THE RAINMAKER


It was a hot, dry afternoon. Grandpa was sitting outside, on the verandah, wearing  a white singlet and locally made shorts. It was printed of beautiful, brightly colored fabric with twisting patterns. With a newspaper folded neatly in half, spectacles on top of the newspapers, on a small stool bedside him, and an half empty glass cup containing a small amount of palmwine ’emu’ Grandpa was the very picture of contentment as he sat in the shade of the mango tree. He whistled a catchy tune, from the late Christy Essien Igbokwe, the song ‘Omo mi seun rere’ and pushed back the locally made adjustable chair so he could lie down for a while.

Meanwhile I kept sitting and wriggling and moving, were I sat on the rough cement floor, made restless by the heat. After much fuss and stress, I still wasn’t getting anywhere and had only succeeded in rubbing my buttocks raw through the thin fabric of my khaki shorts.
He sat up, looked at me and smiled. And with a crook of a finger, beckoned to me. Quickly I stood up, dusted my short bottoms and walked to him, where he lay in the fragrant shade of the mango tree.

“Ahmed, why are you restless?”

“It is hot, Grandpa. The heat is far too much for me.”

“Yes, it’s hot, but soon it will rain. It’s always hot just before it rains.”

“I wish it rained everyday so it wouldn’t have to be so hot. When will it rain Grandpa?”

“Soon child, soon. In the meantime, how would you like a story? Perhaps, it might make time pass faster. Plus it’s a story about a rainmaker.”

“What’s a rainmaker?”

“A person with the power to call down rain from the heavens.”

“Okay Grandpa, I’m all ears.”

And this is the story he told…

“Once upon a time, there was a prosperous little village surrounded by hills. It was a slow sleepy place, with farmland that was very arable and yielded fat crops. The people were happy and content- maybe too content? One cannot say just yet.

On a particular day, a day that started quite unremarkably, similar in its arrival and existence to the days that came before it, and the days to come after it had passed, an elderly woman made her way to the village square. She wore clothes that were tattered at the edges from long travelling, and had a small satchel of clothes and food. She didn’t look like anybody important.
She hoped to find a place to rest for she was making a long, ardous trek, she just wanted to rest. After looking around, she was unable to get a place to stay. People shut their doors in her face, some were particularly mean, insulting her before sending her away.

And so she went back to the village square and prepared to pass the night on the ground, in the open.

Just as she settled down to sleep, someone tapped her. She opened her eyes. There was a woman standing before her.
“Hello stranger,” she said “do you not have a place to sleep?”

“No,” replied the elderly woman “no one would let me into their house.”

“If that’s the case,then come with me. My hut is not so big, but surely it can contain both of us.”

And so the stranger found a place to stay for the night. The woman who rescued her was a widow named Abeke, a kind soul, and she prepared a meal of porridge with vegetables and smoked fish. The stranger ate till she was full. Then she was given a clean mat and several wrappers, and a corner of the hut was properly swept for her to lie down and sleep.
The widow lived alone, she had no children. The following morning, Abeke prepared breakfast for them to eat, and after they had eaten, she took her hoe and cutlass, ready to go to the farm. But the stranger asked her to pack up everything that was important to her instead and come with her. After much persuading, Abeke agreed. And together they left the hut. The stranger led Abeke to one of the hills and they began to climb. It was afternoon before they got to the summit. There Abeke set down the load she had been carrying and stretched her legs.
“I want to thank you for providing me with comfort, for having mercy on a stranger.”

 “It’s nothing,” said Abeke “I also could be a stranger in need of help someday.”

“True,” the elderly woman replied “and this act of kindness will prevent you from sharing in their fate.”

And she began to sing, softly, barely above a whisper.

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,

Let the people give their thanks, let the rain fall down in sheets,

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again.”

 

As she sang, rain began to fall, on the village down below. But she kept on singing, and the rain kept on falling, and soon the words to the song took a different turn-

“Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,

Let the rain flood all the streets, let the people cry for help,

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again, 

Let the sheep and cattle drown,

Let the crops in farms be ruined.”

