Old Craft, New Chaps

The Eve of Independence, July 25

Monrovia was crowded this time of the year. Chaos! People rushed by, bumping against each other in Waterside market. It was the best and worst place shop. On the one hand, one found everything for bargained prices. On the other, the best robbers operated in that zone.

The old man struggled through the throng of people. He looked left and right every few paces. He seemed scared and watchful for something, anything to happen. He pressed on. The cane supporting his weight nearly broke with each step. He barely progressed. His old briefcase and even older coat confirmed to Oldpa and Papee that they had found their perfect mark.

Their plan was simple- Oldpa would distract while Papee snatches and flees. Oldpa signaled after snapping on his black waist bag containing all their hustle money since morning. Slowly, they approached and made their move.

“Dam!” Oldpa blurts out as he stumbles and knocks the old man who tumbles over. He bent, and helped him off the ground. “Sorry,” he says.

“Thank you son,” he replied in a feeble voice. He steadies himself only to be knocked over again, this time by another young man who snatches his briefcase and runs off.

Oldpa turns abruptly in pursuit of the thief. The Oldman slowly lifts his cane to intercept but he was too late. However nearby, the girl selling imitation children’s dolls yelled, “Rogue, Rogue! Thie-fe Thie-fe!” People around jumped into action looking for the rogue.

Oldpa echoes it, “Roo-gue!” The crowd followed him although, no one sees the thief. In fact, no one else is running but him. Some boys who saw a man run past and vanished in between some houses on Front Street, joined in. The terrain was rocky so only few ventured in; they chased, still shouting “Thief!” Eventually the noise faded. They all stopped after Papee entered the gang owned area and jump into the river under the Old Bridge. Beyond this point was dangerous. No one chased after culprits past that point.

Back on Mechlin Street, the Oldman wept upon hearing that the rogue had made off cleanly. One woman inquired about the content of the briefcase. He mentioned some documents and his recently cashed pension check of $673.28. He pulled out his wallet and handed her a few old pay slips. She quickly scanned and verified the amount. She hissed her teeth, reached for her purse, removed $125, and gave it to him. Others followed suit- a five here, twenty there, a few fifties.

Thus, in no time, he collected thrice more than he’d lost. He thanked them and went on his way.

Oldpa met Papee bending over a briefcase stuffed with old papers and some stones but no money. He inquired but Papee claimed that the case was exactly as it is now. Oldpa, determined to recover his losses from Papee’s share of loot, reached under his shirt but could not find the black waist bag. “Perhaps it fell during the chase,” he thought. He began a frantic search. When Papee determined that the bag with their day’s loot was what Oldpa was searching for, he became suspicious. Both believed the other had cheated. They had a terrible fight.

New Kru Town:

“Grandpa! Grandpa!” The little boy shouted as he ran towards the Oldman descending the taxi. They hugged. The Oldman gave him Monrovia Rock, his favorite sweet. He walked the short distance to their house, sat and allowed the boy to jump on his lap, still licking away.

“What is this Grandpa?” the boy asked, pointing to a black waste bag.

“It’s yours,” said the Oldman as he broke a smile. He’d removed the contents from it. What a catch it was. This day had turned out well for him.

D. Othniel Forte