Chapter 1: Returning Back Home
Ricky stared at the barren wasteland in shock, his mind couldn’t comprehend what he was seeing. What the fuck happened here? He thought, logging happened, that’s what happened. He remembered the last time he and the gang came and hid in the jungles here, and now before him was nothing, no trees for nearly a mile. All he could see was stacks of logs and men wielding chainsaws.
Ricky left for Popondeta town nearly 8 years ago when his father died from a short illness. His mother remarried to a man from another village and move to her new husband’s village. Ricky was 17 when he left his village, he swore an oath over his dead father’s grave that he would never return to the village, his grandmother, his father’s mother begged him to stay and look after his father’s land, being the only son born to Kepa, he was bound to inherit his father’s land but the young bloke already had his mind set on leaving and no one could change that.
With only twenty-five Kina in his pocket and a spare shirt in his tapa woven bag, he jumped on a PMV and sped away from the place that took his father and his mother away from him. He would go to town and look for some of the boys from the village who were living in town.
When in town, he was housed by the boys in a shanty house in one of the blocks in town. His dreams of getting a job in town was shattered when nobody wanted to hire a kid from the village so he hung in front of the shops with the big boys and started causing trouble everywhere. At age 18 committed his first crime and was soon initiated and welcomed into the gang.
Popondeta town was famously known as the cowboy town and one leg country, a town infested with criminals from petty thieves to pirates and soon Ricky was robbing almost everyone. At the age of 22, he was leading the gang in robberies and sea piracy. He earned the name, “The KING”, having escaped six times from Police custody and on the most wanted list for killing a police officer in a shootout, he was the most dangerous criminal in town. After every robbery, he would take his gang and go live in the jungle on his father’s land until the police gave up search for them.
He knew the jungle like the back of his hand, every trail, every tree and spring. His father used to take him hunting there when he was just a boy. His father used to show him the land boundaries and where their land boundaries ended. In the thick tropical rainforest on his land, Ricky built his hiding spot where he would come to lay low after every crime. Ricky would come and hide and the jungle but never once did he go into the village for he made an oath on his dead father’s grave that he would never set foot in the village.
But today, he stood and watched in horror as the loggers cleared all the trees from his father’s land. His land. Ken, the second in command of the gang whispered to Ricky, what are we going to do? Where are we going to go? Our hiding spot is no longer. The last time they were here was 2 years ago. Just two years ago, there were trees here, what the fuck happened? Who let this happen? He was raging mad with anger, he called over to his getaway driver to drive the stolen vehicle into the nearby bush where the gang cut tree branches and carefully covered the stolen vehicle. Nobody could see the vehicle under the camouflage.
What now? Said Ken. Ricky gave a smirk and said we’re going to the village; I want to know who brought in the loggers to destroy my land. I have made an oath never to go back to the village but I cannot just stand and watch as they destroy my forest. I must return now! He knew he should never break the oath he made but the land was at stake. He had left the village years ago but he never revoked his birthright and inheritance, the land was his and everybody knew that, he reminded himself as they set off for the village.
In the village, old Kepaso, Ricky’s grandfather was sitting in his small hauswin chewing his buai and smoking his pipe. He had his small kerosene lamp on to eliminate the darkness as he chanted some traditional songs. In the darkness, he saw a figure illuminated by the moonlight approaching his hauswin. Who could it be he thought, increasing the brightness of the kerosene lamp by adjusting the lamp wick to allow him to identify the unwelcomed visitor.
The figure came and stood under the sago thatched roof and slowly walked toward the old man, the old man who was losing his sight strained his eyes and with a loud shout, proclaimed “my grandson, my grandson is home, home at last” as he jumped up and hug his long lost grandson. Oh how it feels to be back home, Ricky couldn’t let go of his old man, his grandmother heard the cheerful laughter and ran out of the haus kuk to see who it was, upon recognizing her grandson, she beat her breast and fell on the ground thanking the ancestors for listening to her prayers and bringing her grandson back home.
Tears were shed, lots of it. Ricky’s grandmother kept hugging him and kissing his cheeks while repeating the words, “you look just like my dead son, you look just like your father”. Ricky called his gang over who were waiting under the coconut trees on the beach, he introduced each one of them to his grandparents, to him, they were more than a gang, they were family. A crime family.
Ricky told his old folks about his life in town but withheld the story of his life in crime and his grandparents in turn shared with him all that had happened after he left the village. The memories of his father were still fresh in his mind, he could see himself sitting by his father’s right hand, holding is hand. He could hear his mother’s sobs as his aunts tried to comfort her. He remembered his father’s last words to him, they were clear as a bell. My son, I am leaving the land to you, your uncles want to bring in loggers to remove the trees but you must protect the land from them. Do not let anything happen to the land, the land is your life and you must guard it with your life.
Chapter 2: The Confrontation (Yet to be Written)