By Eke O. Theophilus
IT WAS as early as 6 a.m. or so. Due to the fact that there was no authentic clock, the hamlet measured time by the position of the sun, the weather, the position of their shadows and the throaty cry of the big cocks with red comb. The sun was just rising overhead and the early birds were chirping from their nests. The square-compound woke up to the dinging sound of the bell of an ancient German bicycle with Envelope, riding it like his life depended on it.
His real name was Ochia Igbonekwu, and because of his consistency in delivering mails, his pseudonym was Mister Envelope, as the nature of his job was. He inherited the bicycle, as well as the occupation from his father, who also inherited it from his father and so on. So in other words, it was an ancestral family work.
Mister Envelope was a dark man. His darkness was different from others and people concluded it to be as a result of the continuous penetration of sun on him. He was a very short man; suffered from dwarfism. He had the capacity to scare children away, and also command respect from his age grade, because of his evil-like face.
As he struggled to halt his bicycle, the whole compound gathered round him, as was their custom; believing he always brought incredible news and mails from far and wide.
‘Nwanem, is there any mail for any of us?’ Pa Juba, the eldest in the compound asked curiously. He was bald and had a hunch back.
‘Say something’, his eyes widened like it could grasp the whole world in one view.
‘Won’t you be patient, what is chasing you this early morning?’ Envelope snapped.
‘Ahh-ah! There is no need for any quarrel now. We are all curious about your presence, for you bring only good news to us. Am I not right?’ he asked the peering crowd.
‘Yes ooh,’ came a chorus answer from the crowd.
‘It’s alright. Well, all I have here is eh… a mail for Agbadi,’ Envelope calmly said.
‘Eeh!… Agbadi ooh!…’ some women began shouting frantically.
‘What is wrong with you women? Or have you all been taking Kai kai?’ He scolded, asking rhetorically. ‘If you gather people here, you will tell them if I reported death news of any person’.
With these said, everywhere was silent. ‘By the way, where is Agbadi? He asked.
‘Agbadi, Agbadi ooo….!’ The crowd started calling him like there was an emergency.
‘I’m sure he is still sleeping,’ Uwah, a member of the age grade, said scornfully.
‘And may I know those mad people shouting my name like dogs?’ Agbadi came out ranting. ‘Can’t someone have a rest of mind in his own house?’ he continued.
‘Before you begin to rain down curses on us, Envelope has a mail for you,’ retorted Uwah.
‘Is that why you were all abusing my early morning peace? Where is he and where is the mail from?’ asked Agbadi.
‘See, I didn’t come all the way from Awka, to be insulted by a mere bush rat,’ Envelope replied to Agbadi’s insult.
Awka was the major town in the village, where all business transactions were made. There, in Awka, the first and only post office was built and that was where Envelope and his ancestors collected mails for delivery to indigenes of other villages.
‘Ngwanu, I’m sorry,’ Agbadi pleaded. ‘Where is the mail from?’ He asked again.
‘Well, it’s from…ehh…is this Gamanii of what…?’ Envelope stuttered.
‘Ah! I thought you said Gamanii,’ Agbadi said doubtingly.
Germany was actually known as Gamanii by the villagers because of their illiteracy.
‘Yes, I know what I’m reading… It’s from Gamanii and from one Chukodi or so,’ Envelope snapped.
‘Haa! My son, Chukodi….’ Agbadi screamed and went flat on the ground, unconscious. After about three minutes of pacing, crying and shouting, a bucket of water was used to revive Agbadi and everyone.
‘It’s him right?’ he asked Envelope as he wiped off water from his face. ‘It’s Chukodi, I know it. Last night, I dreamt I was fatter than a Hippopotamus.’
‘Do you mean Chukodi, my son?’ Ma Chukodi, Agbadi’s wife, asked sheer disbelief.
‘I don’t believe I have water in my mouth,’ Envelope who was already provoked, said.
Just then, Ma Chukodi and other women in the compound started ululating. They began singing their popular songs and dancing to the drums of children beating sticks on their mothers’ pots and enamel plates.
‘Pa Juba, Pa Buwa; my fellow elders of this compound please do join me in my hut for merriments…’ Agbadi called out excitedly.
‘Before you go, come and take your letter from me.’ Envelope interrupted, signaling Agbadi to come.
‘My apologies, I just got carried away. May I have it? He stretched out his hands towards Envelope for the letter.
No sooner had he handed the letter over to Agbadi, than he ran inside his hut. This time, his wrapper completely fell below his buttocks.
The rest of the elderly men went into Agbadi’s hut, filing in hierarchically. The women danced, with Ma Chukodi as the lead singer of the group. Little children drummed and some jeered at the old women dancing in hysteria. Dust filled the air as legs were beating on the floor rhythmically.
‘Look at them, celebrating for an unknown reason. I just hope the content of the letter brings good news,’ Enveloped soliloquized as he left the Ndioso’s compound.