Sitting at the roof terrace, were the kinsmen and kinswomen of the curator. The curator had driven over one hundred and sixty kilometres to fetch his kinsfolk to come and tarry the night with him. This was a very special occasion for him. Kinsmen were special. They spoke your language, they understood your metaphors, they felt you, they understood the language of the ancestors. They knew the power of the tradition. They carried that power with them wherever they went. It was a default setting in them. Here was the mayor of a town back home in the terrace of the curator with his wife. Another kinswoman was there. The sky was the open roof. The stars twinkled a little. The weather was mild. The breeze blew across their faces. The humidity had gone on a recess.
The curator Captain Velt and his two assistants Claire and Goodbread were busy setting up the grills. The charcoal was poured into the two grill boxes and set ablaze. The chicken was well marinated. The camp table was set up and the drinks and light refreshments were all set up for quick bites here and there while waiting for the main to get ready. Getting the charcoal to light up and be blue coloured was always a task. The curator was equal to the task. This was the beginning of season three. The very opening session right at the roof top. The weather was an ally.
The lighter cubes were placed strategically in the corners of the grill and lit. A little fuel was sprinkled across the charcoal and the lighter set off, the blaze came alive. Everybody stopped for a while to take it in. It was a spectacular sight. It signalled the opening of the season. It indicated that the chef was on task. It signalled that, in the next forty five minutes or so, the first bite, fresh from the charcoal would be ready. Then the fire quietened down. Only the lighter cubes were burning. Captain Velt poured in some more fuel. The fire re- ignited itself and in the next twenty minutes the much awaited blue coloured coal turned up. Velt used the big metallic spatula and redistributed the charcoal across the grill box. He fanned it with the green fan and the whole inside of the grill pan was glowing with blue flame and radiating heat.
The grill grates were placed over the flames and the marinated chicken spaced out on top of the grate.
What everybody was waiting for, arrived. That smell. The smell of chicken being flamed. The smell of oil dripping from the chicken. That smell that reminded you that food was on the way. That smell enveloped the air and they all took it in in whiffs as if they were inhaling some class A substance. That smell held some intoxicating properties. And it created such an air of anticipation and expectation.
One grill grate was lined with chicken while the other grate was lined with ripe plantain and fresh corn. The popping sound of the corn reminded the kinsfolks of popcorn yet this was freshly plucked corn.
The brother from the south side of Chicago, Mr. Piope sat and listened to deliberations about the politicians from the Copper Belt region. He knew that these were his brothers, his ancestry was from this people. Even though they spoke in a language he did not understand he could feel them and knew that they were brothers even in distance.
His little army bag from Amsterdam was by his leg, next to his chair. The mayor of Tin city sat reclined on the garden chair. His missus next to him, massaging his ego and his shoulders. He gave a lecture on friendship and how friends meant so much. You couldn’t go to a store and buy friendship. In fact, according to the sacred book, friendship was a rare gift from the Creator Himself.
Captain Velt’s voice intruded the arena and announced that food was ready. He asked everyone to bow their heart and thanks was offered.
“It is informal. Grab a plate and come and take as much as you need,” his voice boomed. The corn was sweet, the chicken was delicious, the plantain was well grilled and BBQ sauce and ketchup was just handy.
There was plenty to drink and feed your mouth and appetite on. The party had just started on the curator’s rooftop. Cameras clicked, people belched, people satiated their appetites. Claire and Goodbread were of fantastic service.
The curator kept the food coming. He had a little towel tucked in his waist. He would pause sometimes and ask one of his assistants, to wipe the perspiration off his brow. He would return to work straightaway.
They continued to listen to the political rancourings from back home via a live streaming and the mayor continued his lecture on friendship. The very reason they were here. The very reason Mr. Piope was here.
Four hours later, folks retired to go and rest, Piope remained and that moment came.
Piope and Velt had a heart to heart talk. The air was silent. The atmosphere was calm and an ally. Piope opened that army bag, brought out some grams of a precious metal, held it tight with his two hands, his fists clenched around it. It seemed as if his heart would tear to pieces. The blood rushed to his face.
“You know what Captain?” he asked
“Tell me” Velt replied.
“You have been a true friend to me. I have been thinking of you all my way to your place. I thought about the meeting at the rooftop.”
“Thank you” Velt said. “If I may ask, why were you thinking of the meeting at the rooftop?” Velt continued.
“Well, you see I have been thinking of sacrifice. Sacrificing something to you and for you. I really do appreciate you and love you. You have been such a true friend to me and I have decided to honour our friendship by sacrificing something to you” Piope said.
He stretched out his arm. He ripped the precious metal from his clenched fists and said to Velt, “Captain, take this as a token of my love to you, a seed of friendship. Keep it safe and remember me with this anytime and don’t say no, please”.
Captain Velt sat and watched this drama unfold. He was hesitant initially but the droplets from Piope’s face was too real to ignore.
Captain Velt stretched out his arm, took the precious metal and held it tight. He felt the warmth of the casing. He felt the weight of the container. He held on and he watched Piope go through the repudiation process.
“Thank you and thank you” Velt said.
“One of the scarcest and rarest commodity to come across now is genuine friendship” Piope remarked.
“You are here with me because you are a friend, a friend I could call upon even at 2am and would not be afraid of intruding into your sleep. The mayor of Tin city is here because of that same friendship. The lecture he gave to us was again because of friendship, so to this night of friendship, we salute” Captain Velt concluded.
A slight breeze blew, a little flame ignited and the stars and moon looked at them, a bird flapped by and landed on the terrace with an olive leaf as they exited the roof terrace.