I apologize for taking too long to continue this series. I have not had the proper time to think.
You can read my previous post here on Alpha Series – ‘A’s story and Alpha Series – B’s Beast. You can also check out similar posts on the Alpha-series on Kofo’s blog here , here, here, and here . Enjoy!
“Do not waste time with your explanations, people only hear what they want to hear. Your escape is just to get on the boat and run away on the water…sometimes you need to run away, just to see who will really come after you!”
Dawn was near and I knew that the youths would be awake watching and waiting for the sunrise. I moved stealthily about the room not wanting to disturb my children. I went in search of Berema. I peeped at the far left corner of the room but I see Jaja and Hariye instead, snoring away. Where is Berema? I wondered holding my area.
Debating on whether or not to wake Jaja, my grand-second son and ask for Berema, I stumble on a moving crab. ‘Ula li mena yo!‘ I squealed out squinting my eyes and reaching downward to pick it up. I look at the heavy creature and throw it into the nearby drum of crabs we have stocked, it must have escaped…I thought. “Perekule, Ogi ne bekwuor?” I hear Hariye’s faint voice. “Go to sleep my son, it is nothing.”
Deciding against my initial move to ask for Berema, I quietly go back to my bed and lie down facing upwards, looking at the thatched roof I made 51 years ago. The morning dew had started to fall, the cloud a melancholic grey; I felt the gush of fresh air, and I assume the river banks must be housing a party – for they are far too generous this morning in releasing the air filled with loamy soil, fish skin smell, decayed oysters and fresh crab. I sigh as I try to welcome a fresh round of sleep.
Daring to be different most times is as hard as ever. Looking at the hungry youths all in wait for my continuing tale gave me a sense of pride, a sense of belonging, a feeling of love. I whiff in the smell of the river as I approached the youths. I can taste the salt of the water in my mouth, I realize just how old I have become.
Drifting my mind to when I was 15, I remembered the island were free, the people happier without a single care. There were no need for closure, there were no need for what if’s; just a bunch of people living life as it came. What changed? Colonization! The island had changed from what it used to be decades before now. There were more fancy huts and resting corners than we had in the ’80s. As I sat on the mat facing the Bonny waters, I sight Suwana; Awusa’s mama bringing a covered bowl of something.
Delighted at this offer of generosity, I washed my hands and began to eat slowly, the food that Awusa’s mama had prepared for me. The meal was a tasty concoction of traditional spices, steamed crabs, alligator pepper, boiled lobsters, scent leaves, palm oil, soft coco-yam and baby croackers – all boiled together to form a mouth watery seafood pepper soup. It looked like a healthy river, the one that could be rich for colonization.
Deliberately delaying the tale, I randomly picked on a crab, crushing the hard core and sucking the white meaty juice. I hear Awusa sing his usual tale with his baroque voice while the other youths chant along. I am drawn by his sense of responsibility. I cough intermittently watching them sing as mama Awusa hands me a cup of water. Other women her age are seated by the other side of the water, watching the strong men, row away their boats and canoes in search of a sea prey to sell for the day to the market traders.
Directing my gaze at the eager youths, I continued my tale – just after Suwana had cleared the empty bowl before me. ” Callistus endured for 4 more years in England, each day plotting his escape back to Bonny Island. Rev. Fr. Pepple was beginning to annoy him by his constant reminder of why he should become a priest. Callistus wanted to get married and not to the soft looking red girls who did not even care if he existed but to the thick looking black girl in his village who could cook him a spicy African meal.”
Destroying himself to please the Queen, Rev. Fr. Pepple and his mother who agreed to let him be sent off was not something Callistus would do. At age 14, he had become his own man and was ready to fight for his freedom. Cowardice did a man no good and he would not allow himself be subdued like his father. One cold night, when Rev. Fr. Pepple was tired from all the missionary training that occurred that week and was about to sleep, Callistus served him tea in his favorite saucer with a douse of rat powder.
Derisively, Callistus went in to lay on his mattress. When he was sure that two hours had passed, he went to Rev. Fr. Pepple’s room and called his name. After he heard no response, Callistus carried his well packed bag and headed to the sea. He had stolen Rev. Fr. Pepple’s torchlight, mirror, some kilo of rice, few quality spoons, a jar of biscuit, his cassock, four tins of whole milk, some packs of nuts, fruits and large quantity of meat. He was not ashamed at his doings, he had what he was going to show his people that he had brought from the white man’s land.
Dragging his foot on the cold England floor, he thought of how best to board the ship back to Bonny. He was not sure which ship to follow. He looked at the ships in the harbour, laying quietly without any passenger on board. Carefully, he perused each ship deciding which to enter. He finally came across one of the ships labeled ‘Bristol Queen’. Running his hands on the body of the ship, he decided that was the ship that was going to take him back to Bonny Island.
Deftly, Callistus walked around the ship, climbed the stairway provided and jumped into the ship’s cabin. Carefully, he roamed round the ship looking for a perfect hiding spot. Just then, he found a puller leading to the under cabin and moved in. Verifying that the spot he had chosen was safe till the morning, he tucked his bag under his head, pulled out the cassock and covered himself to sleep.