A Lesson For The Future
Well, after all those remarkable moments, my memories of the same day became a bit more diffuse. While I still remember the important parts of the next events, I, as a pure spectator, didn't hold the subtle feelings and impressions about it. But they didn't matter very much anyway.
Then, when arriving home, I had to face an interesting dilemma. I was overjoyed to have my toy working again, but how would I explain the miracle to my parents? Telling them the truth was out of question. However, my boyish naiveté made me take the worse approach. I sneaked inside my house, and, without saying anything, started to play with the automatic cart, as if it had always worked. I walked to and fro, proudly, like a peacock pretending he was not caring about anything else, but clearly begging for attention with his colorful tail opened. Not more than a few minutes had passed, and my mother had her attention attracted by the car, which I drove inside the kitchen on purpose. Knowing that the toy was broken, she stopped preparing the dinner and came to interrogate me, startled.
“What does it mean? How is it working?” She didn’t look friendly at all, and all my pride was dissolved, like a snail when salt is thrown over it.
“I… I…” My stuttering betrayed me immediately. If only the adults were such bad liars as children, life would be rather easy. It wouldn’t matter what I said afterwards, my mom knew it was a bare-faced lie. Anyway, I had to say something, hoping that, somehow, she would be fooled by my filial spell, “I just… turned it on… and it started working.”
She placed her hands around her waist and scolded me, visibly irritated. My spell didn't work. “Don’t lie to me, son. Who did it?”
I was so nervous at the accusation that I blushed and my grip on the controller became weaker. “I… I… fixed it…”
“Hey, stop lying, little brat!” She got really angry. “If you don’t tell me the truth…”
She was interrupted by my father, who had just arrived, attracted by the commotion on the kitchen. “Hey, what is happening… whoa!”
He was surprised to see the family treasure resurrected. My mother, though, was already angry and didn’t let me capitalize on my father’s amusement. “Your son is lying to me, saying that he fixed the toy. Come on, boy, tell us the truth, or you will be forbidden to play outside for the rest of the month! Who did it for you?”
My father was speechless to see his treasured toy working again, but he stood for my mother, feebly repeating my mother’s question. I had been cornered, and to stay the whole month locked at home was to a boy like me the same for an adult as receiving a life sentence. Therefore, I answered, fearing that I would receive the same punishment for my impertinence, but even being spanked for disobeying their orders of not meddling with the old man would be better than being locked for a whole month, so I spilled it out. “It was the old man…”
“Who?” My mother inquired, aggressively.
“Mr. Kain, the old man…”
“What?” My father’s exclamation of surprise almost scared my soul out of my body. “What did you say?”
I was trembling with fear. Certainly, I had done something very wrong. My father’s reaction had been so unexpected that I was positive I would not only be spanked and locked, but also receive the harshest punishment of my whole life. The few seconds of silence that followed were like years for me, like the moments that precede the judge’s announcement that the defendant had been condemned to death without appeal.
My father, however, was not worried about what I had done, but about what I had said “Did you mean that old Josh…” He swallowed hard. “…is Josh Kain?” Then, he turned to my mother, who also seemed to be surprised. “It can’t be…”
I was relieved to discover that my father’s surprise was not anger directed at me, but I was left completely at loss. What could be so special about his name? As far I as knew, there was no Kain in our family. Maybe my instincts were right and he was, in fact, a dangerous person, a criminal, a murderer. However, after having the opportunity of talking to him, I didn’t believe that anymore. A cool man who could magically fix my toy, owned amazing devices, had traveled to Palma and Dezoris, had fought in a war, could not be a bad man. After another brief silence, while mother and father talked by telepathy, my father broke the silence.
“Oh, dear, we must check that immediately.”
My mother extinguished the fire on the oven and both hurried out of my house. I followed them, instinctively, and when I realized, I still had the controller in my hands, but then it was too late to turn back. On our way, my parents exchanged just a few laconic sentences, as if they were desperately trying to hide something from me. I was very anxious, because I considered the possibility of them scolding the old man, and he was blameless in that story. My friends and I have been very unjust with him, and the kind old man didn’t deserve any reprimands for what he had done. After all, he not only have been kind to me, but also took pains to fix my toy for free. While my father lead the group, I tried to talk my mother out of her idea of scolding the man.
