Every good story begins at some point, perhaps at the end of another terrible one. Mine began the day that dad died. His was an untimely death on the hands of armed robbers. Fast, almost painless, as though death itself was having a party when welcoming him home. He believed in heaven, I do not. He was a foolish man, needing the illusion of faith to be able to get through life. I am enlightened, I see right through the lie embraced by so many. Or so I thought.
He picked up his black rugged walking stick from the back of the wooden door that barely covered his house and dusted it with the look of a general soldiering on to battle. He threw the once white piece of cloth to the very spot he had thrown it for twenty years since he moved next door to my house. He pursed his lips as though he was about to break into a whistle, only to realize that time was not so generous with muscle strength. The music made from his bones as he struggled to stand was the part of his morning routine that I cherished. I could see the struggle with which the 96-year-old moved as he found his way towards my house.
I cussed and closed the key hole from which I peeked at the old man. I counted to fifty, paused for about three seconds and then heard the knock. He would have been better off asleep or hidden away in a nursing home somewhere, but the stubborn little fellow would not budge. I ignored the knock thrice in hope that the stench of old age that had filled the room would soon disappear.It did not. I banged the table and headed for the door, opened it halfway and stared at him questioningly. He smiled, – that smile that touched the edges of his age-worn eyes and emanated a satisfaction that was so unnerving.
I felt it, the joy that comes with the birth of a new idea, the Eureka moment. I wondered why I had never thought of it before, as I opened the door for the clearly surprised man. I led him to my well furnished sitting room and sat him across the half played chess game willing him to challenge me. I served him a cup of hot coffee and brought with me a straw for him to clutch at. He was 96 after all. I heard him begin to hum a hymn I knew from my past religious escapades ‘I sing because am happy’. I smiled menacingly at the unsuspecting man, knowing that would not be his song in a few minutes.
I was unwilling to engage in unnecessary foreplay. Using my already purchased duct tape, I tied him to the wooden chair he sat on, smiling at his futile efforts to free himself from my gym-toned muscles and several years of experience. It was a fool’s errand, but a resistant victim is always a welcome challenge. I covered his mouth to enhance the sweet music of his helpless cries for help. They were well in tempo with the harmonious hymn playing in the background. As I arranged my knives I wondered why this had waited so long to come to me, why I had listened to so many boring sermons about a Christ I knew is non-existent.
I pondered the use of a gun, but that would be so easy for him who had made me suffer through so much in the name of love. I looked at the helpless thing lying before me that I had once looked up to and called grandpa. It was a pity father was not here to see what was about to become of his beloved papa. I stared deep into his eyes and plastered on my face what I thought to be a tight-lipped smile, towering over him to close his wide open mouth. He raised one eyebrow and hunched his shoulders offering an enigmatic smile and pity largely showing in his eyes.
‘You do not know what is coming to you old man’ I said ‘if I were you, I would be very afraid’. It was then that I realized that he had not been calling for help but was trying to sing along to the ‘amazing grace’ hymn I had put to enhance the mood. I could begin to feel the bitter-sweet taste in my mouth as I anticipated having to make him swallow all the words with which he had tortured me all this long. I put my left hand behind my back to hide the trembling from the old man’s wry looking gaze. Swiftly, with my right hand, I picked my knife and dug into the skin of his thy and repeated the action severally until the acrid smell of fresh blood assaulted our senses.
The quick expression of pain and hurt in his eyes gave an exhilarating tune to my quick step towards him to adjust him to a lying position. I willed him to stare back and tell me of his undying love and even worse and more irritating Christ’s. He stared back, painfully, hurt and yet unrelenting. I looked at his wrinkled face and wondered what about life would give him such pride. I wanted so much to gouge out his eyes, but that would rob the whole process its joy. I picked a razor from my pocket and began to make lacerations along the folds of his face watching him cringe and recoil. I thought I heard his unmade cry for help. Only he did not call out to me.
In a quick movement, I picked my Glock 26 pistol from under my coffee desk. I released the triggers and fired at him until there was nothing else left to fire. I looked at him lying there, numb like a porcelain doll, lifeless. Then it hit me, at the very point of death, he had only called to Christ. ‘In the face of God’s glory inadequately expressed through a mere mortal at his point of death, I saw my total depravity’ I mused, imagining how the old man I had known all my life would have expressed it. I felt my knees begin to give in at my own weight and the acidic taste of death in my mouth mixed with the brackish and syrupy feel of his blood beneath me as I hit the ground.
It was to be years later when I am nearly his age that I begin to understand the love of Christ that drove him to go to such insane extents, even to losing his life. Unfortunately, unlike him, I only get to witness this within the confines of these prison walls. On some days, I crave such a death, in the line of duty, definitely better than dying a caged man. But am convinced, it is much better that I die physically caged than to be caged in my utter depravity.