And as she sang, her voice rose to a higher volume, becoming louder with every line and so the rain intensified, lightning striking different huts in the village along with a few unfortunates who were unlucky to have been outside for one reason or the other, wind blowing off thatched roofs and the rainfall so heavy that the streets were soon flooded, the water coming up inch by inch until even the biggest huts were covered up. 

Abeke watched in horror as some little figures tried desperately to stay above the water, but eventually failed, slipping in and drowning. The rainmaker continued to sing until there was nothing left were the village once stood, but a large expanse of water, up to three quarters of the hills that surrounded the village. There were no survivors, except Abeke.

She turned and touched Abeke on the forehead. She felt like someone took  a hot branding iron to her forehead and as quickly as she felt it, she felt cold all over, and then all was as it was before.

“I have given you the power to also make rain. With it you can become a very important person. I wish you good luck in your travels, for you must find a new place to stay. But if you ever pass by Shomekun village, ask for the hut of old Ewatomi the rainmaker. You are always welcome in my house.”

And so she left. Abeke found her way to a neighboring village were she found out that the old woman had spoken true, and with her powers of rainmaking, soon became rich. 

She eventually remarried and bore children, and in all her prosperity she never forgot Ewatomi, the old rainmaker.

.
As Grandpa finished the story, I sang the first song, softly, the song for rain. And suddenly the sky was dark, and I felt something wet splash against my nose. A raindrop. It was followed by another and yet another and we quickly packed everything and moved inside the house. Grandpa pinched me on my cheek and said merrily

“Looks like we have our own little rainmaker after all.”

DELICIOUS MISADVENTURES

Sunlight plays in twisting patterns across the forest floor, twigs and leaves revealed and hidden in splotches of light and darkness. The air itself vibrates with birdsong, and the temperature is pleasantly warm. Perfect weather to chill a bit in the forest, especially if you want a little time alone. Just like Richie-boy and his current girlfriend, Funmi.

Richie-boy, obviously not his real name, is a terrible womanizer, a guy who loves to live life in the fast lane.
A fast talker and committed hedonist, he’s known for every vice you know and some you probably don’t. Alcohol, hard drugs, women, he has sampled them all and greed keeps him lusting for more.

Which brings us back to the moment. After a long chase, much cajoling and outright manipulation, his girl has finally agreed to sleep with him, and he intends to make it memorable. What better place than the little patch of forest everyone avoided and claimed was evil? The possibility of danger adds extra thrill.
The love birds are stumbling through the forest, not making a lot of noise- their aim is any concealed spot just in case the forest isn’t as empty of humanity as it seems.

Soon, they arrive at a spot that meets their requirements, a hollow in a huge tree and Richie-boy offloads his backpack. First, he produces the lightweight mattress and unrolls it. Poking this leaf out of the way, uprooting that shrub, the space is quickly made comfortable. He gets a bottle of alcohol out of the bag and they share it, first taking small sips, then huge gulps.
 Then they start giggling and clothes start coming off. Minutes later the deed is done, and the clothes are retrieved and worn, buttons unbuttoned and laces unlaced.
A pack of cigarettes comes out of the bag, followed by a lighter, and soon smoke drifts out of open mouths and nostrils in lazy clouds, floating upwards.

Time passes by, with no notice given to the hours slipping away or the gradual darkening when day fades into dusk. There’s a flashlight somewhere in the bag and no need to hurry anywhere. It’s the weekend, they’re university students free from the watchful eyes of home. They answer to no one but themselves.
At this time, three packs of cigarettes lie discarded on the forest floor, which is also littered with cigarette stubs, some of which are still smoking slightly. Funmi retrieves a medium-sized container of food from the bag and they dig in, first spooning rice and plantain into open mouths, and when that’s done, the fried chicken follows, and then they’re left with cracking bones and sucking out the marrow.

More time passes and dusk turns into night, and sleep claims the duo. Funmi is the first to wake up, a certain undescribable feeling of being watched nagging at her. She wakes Richie-boy up. 

“Let’s go home.”

“Hmm?” Still groggy with sleep, he’s not really getting what she’s saying.

“Richie-boy, let’s go home. Now.” She shakes him even harder. Now he wakes up, fully, but he’s still slow, having consumed the lion’s share of the cigarettes and alcohol.

“Okay. Pack our things.” He gets the flashlight out and they repack the lightweight mattress and the food container, leaving the bottle of alcohol and the cigarette stubs behind.

