by Shawler Agbaje
“Fweeeeeeet! Fweeeeeeeet! FWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!” Sol blew his whistle signalling the end of the game. He stood underneath a tree counting the black pebbles he was able to find with a grin on his face.
The boys started coming out one after the other. They were sweaty and some were covered in dust and mud. A lot of them were not thrilled that the whistle had been blown so early. As each boy approached the tree, disappointment was written on their faces when they saw Sol’s pebbles. A few minutes later, when all 12 boys had gathered, Saheed asked, “Where’s Zane?”
“Zane! ZANE!” The boys kept shouting his name, some climbing the trees. Sol blew his whistle the loudest and longest he could. There was no sign of Zane. The sun was setting. Some of the younger boys were scared. They started crying. Others kept calling for Zane. Still, nothing.
One after the other, they each left for their village. Sol had told them that Zane had returned home while they were searching for their “treasures.” He tried his best to convince the boys that Zane was fine, that he was playing an awful prank. However, Sol never believed a word he said.
That night, Sol could not sleep. He kept on wondering what fate befell the little boy no one wanted to play with.
The next morning, Sol waited for the other boys at the village square before beginning their 1.5 kilometre trek to school. The boys gathered together, hoping Zane would join them. But there was no sign of him. Zane did not go to school.
After school, on their trek back – “FWEEET! FWEEET! FWEET! FWEEET!” Suddenly, Sol frantically searched his pockets for his whistle. It was there. Someone else had a whistle. It was a disturbing development. But who?
A lorry drove past, and another was approaching.
“FWEEET! FWEEET! FWEEEEEEEEEEET!”
The whistle was louder. Sol and the other boys became more curious.
The second lorry passed, and at the back was Zane waving his tiny hands, blowing a shiny whistle.
“Where did Zane get a whistle?” Saheed asked.
Sol hissed and said, “WHAT IS HE DOING ON THE LORRY?”
“Son, that was the last time I ever saw him. Over the years, I would hear his name on the radio, read about him in the newspapers, and eventually watch him on TV. No one ever knew what happened to him till he wrote about it,” a visibly older Sol narrated to his grandson while cutting mangoes with a knife in his living room in Kigali.
“What happened to him, Babu?” His grandson asked.
Sol sighed. He put down the knife, gave his grandson a slice of mango and said, “That day, when we were searching for shiny black pebbles, Zane found a bag of gold coins. Little Zane was smart. He quietly left and took the bag home. That was his last night in the village. He left with his father for the city early in the morning with just one gold coin. That gold coin paid for two lorries, and brought them great fortune and one shiny whistle.”