“Sorry, mom, it was all my fault…”
“What are you talking about, my son?” She didn’t look angry at me, but my question didn’t sit well on her.
“Please, mom, don’t get mad at him…”
“Shut up, son, you are talking nonsense!”
After that reprimand, I decided it would be better to stay quiet and see how the events would unfold. I had no power to decide what would happen, so I followed my parents, in silence. Besides, I didn't want to risk another punishment right there, to amount to the ones I still believed I was entitled to receive. It didn’t take more than a few minutes before our familiar committee arrived at the old man’s house gates. The sun was about to set, and the darkness brought a sad feeling to my heart, as if my joy was being taken away from me along with the light. After my father clapped his hands vigorously, we waited. I was anxious, but not like before, because I was so confused at that time that I couldn't be genuinely worried. Besides, my anxiety wasn’t meant to last, for just a bit later, I’ve heard the familiar voice.
“Aye! Mr. Tann’r! What brings ye ‘ere?” The old man, who had suddenly materialized behind the iron gates, asked, smiling, while he opened the gate’s lock.
“Old Josh...” My dad swallowed hard. “My son...”
“Oh, the boy a-had been ‘ere some ‘ours ago.” Kain interrupted, while opening the gates, that produced a loud squeak. “Oh, Mrs Tann’r!”
My mother didn’t answer the greeting. As soon as the old man opened the door, my mother invaded his courtyard and, held him by the arms, as if she had been fallen ill with some mysterious disease that affected her brains. She asked him, anxiously. “Are you Josh Kain?”
“Well, yeah!” The old man answered, confused. He didn't seem to be afraid, just surprised by her reaction. I would learn that he was one of the coolest persons I've ever met.
“Why didn’t you tell us before?” My mother released her grab on him, and asked in an accusing manner. Poor mom, as much as I love her, her overtly passionate reactions were, and still are scary.
My father, more controlled, tried to retake the leadership over my mother, before she said or did something shameful, wrong, or both. “Yes, Josh, why didn’t you tell us you were one of the Magnificent Seven?”
“Eight?” My father, who entered at the courtyard, was startled. Probably he was not ready to know that the mystic group of heroes had another member other than those the elders had told him.
“Nei.” Although his answer seemed to be devoid of emotion, I noticed that he was visibly moved. And I blamed myself for bringing her back to his memories a few hours before, but I was too young to realize that it was one of the most beautiful demonstrations of true love I'd ever see in my life.
My parents probably didn’t know about this Nei he had mentioned, or didn't hold her into high account, because my father shrugged and continued. “Why didn’t you tell us you were one of the saviors of Algol?”
Kain promptly answered, nonchalantly. “I felt ther’ was no need...”
“Why not? You are a hero!” My mother exclaimed loudly, making my father cringe, for he feared she would have another passionate fit.
“Josh Kain...” My father was still trying to believe that it was really happening, and for a moment I felt more mature and powerful, because the adults used to say boys are often mixing imagination and really, but I could plainly see my father was not immune to that. “So the old Josh is a savior of Algol. If it wasn’t my son, we would have never discovered.”
Still on the other side of the gates, peeking through the familiar iron bars, I was proud of myself when I heard that. I was feeling almost like a hero myself. Besides, I was very happy that my image of the old man was shared by my parents, who started calling him the savior of Algol. He had to be a very important person to deserve such title. Moreover, I was very excited about all the things I’d tell Tom and Pep next time we met. I'd sure become the most popular boy in the neighborhood. Luckily, while lost in those childish dreams, I didn't lost the most important moment of that surreal day, which came shortly after.
“Why don’t you help us? You know we are almost starving!” My mother scolded Kain, in her usual manners.
“Am I not a-‘elping ye?” Kain answered calmly, with a big grin. If he was offended by her tone, he was wise enough to fend her blows, and strike back, like in a duel, leaving her in a fragile position.
“Well…” My mother hesitated. She was aware that he helped people fixing and building simple tools for them to work in the fields, reclaiming the barren fields and increasing a bit their scarce harvests. However, she expected more. “I know that. But you are a hero that saved Algol! Certainly you can do more for us!”
