The Olive Oil Thief

Salam Syagha

© Copyright 2022 by Salam Syagha

Photo by ulleo courtesy of Pixabay.
Photo by ulleo courtesy of Pixabay.

This true story will definately lead us to think twice before we decide on our expectations. I hope you enjoy it.

It was one of those freezing winter nights. Thunder roared shattering the silence and drawing luminous angry ropes enlightening the river-like roads of our calm cold village. People sheltered in their brick houses hiding from nature’s anger. The village yielded peacefully to the violent storm. I thought it would be a great idea to go and check on my grandparents.

 Their house was about five minutes-drive. I reached there around 8:00 p.m. They usually sit behind their stove watching the fire dancing behind the glass shield waiting for nocturnal family visitors to spend a few hours recalling childhood stories, laughing at silly events, and wondering how their little pieces of heart have grown up rapidly. When I parked my car in the front yard, I directly noticed a dwindling candle-like light slowly moving under the door of the backyard’s provision room.  My heart skipped a beat,” Could it be a thief?” I thought to myself. I picked a small edgy rock and tiptoed towards the room.

Swiftly, I approached the door’s knob when I saw it moving. I held my quickening breath and hid behind the door raising the stone up and aiming at the figure which was supposed to emerge behind the door. Before I released the solid rock, my sixty-nine year’s old grandpa with his slightly arched back appeared. I dropped my weapon and rushed to him,” Grandpa, what are you doing here at this time?” He put his finger over his mouth,””, he replied.  Then, he grabbed my hand and said,” You won’t believe what I have just found out. A month ago, I put two olive oil tanks in two metal tins here in this room. Last week, I found out that some oil is missing. I decided to watch the area to see what happened to my oil.” I gazed at him wondering,” Did he grow older in a day? Or is it possible his imagination grew wilder? I closed my lips tightly so that I held my tongue from spelling out my creepy thoughts. “Okay”, I said in a low voice. “Do you think that someone is stealing your oil?” He hesitated a little and uttered,” I don’t know; I will stay here in the dark to find out what is going on.” And suppose the thief surprised you, how will you defend yourself?” He pulled an old thick stick from behind his back and smiled brilliantly,” I would hit him with this.” “I will guard your oil with you tonight”, I said. He shook his head in disagreement, “No. It is too cold. You will be sick.”

I shook my shoulders carelessly and told him abstemiously, “I am not leaving.” He knew I wouldn’t.  We chose a dark spot beside the provision room and sat in the chilling cold silently. After a few hours, we realized that the night visitor wouldn’t show up, so we decided to go back home to catch some sleep. My grandmother was anxiously waiting. She was extremely relieved when she recognized that her eighteen years old grandson Alex was accompanying her man on his night shift. We chatted a little bit while she prepared some hot tea to help us warm our stomachs, and went to sleep after we had agreed on the next day’s plan.

We woke up to find the sky had worn her bright blue dress again. The first thing grandpa did was to go check on his oil. I told him it was useless, and nobody would have dared to come in daylight. He shook his shoulders and went anyway.  A few minutes later he came back rumbling. I raised my eyebrows in wonder. He grouched,” Some of the oil is missing.” It addled us. We held a family discussion,” Why did the thief take only a little amount of oil? When did he come? How could he enter the room without us seeing him?” We set on a plan. This time we made up our minds to select a concealed area inside the room and attend all night long to catch the criminal red-handed.

Grandpa settled down then and awaited darkness to prevail eagerly. I promised him to show up on time.

Before dark pitched, we met at the front door. We reviewed our plan and set off to our pre-determined surveillance spots in the provision room determined not to give up until the thief falls into the trap. We laid soundlessly in our dark location with our thick wooden sticks ready to attack.

In an hour or so, the criminals were exposed. They shamelessly crawled behind each other as if the property was theirs. Their skin glittered in silver color against the dim moonlight. Their black small eyes were cravingly glittering accentuating their evil intentions. It obviously wasn’t their first trial. They follow a certain planned track. Grandpa and I chained our breath.  The bigger one approached the thin tin tank, climbed its slippery shining wall easily, and without any hesitation, it reached a tiny hole in its top, inserted its slender tail inside it, waited till it was dabbled with the dark green fresh oil, pulled it over, laid on the edge of the tin tank with its tail dangling towards the floor. His mate stood on its back feet, raised its head up, and started licking and sucking the oily tail. This pattern was repeated around five times before they exchanged turns. Seriously, it was a romantic tasty dinner that could teach people a lesson in love and sacrifice.

Grandpa and I were astonished by the smartness of the two rats that we couldn’t do anything other than enthusiastically watch. Their adroit handling of that delicate situation astounded us. The way they climbed the slippery side of the tank, how they previously managed to dig a hole in its top, and how they took turns in feeding each other were amazingly unbelievable.

Grandpa and I started laughing vigorously. Our suspects outwitted us. Upon hearing our laughter, they spurred crazily and vanished into the darkness. 

Salam Syagha is a University instructor and a ph.d candidate Who teaches English as a first foreign language. She is interested in writing short stories that may give people a glimpse of hope.  She is also interested in research that will add insights to the learning process.

I live in Fardis/Hasbaya, a village in southern Lebanon that is well known for its hospitality and lovely olive trees.  The oil from those trees is what many farmers depend on for a living.

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