This is written by Aorabee Lyambee. Non Fiction!
One day I was influenced by the devil himself at the age of seven, to
skip the routine prayers out of childish impatience and ate an unblessed
meal of pounded yam and egusi soup seasoned with my favorite
caterpillars. On this evil and tempting day, mu’azu, our neighbor, an
ardent pagan, was invited to share our meal. Now mu’azu was a terribly
proud and notorious pagan who would jump at any opportunity to prove the
folly of Christianity.
My father too had a notorious habit of
inviting each and every passerby to come and eat; sharing our food that
was eaten openly under the sycamore tree shed in the middle of the
compound. I usually felt irked as I was just learning to cope with this
passerby phenomenon. He would implore and even badger a passerby into
resting. I was always glad when the passerby declined; telling my father
that he had already eaten enough and my father’s food was always his.
Only then would my countenance brighten otherwise, I would eat sulking,
casting furtive and malevolent side-long glances at the resting
passerby, forgetting that food was always reserved for me by my mother.
father, the omniscient observer would always check this by barking at
me to stop looking at people and look where I was eating, whenever anger
overwhelmed me, I goggled maliciously at the unwelcome visitor.
Sometimes, to checkmate the visitor’s intakes I took to gobbling which
would earn me sharp rap of knocks on the forehead from father. There
were cases too, when the checkmate ball that were oversized for my
gullet got stuck and father would give me an extra rap to worsen my
smarting throat as a reward.
I usually made sure I counted the
balls of the pounded yam, balls of “tuwo” mashed boiled corn or morsels
of the yam pottage the passerby took down in all so as to contrast them
against those I had eaten. I was well versed in numerical manipulation
for the fact that at the age of six I had completed my second year in
the bible school. In class I was best in arithmetic.
After the meal i
would secretly recount to my immediate younger sister the number of
balls the passerby had made and the deficit. It was usual for me to
compare the sizes of those balls made by the passerby to an egg without
any intent of exaggeration.
On this particular day, my fears grew
and my anxiety was taut as a new drum. I ran dry of any barrel of
patience. As my mother was pounding the boiled yams in the kitchen,
father and I sat under the sycamore tree waiting, my mouth watering in
anticipation of the toothsome caterpillar soup. It was when I had
finally built a mental picture of my satisfaction that the pagan called.
I dejectedly gave up the bamboo chair in which I sat to him after
mumbling some half-audible greetings. I headed for the kitchen
impulsively with an aim of alerting mother of the heathen’s presence
when father shouted at me to come back, reminding me of the fact that
kitchens were meant for women and not men.
At long last the dug-out
wooden bowl that is used for washing hands made her way out of the
kitchen in the hands of my immediate sister. Mother followed with the
food. She was laid brimming with a shimmering white pregnancy protruding
above the brim of the calabash. The lesbian marriage of egusi balls and
caterpillar hug in the matrimonial home of red oil and vegetable.
Halilu placed the washing bowl at the feet of the heathen as was the
custom. The heathen done washing passed the bowl clock-wise, making me
the last person in the round. He fell straight to the food even before
father could announce prayer.
I half- halfheartedly closed my
eyes, then, the sound of his molars crushing caterpillar and the glottal
sound of swallowing foo-foo balls made me peep at him through the slits
of my eyes. His blatant condemnation of Christ like habits that made
one salivate like a dog when food was placed before him and his
assertion that he would rather thank god and ask for his blessing after
he had eaten, which was said between the intervals of swallowing totally
Father’s prayers were usually long and unwinding.
He would first thank god for the bodily food, thank him for the
spiritual food; thank god for the rain and sunshine; thank him for the
strength and knowledge to farm, his guidance through the farming season
as well. He’d express gratitude to god for creating karfe and making him
a capable blacksmith as to make good hoe blades. He didn’t forget to
mention katako the wood carver for the perfect hoe handles. He would
intercede on behalf of folks who already had enough and those that had
wants that god give them more, most especially spiritual food. He would
make reference the whole vast area of the kaltungo district where the
people were starving from spiritual famine and this narrowed down to
particular cases; mentioning names.
Midway into the prayer, I again
peeped and the damage the heathen made baffled me; the pregnant mound of
pounded yam had flattened below the brims of the calabash. I quickly
abandoned the prayer and joined the heathen after fighting down the urge
to carry the food and shift camps.
When father said amen; to
which I did not respond, the food that escaped the bonafide blessing of
prayer certified by “Amen” weighed against the one to be taken on
“Amen-end” prayers. Like a thunderbolt, father struck at my face a
blinding backlash of his mighty hand that wiped off sudden stars from my
eyes and relegated me from the squatting position to sprawl. Lying on
my belly like a reptile. The last ball of foo-foo I molded for the day,
found itself rolling on the ground and pulling gravel that stuck to it
like a profaned ball.
I had never defied prayer before then, so I
found difficulty in telling what actually made father angry. Was it the
pace at which he discovered the food was taken or the sin of eating a