As the old man silently shook his head, my father added. “We’ve been passing through tremendous difficulties. We need someone like you to save us. Why did you hide your identity from us?”
Kain smiled. “B’cause this world a-needs no ‘eroes.”
“What?” My parents answered in a disharmonic chorus.
“This world a-needs no ‘eroes.” The old man repeated his answer, somewhat louder, to make sure he was heard and understood.
“But, the way things are going, a bad crop may mean our extinction. We need desperately someone to perform miracles to take us back to the comfortable state we used to live in the past.”
Kain listened patiently my father argument and then answered, in a serious tone that surprised me. “Nah, thatz the las’ thing ye need now.” And, seeing the bewilderment in my parents’ faces, gave us a sermon. The sermon of our lives.
“When I was youn’, the world was a-crumblin’, but, apart from the magnif’c’nt seven or eight or what’ver ye call us, only a ‘andful of people car’d about what was a-‘appenin’ to Algol. The rest stayed th’re, with they armz cross’d, watchin’ the downfall of Algol impassiv’ly, ‘oping for a miracle. They ‘ad learn’d to trust the decr’pit Mutha Brain so much that, until the en’, they still a-expected she woul’ save them. Palma was destroy’d, Motavia almost, an’ the whole star system only surviv’d b’cause a few civilianz d’cided to step up an’ fight. That’s why ye need no ‘eroes.”
My father answered stuttering a bit. He was clearly nervous, with his pride hurt. “But what can we do? We are just common people.”
“I waz just a common p’rson as well. Do ye know why I join’d their group? Do ye ‘ave the faintest idea why?”
The old man barked the last words, and it made us all scared. However, I didn’t fear the old man anymore. Although I was not very intelligent, I realized that it was something my parents had said that made him angry. Moreover, I didn’t see him as a serial killer anymore. Not even the fact that he possessed a gun worried me anymore, for my curiosity about the old man was much bigger than any worry. My parents were probably more scared, as mother only managed to shake her head negatively.
“I just join’d the group b’cause I’ve fall’n in love with Nei!” He paused for a moment and all the anger in his voice was replaced by sorrow. “I just want’d to be by her side…” He let out a sorrowful deep sigh. “But, whil’ I was th’re, I fully embrac’d the gargantuan task we ‘ad been given.” And he looked down before adding. “Even after Nei’s d’mise…”
A moment of silence ensued. My parents had been put in a difficult situation and now I see perfectly well why they were unable to come up with an answer, or anything that would ease their blame for waiting for an hero. As nothing was said, Kain added, calmly. “Yer boy came ‘ere a few ‘ours ago, an’ ask’d me why I didn’t build oth’r comput’rs like the un I ‘ave. I surely wish’d to build tons of them, but I a-can’t. Besid’s, what woul' be the use? Once I’m a-gone, no un will be able to fix, provid’ support, or evolve them. Even the simple toolz I’ve a-been fixin’, no un ever ask’d ‘Old Josh, could ye a-teach me how to fixit?’ It doesn’t matt’r how much I a-can do, I’m jus’ and old chap who will be gon’ soon. And, wh’n I die, what will be left? No, this world a-needs no ‘eroes. It needs just that normal peopl’ stand up and tak’ the responsibility of a-doing som’thing for the pr’sent and the futur’. Simple thin's, like a-fixin the toolz, buildin' better houses, organizin' the work on the fiel's, facin' the big threats with a smile on their fac's and courage in their 'earts.”
My father scratched his head nervously and, although embarrassed to admit he was wrong on questioning the old man, there was a strange light in his eyes. If my memory is not failing right now, I think that was the moment when he understood, and realized how grandiose the lesson Kain had taught us was. Even I, who was just a boy with nothing useful in his mind, understood the gravity and the wisdom in his plead for someone to step up and take the responsibility for doing what should be done. “Yeah… thinking better, I think you are right.” Then, he paused for a moment, probably reassuring himself of his decision, and added. “Can I ask you a favor, Mr. Kain?”
“Would you… teach me how to fix and build tools?”
The anxiety in my father’s eyes was broken by the old man’s sincere smile, which was already the answer my dad was looking for. “Of course, Mr. Tann’r, it will be a pleasur’”