There was an old man. He had a hat. And a cane. Six days a week he sat in a wooden chair on his stoep. There he sat, six days a week, with his hat on his head, the cane beside the chair. He came out to see the sun rise and didn’t leave until the sun set. At night he went indoors, returning to his mattress, table, violin and a tin bowl, fork, knife and cup. He hung the hat on its peg. He set the cane against the wall.

On the seventh day, a Tuesday, the man used his cane to walk 2,3 kilometres towards the sea. As he walked, he carried his violin in his left hand. The violin case was held together with frayed duct tape. To every woman who crossed his path he tipped his hat, to every man gave a nod and to every child a wink. But the man never spoke.

Next to the sea is a graveyard. There are few trees. The man always stood under the one in the far, east corner. He played the violin from exactly nine o’clock till ten past ten. He always faced north, looking out across the Mossel Bay sea.

Across from the graveyard was a playground filled with young school children. Every Tuesday they pressed their faces against the chain link fence rimmed with barbed wire, and watched and listened.

As the music played they did not giggle. They did not cause mischief. As the final note reached their ears, the man leaned forward and kissed a grave. Then with a wink to his audience, he departed, leaning heavily on his cane. Far beyond the children’s sight, the man would stop at precisely two shops. They were always the same.

A few months ago, a group of older boys, who should have been in school, approached the man about half a kilometre from his wife’s grave. The boys snatched the man’s cane and gave the man a whack. They knocked off his hat and seized his violin.

A farmer drove by in his bakkie and stopped to help. But the farmer was too fat and too slow to catch the boys. The man lay bleeding. He had no hat. He had no cane. He had no violin.

The man refused to be taken to a Medi-Clinic. So the farmer drove the man to the house, where all that was left was a mattress, chair, table and a tin bowl, fork, knife and cup. The man slowly made his way to his chair on the stoep. He gave the farmer a nod and the bakkie drove away.

The man sat and watched the sun set. He did not go inside. He sat and he sat and remained to welcome the sunrise. He sat and he sat as the day passed, and the last thing he ever saw was a red and gold sunset.

On Tuesdays little faces press up against a chain link fence rimmed with barbed wire. Tiny ears strain for the music that is not played. Eyes search, but never see a grave being kissed. But the children wait all the same.


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