A page from RBM's Peace Corps journal for Tuesday:
The most baffling part of the day came just minutes ago with a familiar tapping of metal at my door: five-year-old host brother E, back again, teasing the latch. This time he had a clear glass marble to show me. After inspecting it for a moment I closed the door, perhaps a little too quickly, and just then he snatched the key resting in the opposite side. I reemerged in time to catch sight of him stuffing the bright metal into his cargo shorts, whereupon he dashed toward our barnyard.
Determined to win him over with my broken Kyrgyz, as has worked in the past, I followed in slow pursuit. E stopped running. We considered one another across the mud and harsh sunlight, both expressionless. Then he inched toward me, shrugging innocence at my questions and even refusing a toy car I snatched on my way out. After a time E's hand burrowed into his pocket, and there in his palm lay the key, a thing of beauty, notched on four sides like no other I have owned.
It seemed then that a car-for-key trade might be in the cards, but instead the little man began gesturing toward the garage roof, threatening to launch the only thing that stands between me and the wilds of Kyrgyzstan into oblivion. E's eyebrows arched, drunk with power. Then he did it. He chucked the key skyward with a deft flick of his arm, and as it clattered toward a rusty doom between slats of corrugated metal that haven't seen daylight since glasnost, I stood with my mouth agape.
Had he really just done that? The rat bastard! Why? Rather than curse I could only shake my head, then begin yelling for E's grandmother, S, and his 16-year-old uncle, U, who came from the sheep pen. U scaled the roof twice to search but it was no use. After some gestures S came to understand what had happened and began laying into her grandson, who sent up a wail that only just ceased a few minutes ago. (Luckily she had a spare key, which avoided a lock change.)
I still can't fathom why E did this thing tonight -- or why, a few days ago, he buried my sandals under a cabinet in the main house. Except, perhaps, for the fact that he knows I sometimes drink fruit juice behind that locked door, and don't always share. And at five years old, that might be reason enough.