My Four O'Clock Vigil

I watched the road from my perch on the garden wall. The neighbourhood had bestowed upon me the title of Mr. Know-it-all.  Every day, an old woman arrived outside my neighbour’s gate. Her snowy hair and her beady eyes were her most noticeable trait. What bothered me was her staring at the young woman next door. Fatima often brought her baby out to catch the sun around four. She had tried to approach the crone once or twice. Every time she went near, the stranger fled in a trice.  What could this grizzled intruder want? Why had she made our street her unholy haunt? My imagination ran wild. It was my moral duty to protect Fatima and her child. The hag must be biding her time to pull off something clever. No, never!  What she didn’t know was that she had met her match. Nothing was going to happen to my neighbours, not on my watch. The baby seemed to notice the old woman one day. He waved his chubby arms towards her, gesturing her to play. As she hobbled towards the gate, I was filled with misgiving. My heart raced, remembering a story about a lady who kidnapped innocents to earn a living.  For a moment, it looked like the woman was about to enter, but then she changed her mind abruptly. “Mother, please come in and hold your grandson,” Fatima pleaded unhappily. Things fell in place in my mind! Rumours resurfaced, of Fatima and her husband’s estranged families, and their hatred combined.  The old lady was Fatima’s mother-in-law, a woman of a different faith. She disinherited her son when her warnings did little to scathe. He broke her heart when he left her with Fatima in tow. She had told him she would never forgive him for this low. The old woman had stayed away for years. But what her errant son couldn’t do, this baby did, making his grandma forget her tears.  How would this story end? Would the grandmother give in and bend? Unlikely at this rate. Such was fate! Today at four, I was witness to pure magic. Surprisingly, it started as something tragic. The baby started choking. Fatima began panicking. Without hesitation, the old lady crossed the forbidden threshold. She ran to the baby, inserted her fingers into his mouth, and extracted a broken toy into her palm hold. “Thank you, Mother!” sobbed Fatima in relief. The old woman kissed her grandson, finally overcoming her grief. “Will you come in?” Fatima inquired. The crone reconsidered.  Her grandson’s magnetic pull was too much. How could she let go of his clutch? She caved, and they went in together joyfully, all redeemed. Since they’d vanished from public eye, my viewing of the gossip was unlikely, it seemed. Hopefully, they’d sort out their differences and there would be no more dramas. No more soap operas, of menfolk and their belligerent mamas.  My role had ended; I was only a garden gnome. My place was outside a home!     Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!