Just as they finish packing up, a twig snaps somewhere in the forest. They freeze. In the absolute silence blanketing the forest- all the birds are asleep or gone deeper into the forest or something- another twig snaps, ringing out as loud as any gunshot.

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know. Point the torch in that direction.” Funmi obeys and the light falls on something. She screams and the torch falls to the ground, still on, still illuminating the creature.
It’s huge. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. It’s huge, with green skin stretched taut over bunched muscles and ropy veins. It’s arms are long, finger tips almost touching the ground. A closer look would reveal that the fingers are not fingers at all, but claws, razor sharp and as hard as metal. It has a slender trunk in it’s hand and snaps it into two, flinging it casually into a heap behind. The dry snaps of breaking wood must have been part of what woke her up.  Funny enough, it’s smiling at her, grinning from ear to ear, showing sharp, needle-like teeth. 
Her eyes dart from place to place and then light up. She suddenly understands why it was gathering wood, for that’s what it was doing, gathering firewood, and scooping up the flashlight, she takes to her heels with Richie-boy following closely behind.
Panting heavily, heart pumping, legs moving so fast they almost blur, the couple flees the forest. 

At first she hears Richie-boy grunting as he tries to keep up, but after a while, she realizes she can’t hear him anymore. She risks a glance back, with the flashlight, and sees the creature still chasing after her on all fours. She screams and adds a burst of speed. Or attempts to.
 At that precise moment, still running, she’s not looking at where she’s running to and her foot gets caught on a tree root and she trips.She falls. Her ankle hurts but she’s not about to let that stop her.

Scrambling to her feet, she looks back to gauge the distance and yelps, the beast is almost on her. 

She’s about to run again when it catches up to her and taps her behind the head with a heavy claw. She blanks out.
When she comes to, she’s tied up. There’s a fire burning close by, and something on a stick being roasted. The air is full with the smell of cooked meat. The beast that caught her prods the animal softly and grunts. The meat is done. 

Something clicks into place and she recognizes the beast as a storybook creature, a troll. It lifts the stick from the spit, with it’s huge load and removes the meat, handing it to another troll holding a huge cleaver that comes seemingly out of nowhere. There’s more than one!

 It’s as the other troll takes the meat to carve it up that she recognizes a piece of fabric sticking to what was once a leg. Richie-boy.

Her mouth fills with bile and she vomits. Spitting profusely to get the taste of vomit out of her mouth, the soft thuds of someone approaching gets her attention and she looks up.

The troll lumbers up to her and as it grabs her, her screams rend the night.

But not for long.

The air is soon filled again with the smell of roasting meat…

BITTERSWEET part 4

Tied up in the dark like a pig prepared for slaughter, he nevertheless had a smile on his lips. 

A little one, the confident smirk of a man who knows something his friend does not. His hands chafed by the thick ropes that bound them, his whole body forced into an uncomfortable position, with no companion but absolute silence, he nevertheless kept smiling. He had just heard some of the villagers complain that they couldn’t find anyone else to add to the list of victims. That meant the rest of his family got away, and Aminat too. He would also escape, he was sure of this.

He heard a soft thud, magnified astoundingly in the oppressive silence inside the hut. Then the sound of footsteps approaching. Had his time come? 

Facing the possibility of death, Bello found that he was not afraid. Not really.

When you thought of it, everyone had to die someday, he mused, and although he would very much prefer later, it couldn’t be so bad to die earlier.

The door swing open and was shut quickly. Then there was soft panting as the person​ struggled to catch their breath…
A quick fizz as a match was struck, and the bright flame revealed Aminat, dressed in a boy’s clothes, hair tangled with leaves and twigs and other such refuse.

To say he was shocked was an understatement.

“What are you doing here?” He hissed.

“Rescuing you” she huffed and loosened his bonds. He rubbed his wrists to get the blood flowing again and sat up.

“You shouldn’t have bothered-”

“And stayed behind to let you die? How would I live with myself?”

Good question, he thought to himself. If it was her, he would do the exact same thing. At this point, they had finally found the door and after sneaking a peek, they determined the coast was clear and bolted like scared rabbits out of a rabbit hole.

