Monday, 31 December 2012

Beating the Grass

As we climbed the grassy hill, the sun warmed my back as a mild wind blew, bending the tall elephant grass on our path. I adjusted the strap of the water bottle and glanced at my father,he muttered a curse and spat as he flogged the cow closest to him. I exchanged uneasy looks with my elder brother,he shrugged philosophically as if to say, "such is life"
Baba went ahead of us,thrashing the tall grasses  all the time time cursing Ali,his bosom friend,my elder brother,Sule was marrying his first child,Amina. when the cows stopped to graze,baba asked us to sit down and then he told us stories about our culture, "do you know why the groom is flogged during the marriage ceremony?"He asked Sule as he sat down to drink his kunu,he shook his head, "many years ago,our ancestors gave their daughters out to other tribes,but they were maltreated by these men who always hide their true character so our ancestors decided that to test their true nature they must be made to pass through a test". He turned to look at me, squinting against the sun, "why do we beat the grass?" he asked, i scratched my sweaty armpit, it felt like a test, i cleared my throat, "sometimes dangerous animals hide under the bushes, we dont want to step on snakes so we beat the bush to chase them out" he nodded smiling, "humans, like grass, need to be beaten to bring out hidden nature" at this point he turned to Sule, "this is why you cannot be exempted from the flogging you will receive before you marry Amina. Sule looked down, he had told me that he was afraid he will cry when he is flogged and that will bring shame to him and his wife, "but baba, i dont have any snakes hiding inside me" he replied and for the first time that day, my father laughed, he threw his head back and laughed hard."when you are being flogged, remember that!" he replied Sule back. The day passed without anything else happening. But eight days later, whlen Sule was being flogged, our eyes connected and instead of tears, he laughed hard like baba, and i joined him, because the only thing inside us, was laughter and joy and baba's wise words, When you beat the grass, be ready for what will come out of it. Birthday Bro Mike,this short story is for you!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Season's Greetings...

Its Christmas morning, my family and I are gathered in my elder sister's house, we have so much to be  fact thankful for, the fact that we are all alive and well, the children are growing well and passing their exams with flying colors, our parents are doing okay in the village. I look back at the year in retrospect, we have been through ups and downs, but for every down, God has been there to raise us higher, to know that this day, so many years ago, our savior was born, makes me feel so thankful, because if He hadnt showed up when He did, life as we know it would not be in existence. I am so thankful to God, the Father, that He loved us enough to send His son to us. For a wonderful year, I say Thank You Jesus, Youre my Star, my Hero, my All. Merry Christmas everyone!Enjoy your day!!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Under the Mistletoe...

I remember Christmas as a kid, it was simply magical! the air was crisp, we were off school on holidays, my elder sister was making homemade ice cream with my mum's cake coloring ah!it was fun all the way! It was my favorite time of the year, my elder brother was around to regale us with fantastic stories of local folklore, but Christmas day we actually wore brand new outfits and ate as much food (rice, fried meat, chin-chin, soft drinks, candies we got from distant relatives, etc) as we could! Then we visited some relatives driving around in my father’s Peugeot 504 and were given money! Slick brand new five naira notes that mum allowed to keep and spend on whatever we want. Ah! Those were the good old days… 
Christmas these days leave me wanting more, have i outgrown my childhood innocence and lost the magic of the season? or have i, finally realized that it isn't a day the government ordained for children to eat as much as they want and get monetary gifts from usually stingy relatives... One thing stays the same, the feeling of expectancy, you know something wonderful is about to happen, I don't know if I'm the only one that thinks that way, but I'm always so expectant during the Christmas period. And I don't get disappointed, I always find or get something that gives me that 'aha!' moment. I love Christmas, I love the fact that we have set out a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus (who cares if He was really born in October?!) the fact that we mark His birthday in such a big way feels me with warmth. I'm expectant again this Christmas, so much can happen and I'm sure so many wonderful things will, you know how they say if you're standing under a mistletoe you get kissed? Well, I'm standing under God's mistletoe and I expect a huge-giant-out-of-this-world-kiss from my heavenly father!Fingers crossed! I will fill you in as we go on....

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The False Truth(concluding part!)

