A Builder And A Rejected Stone
Chinelo’s debacle passed through many phases in Okafor’s compound. First, the slowly but surely aging man's other wives had been too confused to form any opinion about their fellow wife. Then, they breathed a sigh of relief at the happenstance which they saw as equitable comeuppance for a last that wanted to a first.
“It is always so for the unwary wrestler,” one was overheard telling the other as they returned from the stream the other day. “Before he is aware of it, he had his bare back saluting the turf.”
This had the two of them who had formed a workable alliance since the last moon sharing yet another of their never-ending laughs. Normally, it was so repetitive that it used to irk their departed counterpart who always saw herself at the butt of the corrosive guffaws. Now that she was no more around, the exhalations appeared to have acquired more juice on account of it.
“The new wife does not know that the hung cane with which the old one was chastised will still descend on her someday.”
“Whoever told her that the swamp floods in the dry season?”
“Perhaps cocks lay eggs in their place, or the good, old snake begets them tortoises.”
“Imagine her inheriting our husband’s compound, sitting out giving orders as if there were no wives here when she carried her cantankerous backsides to these shores.”
This was shortly after her departure to her father’s house. O yes, for when the same mates heard of the sex of her child, their elation turned to envy.
The duo were returning from the market this time. That was on the day the news of Chinelo's delivery of a bouncing baby boy was brought thereto via the inimitable mouth of Nwanyinma. They had taken it with a soupcon of salt, keeping quiet as the days trading progressed. It was not until they hit the road en route to home that whatever had held their mouths to loosened its grip on it.
“Wonders shall never end. Can’t you see that that wretch has a very devious plan?”
“More than devious indeed; methinks it is sinister. She chooses a man that only fires male children and sleeps with her and wins the compound - treacherous to say the least.”
“You have said it all; wonders, indeed, shall never end in this flat world we live in.”
"To imagine that Okafor that we have been sleeping with since has a male child in his groins leaves me perplexed."
"How can. I knew it from the time you came and all he could put in you after three deliveries were still daughters like the four he had deposited in me."
"And this one comes and after less than half a try, she delivers a boy. We shall see."
Though they always ended up concluding that the sex of the child was an iron-cast proof that the pregnancy was not their husband’s, they still hardly ever hard more than a wink of sleep all these subsequent nights.
Okafor himself was distraught from the word go. True he had embarked on the marriage because of his search for an heir, he sometimes missed the occasional warmth Chinelo brought to his bed and heart. News of her delivery had floated into his domain on the wings of rumor before he could say he had heard of it. Then he had sent a secret emissary to go on a reconnaissance mission on his behalf. In no time he had returned with the news that it was true, and that the boy he saw was a facsimile of Okafor.
“A photocopy of me?” an incredulous Okafor had heard himself ask then.
“Have I told you a lie before?” the excited emissary then enthused. “You know how close I am to the family. I even carried the baby in this my hand. He even has that unique notch on your ears given to you at your first call when you had died young and your parents were scarred you’ll keep going.”
Sitting silently at the hearth of his common room now, Okafor remembered how he had felt upon the emissary’s departure. Presently, he could not but think back to the prayer he had said in Omegboji’s house on the morning they awaited the rain to abate for them to take Chinelo back to her parents.
Like something in him there and then had him recall that the rain had perhaps fallen in protest at the move, here and now the same sentiment slowly crept into the many chicanes corrugating the train of his thought.