The (Wo)man at the End of the Village

Two boys dressed in underwear stiffened by dirt crawled out of the shrubs beside the red path. Both boys, prepubescent, looked like what we have now come to recognize as the perfect NGO-poster kid: ashen faces, kwashiorkor-belly, and mud covered feet. Further across the red path, a middle-aged man half-ran, stealthily, staying as close to the foliage by the path as possible.

They knew where he was headed, had established that the previous day. Before then, both had never been to the house occupied by the foreigner who only went to the river at the height of sun and in the dead of the night. Fresh courage had to be summoned to make the reconnaissance that afternoon. Two holes were drilled into the raffia covering one of the windows of the foreigner’s hut, and everything was set.

The man approached the hut, slowed down, and predictably turned to check the red path. Knowing the man’s habits, both boys had ducked back into the greenery. The man was their father.

“Oya, you wait so I will put my eyes first,” the taller of the two whispered when they got to the hut. “After me, you will put your eyes too.”

He crouched, then knelt, then stood again and simply bent at the torso. His butt was pointed outwards, at his brother’s face. The smaller boy shook his head and stepped sideways. His brother had a penchant for releasing farts capable of tranquilizing an adult goat.

“Is anything happening yet?” The smaller brother balanced his weight from foot to foot and craned his neck, trying, in vain, to extend his horizon along the red path.

“Nothing. They are just greeting themselves now.”

“Shift, let me see too.”

“Shhh…”

“Anything yet?”

The Taller brother shook his head, and leaned more into the hole in the raffia.

Sniff! Sniff! his brother scrunched his nose. “You messed?”

“Ye!” The taller one leapt like a bee stung him. He started down the red dirt with so much speed, screaming, “Ori iya mi o.”

The brother followed, arms in the air, stick-like legs raising mini-cyclones of red dirt. Both looked like two agamas in heat, racing across sun-kissed hills.

"Both boys, prepubescent, looked like what we have now come to recognize as the perfect NGO-poster kid: ashen faces, kwashiorkor-belly, and mud covered feet."

At the first row of huts that marked the start of the rest of the village, the smaller boy screamed, “stop, stop, stoooop.”

The brother turned, bouncing on the balls of his feet, ready to burst into a sprint again.

“What, what, what did you see?” He bent, hands to the knees, like a marathoner. “Did you see mammy water?”

“No.”

“So, what did you see?”

Still bouncing, the taller of the two started to genuflect. “She had two big ones on her chest, like maami.”

“Is that it, egbon mi? Even little Abeni has that now.”

“Wait. Let me finish. Then she pulled down her iro, and she had the one between her legs too, like baa mi.”

“Eh! Yeepa! Iro ni ooo. Maami must hear this.”

They returned to the race, this time side by side, like red-crested brother agamas. A small hurricane of red dust trailed their stick-like legs.

The taller boy told their mother the story. At first she was ready to beat the lying devil out of him. But as he reinforced the narration with animations of his lean body and had his brother confirm his words, she took down her gele and retied her wrapper. It was rare for her boys to agree on anything, not to talk of a tall tale. When they got to the part of the strange woman’s genitals, she shouted “E gba mi ooo.”

In a small village, news spreads as fast as it takes the smell of egusi and iru from the pot of one woman to travel to the hut of another. By twilight, women of different shapes and sizes started a procession down the red path to the house of the foreigner. The village priest, not wanting to be left out of the spectacle, was at the back of the women. His excuse: to exorcise the demon. They were chanting, shouting, slapping their thighs and holding their cheeks, ready to rid their village of the strange, evil being.

They got to the edge of the village and broke down the flimsy door of the foreigner’s hut. But the hut was clean, so clean the cow-dung-coated floor was glistening and smelling like it was freshly laid.

___________________________

Featured Illustration by AyoOluwa Nihinlola

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