In Ignorant Bliss

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Beckoning the Gods

The day in question broke like an oil-bean pod. In the twinkle of an eyelid the ray of the sun had scattered to the four corners of Hometown, and impromptu, the entire town was awake and kicking - when all would otherwise have been savoring the after-cuddle of dew drops mostly cherished by newlyweds.

Most of all the birds that have made the sacred tree that mapped out Hometown’s epicentre from antiquity their home. Said to have congregated on the coeval sprout from the earliest of times fleeing whatever denigration in a neighboring town whence they took flight, they made such a meal of the transition. For one, since then the entire town knew the sun was about to raise its head at the easternmost horizon by their chirpy matutinal choruses. Today they were hardly in full throat before the time urged on by premature conduction of the sun’s rod saw them off to their other duties.

The lizards of the house were not left out. Frightened out of the crack in walls by the sudden daylight, they went about their other businesses with premature zeal. While the dark-skinned red heads went after the grizzled green heads like they have done from creation, their younger ones as if oblivious of their adult play, went about their own chores with the least hint of bother.

The bi- and quadrupeds of the house were never to be left behind. The cackle of the chicks told the sheep and goats that day had broken before its time and their plaintive bleats rocked the house in announcement. The brazen ram dedicated to the local deity not finding them tethered in the grasslands yet, even had the temerity to seek the sheep in their domiciles .

It was its wild kicks at the front door of Kelechi’s father’s compound that awakened the confused adolescent to the proper order of his morning responsibilities. Frightened out of bed by the early sun, as it were, he rushed to sweep the lawn in front of his mother’s hut before leading the sheep out to their grazing spot. Today’s journey with them in tow to the broken prairies they shared with the people of Akoka coped with the company of the randy ram that ran along - leashed unto the convoy by no other rope than that of lust.

Kelechi had tethered the sheep to, coping with his intermittent shooing away of the obstructive ram, when he noticed an out-of-season frown on the face of the sun. As he walked on home, it appeared as if the sun was not as happy as it had appeared to have broken his own appearance time record after all. The young boy disregarded the whim as he hurried back to sweep the rest of the compound or face the wrath of the elders.

The thought only resurfaced as he got home to behold his father gazing askance at the now strange Eye of Heaven. Following his father’s eye, he saw their object of ponder reshaping as if the moon. Still gibbous enough to have the earth well illuminated, its shine appeared to have dulled in intensity as if night would fall all over again.

“His laziness!” his father barked at him as he looked down and saw him in imitation of him. “What are you starring at?”

Kelechi was still at a loss as he continued:

“You have not swept the courtyard and are standing here gazing at the sky. Come on, go and bring washing-hand water for me.”

It was as if the day was in the fast-forward mode and he was on rewind. He rushed out with the bowl of water from her mother's hut and rather than indoors where this ritual was often held on ordinary days, met the old man already en route to his small outdoor altar by the western face of his obi, his goatskin bag at hand.

He washed his either hand with uncommon calm, not sparing the sun another glance. Through with it, he brought out his native chalk, drawing lines on the floor standing. In more palatable times he would have barked for his dwarf seat. Today appeared to brook no space for puerile obsequies. A lobe of cola nut was next. The prayer before he broke it was a little more intense than usual; and brief, as if no time needed to be wasted lest what is being asked for happened as the prayer tottered on its destination. Yet he was hardly halfway through it when the sun became a thin sickle blade in the eastern sky.

At that instance, before the sun disappeared from the face of the sky, you could hear every heart beating. Kelechi for one could clearly overhear his father’s even though his appeared to pound from within the cavities of his mouth. Then the bleating of goats and sheep, cackle of chicken and neighing of horses rent the air. The roar of the lions that inhabited the dreaded forests to the south of the town floated atop the collage of panic.

Father and son stood there at a loss for word and action. None of them could have guessed for how long the impasse lasted but slowly the sun became a reversed sickle blade again. Then did Kelechi overhear his father again:

“Our father who lives in heaven but whose loincloth sweeps the earth, the author of life and death, who takes a man when life is sweetest to him; creator of all things great and small, you whom lesser gods go on errands for...”

Though Kelechi was not sure why, the day kept brightening as if in consonance to his father’s prayers.

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