Fiction: The Hidden Pleasures of My Village

December 21, 2015 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Mercy UdoAkang

 

I grimaced and sulked when my father said that we are relocating to the village. How on earth will I cope with that bush called village? Ikot Ondo; my village, a place surrounded by thick bushes, a gorgeous throne of wild life. Buildings made of red earth scattered along the sandy roads with gullies and stagnant pools for mosquitoes to breathe in. Ho-hum! How will I communicate with these bush people who can’t stand a chance of constructing programmable English? Nor play in the midst of dirty children with protruding stomachs, big heads, tiny hands and legs?

The poor educational standard and its dilettante pupils cannot be compared to the high class educational standards here in Lagos. Yet, my father says that I shall continue my schooling in the village. How are their health care centers? Hmm…this is the place my father reckoned to be a place of rest when he received his retirement letter. I became grouchy; has he considered all this?

“How can we live under a hut roof? Drink from dirty streams?” I argued vigorously.

“Ndy, I built a bungalow with adequate facilities and bore hole” He replied in his usual phlegmatic manner. Infuriated, I sigh and stamp my foot on the floor pretentiously in disgust.

We left Lagos before sun rise and arrived in the outskirts of my village at dusk. Although our car’s headlight was bright, I presumed we were driving in total darkness that I thought chibok girls were kept in those dark bushes. But in Lagos, without a clock, you hardly know when night falls because of the refulgent street lights that scare away darkness. In my mind’s eyes, I thought I will know no light and happiness in this village.

As we drove further, I saw a group of teenagers carrying little flames of fire (burning from a single source) and small buckets each. They seemed to be searching for something by the shoulder of the road and the near-by bushes.

“Da- Daddy” I screamed “They are with fire” I thought they were witches, carrying out their evil deeds.

“They are searching for snails” My father replied with an undiluted calmness in his voice.

On our arrival, my cousins were already in their dreamlands. It was only my grandmother who welcomed us. But the morning succeeding the day we arrived, our compound was besieged by villagers, kinsmen and relatives. Within a twinkle of an eye, my father’s brother killed his he-goat while my grandmother provided three tubers of yam and immediately, pots were put on fire. One thing was not left out; palm-wine was in abundance but the donator was vague to me they were celebrating our arrival. They were celebrating our arrival.

I was surprised when my father called me to come and greet the village chief who also came to welcome us. In my room after I had greeted the old chief and his elders, I tried to imagine myself, travelling from the village to Lagos. Would the Lagos dwellers welcome us in such a big way? Would Governor Akinwunmi Ambode pay us a visit just like this old chief? I sat raggedly on the study desk, pondering the questions.

In two weeks of our arrival, I experienced a calm and noise free environment of my village. The cool evening breeze that caresses our skins at nights and the thrilling folktales of my grandmother at moon light nights was incomparable. Who in Lagos could be seen seated comfortably on his verandah at night? Or sleep with both eyes closed?

In the village, another person’s property was respected and admired, not taken. If I tell you that my father’s bungalow is not fenced, would you believe? Yes! But in Lagos, a small boy’s quarters is surrounded by huge walls and yet, the residents are still robbed.

Although the children could not hold a conversation in English, they were all friendly, kind and honest. I learnt how to ride a bicycle from a child whom I’m five years older than. I also learned skills and tricks of setting traps for smaller animals, hunt grouse in air which I enjoyed so much and forgot lunch most at times, and also went out at nights with my village friends in search of snails. All these outings were gladly approved by my father. When I asked why he did not grant me such freedom at Lagos, he said “Nobody will kidnap nor hurt you in the village.”

At first, I did not eat the bush meats because of the fear of ebola but my friends ate and still breathe, then I joined them.

I thought yam and masquerade festivals existed only in fictions like “Things fall apart” by Chinua Achebe and “Purple Hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. I was amazed when I witnessed them. Making jest of naked masquerade for a hot chase was the most thrilling event for little children of my age and teenagers.

When my father said that we will be returning to Lagos for his friend’s marriage ceremony and probably stay for a week, I argued as if we were quarrelling and he shortened it to three days. The thought of returning to Lagos sounded staid.

“But Daddy, you can go alone” I suggested, I didn’t want to leave the village for a day but he said I must go with him. So, I thought of what to do in order to stay back in the village and finally arrived at a solution.

On the day of our departure, I sneaked out and squat silently behind the cluster of plantain trees, quite close to my grandmother’s kitchen and camouflaged myself with the dry plantain leaves. My Dad searched everywhere, even the plantain cluster and could not find me. Where did I learn this? In a hide and seek game in the village. Alas! I won, I did not accompany him anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mercyfriday

Mercy UdoAkang

Mercy UdoAkang was born in July, 1998 in the south south Geo-political zone, Nigeria. Writing is her Favourite hobby. ” The Hidden pleasures of my village” is her first short story.

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