The gods are not to blame.
– Ola Rotimi
It was a good sign that her son had changed his mind and decided to go for the wake keep eventually. She had been dropping hints about how his initial refusal to attend would give a bad name to the family but he had ignored her. It was till she asked- with a pained look- that wouldn’t he want people to come for her own burial that his obstinacy had been broken. She smiled at her ingenuity in the dark and rose quietly from the bed trying, successfully, not to stop the sleep of the children around her. Gingerly, she tiptoed to the door and opened it. The regular creak had become an almost silent drone and she took that as yet another sign that they were destined for the trek.
She opened the door to her son’s bedroom, sat on the vacant portion and tapped the figure on the bed.
“Oya, wake up Ireti
I said wake up”
The woman being addressed was evidently, somewhere she did not want to return from as she moaned still in the throes of sleep. She turned to face the direction of the humid night air emanating from the singular window in the densely dark room.
“Wake up now” – in a low tone.
This time Ireti felt a hand tap her shoulder firmly and she stirred, still asleep, as her wrapper jerked from her shoulders to her waist revealing a shimi. The hand tapping her had the effect of a fly on a statue.
Subconsciously, she felt the presence with her on the bed leave and she heard a tentative creaking. It was not till she awoke, she realized the door was being shut.
The sound and force of a palm hardened by years of soil tillage and numerous other hand toughening jobs on the soft skin- and smoothest, as she boasted as a maiden- of her back, was adequate in waking her but not enough to arouse the other occupants only because of the shut door. Ireti almost jumped off the bed as she twisted both hands to sooth the soft, smooth and now sore back.
“Mama, wetin now?”, she said as she deciphered the feel of that palm and made out the outline in the darkness.
“You don forget? Na today we suppose waka go that place.”
“Waka go which place?” The words came out of her lips before she thought. Immediately she remembered and knew Mama would not forgive her. There was silence as she waited for Mama’s venom to pour forth. She could not see her expression as the night veiled Mama’s face but she did not have to wait for long.
“Ah! So you don forget and later you go talk say you be correct woman, when you don forget something when go make the family better. Na wah for you”. The pointed jaw in the darkness made Ireti thank her head for the darkness.
“I no get time to praise you. Stand up go wash your face, make we dey go.”
The night was calm and cold as the soft breeze caressed the vegetation and in response, leaves and shrubs swayed gently as the women made their way along the twine-like footpath with celestial bodies as the only source of illumination. Mama with her over-developed sense of protection led the way and Ireti walked behind her amused at how she could let an old woman be in front at this time of the morning.
If my husband finds out about this, he wouldn’t be happy. Anyway it is for all of us after all he is our…
She bumped into Mama who had her bony arms stretched on both sides shielding her from something.
“Shh, no talk”
She followed Mama’s gaze to the ground where she saw it slithering across the path- a snake that looked black in the night but could be any colour. It was moving slowly oblivious of the existence of two humans looking alarmed and intently at it. It finally buried itself in the bush. Mama stood still for a while after it had passed with Ireti looking above her shoulder at the perfect line the snake made.
Mama left the path and walked, trampling the low bush from where the snake came, in an arc pattern avoiding the snake line completely. When she realized Ireti was not following she turned and Ireti was still looking at the snake-line.
“I know say you dey fear snake but you no fit see say the snake don go”
It was meant to calm Ireti but it was the symbolism rather than the physical sighting of a snake that worried her.
Mama seemed to have read her mind.
“No worry. Na make the bad thing no happen na im make us dey go there”.
No response, still.
She added with obvious mischief: “Or you don forget again?”
That did it. And Ireti took a heavy step following the transitory path Mama had left in the low bush.
Ireti’s steps got lighter as they prevailed on the road, several steps nearer the destination.
* * *
“Mama, I hope say na true he talk. After all that thing when he talk when I no understand, he better happen like he talk”.
“I think say I tell you make you no talk the matter for house?” She paused briefly before seasoning the food on the stove.
“Hmm, I just dey worry” She grumbled scrubbing a pot.
“Wetin I fit talk when go calm you ehn! I dey worry too but you dey see me dey shout? Abeg e don do”
They heard footsteps approaching.
“Shut up, your husband dey come”.
