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THE TALE OF AMERICA…

There lived two orphan brothers Kechi and Kenechi.  Their father had married another woman just a year before his mysterious demise. Kenechi had lived in America since he was a young boy and so many people in the village referred to him as America. He was the fairest man in the village and many people held him in awe even his older brother Kechi.

Their mother had died few months after their father and so he had to travel back to the village to pay his last respects to her. Their step mother was a very jealous woman and people suspected she had a hand in the deaths of her husband and her co-wife but no one dared give a voice to their suspicion. She was a formidable woman and was not to be reckoned with. Kechi lived in fear of her until the arrival of his younger brother America.

America, oblivious of his stepmum’s antics took a liking to her and because she wore her innocence like an old coat, his elder brother found it difficult to convince him otherwise. Their step mum prepared many African delicacies for him knowing how much he had missed them. Kechi however did not hesitate to warn him each time…

“My brother, America” he called with eyes rimmed with sadness, watching his brother eat one of such mouth watering delicacies.

“Yes?” he replied in between mouthfuls.

“This woman is looking for ways to harm you. Please refrain from being carefree with her. She killed our parents and made us into orphans. Please take heed or else you might…”

“Brother please stop all this. Why is it that you don’t ever let me eat in peace? What have I done to you that you hate me so much? Are you jealous of me because she showers me with love?”  he lashed out at him, his eyes burning with hatred.

“Ermm… ermm” he stuttered like an erred child.

The woman hid behind the door laughing and patting herself weldone on the back. “I have finally gained his undying love so I shall strike” she thought giggling wickedly from ear to ear.

The next day, she prepared a delicacy America had never seen before. It was called ofe nkasi by the people. His elder brother sat in the Obi, watching saliva drool from his brother’s mouth when the food was presented to him. He immediately perceived the scent of a very poisonous substance oozing from the akpu and because his brother had warned him never to talk to him again, he resorted to singing instead.

America, America nwa nnem

America

Biko nwere nwayo

America

N’ajo ogwu din a nri nufe nwannem

America.

America looked at him and shook his head disgustingly “his madness is in form of a song today” he muttered to himself and reached for the akpu but his brother’s song did not cease.

He continued singing the song with more intensity “America my brother, please be careful for there is a deadly poison in that food” he sang on and on with the tempo ofhis voice rising each time the food got closer to his brother’s mouth.

He shot to his feet all of a sudden. Hatred surged within him. He threw the morsel of akpu he was holding on him and kicked the food away, fuming

“I am leaving this house for you. I don’t ever want to see you again in my life. You are jealous because you are not as fair and loved as I am. I shall leave” he strode for the door, kicking obstructing furniture away.

“Brother please don’t leave. I am dying too, just like our parents” he wanted to say but checked himself. He willed the tears in his eyes to fall and stood, watching his brother leave.

America went to a faraway land, built himself a glass mansion at a lonely field and lived all alone. He had no friend; everyone in that land would rather worship, admire him from afar and move on like he didn’t exist. But he wasn’t totally without a friend for he had one- a bird. This bird gathered tales from far and wide to him and so he was not really ignorant of the happenings around.

One day, it perched on a windowpane and in its usual sonorous voice sang the demise of Kechi, his brother. America was heartbroken and he remembered the plea on his brother’s face. How he had saved his life on countless occasions. He was grief-stricken but still couldn’t go back to the house for fear of his step mother whom he had heard had become even more formidable than ever.

Thinking he would show up for his brother’s burial, she had waited with plans on how to eliminate him too. She waited and waited but there was no sign of him. Determined more than ever to carry out her heinous plot, she sat down to strategize.

One day, America looked out of his glass house and saw a pig wagging its tail at him on the field. His mouth watered while his throat elongated at the thought of the delicious pig meat his step mother used to prepare for him. He ran out of the house without thinking, did a little hide and seek with the pig before he was able to capture it. He strung his loot triumphantly across his shoulders and went back home ready to light the fire.

The bird flew around restlessly, fluttering its wing crazily.

“My good friend, what troubles you this noon?” he asked heartily as he hummed a song and tied the pig to a long stick.

“Please do not eat that pig” it sang.

“Why?” he asked with his face lit up in puzzlement.

“It is not good for you. There is poison in it. Your step mum has planned this” it flew around his head, singing melodiously..

“Oh no dear friend! I shall eat this. I have missed pig meat. I shall eat this. My step mum is in a faraway land she couldn’t have planned this” he replied. His mouth watered even more.

“You will die if you eat it”

“I think the spirit of my brother has possessed you. Please let me eat this or I shall die” he cried.

He eventually threw out the pig after the bird’s relentless songs. A week after that, a very old woman walked wearily across the field, looked up to his glass house and collapsed. He ran down to help her and found out she was dehydrated and needed to rest. He took her to his house, laid her on the bed and sprinkled water on her.

