Once, while they were playing backgammon, the old man and the girl, it started to rain. Joseph rushed the old man in, but Shiela refused to get in. She loved the rain, and she danced in the lawn, enjoying the natural showers.
He looked at her in astonishment. How can anyone like rain? He wondered. The falling water from the skies, if ever did anything, only annoyed him. Always a trouble for the men who want to work.
Shiela caught a cold that night and didn’t come next week as fever hit her. The old man was right, always a trouble. But the week after that when Shiela came, it rained again, and again she played in the rain. Her grandfather was least bothered about her playing in the rain, in fact, he encouraged her. “Nothing as good as a smile on her face,” he said to his friend. His friend was frowning.
The old man had no family. He had never married and had only two friends, Shiela and her grandfather. In Shiela he found a secret keeper. He often showed her the diaries he had, written during the war. No one else had ever read the diaries, not even her grandfather. The rumours around had it that the old man had been a prisoner of war and it was there in the camps that he wrote all those diaries. They contained all his life and all his secrets.
The old man was sure that him and Shiela would remain friends forever, but last week she didn’t come. She didn’t come because her grandfather was no more living at the old-age home. In fact, her grandfather was no more living at all.
Mr. Craber, Shiela’s grandfather had had a heart attack, of an intensity he couldn’t handle. Shiela cried profusely, she cried clutching to the old man’s chest, and the old man cried silently, holding to his chest the little girl.
Shiela didn’t come the next week, nor did she come the week after. The old man waited for his best friend every Thursday, sitting in the lawn with the backgammon board spread out and a box full of old pictures and diaries. He worked everyday leading up to the Thursday, carefully making plans. But she didn’t come.
He was in the lawn as usual, reading a newspaper. The board was set and the box was kept on the side. It was the rustle of leaves that he heard first. But it didn’t bother him much, he continued with his paper. And then all of a sudden a small, warm hand covered his eyes. The old man smiled. He knew it was her. It had to be.
“How are you Jack?” Shiela cheered.
MR. JACK, he wrote in the diary and showed it to her.
“But you are my friend, aren’t you,” she said, “So I’ll call you Jack.”
The old, mute man smiled again, and took the dice as Shiela settled herself in for a game of backgammon.