Yohanna – Chapter One

HARUNA THOUGHT about the effect of his actions. “It’s a very crazy and stupid thing to have been involved in.”

He tilted his head backward with powerful ease. In no time he discovered his mood resigning and a differing tide of temperament usurping. Now this was another issue to be handled. The issue of mood swings. He has been a scapegoat to his emotions these days and it seemed like it was literally torturing him like a cruel uncle. Effortlessly, his buttocks reached for the bed and his hands on automatic pilot, reached for his knees to form a vaulted posture. He depressed the bed allowing some unasked displacement reaction to take place in the territory of the bedbugs and ticks that were steadily devouring his mattress and sensitive areas around his lap very close to his Olumo rock. He stayed for about thirty seconds abandoned into an aimless gape. With a filthy hiss, he resumed into real life.

“This is the most important bad habit I have,” he complained-“Incessant absent-mindedness!”

With a tenacious grip on an hour ago, he began to recall all that had just happened. “But she must be about thirteen or fourteen years younger then?” his inner subconscious whispered. He squeezed his head tightly and beat it from all angles like a mistress beating eggs for brunch.

“ Haru, Haruna…,” a voice more likely to be from the backyard kitchen spluttered.

He ignored it.

He ripped off his shirt. No. He tore it off his chest, and there, naked, laid his burly bare body. It could be best described as savannah grassland. His arms were fleshy but taut. His chest hair had over the years, dared to form a trade route even to his back probably trading on sweat and grime. He reached his hands upwards towards the lofty Igia, the name given to a wardrobe but actually was an Obeche wood  hanging on two ropes in the vast tracts of air while the ropes were conveniently connected to the roof. He pulled down his burkha. It smelt of old sweat. Now, a huge rapping on the door was just determined enough to pull it down. “Who is that? I am not hungry,” he replied his own question. The bang on the door wouldn’t stop. Hurriedly, he swallowed himself into the overall and unlocked the latch. Behind the door was his nephew.

“Ah! Hussein. How are you and where’s your mom.”

“She is arside and the weebaro man is bringing the load,” the four-year old replied.

“Oh then,” he said, “Let’s go help her out.”

He picked him up from the ground just with same erg he uses to pick his stereo when he wanted to listen to his favorite program, Ina sonka.

“Haruna, I thought you weren’t around. I’ve been screaming your name on top of my voice.”

“Sister, please don’t be angry,” he replied.

“Please help me with these things,” she commanded.

“How’s Papa Hussein?”

“He’s fine.”

“Hope no problem?”

“Hope you will allow me into your father’s house before you start bombarding me with all your skin-itching questions?”

With his tail tucked in behind his legs, he did his bit in helping with the load.

“Where has mama gone to?”

“She has gone to the store.”

“I thought she said that those tax people locked it the other day?”

“Erm…yes… I don’t really know where she went maybe she went to see them.”

She threw a lioness’ gaze at him with her face ablaze with rage. As she began to peel off her Tafetta blouse, she started for the threshold in order to rummage the kitchen for something for her son. “Please take off his clothes,” she commanded. “He must be sweltering like my armpit.”

“OK sister.”

“How is daddy?” Haruna asked Hussein.

“They kworel yestidey,” he replied.

“What?! What could have happened, again?”

“Mommy used the eba stick to hit him three times and then she pinch him.”

“OK, OK raise up your hand let me get this shirt off you before she comes and start shouting on my head.” Haruna’s face immediately became void of emotion. What a sister and a wife, he thought. In something that lasted like ten seconds, Aisha, Hussein’s mom was out with a bowl of oranges. “Come and have one.” She beckoned at Hussein. “And you, why are you looking hopeless? Hope I’m not leaving fire to jump inside fire?”

“No. No problem at all, aunty. No problem.”

“What is it? I know you,” she insisted.

Haruna knew her sister too. She could be as suspicious as a snake. And that’s why she’s always having problem with her husband, he thought. He launched himself up and headed straight to his bedroom. As he closed the door behind him, he fell powerlessly on the bed. The thought of what happened twenty one years ago rushed back within him.

It was the Azunmi in preparation for Sallah celebration, 1958. He was just five then, young and tenderfoot. He and Aisha were coming home from somewhere. He couldn’t really remember where it was now after all that wasn’t germane to story. Then, their uncle bala who was about fourteen and the last of his grandfathers numerous children and a step brother to his father had appeared from no where. Aisha was eleven then and very shy, just a moppet. Bala took advantage of her weakness and he pursued her towards the stream, the stream daddy and mommy had vociferously warned that children shouldn’t go alone. From a distance he could hear his sister screaming for help and crying loudly. Bala began to laugh. As the scream for help got louder, bala giggling increased even in manifold. As a child he had already begun to cry not knowing were his sister had run to and not knowing her fate or his. With an undeterred determination, he managed to wobble his way down the pathway carefully trailing behind the incessant screaming.

The closer he got ahead, the more difficult it was to push through the quagmire that had gathered, half baked by the morning sun and it felt like every step forward  was like taking two good steps backwards. When he finally approached the stream, he discovered that aisha had almost given way to fall into the stream. The stream looked hungry, yawning and belching in angry tempest. Aisha held on to a small piece of stone and her veil had covered her nose and eyes that she could barely be heard. He could still hear her muffle bitter sorry statements for rescue as she was flapping her legs around with nowhere to rest them on. For the first time, the hideous reality of life and death and the thin line between them gripped his heart unceremoniously not considering the advantage of his age. He began to shout and kick and beg uncle bala but only a side kick from his uncle would result in him flying over as far as eight ten yards away. He would couple himself up again but this time a back kick would throw him even almost out of life itself.

