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Story: Kite
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Story: Crime & Punishment
THE KITE

For my son, George Sunil Sammy.  One day you'll be a wonderful dad!

kite2.jpeg

I wanted to make a real kite.  The bigger boys in school made real kites and would show off on the weekend how high they could fly, and how pretty they were.  We little ones had to be content with a page pulled out of our copy-books, folded and torn to make a little "chicky-chong".  Then we would run up and down the playground, with the chicky-chong flying just a foot behind our shoulder.  You couldn't be really proud of that.  And if Miss found out that you had pulled a page out of our copy-book, it was licks for sure.

I told my father that I wanted to make a kite.  He offered to buy one for me.

"They does sell them on the highway," he said.  "I will buy one when I coming home."

 "No," I said.  "I want to make a kite.  I want it to be mine."

My father kept offering the bought kite, but I refused.  Then I gave up.

*** +++ *** +++ ***

But one Friday, he surprised me.  He came home with a bag from a stationery store in Port of Spain, and announced that we would visit Ajah that weekend.  With a grin, he asked what I thought was in the bag.  I didn't know.

 "Kite paper, boy.  And string.  And some glue in a bottle."

I knew then that I would get to make my kite.  So I didn't complain when I had to sit and listen to the talk about how in the old days we would have had to boil gum arabic or starch to make the glue, and how easy things was these days, and how I should be glad to live in modern times.  Then my mother said that gum arabic woulda really stink up the house, so I was glad for that.

*** +++ *** +++ ***

 Ajah was happy to see us, and happier still when my father told him what we were there for.   

"Make a kite?  You couldn't make it for the boy?  You couldn't make it?"

I hadn't thought of that, but when I looked at my fathers face, I knew it was true. 

"The thing is'" said my father "people does make a anyhow kite, and then vex with the kite when that kite wouldn't fly good."

But Ajah could make a good kite, I was sure.  Otherwise, why did my father bring us here?

*** +++ *** +++ ***

First, Ajah sent me for the cocoyea broom.  I was confused.  The open space below the house had already been swept clean.  And you mustn't sweep and raise dust when people came to visit.  Even I knew that.  But I got the broom, and Ajah pulled out three-four cocoyea from it.  Then I watched in fascination as he took a length of thread and made a bow.  But this cocoyea bow would never shoot tiny arrows.  Ajah's old, stiff fingers carefully tied a length of cocoyea across the bow, and then he had the frame of the kite.

Now, I could help. 

"Tie a knot here, boy.  Tie it tight."

"Put your finger here and hold this down.  I will fold the paper". 

"Put a drop of glue here.  Look, you get glue on your finger!  Don't mind  - but don't get it in your hair.  That go be trouble."

*** +++ *** +++ ***

The kite had form now, but it was not yet ready to fly.  I had seen enough kites fly twisted ... or spin around in the air ... or not fly at all ... to know that the technical part was still to come.  Ajah tied a length of fine twine from one side corner of the kite to the other, cutting the length so that it hung loose.  Carefully, he found the centre of the twine, so that the kite hung perfectly balanced from it. 

"This is the thing, boy.  If you don't balance your kite it will fly twist one-side."

More twine, more balancing, and the kite was finally attached to the main ball of twine from which it would fly.  Before he attached the twine, Ajah unrolled an arms length and pulled on it to test it. 

"You have to make sure it strong, to hold the kite," he explained.  People does sell rotten twine, and then when you send up the kite it buss and the kite fly away."

 Such a tragedy would make me cry.  I could hardly believe that people would sell rotten twine, for us to use on something as important as our kite.  But Ajah had tested this twine, so we knew it wasn't rotten.

*** +++ *** +++ ***

The bright yellow kite-paper made an eye-catching kite, but I wanted more.  I wanted to decorate it with shapes and frills.  I wanted to be really proud of this kite.  Ajah seemed to read my mind.  He reached into the bag and took out some red kite-paper. 

"What you want to put on the kite?" he asked. 

"I want to put on a moon, and some stars, and plenty frills around the outside, and ..." I dried up. 

"Boy, you think the kite will fly with all that?  You can't hang all kinda shit on the kite and expect it to fly good!"

Ajah could use words that would get me a clout.  But he showed me how to put on just a few decorations to make the kite prettier, and how to cut out and attach a small fringe around the outside.  And he told me that a kite can't look good if it don't fly good.

"What missing now?" Ajah asked.

 I looked carefully at the kite.  Something important was missing.  What was it?

 "The tail," I shouted.

 Ajah sent me for a piece of cloth from upstairs.  He bit a notch on one side, and tore off a thin strip.  Then he tore off another, and another.  He knotted some of these together, end to end, and then put a few more in his pocket. 

"You must have a good tail to keep the kite from spinning," he said.  "That go do for now.  We could tie on more when we test out the kite."

*** +++ *** +++ ***

The last was a cue.  We would now walk down the road to the savannah, and launch my kite on her maiden flight.  I picked up my kite in awe, with pride shining in my eyes.  If I had looked, I would have seen that my father was looking at me with the same pride in his eyes.  He had not said a word the entire time, but now he spoke. 

"Son, I could see you proud of your kite.  Is a nice kite.  But your Ajah teach you plenty things this afternoon.  He teach you how to make the good kite, and how to balance it so it wouldn't fly twist one-side.  He teach you how to test the string to make sure it strong enough to hold the kite.  He teach you not to decorate the kite too much, because a kite can't look good if it don't fly good.  And he teach you how to put on a good tail so it wouldn't spin when it flying."

 Ajah's face got serious.  He looked straight at my father, as if he could see right through him. 

"Is the same thing with children," he said in a quiet voice.

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