Thursday, August 7, 2008

Funny Rich Man

No matter the business, he used Old English font, fire engine red, white background preferred. There was no need for discussion because everyone knew. You want a sign done, you called Rre Kopang. He’d pull up on his black Humber, paint, thinner, and brushes at the back in an orange milk crate strapped on with two yellow and green bungee cords, trailed by his thin as a rake dog, Tau. The only question-“What size?” You could choose big or small. Discussions over, he got straight to work.

This was how the village of Lephaleng came to look the way it did. A to Z Electronics, Rest in Peace Funeral Home, Stop By Bar, Go Siame Supermarket, the list went on. All had signs out front of the business establishments in Lephaleng had white backgrounds with the intricate, hand drawn, Old English font giving no indication of what was to be found inside the doors of the establishment. When asked about his predilection, Rre Kopang would say, “It’s the writing wa ga Mmamosadinyana.” Mmamosadinyana-the Queen. Rre Kopang was a fan of Mmamosadinyana, a staunch supporter ever since he wore the uniform for her in WWII. For him, every sign was a tribute to Her Majesty.

Beyond his love of the English, little was known about the tall, thin, ageless, white haired sign painter. His only companion, Tau, was close lipped on how they occupied their time when not painting signs. People in the village would shake their heads and mumble, “He’s funny, very funny.”

That funny took on a whole new meaning when Rre Kopang passed away. Mr. Mohammed, the owner of Star Bed and Breakfast, in urgent need of a new sign, waited the whole morning and half of the afternoon before sending Boy, his assistant manager, out in the Hilux to see what was keeping the old man. Boy found Tau in a state, pacing up and down in the tiny compound. He opened the unlocked door to the one roomed house and, though he was for a moment distracted by the many pictures of Mmamosadinyana that filled the unpainted cement walls, Boy soon realised that Rre Kopang, though appearing peacefully asleep on the bed, was decidedly dead.

Since no one knew of any relatives, the neighbour women streamed in to take control of the situation and that was when the trunk was found. A large, beautifully carved, sandalwood trunk packed full of P100 bills, a million Pula solid and clean. A note on top said, “For the care of Tau”. Though the village was not keen on spending a million Pula on a dog, the kgosi insisted that Rre Kopang’s wishes be abided by. And so, the dog to the funny, rich man who loved the Queen, ended its days living like royalty.


Karen said...

This is a wonderful story! I can just see the signs, all looking decidedly similar, adorning all the shops in the village.

As a dog lover, the ending was one of the most satisfying ones ever. Thank you!

Lauri said...

Thanks Karen. I thought the ending was a bit "run out eh door before it hits you in the ass" but I was under pressure to finish before the new prompt arrives.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is too, too good. What a creative person you are, Lauri. He worked so hard and he had all that money the entire time. Such a brilliant story!

groovyoldlady said...

I have a friend - a "spinster" - who gives endless tea parties for women and little girls. She poses as a poor district special ed teacher, but I suspect, when she dies (and she has no heirs...) that we shall find her china and wall to wall collectibles are worth millions!

She has a cat...

Lauri said...

Groovy you know a cat would work much better in this story. Cats have this "I deserve more" attitude about them. Of course they would never follow a man on his bike.

Selma- thanks, but I'm not as creative as it seems. There was a sign writer in my village where I live who made such signs, and he was old and rode a bike. The story grew from there.

It's funny, so many times stories come from such observations and often I forget what is the truth. I'll be telling someone something and if someone else is there (usually my daughter) they'll say- hey that's not true. I'll feel silly but it was more that the memory now is all mixed up with my story about it. By the time I'm an old lady I'll be telling lies all the time determined that everything is true. I can't be trusted.