“Oh my son! May heaven bless you for helping me” she said when she finally came to.

“It is nothing. You look like a traveller. Where do you come from?”

“Mbutu land my son. I had been robbed on the road and all my possessions taken. Please can I spend the night here since it is getting dark already?” she asked in a quivering voice.

“My dear friend” the bird began restlessly again.

He later sent her out after finding out through the bird that it was also his step mum’s plot to kill him. At her house, she bit her lower lips and paced agitatedly around the room.

“What shall I do to get the lad? For I must wipe out this family. Oh yes! What else can one use to get a man? What else is it that a lonely man cannot resist? Yes! I ought to have thought of this a long time ago” she clasped her hands together joyfully and dashed out of the house like a mad man chasing nothing.

Two market days after the last incidence, he stood in the balcony overlooking the footpath, admiring the village. Its serenity which had made him decide to take residence there and the clear blue sky which promised a rain-free day. He smiled at how much he had achieved but sighed sadly when he remembered how lonely he was. He wished he had someone to share all he had with, someone to talk to besides the bird of course who had become a messenger of woe.

At the back of his mind, he thought he had seen something glistening in the distance and walking towards his house. He checked again and a sight he had never beheld anywhere in the world smiled up at him. she was adorned in a traditional gear of a skimpy wrapper tied around her waist, small matching scarf tied tightly around her firm breasts and numerous beads wrangling around her tiny waist. He caught a glimpse of her sparkling white teeth and deep dimples when she smiled up at him again.

“Oh fair one! What can I do for you?” he held her mesmerizing gaze as he welcomed her into his home. He hadn’t thought twice before letting her in.

“Dear beautiful one” she began for even in that land, they referred to him as a beautiful man. “I just came into this village yesterday and allowed my curiosity to take the best of me.  I heard of your beauty and the magnificence of your abode. Now I can see they were right” she said in a sing-song tone and smiled coyly.

“Oh you make me speechless dear fairy” he looked down, fighting for the right words to say.

“Do not be speechless. Do not let your hands hang free on your side. Kiss my fair temple. Let your breath fan my inflamed earlobes for mere troubadours we are and one day we shall sojourn no more. Tell me now, let my heart crumble at your feet, let me feel the world tremble as you speak those words for they lay in your heart. They fight to pour out of your tightened lips. I’m waiting oh beautiful one” she held his hands in hers and sang deliciously to him.

“I am honoured to have you fair one. I cannot believe there is any as beautiful as you in this land. I am mesmerized, I am captivated. Your beauty can only be matched with the beauty of the heavens. I shall never let you go back to where you came from oh fair one” he declared his undying love for her over and over again as he looked into her ocean blue eyes.

“Thank you very much dear one. I shall be glad to make your acquaintance, you have made me happy today and so I shall return to my aunty as a fulfilled maiden”

“Oh no! Not yet my dear for you shall spend the night here. I shall send words to your people tomorrow and the ceremony shall commence. I will die if you step out of this house my love” he clung to her, kissed her knees, her thighs and her feet.

America America nwannem

America!

Biko nwere nwayo

America!

N’ajo ogwu din a nri nufe nwannem

America!

The bird suddenly began to sing. He shot to his feet with eyes blazing hot flames.

“What is it my love? you suddenly look restless” she said, touching his arms and trying to calm him down. Only he could hear the song.

“Not to worry my jewel. I shall be back” he said and left her in the sitting room. He went to the side of the house where the bird was perched on a tree.

“What is it now friend? Were you sent here to torment me by my brother because of my sins?” he wailed frustratingly.

“No dear friend. I just do not want to witness your death. I shall be left alone again. Please listen to me” the bird pled.

He warned it to shut up or face his wrath and went back to his achalugo. He continued to plan the future with her and just when he paused, looked into her eyes and went closer to hold her in his bosom, the bird began to sing again, this time louder. He dashed to it, knocked it off the tree and warned it again. He went back to his beloved.

The bird sang when: he laid her back on the bed, when he untied her little wrapper, when he bent down to kiss the mound on her chest. It sang on and on and when he was unable to hold it any longer, he grabbed hold of his gun, went to it and shot at it three times. The bird died but when he went back to his lover, the bird began to sing yet again. Bemused and furious, he took a grinding stone, put the bird on it and grounded it to tiny pieces, dug a very deep hole and buried it. Satisfied that he had become free at last, he went back to his lover and made sweet love to her.

In the deep twilight as he slept, she rose up from the bed, turned to his step mum and began to laugh hysterically.  The scent of evil hung heavy in the air. He was in a deep contented sleep and so didn’t stir. She soon turned to a black vulture with a very long and sharp beak. It flew over him seven times before ripping his stomach into two and eating up his intestines. America died and his step mum went home thinking she had become triumphant. Two days later, she also died of a mysterious stomach disease which made her insides decay uncontrollably.

THE END

Author: Nwamaka Ophelia

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