I was out in the obi immediately after breakfast. The brown wrapper loosely covering me, I balanced my materials around me, and sat spreading my legs, occupying more than half the space in the enclosure. My mouth made the rounded ‘O’ shape as a heart warming tune floated to my brain, ready to be expressed. Anyone who wanted to remain in one piece had better not come in the way of the work I was preparing to embark on. The fish in Otammiri river were meant to be eaten, and God help those Omicha natives who had come from nowhere to claim the best part of that river. God just help any of them that would stop me, or even ask me any questions.
In minutes, in spite of the heavy cocoyam breakfast, the speed with which my hand went in and around, converting twine to net amazed even myself. It combined well with the renting of the air around the hall with my warlike whistle, which took me more than twenty hours back, and I could not help smiling contentedly.
The wrestling match.
Though I was no newcomer to wrestling in my community, the throng in the village square and the frenzied beating of konga drums made my heart skip a beat, as space was created for me to advance to the centre of the crowd. Chimobi, my obvious opponent, had done two death-defying stunts before making a running dive at the crowd, who received him wholeheartedly, and demonstrated their goodwill and support in handling his weight with surprising and encouraging equity. The wrestling match proper would determine who was who, and not all this inyanga, I said to myself.
As if he heard my thoughts, he suddenly stopped, and faced me in a respectful stoop.
Even the drums were expectant, as I got to him, and we grappled, exploring our advantages and calculatively seeking loopholes.
It was a long, hard one, and for the two of us. Punching and kicking was allowed here, since the organisers had this winner-takes-it-all belief. I did all I could to let go of a free hand to locate his jugular. But like he read me well, he also did all he could to prevent it, just as I sensed that any opening will see my stomach suffering as many punches as two or three seconds could allow, and I wasn’t ready to give him that luxury. Both our calf muscles stood on end and arched, as the horn-lock of our bodies and frames constituted a 60-degree formation, each shielding and keeping as far from reach his sensitive body parts. When the locking became frustrating on both sides, I saw my flicker of advantage.
Because muscles were taut and firm, I toyed with the outcome of a little relaxing of my grip on his shoulder, and I risked it. It paid off, giving me a one-second head start to release, and the nape of his neck came within inches of a good punch. I supplied the elbow hit, and he was all mine.
Closely following the elbow hit was a good get at his jaw, and then two quick jabs on his nose, causing profuse weeping immediately. I got on top of him immediately, straddling him tightly, and the cheering spurred me on to stuffing his mouth with two or three handfuls of sand, after gripping his neck with a choking intent. But Chimobi was a die hard.
As my hand made for the third handful, a grip which I was later told was his feet plied my neck to the ground from behind, and I got a damaging jab on my scrotal sack as quick as that had happened. When I recovered, after about a full minute, I was on his two hands, looking more than five feet down at a roaring crowd. I also realized my bones had been almost demobilized. What had he done to me?
He threw me.
I landed a few feet away, motionless. But his glee was very short-lived.
In his usual manner, he took a running dive, with the intention of sealing his win by impaling me on the ground with a decisive elbow hit. He had been warned on several ocassions to desist from that until he was quite and doubly sure he had weakened his opponent. In my case, he did not disobey the warning. Or so he thought.
That singular decision cost him his right shoulder, for I simply evaded him, and he landed on the bare ground from over four feet, for he got to me and threw himself up.
A resounding slap on the pointed part of the back of my head jolted me. Whoever it was, was as good as dead. It was a promise. I sprang up, with glowering eyes, as my head stopped swirling. It was Obidiya, my father’s second wife.
Inwardly, I was so grateful she was going to be the recipient of my fists this afternoon. This woman, or girl, did not know the limit of her acceptance as far as I was concerned, and I hated her with a passion for that. If she thought I was going to be cowered by the judgement of the last meeting that was held to settle the both of us, that forbade me to lay hands on her, I was going to treat her to some fine surprise. I could always commandeer or steal goats to pay for the offence, but I would enjoy the pleasure of hearing her cry, first. As I ran eyes over her, I wondered what my father ever found interesting in a woman like this. Nothing at all to even appease the eyes, on top of very nasty character. I knew she was banking on the judgement, as was proven by her next words.
‘Emeka, have you not noticed there is no water in this house? Or are you blind? Will you take this pot to the stream now? Anu mpam!’
I allowed her to be gone a few seconds, before launching my attack. Without a word, I sprang on her with feline agility, and I saw my mother out of the corner of my eye, making gesticulations that urged me on, as Obidiya screamed. My fists went to work immediately.
‘This is your last day in this village! Elders! Emeka wants to rape me oo! Help me oo! Help!’
The help she sought did not come and never came, for the next thing I heard was furious and urgent running past our house. I ran to the fence, poked a head over the wall, and noticed the whole village in a confused state, scampering away like frightened rats.
‘They are coming! Soldiers!’I heard Mgbechi, our neighbour shouting. ‘Chidi! Mmakor! Come here immediately! Get inside!’
What soldiers? Why our village? What had we done?
In spite of myself, I had to hurriedly send in my nearly finished net, and ran into my father’s room. The base of his wooden bed was my next port of call. I flattened myself underneath, and kept mute.
Minutes later, I heard heated argument near the door.
‘She has a twenty-year old son! Why are you lying? He is around in this house! He was making nets a few minutes ago here in this obi!’
I did not need to be told who was saying that. ‘My son is not around’, my mother kept repeating, her voice becoming hoarse with emotion. He just left to harvest yams in the farm. Why would I lie?’
‘All the able-bodied boys and men in this village must present themselves, and there is no negotiation about it! We have instructions to take without question every boy above twelve we can find! Nobody can stop us! We must secure this region from those vandals,’ a baritone voice was booming.
The arguing continued between my mother and the other woman, and I am sure they did not notice he had left them.
Against all the supplication I made to Amadioha and Mfunankpo, and every ancestor I could remember, the door slowly parted, as noiselessly as he thought he could make it, but I was too sensitive for him. The air reeked immediately and heavily of a combination of a dearth of water on human skin, and that thick ooze that reminded one vaguely of the presence of a large snake in the bush. The base of the black boot I saw made me determined to laugh, despite my predicament. To begin with, it was skewed to a particular direction, giving me ideas of his standing posture, and it presented the sorry picture of a fish determined to swallow a similarly-sized fellow.
I thought the giggle came in my subconscious.
It Promises To Be Interesting….watch out!!!!!