Here’s to old tales, our life-long memories!
It was a hot day at the port. The middle of June, the sun showing no mercy to the thin, dark-skinned young men and boys working relentlessly, loading and un-loading things from the ships at the harbour. The sweat dripped down their foreheads, like they were standing under a mid-day shower. Their hands got wet with the collecting moisture, and their mouths simultaneously parched. But they couldn’t stop working, all they earned was all they had.
In the middle of the chaos, there was a boy, young at nineteen years, new on the job, having only recently taken his father’s place as the latter was ill. He wasn’t accustomed to the continuous work, in the scorching heat. Two complete hours had passed before he concluded that he must have some water, or he would most certainly drop dead. But he couldn’t gather enough courage to ask the pot-bellied master, supervising his group from the shade of the tent.
With what he thought would be his last breath, he picked up yet another sack of oranges, ‘Imported from Florida’, and with yet another swing, deposited it swiftly in the neat stack. But as he did, he breathed out with effort, and coincidentally with his sigh, a few oranges rolled out, having courageously succeeded being transported!
And just like the mind starts seeing options when it fears it’s end, the boy got a wicked idea, and before he knew it, he had collected the rolled-down oranges, 17 in number, and sat down in an isolated shade of a vessel. Be what may the consequence, he was going to eat them. After all, what’s 17 when you have stacks!
It was his very bad fate that a policeman was on the rounds on the dock that day, and he caught him, red handed. What followed was a flurry in which the onlookers could only just make out flashing handcuffs, struggling and grabbing and finally, a police jeep roaring off, with the place the boy had sat with his oranges empty.
The poor boy found himself in a dim-lit interrogation room, with nothing but the chair he was siting on, a low lamp and a table, on which lay the 17 oranges in a breaking bag, still and staring at him accusing him of his guilt. The boy had had enough. He reddened his newly-acquired tan and steam almost blew out of his red ears. And then, for the second time that day, his mind saw on opening, and like a good criminal, he decided to remove the evidence.
Guided by a new energy to achieve, he closed the eyes and hogged down orange after orange. I’ll see what he charges me with! An innocent forty-winks at a new job? Ha! And at a pace he surprised himself with, the boy ate all 17 oranges, wiped the dripping juice, and sat with a grin on his fresh face.
Slowly, the time passed and he started getting restless, and then he saw it.
All the pips and peels left behind from the juicy oranges still sat on the table and glared at him, forging double guilt. Imagine just what might be going on his mind when he reached out for the first peel and hauled it down his throat full. Yes, he ate them all, fruit, peel and seed. And since then, he hauls orange-sacks at the dock everyday, never once complaining about thirst, or looking at the fruit, till date.