Broken but bold backs .

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a superstitious African family.

Submitted: December 06, 2016

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Submitted: December 05, 2016



Akin was dying. His mother knew he wouldn't make it through the night. But she kept her faith in Odewole, his father. If he found the sacred meat, if he found the meat of a hippopotamus, Akin would survive. She prayed silently as she rubbed the black ointment on his black skin. He coughed in pain. His breathing had become less steady.

By the time the moon has taken its place in the firmament, Odewole arrived. Like an actor reciting a script, her husband recounted his tale in the forest. "I found it. I found the animal. But my wife..", he placed his hand on her left shoulder, "I couldn't kill it. I couldn't get the meat." Odewole sat beside her, "I'm sorry my wife". He stood up and for the first time in a long time, he cried. He was not allowed to do it but he did it anyway. He cried just like the way Akin cried when his chest burnt. He turned his face away and went into the inner room. “So you mean you saw the animal but you couldn’t…. you couldn’t bring just its skin!” Irewumi’s high-pitched catlike voice reminded him that he was still a man. He was not allowed to fail. “You saw that animal but you still turned around and walked on! You want my son to die! You this lazy thing!...” Her voice trailed off in Odewole’s head. He went close to her, placed his hand on her shoulder and tried to hug her. She brushed him off gently. He tried it again. He wanted her to give in. He wanted her to let it all go and most of all, he wanted to hug her and and tell her that everything was going to be okay. She hit his chest but left her aching head there. It felt warm and too comfortable for she fell asleep while standing there!

“Maami”, Akin’s weak voice broke the silence of the room. Irewumi saw his face covered with the city’s powder. His body looked chubby and healthy. His smile illuminated everything around him. Irewumi knew it was a dream that confirmed the fact that her son, her only son had arrived in Heaven and he was happy with Olodumare. “Maami”, another weak cry and Irewumi sprang back to life. Odewole wasn’t on the bed with her. He sat with Akin on the mat. ‘No, this person doesn’t look like my husband’, she thought. “Olowo mi”, instinct forced her to speak. “Good morning ma. It’s me Ayomide, Iya Agba’s son. What is wrong with Akin? He doesn’t look good at all”, the young man’s baritone voice said. Ire wumi could have slapped him. He was Iya Agba’s third child. He went to the big city and became a big doctor. Akin always said he wanted to be like him. ‘So what?’, she maliciously thought. He couldn’t even greet well. She could have asked him what he brought from the big city. She could have said ‘I’m old enough to be your mother. All my children left like a government bus leaves the village square until Akin decided to stay. If not ehn, my first son could be your boss’. But she said, “He’s sick, very sick. We have done everything within our powers. The gods wants to take this one away from me again.” “What do the doctors say?”, he asked. “Doctors ke! We don’t have the money to pay in the hospital. Even when the chief gave us some money, the doctors said his case was not an ordinary one. They said we should involve the spiritual ones”, Irewumi’s crooked voice said. “And what did the spiritual ones say?” Ayomide examined the poor boy’s body as he spoke. Irewumi sighed. “They said we need the skin of an hippopotamus to perform the sacrifice”. Ayomide burst into laughter. Irewumi couldn’t believe he was laughing at her predicament. ‘This was enough insult!’ But before her mouth could run its race, that baritone voice sent waves to her senses. “Those ones are looking for food jarey. We should go to the big city. I think he has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The air pollution caused it. He would be okay. He would receive enough care in the city’s hospital”. “What is that Chroli?”, confused, she asked. “it’s COPD. It’s a disease caused by smoking and air pollution. It blocks the air pipes which causes difficulty in breathing. It endangers the lungs.” Irewumi burst into tears. She didn’t know why she was crying. She just wanted to cry. She knew the villagers were behind her predicament. She knew they poisoned the air. But here was another tightrope she had to walk on. She prayed in her heart it doesn’t vanish into thin air like the others and leave her sprawling on the harsh ground. Odewole arrived early to follow them to the city. Irewumi buried her face in her palms as Akin laid his head on her laps for the entire journey. She made sure he wore the cloth his uncle brought for him from the city. He cried too as he wore them.

“We have given him the right drugs. I think he would be fine in a few days”, Ayo said as he settled into the chair placed in front of Irewumi and Odewole. He looked different in the white coat. “Thank you Ayo”, Akin’s father started, “Do you mean he’s going to be just like the way he was before?” “Yessa” “He would eat like he had always done?” “Yessa” He raised his face up and said, “gods of my father, I knew you would not see evil and let me walk into it. I knew you would bring me out of anyone I have fallen into.” He turned his face to the left and saw his ever beautiful wife with tearful eyes. Her face was filled with words but her mouth wouldn’t open. She just put her head on his shoulder and sobbed. But the tears were not salty, they tasted of joy.

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