The villagers were quite sure he couldn’t escape so the security was poor. It was embarrassingly easy for Bello and Aminat to slip out of the meager confinement and hightail it for the bushes.

Okonkwo wanted to make fun of Bello. All his life, the had secretly envied the quiet pretty ‘hausa’ boy who was everything he wanted to be but wasn’t. Tall, confident, rich, and to crown it all, Aminat obviously liked him. That was the worst. That he couldn’t forgive.

He had been at the front when they went to hunt for the strangers and had crowed with happiness when they found Bello cross-legged and peeling oranges. Quickly, he called the remaining miscreants and together they bundled him up.

And now, he had him, finally, his arch-nemesis was under his power. Feeling giddy, almost drunk with anticipation he kicked the door to the small hut open and was greeted with- nothing. No Bello.

He let loose a howl of pure frustration and ran off to gather the rest of the villagers. They had to sacrifice Bello, they had to.

Not too far away, the runaway duo heard the howl and quickened their steps.

BITTERSWEET part 3

image

Two years later…
A lot can change in two years, anybody can tell you that. Especially Aminat. The town was a ghost of its former self.
Fishermen came in daily with less and less fish till the fishing baskets were hauled in empty.
The water levels had reduced.
The ground became hard, like iron, unyielding. The cassava tubers had shrunk beyond what was edible. Vegetables were brownish-green and lacked their former abundance of leaves.
Things were hard. Very hard.
All the families were suffering.

Well, almost all the families, because things seemed to be different for the people from the north. Quite familiar with the changing pattern of nature, and quite conversant with the tales of their forebears, they had prepared from the start for lean times.

During the times of plenty, they made huge fish ponds, growing their own fishes from the excess they caught.

They had vast farmlands with irrigation systems in place in case of drought. And so it was, that as the townspeople suffered and languished in penury, they started to sell food to the villagers and so they grew rich.

At first, the villagers were grateful, as the available food saved them and kept the brutal, biting hunger at bay.
But then as is the nature of man, the whispers started.
Rumors of a needed sacrifice, a hefty one, to turn the situation around. The drought was too much, the famine was terrible. And what better choice for such a sacrifice than a human being?

Perhaps several human beings, people who weren’t part of the community, like these strangers who had come to settle within them and grown prosperous overnight.

It was at this juncture that the northerners began to pack up and sneak out of the village. Most had been born there, and it hurt to flee the land of their birth, but survival was important. Better a living dog than a dead lion. And so almost all had gone, only Aminat’s parents and Bello’s parents were left. She was on her way to tell Bello that they were to leave the following day, her parents had packed everything together, ready to flee in the morning.

She would miss him, and she knew seeing him would only make things harder, but she just had to say goodbye. She finally got to the bend that led to his house and when she saw what had happened, the beautiful clay pot she wanted to give him as a keepsake fell from her hands and broke…

BITTERSWEET part 2

image

At the river there was a lot of fish.
A whole lot. So much infact that it was a quite common sight to see fishermen straining, veins clearly outlined and muscles bulging, as they hauled in a heavy boatload of fish. What was rare was a fisherman who had caught nothing. The town was prosperous.

It was at this river that Aminat waited patiently, again, as a small fishing boat drew close to the riverbank. Sitting in it, cross-legged, with a full net of fish, was Bello. He was smiling at her and all was well with the world.

The boat gently touched the riverbank and he disembarked, grabbing a rope which he then used to pull the boat ashore.

“Hi.”

“Hi.” Nothing more needed to be said. It was plain, each was quite happy to see the other. Bello tied his boat to a thick mangrove and lifted the full net of fish, slinging the burden over his shoulder as he started his return journey.

Aminat quickly found the pair of slippers she had earlier discarded and wore them, lengthening her stride to meet up with him, falling into step, matching his pace with a mischievous smile fixed firmly in place.

“Anything for me today?”
“I don’t have any honeycombs today. But if we get home, I can have my mother make you something to eat.”
“I don’t want food.”
“What do you want then?” At this she kept silent. The true answer was “You. This thing we have. This contentment, walking down the bush path on our way home. The shared honeycombs. Little jokes and jibes. The togetherness.