He entered the kitchen to see Mama judiciously tasting her soup and Ireti scrubbing so hard it seemed the pot was afflicted with a disease rather than dirt.
“Ah! Baba Biodun, welcome” Ireti said taking a break from her scrubbing and kneeling before him.
“Thank you, my wife”. He reached and lifted her up.
“Olowo ori mi, how was the farm?”
“Mama it was fine, but I couldn’t focus. You know the match is today and I really want to see my boy play.”
“Na true oh! I nearly forget. So you go go watch am for Chief house, shey?”
“Yes” He responded watching her closely- Mama never forgot anything.
She noticed and started humming a melody as she turned her gaze to the boiling soup. Ireti, in the manner of an eel, slipped from him and resumed her pot scrubbing.
Something was being kept from him and he tried to guess what it could be from their demeanour but he was defeated by their mute complicity. He turned and said he was going to have a bath and then he’d be off for the match. They wished him well and prayed their son performed well.
As the sound of his footsteps dwindled in the distance and she was sure he was out of earshot, Mama started talking.
“I sure say he go happy when he see say Biodun score two goal”.
Ireti hopeful this time said; “afterall two goal better pass one”.
As she washed she recalled the scene.
The Baba sat on cow skin while they sat on a red rug in a place that looked rather tame compared to the ones in the films she had seen in Chief’s house when she went to visit the wives. There was no lion head or extra ordinary, scary artwork of any kind; just beads and a huge calabash and it seemed well lit with candles rather than dense and dark.
When he spoke coherent words, after a long audible but meaningless- at least to her- incantation, she felt the voice belonged rightly to a shrine in a dense jungle.
“Your son supposed to score a goal. Just one. But as una gather come meet me so, I go make am score two.”
She had looked at Mama soon enough to see the old woman smile with obvious satisfaction. She allowed herself smile despite her initial trepidation.
She came out of her thoughts and muttered to herself: I hope say na true.
As she’d find out later, he was speaking truthfully…
* * *
It was halftime. The commentator’s voice boomed from the television speakers. “It has been, so far a good match for both sides and already four goals have been scored with both sides earning two goals each. Biodun Adewale is unarguably the halftime man of the match with one goal and one assist to his two syllabled first name.
Do you hear that? The spectators appear to be chanting his name as both teams emerge from the dressing room ready for a showdown in what promises to be a thoroughly explosive second half…”
Everybody in the packed parlour looked at Baba Biodun who seemed to be enjoying himself with some kola nuts in his hands. Some tapped him on the back and others shook him, those who were too far shouted his name and he acknowledged all with a smile and an elaborate wave of his free hand.
Some of his peers were praying God to give them such a son who’d no doubt rescue them from their states and buy more lands for them and give them enough money to put televisions in their own homes.
When the second half commenced Baba Biodun was still smiling and waving, thanking his loins for producing such a son.
* * *
Hardly had Baba Biodun entered his parlour, when questions were thrown at him from his wife and mother.
“How was the match?” That was Mama, “Did he score two goals?” Ireti asked.
Mama eyed her surreptitiously.
“What did you buy for me?” Bobo, the youngest child asked.
“Where is Folake and Segun?” He bellowed above the din.
“They went to play outside”
“Olowo ori mi how was the match?” Mama asked her, tone and face pleading and insistent.
“His team lost.”
“Ah! You mean he didn’t score two goals?” In unison by his mother and his wife.
“He scored twice, the match ended 3-2. How una know?”
The parlour became so quiet that Bobo’s sobs could be heard. Ireti carried him up and Mama sat heavily on the chair while Baba Biodun went inside, a confused look on his face.
They were unable to ask him further questions but the village amebo- the Chief’s last wife- would later tell them on market day what had transpired and the accuracy of the prediction would stun them for a long time.
* * *
It was fulltime and again the commentator’s voice boomed from the television in an almost empty parlour.
“What began as a promising game for Biodun Adewale has ended on a sour note for the talented youngster as he scored to put his team back in the game, in the first half. Well, he scored yet again a wonderful header in the second half, only this time in the wrong net- his teams net… and the fans boo as the teams head for the dressing room…”
© 2006 Aigbokhaevbolo Oris