Udo Ikwott and his diminutive wife Mayen sat stiffly in Mr Asangausung’s parlour. They had come to ask for something unusual, and the prospect of being refused made Udo’s intestines tremble and Mayen’s eyes ache with unshed tears. Udo hoped for a favourable response, after all both families had been allies for half a decade. He wouldn’t have hesitated to help Mr Asangausung if their fates had been reversed. In fact he would have volunteered.
Efiong Asangausung brought the axe down on the slice of wood with characteristic force. He was a passionate man and famous for his all or none stance to most issues. As the principal of the only secondary school in the entire clan, he was often consulted about matters that arose in his community. When the clan needed to consult with government about compensation for crops lost to the new road that linked their clan with Uyo, he was the one they sought. When Eka Udo died without a husband or a son to bury her, he was the one that saw to it that she was not left as fodder for rodents and vultures. He was a man that had the respect of his people and it was something he cherished.
“Mr Ikwott and his wife are here to see you”
Efiong looked up from his task to see Uwem, the third of his four sons.
“Well, give them seats in the parlour then and tell them I will be there shortly”
“I already have Papa” Uwem replied
“Thank you my son, tell your mother to set something before the visitors, there is a bottle of brandy in the cupboard and some bitter kola in the basket.”
“Yes Papa” Uwem replied dashing off in a sprint.
Efiong picked the firewood pieces up and swept away the debris. What could the Ikwott’s want? A mirthless smile skewed his lips, a loan surely; they must have come to ask for money for some ‘family emergency’. Well, that being the case he had better see them quickly so they would be on their way. He had no money to loan anyone, let alone a man as notorious for bad debts as Mr. Ikwott. He hurried to the bath area to shower before meeting his visitors. Ten minutes later he was with them in his modest parlour exchanging pleasantries.
“Udo, welcome to my house, it is a pleasant surprise having you here” Efiong offered.
“Thank you my brother, my feet ought to be here more often but the demands of my new job as at the local government council have kept me away.” Udo Ikwott responded a bit too quickly.
“Ma Udo, amedi, welcome, you look beautiful as usual, my friend is a lucky man, sometimes I wish I could oust him and take his place.” Efiong teased.
“Ete Asangausung, you flatter me” Mayen said. Her eyes were downcast and the smile on her lips was lifeless, tears threatened to overwhelm her at that instant. She held her breath and blinked rapidly as her golden brown colour reddened. She lowered her face, sank into the sofa and tried desperately to hide her discomfiture.
“Ete Asangausung, I know I must have interrupted your busy schedule so I will go straight to the point. Over the years, you have been a brother and a friend to me. I remember when I had to pay my wife’s hospitals bills for her appendectomy; you were the one I came to. I remember you standing by me to bury my younger brother when he died. I can never forget the role you played in helping me secure employment as a clerk in the local government council. Ete Asangausung, you have been a friend like no other. It is your kind that the Holy Scriptures likens to a brother.” Mr Ikwott intoned
“My brother that is why when the matter I am about to discuss with you arose I could think of no other. Our people say, we meet our closest siblings on the pathways and bye ways of life. I have found a brother in you. I have noted with pride your progress in every area, especially the fact that your wife has borne not one, not two, but four sons to you. Not only that, but your sons are the most intelligent and well behaved in all their classes. I have discussed this with my wife and we have decided to approach you, perhaps you would be kind enough to plant your seed in her so that we might also have a male child through that act. We know it is a sensitive matter, but what are friends for?”