But then, one does not go about saying such things, even when they are felt, so she kept quiet. One day, there would be time for it. So she waited patiently, secure in that knowledge. And as is often true when one enjoys the company with which one is walking, the walk ended all too soon and they were there, at his father’s compound. She could enter, but she would not. Bello was strange, true, but his father was even stranger.

A huge, imposing man, he wasn’t one to be found in idle chatter. He spoke carefully, only talking when it was necessary, to the extent that most villagers joked that he hoarded words like a miser hoards gold.

Also generous, he had given so much to the village. Why, just last harmattan, after a wildfire ravaged Chijioke’s farm and ruined his harvest, he had given him two hundred yam tubers to start again. Two hundred! And when the poor man fell to his knees, crying and promising to work hard enough to repay the debt within five years, he had helped him to his feet and told him not to bother. It was a gift, a dash and need not be repaid.

Like Aminat’s family, the Bellos were settlers, having migrated from the harsh north to settle in the vast south, to work hard and earn a honest living. After eight generations on both sides, both families were considered more or less part of the community and had intermarried so much that the northern traits they brought with them had been thoroughly diluted. The only reminder of their heritage was in their names, and the  infrequent bursts of rapid fire Hausa that members of both families sometimes greeted themselves with.

They were a part and parcel of the land, true sons and daughters of the soil. Weren’t they?

BITTERSWEET part 1

image

Sitting with legs crossed under the big mango tree at the village square, Aminat waited patiently for someone to come by.
Not just anyone, you see, she was interested in a particular someone.

A certain dark complexioned, tall, lithe somebody. Somebody who was so good at getting from point A to point B without  making a single sound, so good in fact that it was quite possible she would have no warning when he showed-
Suddenly a hand wrapped around her eyes, blocking all sight and plunging her into instant darkness. Another hand wrapped around her mouth. She felt the person restraining her close by. She relaxed.

This person was familiar.
With no other option, she licked the hand covering her mouth. Instantly, it vanished.

Iyanma. Stop doing that na.”

“Well, you too stop sneaking up on me like that.” She couldn’t help it, she giggled.

He relented and chuckled softly. That was Bello for you. Every thing he did was quiet. He wasn’t much for noise or talk in general. People often pointed at him in the village when he passed, muttering about the strange quiet boy who never made a sound when he walked. It had become common for villagers to suddenly find him somewhere, like he popped out of thin air, since he didn’t give any warning at all.

But what Aminat liked the most about him was his kind heart. She had often seen him stop whatever he was doing to help a villager in need. Whether it was to catch a runaway chicken, or tie fronds to secure a broken fence or just giving a hungry child a lump of bean cake, Bello was known throughout the village to be generous.

“How are you?”

“Me? I am fine. How about you?” He replied, so quietly she had to strain to hear him. He put his hand in his shorts and brought it out closed as a fist.

“Close your eyes and open your mouth.” He chuckled a little at this. She gave the matter some thought. Bello was kind, but also mischievous. Everyone knew him to be a master prankster. She weighed the possibility of harm with the fact that to a huge extent she actually trusted him and made up her mind.

She squeezed her eyes shut, mouth open, pink tongue lolling. She felt something really sweet touch her tongue, felt it dribble down, delicious to the last. She closed her eyes even harder as a small sound of pleasure escaped her lips, then her tongue flicked out to catch the remaining stickiness around her mouth.

She opened her eyes. He had a honeycomb in his hand. She grabbed it from him and gobbled it up in one bite, smacking her lips heartily when she was done.

Then she noticed him watching her and shuddered pleasantly. It had nothing to do with how sweet the honey was, and everything to do with the fact that she had touched him, and furthermore, he was watching her. You see, she had just gotten to that age when every touch from someone of the opposite gender was a thing of great importance. A memory to be kept, explored, savored. Like honey.

Which of course, he had watched her devour like a wild animal.

Her cheeks grew hot with shame. She sat up primly, arranging her hands and legs in a more lady-like manner. Then her stomach grumbled and she stuck her sticky fingers in her mouth, licking it clean and enjoying it, very much ashamed yet unwilling to let even that deliciousness go to waste.

“You look hungry.”

“I am. I’ve been waiting for you since morning.”

“It’s late afternoon. Why didn’t you go home to eat?”

