A Novel Written By: Kolade Segun-Okeowo (KSO)
She opened the door and tip-toed inside; she closed the door and slowly turned around… She stiffened and almost jumped out of her skin as she saw what she least expect! Morakinyo was standing at the door to the room, a cover cloth loosely tied around his loins.
“Oh! You scared me!” said Oyinkansola; breaking the silence that followed.
“Where are you coming from?” Morakinyo asked.
“I went to ease myself” She lied.
“Outside! At this hour of the night! You should have used the toilet inside”
“Actually, I also went to take fresh air, you know I complained about the heat yesternight before we slept … it continued so I went outside to ease and take some fresh air” She explained, the words were flowing with ease.
“I see, maybe you should visit the General Hospital at Sepeteri in the morning” Morakinyo said placing a hand on her forehand, he placed the other hand on her chest “See…your heart is beating too fast, you should visit the hospital”
“I’m sure I’ll get better very soon. There’s no need going to the hospital”
“It’s okay if you insist” Morakinyo resigned.
They returned to bed, soon Morakinyo was snoring away, Oyinkansola stayed awake, her eyes wide open. She tried to imagine what would happen to her at the next meeting with the Queen in a forthnight’s time. She recalled the last time one of the female agents was punished for absenteeism. She had complained of being hindered by the prayers of a pastor who came to visit the couple she stays with as an housemaid.
The Queen had ordered four male agents to subject her to a wild orgy of combined rape and man-handling. At the end of the exercise, she bled till she fainted. No one helped her when the meeting ended in the morning. She dragged herself up and returned home; such was the treatment that awaits her if…
She closed her eyes and forced herself to sleep.
That night, Pastor Kalejaye, two of his deacons, and Gbayike entered the second day of a seven-day fasting and prayers on behalf of Morakinyo’s mission in Onigba-Iwofa!
Within two days, Akinlolu had made friends quickly in the town. The base of the baobab tree near the market soon became his play centre. The local children first saw him as a stranger; but within twenty four hours, Akinlolu had become friend to all the children who gathered around him as he told them stories about Ibadan and Bible heroes.
Most of the children had heard tales about the city and Bible heroes before but not from a kid like them.
Two days after Akinlolu arrived, the children had gathered under the tree since morning immediately after their breakfast. Some of the children actually ran away from home to avoid going to farm with their parents in order to hear him. Akinlolu’s stories about Ibadan and the Bible heroes had thrilled them, nothing could stand between them.
As usual Akinlolu stood in the midst of the other children, a circle formed around him. He was just rounding up the story of David and Goliath…
“Goliath fell down and David cut off his head with a big sword, he carried the head and ran away!” The children shouted and jubilated! David to them, was indeed a hero.
“Give us another story!” Shouted one of the children, soon others chorused “Yes, tell us another story!” Akinlolu was willing to, though hunger was biting him hard!
That morning, Oyinkansola had refused to give him food. Morakinyo had left the house around six to Shaki. Akinlolu had waited till around ten before walking up to ask her for food.
“So your mother did not teach you how to fast ehn?… We fast here every other day okay?” Akinlolu could not believe his ears. A few moments ago, he heard the clanging sound of spoon and plates from inside her room. He was sure the woman was eating.
Akinlolu did not say a word, he simply walked out of the house towards the baobab tree where some of the children were already gathering. He bought some groundnuts on the way and ate as he strolled towards the tree. His mother had given him the newly introduced twenty naira note, though she never believed he would need it for any reason.
“The story I want to tell you now is that of Samson and Delilah … One day there was a man named Samson …”
He had just started the story when a loud voice intruded from the opposite direction; it was the voice of a middle aged woman. Apparently, her children had run away from the house to the baobab tree. She carried a long cane.
“These stubborn children! Truants! You these wicked children of the angry gods!” She cursed loudly. The two boys tried to run but stopped, they were sure their mother will catch up with them even if they try to run. One after the other, the woman grabbed them using their ears and led them away.
That sent shivers down the spine of the other children… soon their mothers will be coming to pick them with canes, moreover the sun was already up, it was time for lunch. One after another, the children started leaving the baobab tree as if by a joint consensus until Akinlolu was left with only two children.
