> The Mangohead Chronicles: Mangohead and the Zaboca Thief S01E02

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mangohead and the Zaboca Thief S01E02

In case you're just getting caught up, constant reader, Episode 1 is available here. Now on to episode 2!

Walking past the sprawling garden, Mangohead entered the porch via the small swinging waist-high gate. The hinges complained vociferously as he edged his way into the verandah. A small waist-high wooden balustrade ran along the porch which was raised a single step height above the bare ground. The porch itself was made of varnished wood which creaked under Mangohead's wary steps.
He rested his hand on the door handle, turning it deftly as he pushed the huge wooden door inwards. In San Marco, it was unheard of to have one's door locked. It was a very friendly village where people would greet one another with smiles and usually everyone knew everyone else's business. The older heads of the village still acted like that although the younger generations knew that the encroachment of wealth brought with it the encroachment of crime. Although there had been no issues of housebreaking in San Marcos for some time, younger people were ever wary of the danger. Ma Procop had once told Mangohead that if people locked their doors it was because they had something to hide, not something to protect. She lived by those words, Mangohead mused as he let the door close behind him with a dull thud.

The interior of the house smelt of varnish and pinesol - that ever present smell of Trinidadian household cleaners. Mangohead associated the smell with Saturday mornings where his mother would come into his room at the ungodly hour of seven and mop the floor while lambasting him as to how lazy a son she spawned. Light came in from the rafters and spilled into the room. None of the windows in the old house was open and the air had become musty and stale, even though Mangohead figured the place was only closed for a few hours. Methodically, he set about airing out the house.
He threw open a couple of the side windows in what Ma Procop would call the Drawing Room, although why, Mangohead was never sure since there were no drawings in the room and Ma Procop was not known for her pencil work. The room was a light blue and was almost deserted aside from a small space-saver in the corner. Space-savers were the major furnishings in the olden homes of Trinidad; when one was able to afford a space-saver in one's house, one was considered a bit better than those who couldn't. Ma Procop's space-savers were all over with all sorts of shapes and sizes. This one was a single wooden case with an interior protected by sliding glass doors to the front and a pair of compartments on both sides of the display secured by swinging wooden doors.
Atop this (Mangohead assumed) very old piece of furniture sat a couple photographs. He took one up and peered into the depths of the black-and-white photograph. In it there was the background image of a very large building and a street where Mangohead could make out a bison-cart just moving out of the left frame of the picture. Ma Procop was prominent in the center of this image, hugging a woman who seemed to be of Asian descent. Looking closer he realized in surprise that it must have been Ma Attong; the local washerwoman.
As far as Mangohead could remember Ma Attong and Ma Procop used to regard each other with a certain scorn usually reserved for obscene skin afflictions or the Australian Cricket Team. Seeing them in such a close fashion made him think that maybe there was a story to this. Ma Attong died a few years ago but her daughter Lani carried on the anti-Procop hate campaign, although if you asked Lani why she did it, she honestly couldn't tell you.
"Mangohead!" a familiar voice called from outside. Rolling his eyes, he rested the picture down and made his way back to the verandah.
"What you want eh?" he asked angrily.
"Ma say how you have to come back before the sun go down," the girl replied, "how it have funny people in the village these days."
"It have funny people in the village all the time," Mangohead said dismissively. "You live here ent?"
The girl sucked her teeth in annoyance. Mangohead's sister Julie was a slender girl, colored deep brown by the Caribbean sun. She wore a pair of glasses that overshadowed her eyes, making one have to peer past the reflections to get a glimpse of the brown hidden beneath the surface. Her hair was plaited in a single braid that ran down to the middle of her back. Her cheeks were full and her eyebrows were dark and brooding. Mangohead thought that her face looked as though she was always in thought. Either that or constipated.
Julie had been born a couple years before Mangohead and had garnered the privilege passed on to the 'first child'; a legendary talisman that made sure that the child whose unfortunate lot it fell to was always first in line, whether it be for beatings or for candy. That said, Julie was very skillful at avoiding trouble. Mangohead once thought that she might have a sixth sense when it came to figuring out when to make herself scarce.
One extremely memorable episode in Mangohead's memory was when he was six and his mother was repainting the back wall. Mangohead had excused himself from the hard labor (as he so often did), but passed around back every now and again to check on the progress, in the true curious sense of youth. The last time he passed he realized that the tin of paint his mother was using lay on its side with the red color seeping out of it and discoloring the concrete floor. Being the good child he was, he righted the paint pan only to have his mother seize him and scold him for wasting her paint. He had to sleep on his stomach for three days due to that beating. The curious thing was that each time Mangohead passed to check the completion of the painting, Julie was there. All except the last time.
It was because of episodes like these that Mangohead did not trust Julie very much. There was a slight resentment towards her, but through it all, they were still related and as much as he loathed her methods, there was somewhere deep inside him that felt a sort of fondness for the demon child that his sister was.
"Make sure yuh buy bread when yuh coming home ehh," Julie said as she left. "Ma coming home late this evening and I going to get hungry later."
"Why you doh buy the bread then?" Mangohead chided. "Ent is on your way home?"
"Yea, but I ent hungry yet," Julie flung back logically.
Mangohead sighed as the outer gate swung close with a crash.
As he turned around to go back inside a flicker of color caught his eye at the very edge of his field of vision. Truth be told, if Mangohead was older, the flickering yellow that flapped in the intermittent breeze might have been overlooked, but the sharp eyes and keen perception of youth prevailed and Mangohead made a bee-line for the peculiar object.
It was a piece of fabric, probably ripped from a shirt or a blouse. It was plain cotton, and very light. Mangohead ran it through his fingers, feeling the rough texture of the fabric. Had Julie been wearing something this color, he pondered. No, she was dressed in dark, earthy colors, as she usually did. This was from someone else. As he seized up the fabric he turned around slowly until he was facing the house. Directly in front of him was the zaboca tree.
Mangohead's eyes narrowed. Silently he counted...six full zabocas. Looking from the tree to the fence and gripping the triangle of fabric in his hand the cogs of his mind got turning. This looked fishy. But how could he know for sure that someone was filching the zabocas? He would have to wait and see; that would be the only way. Casting an eye around the garden again he turned to go into the house.
Mangohead knew that the way Ma Procop talked, it was very possible that the entire village knew about her absence. That didn't bode so well for him as Ma Procop's new tree-caretaker. He had no dogs to tie to the tree that could bark when intruders came to steal. He would have to find another way to keep watch.
Ideally, he could stand guard near the tree all day, but then at night while he slept, the culprit could sneak in and pocket as many zabocas as his greedy little pockets could hold. He could theoretically ask a couple of the village boys to stand guard with him, splitting the watch between them, for a small sum of money that he could give to them after he sold the zabocas. But how trustworthy were the village boys? There were a few he trusted, but even one of them could be the thief. If there even was a thief. Maybe he was overthinking it; he though as he walked out of Ma Procop's gate and latched it shut. Maybe he should just go buy the bread and forget about the zaboca tree for now. Maybe, he thought, he could get some kurma from the kurma-man’s shop to take his mind off his worries. Kurma was an East-Indian sweetmeat made from frying a certain mixture of flour and spices in oil and dusting it lightly with sugar. The thought already began to make his mouth water.
“Aye Mangohead,” a hard, dangerous voice shouted to him from the side of the road.
“What?” Mangohead replied, as he looked around for the source of the call.
The bull-grass that lined the road parted and two boys emerged unto the road, one quickly rushing to block his path to the front and the other capping his retreat. Things suddenly got a whole lot more complicated.


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