Aboh, Delta State.
“Omeni-ke okere jini mgbube gbu ose”. Odjowei grinned , remembering the proverb at last. That was how the elders would describe the Ndiom-Atuya troupe, as they sat cross-legged at the edge of the Aboh market square, beside his grandfathers mud-tatched brick palace, adorning their old rafia girdles with glistening beads, in preparation for the elisi-ugbo dance tomorrow. He wondered why they couldn’t replace the costumes, when they could afford the expensive ornaments. Adults sometimes behaved strangely.
Perched on the goat-skin mat beside his father’s palm-frond structured barn, Odjowei could see other children playing by the stream. He was bored with his arduous task, plucking palm fruits from the huge bunch. Mama had said it was for the visitors’ special rice meal. He’d asked why they couldn’t eat otariji and ofe-nsala like everybody else. He knew his mother wanted to keep an eye on him, so he wouldn’t run off to feed opioko at the backyard, against her instructions. He had overheard her last week, complain about his attachment to the animal, after he had informed them he was changing the pet’s name from “esisi” to “opioko”. Ppa had advised that she allowed him witness the preparation of the chicken on ojeh festival day. Odjowei had envisaged his dear friend decorated in cowrie shells, and told him so, as the cock ate maize from his palms that morning.
His eyes became heavy as he watched the men gulp gourd-fulls of palm-wine, and dance in rings around the square, as they chanted in worship to Alrishi-mmri. He was on his cane bed by the window, when he awoke. The singing had ceased, and the people were retiring to start preparations for the day’s activities. One by one, the villagers departed, and opioko called his family awake for the last time, never to crow again.