“Let’s go home” Will you come tomorrow?” One of the two remaining children asked. “l don’t know, my brother is coming to take me back to Ibadan. I don’t know when he will come” Akinlolu explained soberly. He was trying hard to suppress tears.
“Please try and come O” The other child pleaded.
Several thoughts raced through Akinlolu mind as he strolled back towards the house… what if his uncle has not arrived? Then no food will be served…Though he had fasted before, but he breaks at midday, moreover he was not prepared to fast. He strolled slowly towards the house praying that Lanre, his brother would arrive latest the next day to return him to Ibadan. He was enjoying the stay at the village except for the hostility of his uncle’s wife.
“Where are you coming from?” Oyinkansola was already waiting at the door, her eyes sparkling with anger and hatred. Over the night, she had tried to harm the boy but one of Greatone’s assistants was standing there; his shining sword drawn across the boy’s head. She had quickly retreated to her room.
“I went to play under the baobab tree” Akinlolu replied almost stammering. Oyinkansola had planted fear in his heart, her eyes were scaring.
“Go inside and eat your food” She said “Tell your Uncle I‘ve gone to the other village”
The words came like a miracle; at last God had answered his prayer. The woman had finally decided to have mercy on him and give him food. He quickly ran towards the kitchen to pick the food. He silently prayed hoping the woman was not deceiving. He got to the kitchen and looked around. He did not see anything; he looked under the standing stove. It was not there!
He bent and looked under the table; there was no food there. He turned around and left dejectedly. Why did she raise his hope? He had already accepted his fate that food will not come until his uncle return from Shaki. Tears rolled down his cheeks; he felt like cursing the woman, but his mother had taught him never to curse no matter the circumstances.
He walked slowly towards his room. He would simply lie down sleep and wait for his uncle to return. Dejectedly, he entered the room and went straight to the bed…then he saw it!
Carefully placed beside his bed was a stool and on top of it was the food! Akinlolu sighed heavily and smiled. At last!
“But why did she put my food here?” He asked himself. He couldn’t wait to find an answer. Whatever be the reason why she had put the food inside his room, the hunger was biting him too hard now. He quickly opened the food, it was cold rice. Akinlolu stopped to imagine how wicked the woman had been.
The rice was cold and she could not even help him to make it warm, a fat piece meat was on the mountain of rice. He wondered why the mixture of generosity and wickedness.
Oyinkansola had never served him that much before and it was the biggest meat she had given him. Akinlolu picked the spoon and got ready to start eating. Just then, he remembered he had not prayed. He closed his eyes and prayed. His mother would not hear of anyone eating without praying, she would bless anything before eating or drinking; even water!
What happened next was more like a dream or fairy tale to Akinlolu. It happened in quick succession; too fast for the young brain to comprehend. The food suddenly became warm, then hot and steaming. The steam soon gave way to smoke bellowing angrily out of the food.
He quickly dropped the spoon and pushed back with the chair violently, falling with it in the process. He quickly stood up and dashed out of the house, too scared to even shout, the hunger quickly disappeared.
Several times, he tried to imagine if what happened was a dream or not. Smoke inside food! He could not understand what it meant. He simply knew something was wrong and he should not eat a smoke-infested food! He still had seventeen naira remaining with him.
He strolled across the road to buy groundnut cakes; he sat near a shed across the road and ate silently; glancing carefully towards the house to see when his uncle arrives. A big orange tree sat majestically a few meters from the house. Morakinyo had warned him not to go near the orange tree again. He strolled carefully toward the tree and picked a stick. His first two attempts yielded no return. He tried again and plucked one orange. Encouraged, he picked the stick again and made to pluck another. He stiffened with fear suddenly as he heard his Uncle’s voice.
Morakinyo had spotted him from afar!!!
He had returned through another route. He had stopped over at the palace on his way from Shaki. He took a shortcut route and came out directly behind the orange tree!
“Akinlolu ! …I said what you are you doing here?” Morakinyo barked at him again. “Did I not tell you never to get near this orange tree again?” He pulled his ear and dragged him towards the house; he picked a cane near the tree and lifted it.
“Stretch out your hand, I’ll give you six strokes of the cane today” Akinlolu was already crying.
“Uncle please…. Uncle…” He pleaded. Morakinyo was moved with compassion for the young lad. He dropped the cane and led him into the house. Oyinkansola was just arriving at the same time.