This continued for a time until aisha breathe could not be heard but only his cry and uncle bala’s gale of laughter. Balas laughter then exuded into spirited crying. It was all too funny to him that he had to fall on the ground laughing and crying with his hands on his chest unable to catch his breathe. When all hope had been lost and he could hardly breathe, there came a roar of wind blowing forward towards them. A multitude of hope ran across his heart like electric current as he discovered that help was on its way. He shuddered, shouted, and screeched for help. alh Ibrahim showed up from the alternating headwind. As if he had been given the lowdown of all that had transpired, he first rushed towards the mouth of the stream and bundled up the poor girl. By now bala had stood up in pretext of having tried so many means to save his niece.

That evening, during chow hour, after everything had been settled- that is bala was only warned not to do it next time- bala sat behind the jamb of the clay hut and was munching the usual tuo chinkapa and okra soup and immediately a sudden fearful scream expelled and blocked from somewhere along his windpipe, choking the lump of tuo chinkapa half way up, half way down his oesophagus. Everybody looked surprised at the madly display. Then with eyes blazing red, emitting unrehearsed tears and mouth vomiting sputum, bala managed to shift a limb and a scorpion crawled speedily out from his lap. He began to fly and land and crash and fly again with unpracticed perfection. Daddy gathered him from the high up after the fifth exhibition and balanced him on the ground.

“You will sit here in one place and enjoy all of its venom,” he said.

Everybody was amazed at his decision but there was an undertone of agreement in our eyes that night.

Mommy only played her titular role as mommy as she begged for the poor boy that was screeching and gnashing his teeth as the venom shimmered slowly from his legs to his abdomen and made way straight up to his skull. It was long before daddy then traditionally sucked out the venom.

Since that day, aisha had refused to grow over what happened to her and even if the scorpion sting was a good and quick repayment of bala misdemeanor earlier that day, she still refused to let things lie. Since then she has become a blithering misfit and an uncharitable she-devil. She has always been on the offensive especially when issues were revolving around the opposite sex. She had become very cold, irrational and shrewish in her social approach to life.

Haruna returned back to the third planet in the universe- the planet earth-and discovered that he had consumed over twenty minutes on sweet reminiscences. Slowly he added himself up into a standing monad and then thought about sharing his experience with Aisha. But she would think I’m crazy. After all, all my life she has never taken me seriously. She has always opposed my ideas and ridiculed them. She was always right! Every other person was foolish. Or at most, right to some extent, but not totally right! He plugged his legs into his all-weather slippers and returned back into the sitting room.

I must go now. I have a message to deliver.



8 thoughts on “Yohanna – Chapter One” by henryhero (@henryhero)

  1. You would make a good writer if you would only calm down and package the story well. I had to strain and task my brain to understand most of it.

  2. hH Kaycee,

    Thanks for your comment, but I would like you to be more specific. By straining your brain, did you mean in terms of the flow of the story or choice of vocabs used? I would like to know in order to improve.

  3. Your story isn’t bad at all. But it read like an ancient piece. The images weren’t sharp in my memory. Maybe because of the hausa setting. Also, try not to make your story feel distant from the character, as though you’re telling us.
    Instead of ‘he discovered his mood…’ try to use ‘he felt or found his mood…’
    ‘He has been a scapegoat to his…’ should be ‘he was a scapegoat to his…’
    ‘Haruna thought of the effect…’ should better have been ‘Haruna thought of the possible outcome of his…’

    Try and make closer substitutions sha so that it can create more feelings.

  4. @Henryhero, I can’t comment much on the plot of the story, since it’s an excerpt, but I see many instances where your word usage could be improved.

    A few examples:

    In no time he discovered his mood resigning and a differing tide of temperament usurping.

    I’ll honestly say that I don’t know what you were trying to convey here. What does it mean when someone’s mood ‘resigns’? Are you simply trying to say that his mood changed to another mood?

    Or this:

    He depressed the bed allowing some unasked displacement reaction to take place in the territory of the bedbugs…

    What do you mean by saying “he depressed the bed”? Did he push it down with his hand, or did he sit on it? When you are non-specific like this, it makes the reader wonder whether you have something in mind. And what did you mean by “unasked displacement reaction”? Do you mean that the bedbugs did not ask to be displaced?

    The point here is that you are using words in an unnecessarily complicated way. It really does make it hard to read and enjoy your story. My advice would be – write simply as though you were telling your friend a story.

    I did enjoy the dialogue sections, and I like how you brought to life the scenes by making references to Hausa terms.

    Keep writing.

  5. I definitely enjoyed the dialogue, the few flashes of humor, and the characters felt real as I read.

    However, your language needs pruning. Start simple always, and then as you become more comfortable with your vacabulary and your diction, you can use more complex words and metaphors. Tola has given you some pointers.

    Also, you did not capitalize the names of some of the characters, like Aisha and Bala, why?

    There is a lot of telling, try to show as you write. For instance you say;

    Since then she has become a blithering misfit and an uncharitable she-devil. She has always been on the offensive especially when issues were revolving around the opposite sex.

    It is better to use an anecdote to describe this instead of seeking the thesarus for high sounding words.

    All the best with your novel.

  6. wow i love your style, i know writings are supposed to be simple to understand and flow like a stream, but i love it complex and surging like a dam, and i got that from you. keep writing bro

  7. I think apart from those things that have been mentioned, there are still some high points in the story and it could be better if revisited

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