One of those days found Timbir taking his usual one- to two-hourwalks. He marvelled at the number of cars in the city. Was it really only inthree years that a walk down this same road would have encountered a countable number of very predictable cars? He waved to the cook at the corner, workingto meet the teeming demands of her ever increasing customers. She shot him a look of acknowledgement from a window, and continued with her work. These days, she had no time to even wave back. That was a big change. There was the time when she would cook only once and have remnants to spare at the end of the day. In those days, he would go in and talk to her. They would talk about anything and everything. He knew how many stories he had been inspired to write from simply talking to her. There was her son who had a calabash for a stomach who would have to wait for the remnants at the end of the day;
“Uncle, buy me this.” “Buy me that.” “Thank you, Uncle.” Very warm boy who made Timbir feel like a biological Uncle. Who would have guessed they were from two different regions of the country? Such was the warmth. The last time he had seen the boy, there had been noticeable change. The boy had grown up as had the warm “Uncle.” Timbir was now “Sir” in a very polite tone. He heard that the young man was in a very big school now. He missed the boy. It was also one of the benefits of the new times; politeness over warmth. He smiled at the woman, busy at work, in a proper suit who gave instructions to her workers in this big building. Who would believe that this was the same person he had called cook? Hmmm.
He continued on his way, stopping at the church; a big magnificent edifice. He remembered the previous years. People used to fellowship in the Pastor’s two bedroom flat. It was a common sight, then, to find ground nuts in the offertory box. All the times he had passed the area, had made him laugh. The Pastor had always told him to be wary, saying that the parable of the mustard seed remained.
“Perhaps, for your grand children!” Timbir had retorted each time with both of them laughing. These days only crisp currency notes lined the box. The Pastor had grown from the slim happy faced man to a fat, clownish person. An exploiting smile at his lips each time, he no longer visited Timbir. His visits were reserved for the bigger houses of the Faithful. The business of the church now took priority and even the spare time of the Shepherd had to be spent in more favourable investments. The prophecy of the mustard seed had sure come to pass. He shook his head. Things had moved fast and the whole country had changed in a whiff.
He continued his walk and eventually got to his car, someone on his trail. The beggar came in his tattered clothes and flagged Timbir down. He looked at him and turned his face away. He climbed into his jeep and thought of how different things had become. It was no longer a communal society and even family had become far. He engaged the gears and ignited his car to life, raising the dust into the face of the man now left behind. His brother, in his ragged clothes, looked on as Timbir drove off. It was the sign of the times.