed and lingered. Her bright eyelashes fluttered and her rosy lips glowed.
“Are you preparing for our wedding?” Comrade asked.
The lady could not move an inch; she stood at the table smiling, blushing and twisting her arms together as the film transitioned to a street, where a vehicle was driving past the narrow road. The driver was struggling with finding his way between the gullies at both ends of the road.
Looking at both sides of the street, the chairman drove on across the slum. The posters of his campaign adorned almost all the houses in the street. But some of the posters were half-torn and painted with coal. What would he do? Jump out of the car and spit fire on the locals for permitting the atrocity, or try to correct every poor image on the wall? He knew that would do more harm than good as the news would travel like lightning. How then would the masses feel about supporting an intolerant leader?
It was five o’clock. The vehicle hooted while approaching a green environment surrounded with two-bar fence. That moment, Erick was saturated with his writing as he cringed into a sofa in the sitting room. As the vehicle hooted the second time, Janet rushed out from the passage into the sitting room in order to peep through the window. She was about to open the entrance door when she rushed back again.
“Erick! Daddy’s back,” she said, as she hurriedly balanced the table and positioned the flower vase on its centre.
“Put down your leg and sit well, Erick.”
She strode to the garage to remove the bench at its entrance while Erick was standing at the door, expecting the unknown visitor to drive in.
As the vehicle was moving toward the garage, Erick saw a man behind the wheels who threw him into the memory of what happened at the past family reunion. It was the carbon copy of Grandpa, who gifted him a toy camera when his family was departing after the reunion. He could remember him among those who graced the photo album in his parents’ room. That was his uncle – the man known as Transformation to outsiders.
He dashed to the uncle as he saw him alighting from the vehicle. Bam, he clung to him. His uncle held him with fondness and welcomed him with warmth.
“My goodness, who applied this on your face?” the uncle asked, having seen his eyelashes traced with mascara and making him look more like a girl.
“It’s Aunty Janet.”
“Janet,” the uncle called with a grin, “boys don’t need mascara. Don’t you know?”
“His face was dry,” Janet said.
“Yes, that makes a man. You had better do some painting instead of turning him a doll. Can’t you see?”
Comrade chuckled while looking at Erick. “That’s lady for you,” he chipped in. “We need to encourage Janet. Her intent is to make him cute anyway.”
The chairman would not agree with his second. “Not about the intent but the means,” he differed. Everyone was silent thereafter.
As they all headed for the door, a vehicle was driving by. Comrade looked back and saw the driver decelerate and wind down the window. It was Stoic down there, looking at him eyeball to eyeball.
Others were moving ahead of Comrade unaware of the man behind them, but he was mute until he watched the vehicle zoom away.
“Where is my wife?” the uncle asked Janet.
“She’s not back from her journey.”
Suddenly, he saw Erick’s diary on the sofa, where he intended to sit. The writing on the diary caught his interest. Then he dropped Erick and picked up the diary as he was reading the writing: “The world will change.”
“Who wrote this?”
“I,” Erick signified, “My mother said I should write everything I learn from my travel. So today, papa told me the world will change.”
“Yes, we will change the world,” the uncle said, beating his chest. “And the journey has started.”
Grandpa was disturbed by the uncle’s response. He stepped into the sitting room in time. “Eddy, don’t teach this boy wrongly. You can’t change the world,” he said.
“Oh, I know papa will never agree with me.” He greeted the father and proceeded: “Comrade, you see, apart from religion, different professions truly breed different points of view. Papa worked under the dictatorship of those who determine what the world should be, but I am aspiring to be the dictator. Can you see the difference?”
“I can’t see any difference. You don’t have the power,” the father maintained.
Now Erick’s eyeballs were roving between his grandfather and his uncle. Meanwhile, the uncle smiled, held Erick’s arm and squatted. “Erick, listen to me: Would you like to change the world?”
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