Pastor Ivie drove automatically towards the church her mind elsewhere. Two days ago, the witch that tried to tear her home apart had been prayed for by their deliverance pastors, then the elders had decided that she should be suspended and demoted to a mere church member indefinitely. Although she had been instructed to apologize to the pastor and his wife, Ivie felt they were too lenient on the stupid girl. What if the public got wind of her allegations? She pondered as she slowed down at a junction, her husband’s good name would have been in jeopardy, she horned as an okada man stopped in front of her to drop a fare and her poor husband had been patient and quite tolerant throughout the whole ordeal. She resumed driving and made a left turn, she accelerated and finally stopped in front of the giant church edifice, the things her poor husband went through in the name of the Lord, she thought again as she alighted and opened the back door of her Toyota Yaris to bring out the food flask from the basket. She locked the door and walked slowly towards the church office. Her poor husband worked too hard and his reward was a demented girl accusing him of adultery. Take for instance today, she murmured to herself, he had left home as early as 6am because the church needed funds and one of the enablers had told him to meet him at the airport to collect the check! She hissed angrily, people were so cruel! why not ask the pastor to send someone to pick up the damned check! How much could it possibly be? She got to her husband’s office door and rearranged her sour features, she was surprising him with lunch and she didn’t want to ruin the moment. Mentally pushing all thoughts aside, she entered the office and found it empty, even though the door was unlocked and the door to the inner office was partly open. She was just about to call out when she heard her voice! The witch was in her husband’s office!
Tina shifted on the pastor’s chair and eyed the kneeling pastor in front of her, “you think I’m moved by your pleadings?” she said as the pastor sniffed and wiped tears from his face, “I said I’m sorry, if you had waited for me to return before telling Ivie, we won’t be in this predicament, but I’m still ready to do everything we planned, please sweet baby” Tina looked towards the partly opened door, “abeg get up o! I don’t want someone to come and see their great pastor on his knees begging the church’s ‘Mary Magdalene’ as they call me now”
“I don’t care! I love you and our unborn baby,  please, give me a chance to be in your lives” he begged edging closer to the chair. Tina stopped him with a look, “so my money is ready?” He nodded vigorously, “I was at Elder Ekanem’s house early this morning to collect it, fifteen thousand dollars” he said trying to impress her, Tina sat up, “Eh? That’s not enough now!” He rose now, knowing she was pacified, “I will send the rest by the end of the month, after the feast of multiplications” He leaned closer to her and touched her face, “you don’t know how much I love you!” he murmured, she removed his hand from her chin, “how were you able to escape from the dragon?” Referring to his wife, Ivie, Pastor Patrick Onovo shrugged and stretched, yawning, “I told her one of the enablers wanted to give me a check and he wanted me to pick it up at the airport before his flight to London” he sat at the edge of the large table, “and she believed that?” Tina laughed incredulously, “the brains on that poor woman!” Patrick reached for her as they heard the outer door close, they froze! “I thought you said no one knows you’re here!” Tina whispered, Pastor Patrick shook his head as he hedged cautiously towards the door, he opened the inner door and peered into the empty reception area, seeing no one he sighed in relief and announced to Tina that it was the wind, if he had checked closely, he would have seen the oily ring the bottom of the food flask made on one of the couches, where Ivie dropped it when she heard Tina’s voice. Oblivious to the truth, they continued to plan Tina’s trip abroad as Tina accused and Pastor Patrick begged and cajoled.

The VIP lounge at the Muritala Mohammed airport was scanty, even so Ada was reluctant to leave her daughter alone to ease herself, she felt she will embarrass Aisha if she told their waitress to sit with her while she made the short trip to the bathroom, she was so pressed, she thought as she looked around again desperately, she saw the skinny woman wearing black track suit smiling and walking towards her, something about her was familiar but Ada didn’t recognize her, “Hello sister Ada” the lady said in a melodious voice, instantly Ada knew who she was! The choir mistress in her church, she smiled guiltily, she didn’t want to be associated with that church anymore. “Hi” she replied feebly forcing a close mouthed smile. Tina waved to Aisha and she waved back cheerfully, Ada knew that Aisha liked the other woman, Aisha wanted to be a singer when she was of age, making a decision, Ada turned to the choir mistress, “please can you watch her for me? She not strong and I need to use the bathroom” Not waiting for a reply Ada dashed off as Tina took her place beside Aisha, she looked at the anemic girl in concern, “what is wrong with you?” she asked maternal instinct kicking in, Aisha looked down at her folded hands on her lap, then she raised her head suddenly and looked Tina in the eye, “please don’t tell my mum, but he hurt me” she simply said, “who?” Tina asked puzzled and alarmed at the same time, Aisha touched her stomach and suddenly, Tina knew who she was talking about. It felt as if icy fingers were squeezing her lower abdomen as she reached and cradled Aisha, “how many times?” she asked as tears coursed down her face, “eight times” Aisha mumbled, “he said I needed to be cleansed and he had to do it seven times, but he did it eight times instead” Aisha paused and stared at Tina, “maybe that’s why I got pregnant” Tina shook her head as she trembled beside Aisha, “no its not your fault, he—” her voice broke and she cleared it, “he is just the devil’s incarnate” she whispered viciously, angered and pained at the same time. Aisha kept staring at her, “Bola told me that he did hers eleven times, when she got pregnant her mother bought the local herbs to help her remove it, he gave them money to take care of her, she bought the herbs for me when” she stopped talking and sat looking at her hands again. Tina stared at the frail little girl and tried to visualize her with a giant like Pastor Patrick, she shook her head again, Bola was the sturdy sixteen years old daughter of Elder Ekanem the church treasurer, at least she was strong enough but this tiny girl…
“Did you tell your mother or anyone else?” Aisha shook her head, “mum loves him”
“Everyone loves him” Tina replied bitterly, she hugged Aisha again and wiped her face, “where are you going to?”
“To my dad’s in Alberta, Canada” Writing her number on a sheet of paper, she handed it to Aisha, “will you call me from time to time?” Aisha stared at the paper in awe, “yes I will I promise!” she said as she hugged Tina. Tina smiled amused at Aisha’s hero worshipping, “you have to tell you mother though, you can’t keep this bottled up, promise me you will tell her” Aisha nodded, “I promise” she replied quietly as Ada made her way to them, “what are you promising her?” Tina got up and Ada promptly sat back down as she looked from Tina to Aisha, “I told her to call me, I would love to hear from her, anytime!” Tina said as she finally left them and went to sit down. Ada frowned as Aisha reached to hug her and looked actually happy, she hugged her back contemplatively. Tina sat deep in thought, her only hope of making it abroad was Pastor Patrick, but armed with the information she just heard she didn’t want anything to do with him, after struggling with her conscience for a while, she decided to hold off cutting him off, she was after all pregnant for him and broke, when she gets a job in her new location, she will cut him off, she resolved and felt instantly better.


