‘DEAR GRANDPA’ by Abah, Abah Oyagaba (6/8)

FEW years ago, some guys from across the sea tiptoed into our enclave and they spoke different language from ours. They talked about a particular lifestyle different from ours. They talked about new songs and new dance steps different from ours. They talked about dressing in a way like them –they said, that was the trend. I was a kid then, just a kid with running nose –when my khaki had windows at the bottom that sometimes, if not for the fear of mother, I would not have considered pulling it off before pooing; I experimented that sometimes whenever she was not around anyway. When those guys from across the sea came few years ago (three months after your demise), they came with songs. Mother said she so much liked their songs and the way they spoke in different language. ‘Their songs, though mystified, stirs my soul in groove and the way they speak is rather rhythmic’, mother once told us when we gathered together outside on the fifth moonlight of that year –the year after the year we and mother mourned you. Okpe liked what mother said. I wanted to think alike, but I didn’t like the way those guys from across the sea looked. I didn’t like the way they spoke. I didn’t like the way they prided themselves over the matter of everything across the sea and smashed under their soft foot anything in the savannah where they came to explore. ‘Who do these pale looking guys from across the sea think they are sef? Are they better or stronger than our grandpa who had defeated hyenas in our savannah forest several times?’, I had once murmured when one of them stopped me on my way to Okpoga forest for a three full day hunting, and expected me to believe that I have better things to do than to hunt and to wrestle. When I returned from the forest in the evening of the third day, with my tired and hungry-looking face, I saw five of the guys from across the sea struggling with mother who lay down upwardly like a helpless cockroach in a slippery basin. Two of them held her left and right legs down with flexible force. Two others held down her both hands with gentle grips and the fifth one held down her head with careful strength. My heart was submerged with rage round about. I gnashed my teeth as though I was grinding bones in my mouth. I looked left and right to see if father will come for her rescue, I didn’t see him. I looked for Okpe, I didn’t see him. I pried through a gap into the backyard of our compound and I saw two of the guys from across the sea giving Okpe something in his mouth like the way mothers feed their kids who are learning how to eat ona. ‘What are these pale looking guys doing with mother?’ I thought heavily –my heart ached and torn crisscrossed like a cracked wall. ‘Rape? No! The gods forbid! Are they killing mother? They can’t try it’. I was already fighting them from my mind –tearing them apart with my sword and pinning some of them down with my javelin. I wanted to fall on them and fight them with a real fight of wrestling but I saw the eye of a pistol staring at me with a forewarned look. I moved forward and rattled and cursed and creaked but the pistol was still staring at me with a kind of look of, don’t be stupid to try any stupid thing here. ‘Okpe, what were you doing when, as my big brother, you needed to come so we could fight these pale-looking guys from across the sea together and rescue mother?’, I asked Okpe painfully though confusingly. ‘Oche, my name is no longer Okpe, I am now a regenerated man’. Okpe queried me in a camouflaged voice –the voice akin the masked guys’ from across the sea. ‘What do you mean, Okpe?’ ‘I have been baptized in water and I now have a new name. My name now is Brother John. That is my baptismal name’. Has Okpe run mad so soon? I thought. ‘Okpe, what are you saying?’ ‘I am now a regenerated man, a follower of Jesus Christ. What you saw them feeding me with today was the body of Jesus Christ; we call it in heavenly parlance, Holy Communion. People like you are not fit to partake though’. He explained with gesticulations that made me to rather pity him than to beg for further explanation. ‘Was that the madness that made you not to come with me to rescue mother?’ ‘Oche, mother was not in danger. What they were doing to her is called initial purging and the act of dying with Jesus Christ anew’. ‘Where is father?’ I asked with a feigned gentle voice. ‘Father had been flown to the Europe for proper education and exposure’ ‘Madness!’ I thundered absent-mindedly with my face sideway in an awkward direction, biting my lips, sweating profusely within and without, regretting why I went hunting for complete three days away from home. After few years, Okpe got married to a beautiful young lady who also professes the same thing Okpe professes –the regeneration thing. During the wedding, I told Okpe to do the wedding ceremony in the way of grandpa, but he refused. He didn’t perform the purity ritual and they didn’t break cola nut. ‘Those things are not in the bible’, he queried me. But, something happened. OKPE’S WIFE WAS CAUGHT WITH ANOTHER MAN IN BED while Okpe is still alive. ‘Bro John, please, you and your wife should perform the cleansing ritual’, I advised Okpe in the corner of his room so that it will not get into the ears of brethren, including his wife. ‘You son of Belial. You hypocrite. You devil’s messenger. You want to lure us into the sin of idolatry, abi? What kind of Christian are you sef? Listen, we can’t do it because we are no longer under satanic bondage’. The voice of Okpe’s wife roared from where I didn’t expect. My face displayed anger, just to correct her in the spirit of love. I wanted her to know that there is a difference between churchliness and foolishness. I wanted her to understand that she was a fool and nothing else, but I rather disappointed my desires by squeezing out: ‘so your own freedom in Christianity permits infidelity? I pity you, your family and your fellow kind of Christians’. I tried as much as I could to swallow the fume of rage that was rushing out before I would descend on her and bring to her consciousness that she can’t be a jinx to our family; I silenced the voice of the rage. The look of Okpe infuriated me; infuriate? No! It irritated me rather. I contemplated wreaking my accumulated anger on him as if he and his wife were the one that instructed the woman with whom I was betrothed to return my marriage proposal just because I insisted that we would not do white man-kind of wedding. I looked into his eyes and x-rayed his physiques and discovered he was nothing or nobody more than to be bent with ease and I wished I could grab him like a hungry lion –but not to devour him though –it is just to wreathe him. I only wanted to let him know that a man should be a man, especially when his wife challenges the sacred instructions of the fathers of his land. Okpe refused to react to my reactions probably because he was surprised as he has not seen me in that my old self since I became a Christian. He might not understand that I chose to be wild that day because I respect the purity legacy you left for us than their own kind of Christianity –the Christianity of freedom of infidelity for married women. Grandpa, this is the whirlwind that had swept away our heart over time.

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