Last night had been troubling and tiring, moving the yams from the farm, which was just outside the village, to the Agada, had taken more effort than I thought. The wheel barrow that I borrowed from Baba Elemu had developed a fault while I was bringing the second load of yams back to the village. The worst part was that, that stupid son of mine was nowhere to be found. Neither was his sister; the curse of having children who were educated. Aduke, my daughter, had not completed her primary education just yet, but I was still having second thoughts. Educating a female child was worthless; they will end up leaving you and running off with a man. I asked her to wait till her older brother was done with his education before she could finish hers. I had entered the house and left Iya Musi’s food, which was gbegiri and ewedu in the kitchen, and then I collapsed on my bed upon entering my room.
The arrogant cock of my neighbor must have found its way into my compound again; it always chose the strangest moments to crow. Sometimes I think its owner sends it to disturb my peace as it stands directly beneath my window and crows and wakes me from my sleep. Bastard Cockerel! If I could, I would take a machete to it and then throw it in a pot. I was still very tired and had planned on staying in bed till noon. Why was no one protecting me from such disturbances? Did they not know the Bible edict, Honor Thy Father? They were all as useless.
I heard footsteps in the compound and assumed that it was Iya Musi getting ready to start her domestic chores. I turned to my side, hoping to summon back the sleep that was making its escape but as I did so, the footsteps came closer to home. I sat up, ifura logun agba! I noticed that I had not removed my farm clothes from the other night. I looked under my bed and found my machete and peeped through the window in my room to survey the compound. Someone was up to something.
I saw nothing despite the fading moonlight that provided a little light as the cashew tree swayed with grace to the music of the early morning breeze. I thought about going back to bed but, the footsteps made my hunter’s instincts come alive. When I was a boy, I was a fine hunter. I could always sense when the prey was near. I crouched and looked through the window. Whoever was up to mischief would have me to answer to.
On the far side of the courtyard, beyond the cashew tree, I saw her, my own daughter making an entrance into the compound of the house opposite our compound. I knew it was Aduke because no one can mistake the mango shape of her head. Anger ran through my blood stream as I remembered who lived in the house, it was that good for nothing orphan Nuru, who had just returned from Lagos where he was said to have gone on an apprenticeship. The thoughts of Nuru touching my fourteen year old daughter riled my stomach, but there was nothing I could do about it, even with my machete, the boy would still beat me up. I saw Nuru beat Taiye, our village champion, in a bout of wrestling only two days ago and besides I couldn’t check if she was in the house because Iya Musi would not allow me to enter her room after she caught me pants down with Iya Elemu the other day.
I went back inside my room sulking. Dawn met me there, I expected Aduke to come with her mother to greet me as it was the custom of the house, but she didn’t come. Musibau her brother came instead. Misibau is smiling, but I was too irritated to return the smile or reply him, I just wanted to see my daughter. Musibau said he had good news, but I was not in the mood to listen. Stupid boy, he thinks the world revolves around him and his fancy education. I couldn’t hear him, the anger I had towards Nuru still burned in me like a newly fueled fire. Then Musibau mentioned money and something about a scholarship, I did not wait to hear the rest. Iya Musi’s episode at Iya Elemu’s place has ensured that I become bankrupt—I had to part with almost all the money I made from the harvest even before the actual harvest.
I took my machete and chased him out of the house, the boy ran and I screamed after him, loud enough to call the attention of Nuru and Aduke in the other compound. Suddenly, I started coughing, it seemed as though the insides of my chest were collapsing as I struggled to find my breath, the machete I was holding became a burden and I dropped it by the entrance of the compound. I left the errant boy alone and went back inside the house, I decided to sit down and await Aduke by the veranda. I remembered that it was time to use my jedijedi medication so I called Iya Musi to get the tanko bark that the village native doctor asked me to chew before my stomach starts running.
As I settled down to enjoy the morning breeze and chew my tanko in peace, my son came back again to explain himself better he said. He was fidgety. I like how I made him feel, how I scared him so. He should stop feeling so privileged; I couldn’t even look into my own father’s eyes, much less have a conversation with him. I started asking him more questions, questions that didn’t deserve answers, even I knew this, but I felt powerful asking them anyway. Then the boy turned to leave all of a sudden. I ask him where he was going but he just looked at me. Omo oshi; imagine that, walking away from your own father. My back ached and stood up I searched around for something I could fling at him. He said something in English and ran away. I didn’t understand what he said and decided to leave it alone.
It was the case of Nuru and Aduke that bothered me mostly, not long after Musibau left the compound, I saw Aduke leaving that house, the Nuru boy holding her waist. Her waist. Then she saw me; I pretended as if I didn’t see her. I chewed my tanko bark with more ferociousness like an antelope chewing weed. Nuru was not repentant, his hands stayed where it was and didn’t leave, he was even looking at me. I knew he was daring me. Aduke brushed his hands off nervously and adjusted her rumpled clothes. I stood up, walked towards the entrance of my compound, picked my machete, and moved towards Nuru’s house just to show them that I had seen them.
As though to infuriate me more, Nuru turned Aduke to himself and put his mouth on hers. I went mad with anger, found my machete and ran towards them both. Aduke had already pushed him away from herself and was on her knees weeping like a child. As I got closer to Nuru, I remember how much damage Nuru had done Taiye the wrestler’s face when they had fought despite the fact that Taiye had a weapon to fight with. I thought about the shame it would bring me and the way my daughter would look at me should this useless lover of hers beat me up; it was all in the twinkle of an eye, how I went down without a collision from anything or anyone, one would almost think that an iroko tree was fell on me
This short story originally appeared on afridiaspora.com and also made an appearance on the Writivism/Bahati Books Flash fiction anthology.
Image culled from 123RF.com