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Saturday, 10 September 2016

[NOVEL] Lonely Days (Chapter 1) by bayo adebowale

LONELY DAYS - BY BAYO ADEBOWALE (Chapter 1.0)

THE night ajumobi died, nine full moons ago, a shooting star zoomed down the empty sky in a long line of fire; the people of kufi heard the go-away bird hooting a sad mournful tune in the bough of iroko. The meaning of all this was clear to yaremi: ajumobi had been accepted by his maker. His spirit had gone straight to heaven - not missing the way!
Yeremi's eyes twinkled. She did not know whether to begin to shed tears of sorrow or tears of gratitude. But because her husband had left alone to the wicked world, 'just like that;and' without a word of farewell; she quickly made a choice : it must be tears of sorrow. Sorrow from the abyss of a trouble heart! Yeremi's face instantly was shadowed in deep misery, and the whole world immediately went blank before her eyes.
She made efforts to console herself-even as the distrustful eyes of 'sympathisers' glared from helms of garment, secretly castigating. Yaremi wondered... .  Her husband certainly did not die a disgraceful death. For this, she told herself, she must be thankful! Ajumobi did not due an abominable death. No. He did not drink poison out of frustration with life, and he did not fall from the slippery chips of the palm tree on a rainy day. He was not struck by lightning, not by bitten by a cobra and not crushed to death between the falling walls of the village mud buildings. Ajumobi did not hang himself with a rope on the kolanut like the aku firewood cutter whose dead body the people had cut down and had buried at the iloro with indecent haste, inside a shallow, nameless grave filled with loose soil and porous sand. No suicide for Ajumobi. He live like a man, and died like a man. Yeremi was thankful. But the tears now rolled in torrent down her face, streaming into the corner of her mouth and tasting like salt. The temporariness of man's passage on earth was a certainty! Yeremi, at once, surrendered herself to the design of destiny and to the agony of, what seemed to her, an irreplaceable loss.
She was the last woman being Ajumobi saw when his eyes were finally closing up in death. What a great honour! Her husband gave her that last- minute parting stare-quick, penetrating, and meaningful... There there was an expression of hot and disappointment in Ajumobi's dying black eyes Yeremi got the massage and with all her heart she tried to communicate to Ajumobi, not only Sorrow and solidarity, but also deep apology For all the wrong she probably had committed.
Something told her husband deeply, reproachful glare. She was just ready now to beg, ready to atone, an ready to apologise! The painful finality of ajumobi's last minute on earth rang in Yeremi 's head, splitting her brain with remembered image. She stumble as she stepped out into the sun to pick up her head-tie which had fallen on the ground during the course of prolonged wailing. She was scanned by mourners in all direction.
All eyes followed every footstep she took with hostile closeness. And all ears listened, ready to catch her every word in a set-trap. These, obviously were not people merely sitting in silent sympathy in presence of death, but people who were fully bent on humiliating her and destroying her reputation.

• • • •

These were lonely days indeed. Yeremi felt thoroughly abandoned, like a stone at the bottom of lake. Silent sank like sad music in her heart, and descended on her soul in pitiable layers. One by one, the mourners had left, leaving her to sulk the anguish of a private Sorrow, secretly. Then followed, after a few days, the extended family's mockery heaped on her like the strange showers of a January rain... And now, loneliness... Yeremi days dragged lazily on, in a haze of solitude and lonesomeness. She had never learnt to be able to be alone in all her life! But loneliness had now pitched a tent, and had become, to her, a deep black colour like the night: eternal thick and tangible, with no glimmer if light and no trace of life;dark lonely days and lonely night - unending, sombre, gloomy and desolate - where only the winds played freely alone in the air.
yaremi's two daughter, who used to keep her company, had long been given away in marriage: segi to wande, the nimble-footed palm wine tapper from olode, who climbed the tallest trees in the forest to bring down the freshest wine with the highest coast; wura to the blacksmith at upon who owned a granite anvil, and two bellows of baked clay - the' iron man' as they called him, 'with the fiery furnace'. wura's husband was nicknamed sokoti, 'blacksmith of heaven;welding gongs and salvaging script of metals to create shovels and axes of local design, to earn a living.
Yaremi's only son,be alami, was an expert furniture carpenter who now live in ibadan - far away from his mother. In town, Alani had become more than just a carpenter. He had become  , as a result of his long stay.  And now,  he hardly remembered the little village of his birth.  Kufi,  to him, was becoming a lonely settlement at the very end of the earth; a small un-mapped hamlet inhabited by a handful of people, where time was measured by the length of shadows, the movement of the sun, the direction of the wind, and the throaty call of the cock with the big red comb; a village where silence reigned, broken only by the hooting of the owl, the coo-coo of the dove, and the yapping of wild dogs.
  Now alone in the world, Yeremi was left to prepare heaps and raise crops, all by herself-labouring hour after hour, under the sweltering heart. She had. cut the bushes around the family compound, appeal to the village men, especially to Uncle Deyo, Ajumobi's bosom friend, to assist in mending the leaking roof and rebuilding the falling walls of her mud house. It was her habit to trek to distant farms, her husband's farms, to uproot cassava tubers to feed he goats with. She would linger all day, alone in the sun, to dry maize grains for an evening meal of delicious porridge and melon stew. But Yeremi 's main job was dyeing taffeta cloths in indigo solution at her yard to secure ready cash. These taffeta products she would carry inside a large wooden tray to the market at sagbe, three miles away for sale to willing customers.
. .  "come woye," Yeremi. used to shout, in the heat and excitement of work, on her little grand child staying with her. "Right now we have to begin folding these taffeta cloths. The next market day is only two days away. Take a broom and sweep this dirty floor. Spread the mat. Bring out our two mallets. Let's begin to beat the cloths into pleats. Very fine pleats, you know, so that customer at sagbe market will have nowhere else to go, than our stall, to get the best taffeta.
. . . .  After a long spell heavy pounding, Yeremi. would slowly raise up he hard and smile, catching the tired face of he grand child, and the small drops of sweat that had begun to gather over the little. boy's brow...
. . . .  "There you are, Woye," she will tease, "at your age, I could swing the mallet, non-stop, from cockcrow to cockcroost, all through beating nonsense out of taffeta. cloths, never getting tired. But, see how weary you have become now - you indolent creature! When will you learn not to be lazy?
. . . . "Lazy boys go to the farm only to watch the vulture dozing on the baobab. They waste time playing with the cattle egret roosting on the silk cotton tree at the approach of rain, and the giant crab digging its abode on the bed of the murky village stream. Lazy boy's are many in this village - and you are one of them. You are their leader. See now, Woye, you swing your mallet over the taffeta as if There is no more strength left in you, and your tongue crawls mouth! just let me finish folding this taffeta and reach for my ling cane at the corner of the room. Wam, wam, the cane will circle and its marks will show around the narrow band of your neck, and on the naked column of your back skin. I will crack the whip will descended on drip in slow motion round your tiny body. I will make you howl like a dog kicked in the stomach, for stealing the only bone inside the soup pot. "
. . . ." No, mama! Don't beat me,"woye always pleaded. "please, don't kick me like a dog. I am not going to be lazy anymore. I swear, mama, I'll beat ten taffeta pleats and, day after, ten pleats, to please you. Next week mama,  I'll beat forty, all in one day."
. . . . "Beat forty taffeta today, woye, Lazy boy! Not tomorrow, and not next week. Never leave till tomorrow what could be done today. Today is sure, Woye. But nobody knows what tomorrow will bring."
. . Alright, Mama... "
. . And woye would resume. beating  the taffeta with his small mallet - very furiously, playfully counting the number game on each stroke of the mallet:
. . One resemble one," Woye's sharp little voice would rise and pierce the bamboo rafters on roof of the house; one and one are identical twin babies of Ogunderemi village who, in later years, grew up to legendary fame and prosperity.

