The old man had watched his grandson play in the dirt for hours. They had come to the crossroads at dawn and the sun stood high above the world, beaming down with merciless heat. The crossroads offered no shade where you could hide from the cruel gaze of the sun. Large beads of sweat rolled slowly down the old man’s forehead and cheeks, the child didn’t seem to mind the heat.
Crows flew across the blue sky like black clouds, cawing ominously. They were taunting the old man, challenging him to stay awake, to stay sane. The man’s eye lids were heavy with sleep. He was very old and they had walked a long way through the night, his bones felt brittle and hunger was in his belly. He had only brought an apple which he had split in half with his pocketknife. The child had eaten his half of the apple hungrily, like a dog, the old man thought. Himself he had savored the taste, eating the ripe fruit in thin slices until nothing but the core remained. He had eaten that as well, seeds crunching like ancient bones between his yellowed teeth.
Time slowed down and transformed into a thick black tar in the heat. The sun hadn’t moved in a long while now. The old man closed his eyes for a moment and felt the kick of sudden sleep and opened them again. A man older than himself stood in front of him. He was leaning on a crutch made from sugarcane and on his head he wore a wide straw hat to protect him from the sun. Other than the newcomer wore only ragged trousers held up by twine. He wore no shoes and no shirt. His black skin glistened in the sun and his belly was swollen.
He nodded towards the old man, “He comes soon,” he said with a voice dry as the desert.
“When?” The old man croaked. He hadn’t had a drink since they had left home during the night and his throat was swollen and dry. The apple had done little to wet it.
The man standing before him uncorked a small water pouch and drank from it, richly. He offered nothing to the old man sitting at the crossroads. “Be patient, Carrefour, soon,” the man repeated.
“I will wait then.”
“Yes you will, child” the man on the crouch said and started to walk south support his frail body on the sugarcane.
“Thank you, Papa Legba,” the old man tried to yell after him but his voice failed him and all that came out was a hoarse whisper.
The child was still playing in the middle of the crossroads, he had noticed nothing. Children are so busy with their own fantasies they have no time and forget the world around them. The old man envied the child.
To be continued…
© Hugo Oddlane, 2014