Somadinna gathered the dry leaves into a heap in the farm. With a bottle of kerosene and a match box in his left hand, he had to pull some sticks with his right hand from the saddle of his bicycle. The farm was by the roadside and from afar, he saw a motorcycle hurtling down towards the farm. The motorcycle halted in front of the farm.
“Boss, I hail o” the bike man called out. A woman with a child strapped to her back was seated behind him. She looked tired.
As Somadinna drew nearer. He thought he knew the woman seated on the bike.
“Abeg, where Dem Dy pass go Aragba-Orogun?” The bike man asked.
Somadinna’s eyes were fixed on the woman.
“Abeg bros, na person wife o” the bike man warned.
Somadinna turned to him, “drive straight take your left and a sharp right. That’s Aragba”
“Thank you” the bike man revved the engine and sped off.
Somadinna dropped the match box and bottle of kerosene and mounted his own motorcycle heading for the village but through another route, a much shorter one.
“She’s here” Somadinna announced.
Isaac turned with a start.
“The girl who smashed a bottle into your eye a few years ago…the one you told us about”
“How did you recognize her?”
“The mark on her nose and the picture you showed us from the album Brother Titus dropped in the house”
“Are you sure?”
“Hundred percent, seems like she later got married to Benedict – that our distant cousin”
“Run to Chukwudi’s place now and inform him”
“And the bike?”
“Leave it with me” Isaac instructed.
He stubbed out the cigarette in his hand and mounted the bike, ignited the engine and sped like a mad man out of the compound raising a swirl of dust.
Ndidi noticed him going out hurriedly but before she could ask him what was wrong. He had already become a tiny dot in the distance.
Chukwudi held a gimlet in his right hand and stubbed out the cigarette in the nostrils of the bike man just by the junction that led to the village.
“Aboy, disembark” he ordered.
The bike man still hurting from the cigarette burn in his nostrils lay flat on the floor, trembling.
The woman was shivering. Her baby was crying inconsolably.
“Take the child from her” Isaac ordered Somadinna.
“Please, I don’t know you…I didn’t do anything” she pleaded, she had already shed enough tears from the first hot slaps which Chukwudi had landed on her bubbly cheeks.
“Theresa, you hit me with a bottle two years back and thought you’d go scot-free. Today, you’re married to my brother and this child is his'” he motioned to the baby Somadinna was carrying who had mellowed down now.
“Can you see he’s quiet?” He asked with every note of anger in his voice.
She nodded impulsively.
“He’s home” Chukwudi added.
“He’s our kinsman. He’s our brother, we won’t hurt him but you’re a stranger” Somadinna added weightily and menacingly.
“Theresa, consider yourself dead today. We are still a few miles away from the main town. Nobody can save you” Isaac noted.
“Please my husband, I’m sorry…I’m very sorry”
“Shut up, idiot. You can’t cry over spilled milk my dear”
The bike man lay on the floor fidgeting.
“What are we going to do with this idiot?” Chukwudi pointed at the fidgety bike man.
“Let him go” Isaac said.
“Let him go”
Chukwudi wrested his legs off his head and he stood up, mounted his bike and sped off in another direction.
Theresa sat on the floor still pleading for her life.
“Somadinna, give me my brother and carry this woman into the bush. She will see shege today”
Somadinna passed the baby to him and soon Theresa was placed across his shoulders with Chukwudi and Isaac following closely behind him.
A vehicle halted by them just before they could go into the bush.
The living room was quite capacious. Men with walking sticks sat in a semi-circle munching kolanuts or just drinking gin. A few of them muttered in groups and either nodded or shook their heads while others just hummed tunes or were altogether silent. Chief Ewewu walked into the gathering clad in a simple tunic and leather sandals but his aura immediately displaced whatever solemn ambience was left in the small gathering. He looked like one of the apostles of Christ; however in his case, he was a black man.
Some of the men shook hands with him and others simply waved at him. He sat on the biggest arm chair in the living room, full of good cheer.
“Welcome my people” he had hardly picked up a kolanut when he started speaking.
“Earlier this afternoon, my son here, Chibuzor saved the day. He helped us avert what would have been a major catastrophe had he not acted fast”
The men nodded.
“Our son here, Isaac, Ikejuba’s son was angered a couple of years back by our own daughter and he decided to take out his revenge on her” he stopped again.
Isaac spoke up, “my elders, I greet you. Thank God, Chibuzor informed you of what I intended to do to that witch seated there” he motioned to Theresa, whose head was bowed.
“You children take laws into your hands all the time” Chief Nwodika intruded.
“What did the elders do when my eye was broken two years ago?” Isaac blurted out.
“They said Isaac and his friends fight a lot” Chukwudi added derisively.
“Even my own mother said she didn’t send me to fight for her. It was only my elder sister’s husband, John who arrested the people who beat me up and footed my bills in the hospital. God bless the good Dr. Osamudiamen whose expertise restored my sight. Perhaps, I would have been a blind man today…”
“My son, we understand your chagrin. We…”
“You understand nothing actually” Isaac cut Zacchaeus short. He was called Zacchaeus on account of his height, his real name was Obinna. It was once rumored that he couldn’t penetrate his wife and touch her breasts simultaneously owing to his small nature. However, those were village scuttlebutt, more often than not unfounded or merely said as a means of either emasculating him or mere natter.
Chief Ewewu waded in when he noticed that the proceedings were about to go south. The last thing he wanted now was an upheaval. It didn’t matter whether or not Richie was there, mayhem was bound to happen anyway.
“I am not blaming either party at this point. It would have been too late to cry when the head is cut off but ekenedilichukwu that the head didn’t get cut off. We often chase the wolf away first before warning the hen not to venture outside the precincts of the courtyard. I am happy that we are all here and we are going to feast at the moment but first, Theresa come forward”
She stepped forward meekly, her head bowed.
“Isaac, step forward” Chief Ewewu’s voice harbored every tinge of authority.
“Theresa, apologize to him”
She raised her head to face him, sadness had strewn her face. The kind of fated sadness that overwhelms you owing to an uncertainty which would inevitably mar you. Isaac pitied her for the first time.
“I’m sorry my husband, I shouldn’t have done that to you in the first place” she made to stoop to her knees but Isaac’s chagrin had dissipated almost to a perplexing zilch so that he reached out and held her by the shoulder.
“It’s fine, you’re my sister and my wife at this point. You’re married to my brother. I forgive you wholeheartedly. I’m very sorry too for trying to hurt you”
This gesture was greeted with huge applause from the crowd and by the time, Isaac turned, Ndidi was standing by him.
He held her close to him and let a tear drop.
“Brother, promise me – no more fighting”
“Okay dear, I won’t fight anymore”. He cradled her to his side.
By the time, the women sidled in with more kegs of wine and pots of chicken pepper soup, Chukwudi had had one drink too many and he was sprawled on the floor, his legs stretched out before him and his head tilted to the side, blubbering as usual to the amusement of everyone else seated.