Jidenna rubbed his eyes and walked out from his little bamboo bed. He yawned wide, giving no care to his father’s instructions to always cover his mouth whenever the need to ease his air tract arises. The good news was that his father was nowhere near his little hut. He was away to the Igwe’s (King’s) palace and will not return until the birds retire to their nest. The man’s lectures never cease. They always went on and on until the sun was high on the cloud. If the ears could get filled up, Jide was sure that his ears would be overflowing with all the instructions his father was laying down for him. He picked his clay cup, and with his free hands, washed the drool from his face, before gulping a good quantity to rinse his mouth. He was becoming a man and his father always forgets that part. Obi will not remain a boy forever, will he? A voice at the back of his head affirmed. Besides, Ugomma was living next to their compound. What will she say when she sees the drool on his face?
"Why Papa?" Jide asked, "why are men so cruel and attack with insult things they don't understand?" Maduka stroked his ears and smelled his first finger before returning to his stool. Jide thought he was going to lick the finger, like some of the elders in the village. But instead, his father washed his hands and returned to sharpening his machete. The lines on his face were deepened, adding more wrinkles to his aging features. Two years ago, his face was as straight as the white stones which he uses to sharpen his swords. Two years ago, he was the best warrior in Umudike and had fought with valor to return the lost glory of the kingdom. Two years ago. Jide shook his head with pity. His father was a man of honor, a brave soldier that put down anything that stood in his way. But now, everything had changed. His life and his position. Everything. His glory days were now reduced to lullabies as if they were some epitaph meant for the ears of the dead alone. "It's a human thing, my so
The heat of the sun was already soft on her skin by the time she caught sight of the basket again. Perhaps the sun was going to bed, she couldn’t tell for sure. Her hands were burning and every muscle seemed to have turned into water. Fatigue was setting in and she knew it. She also knew that if she ceased using her hands as an oar, she would lose sight of the basket which was floating now at the edge of the river. Confident that the current of the river would not carry the basket away, she stopped beating the waters and immersed her head into the river. Every part of her body seemed to relax as the warm hands of the water massaged the weariness in her muscles. She even gulped some amount and was glad when the natural freshness strolled through her throat and blessed her thirst. With the help of the rafter, she pushed herself back to the surface, sucking the warm evening air that hung on every corner of the water body. The tenderness of the river reminded her of her husband. They ha
"You are a spy aren't you?" The missing toe woman asked. The hoarseness in her voice was soul-piercing and could almost chase one's skeleton out of their skin. If Ejima remembered correctly, the coldness and rigidity in the woman's voice bore a resemblance with those of the Dibia back in the village. "And you are the creature with a missing toe?" "Missing what?" the woman's brow tightened, "I can see you are the talker. Wait until we meet the chief, I would gladly shove my spear through your throat and cut out those stupid tongues of yours. Now move." The woman bellowed, nudging her spear and pointing them to the narrow road. Ejima grumbled but obeyed as if the woman had placed a yoke on her neck. Her index finger was no longer bleeding, but the pain was by no means ebbing away. They were still burning and pulsing as though they wanted to draw out her veins. "I will make sure you suffer great discomfort," The woman said. Ejima licked her lower lips. She needed a plan and fast.
Jide clenched his fist and shifted the wooden stool on his head. The sun was just beginning to stand on the world so high, but he could sense his blood boiling with what he could only interpret as anger. The uneasiness on his soul added more salt to his injury. This was a futile effort. Reporting the town crier's crime to the elders was like a deer picking a fight with a Wolf and going after to report to the pack how badly they've hurt it. They were all the same, the elders and the town crier alike. Stray dogs don't leave their deeds in the dark. Even their whiff could be perceived from a far distance. Jide hissed and held firmly the wooden stool whose weight was beginning to burrow a hole in his scalp. While most Osu (outcasts), would die with excitement to have a moment in the King’s court, Jide found it rather annoying. The urine smell of the court, and the old woman who walked about bare chest, made him wonder if beauty has lost its tussle with ugliness. Even those so-called wise
Thick bamboo fences separated the King's compound from the rest of the village. As usual, the urine fustiness trimmed the outer court, bringing back the image of the decayed deer Jide had seen some months back. Old women of different sizes and shapes promenaded to and fro, with royal animal skin, lining their waist, leaving their breasts to flap from side to side like a banana leaf. They were chatting the morning away, obviously unaffected by the stench looming on every corner. Jide has never seen so many old people clustering in one place before. That must be the reason for the stink. Perhaps they rarely bathe or wash. Or was it unanimous with old people? Well, if growing old means smelling like an abandoned cloth that was soaked in a smog of wasted garbage, then Jide prefers to remain a kid forever. He would rather smell like butter every day and remain a kid than have gray hairs and folded skins with flies as a company. “This way,” Maduka said. Taking the lead. Jide hurried behind
Commotion rose from one corner of the rough wall, bouncing on the edge and spreading through every side as Jide and his father stepped into the throne room. It was hard to move a muscle, not with the men, squabbling like little ducks quarreling over a little fish. Standing there did not add any light to Maduka’s ignorance. Too many people were talking at the same time. Too much verbiage. Snorting he pointed to the space on the right, some strides from the throne. Jide lowered the seat and settled it so that it could balance on the lumpy floor. The throne was empty, no wonder the noise from the elders. Even the palace guards were absent. It was not strange but Maduka could feel the emptiness slacking with laxity. This has never happened before, not in a long while. The last time the king had been late to court, was the day his only son and heir to the throne, had fallen sick and had died the day after. Yes, it was not strange for the King to be late, but not to this extent. “Are you
“What nonsense. Who gave this dog the right to speak in this gathering?” Ichie Echefu stood, giving no thought to his wooden stool that flew backward. More crease covered his brow, and the skin under his jaw twitched. All those anger. All those hate. Were they for Jide alone or was the man using this as leverage? “How dare you speak to your elders with such insolence? Ara ana apugi (are you mad)?" Jide looked away, knitting the helm of his pelt with his fingers. He wished he could tell the man to go and wash his filthy mouth in the river, but that would only give him a bad name. Pride is the grease track to the hands of failure, his father normally says. Jide was willing to follow his father's instructions. Out of respect. For all he could tell, Ichie Echefu was nothing but a wealthy old fool. He was prominent among the people. He was one of the wise men whom the villagers bow to, especially when the king was off duty. It was a dangerous game. Yes. A very dangerous one. But right now