She looked down, drawing figures in the sand with the big toe of her right foot. How could she explain that she was getting quite fond of him? That she waited because she wanted, no needed to be there when he arrived. She couldn’t miss a minute of the limited time they had to spend, and already she has taken to wishing the days had more hours in them so she could spend them with him.

She drew a big circle, covering all the squiggly lines she had drawn previously. He reached out at grabbed her hand. He wasn’t normally a touchy feely person, so she froze. Then not wanting him to let go, she relaxed and let him pull her up gently to her feet.

“Let’s find you something to eat.”

Her stomach growled in reply.

DEATH AND A CUP OF COFFEE, PLEASE? part 4

The really interesting thing about  Inspector Kowoje, indeed his one redeeming quality was his inability to let go of a case.
Once he had a case to handle, he became a bulldog, worrying it still he eventually cracked it wide open. No matter what it took. The most he ever had to spend on a case was three months, but this one was warming up to take the crown.
First, it was finding out who +23481907897712 was.

From all indications, it was someone  really high up on the food chain- the telecom company was extremely reluctant to reveal who this person was, even after several threats to arrest the employees, their families and neighbours and girlfriends and even the mosquitoes unfortunate enough to fly into any place inhabited by a company employee, they remained mute. At the end, Inspector Kowoje had to go for a court order and even then, the information provided was minimal. It was a line owned by a certain Salisu, and provided a company’s address as a place of residence.
A pre-registered sim, obviously. A dead end.
So he went back to Mrs Andrew’s phone for more info.

Searching through her messages he found a level of romantic correspondence between Mrs. Andrew and the mystery person but not enough info, or was there?
He started picking out personal references in the conversation.
A birthmark on the right thigh. Good for identification, provided he found a way to get every male in Lagos to submit to a strip search. So, another dead end.
Perhaps when he had the suspect in hand, he would use it as a means to cement his identity but otherwise, it was useless.
So Inspector Kowoje kept chasing whatever leads he could find, crossing his fingers and hoping for a lucky break. Who knows? The suspect could just fall into his lap one day.

Three days later, at the police station, Inspector Kowoje was staring at the case file, eyes as red as sango’s trying to think if there was any unexplored avenue to crack the case when someone knocked at the door.

Kpom! Kpom!!

“Yes? Come in.” He answered wearily. The door swung open and the bespectacled company secretary came in.
The day suddenly seemed a bit brighter. He sat up, cleared his throat and asked what he could do for her. She told him she had information. Valuable information. But she was scared. Would she be safe if she testified against the murderer? She didn’t want to end up like Mrs Andrew.
After several assurances she laid the story bare.

+23481907897712 was the manager. Mrs. Andrew had been having a sizzling affair with the manager- an office romance of massive proportions. But somehow, no one in the company knew. No one, except the secretary  who once caught them in the act, when trying to retrieve some files from oga’s office.
On that day, she closed the door and ran down the stairs and out of the company building. She knew if she was caught, it would most likely spell the end of her corporate career.
It was like a shot of adrenaline. Inspector Kowoje thanked her and set things into motion. The manager was invited for questioning. One thing led to another and he made a slight blunder, and Inspector Kowoje clamped down on him like a steel trap. He was put under arrest.

Fast forward to a search warrant and a court order allowing a medical examination of the suspect and all the clues snapped into place. Not only did he have a birthmark on his thigh, the semen sample matched. The manager couldn’t hold it in anymore- he confessed to murdering Mrs Andrew in a fit of rage after days of obsessing over her. She wanted to end the affair and be faithful to her husband. He didn’t. One thing led to another that morning and well- it happened, he raped her. She was going to report him to the police, he knew it, he could see it in her eyes, so he stabbed her to keep her quiet. Stabbed her again and again, crying as he did so.
Then he cleaned himself up, and called the police.

His trial was brief. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging. As he heard the final judgement, Inspector Kowoje smiled broadly. Another job well done.

Then someone tapped him lightly on the shoulder. He turned, it was the company secretary and she was smiling.
“Hello Inspector.”
“Hi. How are you doing?”
“Pretty good. Look I was wondering, if you’re free, would you be interested in grabbing a bite with me?”
A wide grin from ear to ear. Things just kept getting better and better…