‘We will give you two charms.’
The diviners gave him two little stones wrapped in a piece of red cloth. ‘When you get to your house. Keep one under your mattress, make love to your wife and she will conceive, instantly. The second one, your wife will wear it round her waist for seven days, all the evil against her that makes her ill will vanish. Any evil against her henceforth will backfire.’
‘Thanks. I am… glad.’ John accepted the charms. One of the diviners offered pieces of kola nut to everyone. ‘As I promised, I will bring a ram, once my wife conceives.’
Birds fought in the sky searching for straws to make their nests. Mazi Edene was washing his clothes in front of the threshold of his house when John rushed in. He did not wait for the motorcycle to stop, he jumped out.
‘My friend. The worst has befallen me!’
‘What is wrong? Why do you come to me in haste as if chased by criminals?’
‘My wife delivered last night… we lost the baby—’
‘What? No… no. what are you not telling me?’
‘I am undone. My wife is devastated.’ John placed his arms on his head.
‘Sit down, my friend.’ They sat. Mazi Edene brought him water and after he had drank, he asked:
‘You gave the remaining money to the diviners as you promised?’
‘Yes. Every of the money. I paid all. I also brought the ram when she conceived. I do not owe them. Yes. I even added yams and one – thousand – five hundred Naira.’
‘You lost your baby because that was what you prayed for—’
John looked at him like a mad man and sat closer. ‘I do not understand,’ he said.
‘Do you now forget that the first day you visited the deity, when you were asked to pray for what you wanted, you asked for your wife’s health. It was granted. Since then your wife who was about dying, has never fallen ill. You also asked for a child and you said: Let her conceive, even if the child dies. I just want the world to know that my wife is not barren.’
John looked at him and then bent his head.
‘You prayed for a child and also asked for the child’s life. You get what you ask for—’
‘What do I do now?’
‘We will go back. You will tell them everything. There might be chances of your wife conceiving again. Never to worry. Wait for me.’
‘Mr. John! You came here, and asked for a child, but you said with your own mouth that if only your wife will conceive, you will be glad, and that you do not care if you lose the child.’ The old man said. He was drinking beer.
‘I am sorry.’
‘Be sorry for yourself, Mr. John. God gives you what you ask of him. Go and see the children in the forest. They will tell you what to do.’
Inside the forest, there were other people who were waiting to see the diviners. John and Mazi Edene sat on a long bench with six other men. One of them a pastor that John recognized. He was sure that the car parked outside belonged to the pastor.
They gave John the leaf again and asked him to break it. This time it did not break.
‘It will be difficult for your wife to conceive again. What will you give?’
‘I pledge a cow and two crates of beer. And five-thousand Naira.’
‘It is too much.’ After consultations, they said: ‘A ram will do, and half of the money.’ John agreed. They gave him another leaf. He placed it on his cupped palm and hit on it. It broke. They all laughed.
‘Good. When your wife conceives, bring all the gifts. This time, the child will not die. But when you go home, harvest the fresh part of a moringa plant yourself and let your wife cook with it. Eat the food with her; just the two of you and you two must finish the soup once. She will conceive and bear you a child that will live.’
Twelve months was gone when Mazi Edene, John and his wife came back. His wife had a beautiful baby girl at her breasts. They presented to the deity, gifts of a goat, a crate of beer, kola nuts, and hot drinks.
‘We are here to honour and thank the great Udele for this blessing. We now have a child. My wife is cured and she is healthy,’ John said. The diviners were seated together with the old man. They laughed and drank the beer.
‘We are glad. The gods are very wise and great. They are happy that you honour them with the presence of your child.’
‘We must. We also brought all the gifts that were presented to the baby by visitors, we are afraid they have been hypnotised to harm our baby.’ They brought out all the items. The old man placed his hands on them and prayed.
‘Go home and take care of your child. What else do you request from the gods?’
‘A baby boy,’ John’s wife said.
‘Very well then. Bring the leaf.’ They brought the leaf. John broke it to his wife’s amazement and anxiety.
‘Your wife will conceive a baby boy. What will you offer the gods?’
‘A she-goat, three crates of beer and ten-thousand naira.’
‘Hahahaha! It is too small.’
John’s wife whispered into her husband’s ears.
‘A cow, then.’ John informed. The old man laughed again and spat out phlegm.
‘You are a nice man. Never to worry. You will hear from the gods. Your prayers are answered. But remember, never you renege on your promises.’
‘We will not,’ John’s wife said earnestly.
‘What will you want the gods, who have become your friend to do to your enemy. The one who made your wife barren and ill for so long a time?’
‘Nothing,’ said John.
The diviners whispered to themselves and laughed.
‘We can make him go mad. The enemy is from your family.’
‘I do not want to take revenge. It is not in me to take revenge.’
The lead man said: ‘Make my friend’s enemy to forget that my friend exists.’
‘Very well. We will do that. When you get home. The man who cannot recollect your name. He is the enemy.’