OF COCONUT TREES AND CHEATS

. Rathnam looked around anxiously before signaling his mistress to leave. Luckily no one was to be seen around in the noon heat. After she left, Rathnam sighed in relief. There were still a couple of hours or so for his teacher wife to return from work He was about to go inside his house when he looked up for some reason and saw him. Up above, perched on a coconut tree, was a coconut-tree climber, grinning down at him like a moron. The ill-clad guy seemed to be mocking him silently. From his perch high above on the coconut tree, he could see things around him from a vantage point. His sardonic look seemed to imply to Rathnam’s guilty mind that this wretched climber knew everything about his family and his fooling around with a mistress. Rathnam gasped in anxiety at the implications of this. This tree climber could foment trouble in Rathnam’s life. One hint to his teacher wife and there would be hell to pay! Though he was very furious at the man’s sly smile, he decided to placate him. So when the tree climber came down, he beckoned to him and just handed over a couple of hundreds pleading with him not to squeal. The guy had the audacity to snatch the money with another annoying grin and go away without a single word of thanks or assurance. Anyway Rathnam heaved a sigh of relief hoping that the crisis had blown over. That’s why he was shocked to see the guy standing in front of his door a few days later, grinning like a hyena and scratching his head. Another couple of hundreds parted hands and then another and so on… The guy was infuriatingly silent and refused to utter a single word. After a few such interactions, Rathnam started thinking of his options to deal with this strange, silent blackmailer and even thought of taking his close friend’s advice. But he decided to wait for a few more days and then get him warned or beaten up by ‘contract’ guys. A few days later, Rathnam went out on some work. His wife was at home since it was a holiday for her. On return after a few hours, when he approached his house, he stopped suddenly in his tracks with his heart jumping right up his throat to his mouth in sudden terror. The coconutclimber was standing in front of his house! Was the miserable wretch going to spill the beans in spite of taking so much cash. Rathnam felt like rushing upon him violently but then better judgement prevailed as he decided to wait and see what the guy was up to. As Rathnam watched open-mouthed in utter incredulity from a vantage point, his wife came out and after giving a furtive look around, handed the head-scratching guy a few hundred rupees, while folding her hands beseechingly, as if pleading for mercy. ***

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