I met a guy who thought that rats could fly. I don’t mean that he confused bats with rats; he was quite clear about bats. He simply believed that rats could fly. He explained it to me carefully one evening on the field where we went to watch a football game. He said that this was the way they got into his roof, and round his house, and he said that he saw them quite often perched up in his mango tree, eating the mangos. It made him mad he said. His cat, he added, kept climbing the mango tree but the rats were too swift for it.
There’s no point in arguing with people who have beliefs like that. I guess there’s not much use arguing with people about their beliefs at all. Another guy i know was convinced that his dog had learned to read. He’d caught him one day lying on the carpet with his nose pressed on an open book and his paws placed neatly on either side of it. “He has trouble turning the pages sometimes,” he told me, “and he’s pretty slow, but he’s through reading Sugar Girl now and i’m trying him on something stronger.” I cant remember what the something stronger was, but maybe it was The Purple Hibiscus, or Half Of A Yellow Sun, for a few weeks later the dog left home and was never heard of again.
I was telling this to a girl i met at a school party the other month, a nice girl with red hair and a proclivity for gin- not a usual taste for girls i’d say, but i don’t claim to be an authority- and she was quite amused. She said she had an aunt who had crazy beliefs too. She said her aunt thought that the message boy was an angel. Well, that piqued my curiosity. I could have understood anyone thinking a message boy was possessed of the devil- i’m not at all sure ours isn’t- but angels are a different matter. I bought her another glass of gin, and asked her for more details. “Well,” she continued, sipping thoughtfully, “my aunt gets the evening, not the morning paper and quite often she’s in the garden when the paper arrives. A year or so ago, the beginning of july it was, I think- she was messing about with the vegetable bushes when this message boy arrived and instead of just dropping the thing on her front door he brought it to her. He was a new message boy, my aunt says, with brown eyes and neatly cut very dark hair and a sort of sad sweet smile, which might account for some of it. Anyway my aunt said thank you and glanced down at the headlines, where she swears she saw the words ‘Ring Under Sofa.’ Now, she had lost a rather valuable ring and had been worrying about it all day, and so she was startled. ‘Good Heavens!’ she said, and the message boy said, ‘You’d better believe it!’ but not flippantly, quite seriously, my aunt says, and then he went off whistling ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’ Well, my aunt went into the house, pushed the sofa to one side, and found the ring. When she piccked up the paper again the headline read ‘Riot in Abuja.’ My aunt isn’t really very superstitious- I mean she throws spilt salt over her left shoulder and doesn’t put shoes upside down and things like that, but i wouldn’t call her really superstitious at all, so she dismissed the whole thing as a trick of the mind,” She took another sip of the gin. “Yes?” I said.
To be continued……..