The sun was very close to its setting and the children were all back from gathering woods in the farm. From aside, I watched my seven younger ones move in group of twos and threes into our large compound which houses six huts. Each of them dumped their bundles by the wall ends, separate from the others. The woods were tied with unique coloured ropes for easy identification too. Afterwards, the youngest rushed to notify Daada of their arrival. He would pick his chalk and flat board and inspect the bundles, after which he announces the best firewoods amongst all. The child that fetched them would lead in morning offerings the next day and as well eat from Daada’s plate throughout that day. This was something I longed for as a younger child.
One continues to gather these woods until maturity is reached. It begins by hairs sprouting in the groins. I remembered the day I first saw mine; I ran very fast to show Maami. I pulled before her while I covered my face, ashamed.
She only smiled and took me to Daada.
“Give him the best of meals from today and gorogoro as well. He should not bathe along with the younger ones when the day has broke and darkness elapsed!”
Daada pronounced with authority that glorious morning and my life transformed. Firstly, I was exempted from gathering firewoods. Daada also gave me his role of checking the woods which the younger children had gathered. He sits in front of his hut every evening to watch me march in gallantry to the wood place. I would carry his chalk and usual flat wood to take records just like he does. In the end, I would announce the winner with great pride while father would be seen radiating in smiles from his sitting place. Fulfilled, that his offspring had become man enough.
Daada is a good man favored by the gods. He has large lands, huts and two fertile lands for cropping. His only obvious regret is not having any female child. It hurts him very much as well. No one dreads the first market days of the new moon as he does. Each new moon comes with the village messenger’s words. He sends invitations of marriage ceremonies of daughters of his fellow chiefs. Those were men he started producing children with in the same year. He sits sadly at such occasions and watch the supposed grooms shower men of his age with boxes of gold and cowries.
Then he, together with the other titled men would be entitled to a cock and two yams.
On a particular day, I overheard him lament in his chambers, he cursed the male seeds that may come from him again in the future.
“May they never become babies,” he had mentioned.
This was a day after Chief Igbiyi gave out his twin daughters in marriage the same day; leaving the elders with just a set of their share, instead of double the entitlement. Daada came home that evening and threw the bird and yams into a shallow well behind his hut. He further threatened that no one goes close to that place. He called them cursed. Maami and I understood it all, but never questioned him.
A week after this incidence, he brought a young girl to our home; the first co-wife to Maami and my stepmother too.
She was called Mirani. A daughter to the village herb man too. I remember Maami told me we were both born on the same market day. I observed her full breasts and compared them to Maami’s that were flat like slippers. Her young skin glowed in the sun while she swayed her hips at each step. She must surely be an undevoured maiden and a lot must have been given for her dowry. None of us knew how Daada paid all of that in a short while; we had made no sales from the farm due to poor harvest. He never confided in us either.
After Mirani arrived, I hurriedly went to Daada’s chambers and moved mother’s wrappers and jewelries out. While I crossed, I bumped into the young wife at the entrance of the hut. I starred both lustfully and jealously after which I spat at her. She smiled and walked past me, while I left dissapointedly. If she had retaliated, I would have picked a fight and make her get punished for fighting a man’s heir. Her husband’s heir.
Each night, I sneak out of my chambers to peep at Daada and Mirani as they get intimate, but I leave each time dissapointed.This continued for three new moons and Mirani’s tummy never bulged.
One evening, after the usual routine of checking the woods, the village herb man walked in with his metal box, a black box only used to perform the last rites on a person about to die. I hurriedly ran to inform father of his arrival after which he instructed me on how best to welcome him. While I entertained his visit, I pondered on his purpose for coming. Father has not used a walking stick yet nor has his back bent in any angle. The back bending marks the last year of one’s life in my village.
My younger brothers and I gathered round Daada in sober mood while the herb man performed the rites. Maami and the young wife stood some distance away, women do not get involved in such sacred acts. In the end, the last part of the rite was done after which he announced that father’s death day was the next new moon.
Later in the midnight when all had retired, I visited Daada in his chambers for a late night discussion. It was then he revealed answers to most things that troubled me. Daada has become unable to give a child to Mirani after seeing her unclad. Death remained the penalty for such calamity upon any man it befell. It shocked me for a while for I’d never heard of it before. If only father was satisfied with his eight sons, he could have aged well. I was equally not sorry for him.
Let every man pay for their sins, I thought.
“I know very much, everyone would pay for their sins,” he added. I was stupefied that Daada now heard thoughts. I remained still for a while before I stood to leave.
“Son, my life is in your hands now,” he added again and I knew very much what it entailed. I scampered out of his hut and never looked back. After a deep thought, I made the hardest decision any lad could think of.
Maami began to prepare me for the task. I drank more of gorogoro, a bitter drink extracted from leaves and roots believed to boost child bearing. I chewed almond nuts too, drank less water and stayed out of the sun.
“I have full faith in you,” those were Daada’s soliciting words. It encouraged me each day it was time to force gorogoro down my throat.
The long awaited day broke so fast and I arose with a different feeling. I led in morning offerings that day and ate from Daada’s plate too, taking the place of Kalomi the youngest who got the best of woods the previous evening.
When night came, father gave his blessings while I approached Mirani’s chambers with full hopes. I was thrilled for it was my first time too. We all prayed the gods.
I gave every thrust with fierceness, for lust, for envy, for Daada. Mirani only gave soft cries and her bosoms vibrated at every move. I got up only after I felt fluid ooze out of me. I remembered it just like Daada instructed. I came out of the hut and got unwrapped in Daada’s open arms.
Father’s young wife was confirmed to be heavy with a child just two nights to Daada’s supposed death day.
After nine full moons, she bore a child. We all celebrated greatly. Daada’s joy was inexplicable. Mother’s too, my brothers and members of the kindred all jubiliated.
A year after father’s demise, Mirani and I moved into his chambers. The child was only five then, but everyone knew she resembled the father. She was a miracle too that prolonged Daada’s years, and I loved her in the best way Daada ever loved his sons.