The old man dreamed: I have seen my share of mornings. When the Sun comes gliding over the mountains wearing His robe of silver grey cloud. When the cocks crow their welcome and cook fires flavour the breeze. I am an old man dozing in the shade. The cat stretches nearby, whiskers sensing movement. I have been like that, alert to life, ready to act. I am an old man dozing in the shade of a Nabab tree. Holy tree, sacred tree, trailing tendrils in the breeze. Reaching deep to the heart of things. Touching the sky. Dreaming of colour and ceremony, music and laughter.
The old man stirred. His ears were not quite as sharp as they had been in his youth, yet he could hear the village waking, the sounds of stretching and yawning, and the first crackle of flame in the kindling set the night before for the cook fires. Then his attention slipped away again from the mundane sounds, moving inward.
As if he sensed the dreaming, Karrar paused by the Nabab tree. Standing there with his head to one side, the boy studied the old man asleep on the bench under the spreading branches. He lay on his back, hands folded on his chest, white hair half covering his wrinkled face. Karrar had heard talk from the other children in the village that it would be soon, the Grandfather's passing. He had never seen anyone die.
"Do you think they'll let us watch?" Piero asked Karrar later that day when they were alone.
The two boys, one dark and one fair, were crouched behind the low stone wall of the village garden. Between them lay a pile of stones ready to throw at the ravens that came every day to eat the corn ripening in the Sun. The boys had been born in the same season, and had learned to crawl, walk and climb together. When one of them appeared somewhere, people always looked for the other, and inevitably found him close by. There were some chores they did not like at all, but neither of them minded throwing stones at the ravens.
"Watch what?" asked Karrar, more interested in the birds.
"Watch the Grandfather die," Piero said patiently.
"Probably not," answered Karrar thoughtfully, frowning at the corn. "But, we can make sure we're there when he takes his last breath," he added with a smile.
Piero guessed that Karrar might have decided to be there when the Grandfather died,and was not at all surprised that he had already made a plan. Karrar's forehead wrinkled with concentration and his eyes narrowed as he looked across to where the Grandfather rested, and explained his scheme.
Piero nodded enthusiastically. Trust Karrar to understand! The others were never interested in things like an old man taking his last breath, or the way a caterpillar turned itself into a butterfly inside the house it built, or how the feathers on a bird's wing all fitted together. Karrar was a head taller than Piero, and the shorter boy looked up to his friend in more ways than one. When Karrar had an idea, Piero always agreed with it, even if it sounded like trouble. This one don't sound like trouble, he thought, but it might be boring just watching an old man all day.