“Why did you go there to pluck oranges? Were you not given food to eat?” Morakinyo barked again.
“I…. I….was given… but, but… but I saw smoke inside the food” Akinlolu stammered with fear written all over him.
“Smoke? Inside your food!” Morakinyo was both alarmed and amused. He was sure the boy was saying some stupid things; he wondered what prank he was up to.
“What is going on here?” Oyinkansola spoke. “Where did he say he saw smoke?” She moved closer and climbed the pavement.
“I met him plucking oranges and asked if he was not given food” Morakinyo explained.
“Hen, hen….were you not given food?” Oyinkansola asked, anger written all over her face.
“I saw smoke there!” said Akinlolu.
“Will you shut your dirty mouth … How did smoke get into your food?” Oyinkansola shouted. “Wait, let me show you the food with smoke!”
She dashed inside quickly and hurriedly packed the remnants of the burnt rice and the plate through the window. She dashed through the adjoining door to the kitchen and brought a substitute plate containing food and came out.
Morakinyo was still outside with Akinlolu, threatening to beat him now if the allegation was not true.
“See, Dear this is the food he said he saw smoke inside… This liar of a boy” Oyinkansola said “So where’s the smoke now?”
Akinlolu looked closely for traces of the smoke … He looked again and saw the plate had changed “Uncle this is not the same… “
“Shut your dirty mouth!” Oyinkansola barked.
“Now Akinlolu, stop playing pranks, take the food, go inside and eat … Okay!” Morakinyo ordered. Reluctantly, the boy took the food from Oyinkansola and went inside.
“Dear, I’m getting tired of this your nephew” Oyinkansola started as soon as Akinlolu entered. “His troubles are getting out of hand. He spent the whole of today under the baobab tree; moreover, he bed-wets. There is a terrible odour all over the house now…I wish he’ll return to his parents on time”
“I’m sorry for the inconveniences. He’ll soon return to Ibadan. The arrangement I made with my Sister is to have his brother; Lanre come to pick him as soon as he returns from the campus” Morakinyo tried to placate his already angered wife. Morakinyo had never seen her angry like that.
“Whose brother?” asked Oyinkansola. Morakinyo’s explanation sent a cold shiver through her spine.
“Akinlolu’s brother; Lanre. He’s a 400 level student at the University of Ife” Morakinyo was completely ignorant of the confusion and fear his explanation was setting in his wife.
“Lanre?….in the University of Ife?” Oyinkansola asked. For the first time, it dawned on her that Lanre Durotoye was Morakinyo’s nephew. She knows Morakinyo’s Sister bears Mrs. Durotoye, she never struck a relationship between her and the Lanre she had met on the campus.
“Yes, or do you know him?” Morakinyo asked, completely ignorant of the thoughts going through his wife’s heart.
Oyinkansola’s heartbeat’s increased rapidly. “Em…What did you say?” She asked.
Morakinyo’s question had caught her by surprise. Did he know what she was thinking about? Her fears increased. The tables were turning! She wondered why none of Sapientia and Scorpia had been able to find out that Lanre was Morakinyo’s nephew, her fear mixed with anger.
“Oh…not…really…em…I was just wondering that your sister has got a son that old….God has really blessed her” She stammered and managed to force a smile.
“Oh yes… she’s blessed, Lanre is currently the President of the University’s Student Union. He might even come here with the SUG’s vehicle, who knows”
Oyinkansola’s mind quickly raced back to the night Lanre took her to Hotel de Pleasure with the Students’ Union car! The tables were really turning. Ever since Powerone intruded and attacked the marine agents’ right inside the Palace of the Queen, Hagatha had not ventured going near the campus again.
She knew Lanre would open up and tell the whole campus what transpired between them. Mysteriously, Betty Campbell had disappeared from the campus. Lanre visited her room but all her belongings were gone!
Several enquiries were made from her friends and not one person seemed to have any idea about where she lived off campus. Lanre tried checking through the list of students’ names and addresses at the Department of International Relations where Betty had mentioned as her course of study; the name Betty Campbell did not appear!
That night, the Queen of the Coast herself visited Princess Hagatha. Ever since the return of Greatone and his two assistants, Oyinkansola could not leave her body for the normal astral travel to the palace.
To be continued in Episode 25