It was Wednesday evening service, the church was packed as the visiting pastor of one of the new Pentecostal churches made his way to the podium, he stood for a while until the applause died down before he brought a white handkerchief and patted his slightly sweaty face. His permed hair was shiny and curly. He raised a hand and the yellow diamond ring he wore on his pinky flashed. Ivie sat in her usual chair on the dais next to the pastors and choristers as the service went on, they had the visiting pastor talking about tithing and giving to God to prosper and her husband, Pastor Patrick sat beside her nodding and clapping to the message. She knew she should have confronted him with what she heard the day before, but she figured she will be the one to lose if her husband were to confess to the truth, she after all could not have a baby and Patrick knew but still married her, even when he knew it was a result of a perforated womb from numerous abortions, no, she thought again, it was her turn to do something back for her husband, she will never disclose his secret she vowed in her mind as she saw Elder Ekanem fiddling with his phone, then he dropped it and looked at her with such hostility, she shifted on her seat, could Elder Ekanem read minds? She pondered as her phone vibrated and she picked it and saw the small envelope indicating there was a new message in her phone box. Then she knew who the mad texter was even before she read the vicious message he just sent to her. And it suddenly dawned on her that Tina was not the first of her husband’s infidelity, Bola, Elder Ekanem’s second daughter had taken in last year and she had praised her husband for the moral and financial support he had showed the family. Presently, her husband reached for her hand and squeezed her numb fingers as a show of affection, she stared at their enjoined hands on her lap and almost started laughing, what a sick joke her life was she thought bleakly, but this was her life, his shame was her shame too. So she squeezed his hand back and smiled at him instead.
The flight was almost full, Ada sat down and rearranged Aisha’s blanket around her protectively, “mum, I’m ready to talk about it but you must never tell, please!” Ada nodded mutely and braced herself as if she was about to receive a blow, “okay” she replied in a shaky voice. “Its pastor Patrick, he said I should never tell or else I will go to hell for tattling” Aisha said quietly plucking at the thread of the soft woolen blanket covering her legs, “Pastor Patrick did what?” Ada asked confused, “told you not to tell me?”  Aisha shook her head, “Pastor Patrick did it” She glanced at her mother and saw her stunned, pained expression, “pastor...” Ada muttered and couldn’t speak, “okay, I will never tell anyone, I promise”
As the plane taxied towards the runway for takeoff and Aisha closed her eyes as the sleeping drugs took effect, Ada looked out of the window and wondered what she will tell TJ when they got to Canada, her stomach was hot and cold at the same time as she tried to imagine the six feet plus Pastor of the church she attended with her diminutive daughter, it brought hot tears of rage and humiliation to her eyes. She thumbed the brand new novel by Chimamanda Adichie, “Half of a yellow sun” she had thought it will keep her company during the long flight, but the only thing that consumed Ada’s thoughts now, was what to tell her husband when they got to him.
TJ was waiting for them at the arrival terminal when they cleared with immigration, he picked Aisha up as if she weighed nothing and glared at Ada, “who did this?” he mouthed behind his daughter’s back, Ada stared at him for a long time, her internal struggle mercifully did not show on her thin, sharp features, “its Danladi, Daudu’s younger brother” she whispered back.
Danladi, was the gateman’s younger brother that had lived with them until a few weeks back, he had returned home to help their father with his cattle and was killed in a bomb blast in their Kaduna settlement a day after getting home, everyone knew Aisha had a crush on him and had been inconsolable when he died, which was why his name came to her so easily.
TJ turned and walked away saying nothing.
Ada followed, already feeling heavy with guilt for lying on a dead boy, but the lie, she thought decidedly, was better than telling the truth.
The end