Two is like two children of the same parents, eating meals inside the same bowl, and greedily leaking okra soup clean and clear, from Their fingers.

Three is the dirty calabash on my grandmother's wooden rack, which needs to be washed thoroughly, and be properly scrubbed before the next market day

Four is the crooked footpath, leading out of pere gun, to the neighbouring villages of oteda, lelero, larin and labua.

Five carries a mortar on his tender neck, with hot yam inside, no pestle to pound it with.

Six is tiele the lifeless body of the robber, struck dead by lightening at the village gate during a night storm.

Seven is the kongo, beating a slow melody on the round face of the talking drum on a wedding day.

Eight is the pregnant woman of yege, who delivered her twin babies alone by herself at the road junction between waari and elewuji on a sunny day.

Yeremi would watch her grandchild with great amusement, a pleasant smile hovering over her face.
''Go on woye'' she always argued. '' go on playing the number game with your mallet. Go on a beating a steady tempo on the taffeta cloth. That's one sure way to remove boredom, and one way to make your work lighter. Don't stop, woye, until you will get number one hundred. Make sure your hand moves faster than your tongue... Many years ago at adeyipo, when i was a little child like you, woye, i did just that: counting and counting . I would never stop pounding and pounding ; counting and pounding; pounding and counting. I will never stop pounding until i had counted up to three hundred on my mallet, and beating sixty taffeta pleat in just one day!
''work was music to us, woye. We would Spread out taffeta with laughing eyes and allowed the joy of work to radiant on our countenance, all along singing merrily."
The sweet memory of childhood days came crowding back yeremi, and she enthusiastically took over the chanting of the number game from woye, her eyes half-closed, her teeth flashing:

Nine is the old tapper of lakinde, selling ketembe of fresh palmwine on credit to customers at oyedeji market.

ten is the dancer arena at back of ajipa village where young maidens wriggle beaded hips to the delightful rhythm of the talking drum, to celebrate the feast of ayan-agalu.

Eleven is the open jaw of the mad hyena, laughing kuseela farmers to scorn in season of poor harvest.

Twelve is the mighty eagle bird neatly sweeping the dirty omiyo sky with his unbrella wings.

Thirteen is the dark lane in the front of the sacred grove at kange, in the night of the dreaded oro festivals.

Fourteen is a group of village - huddle of mud dwellings, joined by narrow forest paths and shaded by the slender molepe.

Fifteen is the big jug of water under the tree shade, providing cool, refreshing drink for weary travellers and wayfarers on a long journey.

"yes, together let's go on counting now, woye, from sixteen. Let's go on counting now, woye, from sixteen. Let's sing along and count. Together let's go in pounding furiously, and be drenched in perspiration... Came on woye! Let's get intoxicated with work. Let the tissues on our strong arms stand up like worms on our warm skin as we pound away at the teffeta."
For yeremi, it was now, work and work-a workaholic! The will to survive was there, putting determination into her nerves.. And gradually, she began to accustom herself to the hard fact that she really was a widow

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