The beginning (Chapter 1)
"Akin! Come here!"
And a hard knock on my head.
"How many times do I have to tell you that cobwebs are a bad omen? Ehn? Now go get a broom from the kitchen and clear the cobwebs in that corner of the window, just above that louver.", pointing at the upper right corner of one of the windows in the living room.
My dad must have taken a compulsory class on superstitions while growing up. He has a huge collection of superstitions he takes special care not to violate. We must never ask him for money on a Monday morning. I still don't know why. But I know why he his mad with me for not clearing the cobwebs on that window: cobwebs cause nightmares and bring bad luck. And not just the type of bad luck you won't notice; bad luck that make people renege on their promises to you -- from customers to creditors. He also has one about drawing water from the well at night. It disturbs the sleep of the spirits living in the well and they will bring misfortune on the people living in the house that owns the well.
There is one against writing people's name with red pen. My dad almost fought a nurse in the general hospital I was admitted to when I had a severe case of Malaria three years ago. She was about to write my name in the hospital register with a red pen. He says it is only dead people whose names are written in red. I don't see the logic in it but that is the thing about superstitions, they only make sense to those who believe in it.
Sometimes I wonder why all the superstitions are about bad things happening. Why isn't there one about good things happening. It would be nice to have one that indicates that a good thing is going to happen.
I cleared the cobwebs, rubbed my aching head and moved to the windows in the rooms. Just as I was entering the room I heard my sister scream, "Grandma! Welcome! What did you bring for me?"
My plan to read Charles Dicken's Great Expectations has just got out the window. Grandma is the fountain of superstitions and interesting stories. And she demands more attention than a one year old. I dare not try to choose watching the TV over listening to her stories. She takes it as being rude and lacking home training. I must not sleep till she's asleep or she would tell my parents that I am sick and then proceed to make me some of the most bitter herbal drink to cure me. I must not read a book or she will accuse me of trying to avoid her and being not happy that she's come to visit us. The only way I can please her is to give her all my attention.
She never runs out of stories about my dad's mischief when he was a young boy like me. I used to enjoy them until I had heard them all over three times. But to her, it doesn't matter. She retells them like new.
"Are you not going to greet me, Akin? Or is there a fight between us?" That is her favourite line.
I greet her and ask how her journey was. I am about to ask how Grandpa and everyone back at the village are doing but she is just getting started on telling how her journey went. She starts from how she originally wanted to come four months ago but my dad wouldn't let her, then how she found out that her younger sister came here and my dad didn't prevent her, that my dad thinks the money he sends her every month is worth more to her than her seeing her grandchildren, that she is going to ask my mum if it was her idea to have my dad prevent her from coming, that she decided to come today without notifying my dad knowing very well that he does go out on public holidays, and that the driver of the bus she boarded is a reckless bastard. She spent a total of over 10 mins to answer my question about how her journey was. I decided to skip the second question and then welcome her again. I told her to allow me some minutes to finish cleaning the louvers and then I will come keep her company.
Cleaning the louvers now look enjoyable. I am going to take all the time I can. No need to finish them quick.
It is not that my grandma is a terrible person. Not at all. In fact, she is a very caring and generous person. When she is around, my dad can't dare scream at me or complain about any of my actions as she will give him double back. She deeply loves me and likes to ask about my school activities. She asks for my school reports even though she can't read them and asks about my school sweetheart without ever believing my answer that I have none. She likes to talk with me more than any of her other grandchildren because I am her first grandson. All the trouble between us is entirely from me. I hate being the focus of anyone's attention. I can't spend more than one hour with anyone without getting bored and wanting to be alone by myself. And her denying me my coveted alone time is the source of the tension between us.
The only way I break free from her, when she is not arguing with my dad or questioning my mum, is by pretending to do my school homework. But today I am going to be a good grandson. After spending two hours on a 30 minutes task, I didn't do the homework pretense. I listen to her every story despite having heard most of them before. I even ask questions once in a while which always make her face glow and her voice stronger. She tries to repay my kindness today by allowing me be by myself after we all made dinner together. She never lets anyone give excuse for not joining in cooking dinner, even my dad has to help with passing the plates.
I spend the rest of today reading Charles Dickens' Great Expectations like I originally planned. The emotional tension between Estella and Pip always have a special intriguing effect on me. I can only read up to where Pip and Herbert went from rivals to friends when they met in London. In today's dream I will edit the story to end in a more happily ever after way, as I always do.