It was a sunny afternoon. The sun was lofty high in the sky. And its rays reflected on the lonely path that led to the village market. The path was deserted, and wore the garment of quietude, except for the sounds of a footstep that heralded the coming of a passer-by with a clockwork precision.
A voice called out from the winds. The passer-by halted suddenly. He had heard a voice. The little boy was sure he heard a voice. Tall, elephant grasses graced the otiose bushes fencing the footpath leading to the market. The boy waited. He turned his eyes about, to be sure of where the voice was coming from.
He had noticed a few things. The deserted bushes curved into a shaggy mane of hair, distorting his sight. He brushed them aside with the back of his right hand, to see the jokester lurking away from sight. He could see no one. He bent low; low enough to smell the beautiful dust on the gleaming clay road which reddens the foot of every graceless wayfarer. Still, he found nothing. Satisfied, the boy stood erect and turned to leave. Only for his feet to be barricaded by words that metamorphosed into a knoll.
“Look, I am here.”
He had heard again. His whole being could testify to this ethereal truth. The voice was soft, calling and tempting. It echoed within his inner cavity. Droplets of timidity began to wet his soul. The innocent boy became afraid. The voice had spoken from his right side. His neck stiffened under the gargantuan weight of his head. His mouth salivated. And he swallowed each atom of saliva to quench the fire of fear that was stoking in his heart.
He turned his head slightly to the right. He rolled his eyes sideways, to catch a total view of the intimidating jokester. His sight caught a tree. Indeed, it was a tree – a large, firmly rooted cashew tree. Its roots spread out like tentacles over the earth. Its slender branches held high the greenish leaves and the ripened cashew fruits. The leaves cropped up so high and around the tree, that it stood fixed like an ancient demigod.
It was unbelievable. The boy’s fears suddenly vanished. He knew the cashew tree. It had always been there, as far as he could remember. He turned his head fully to gaze the object. The wind blew softly around the cashew tree. It surreptitiously oozed out alluring fragrance from the old village tree. And its leaves swayed. The boy stood, rooted to the ground, engulfed by the enticing fragrance. He smiled. He was certain that the cashew tree couldn’t have spoken to him. He laughed at his foolishness. He was sure to have been eluded by his feeding thoughts. He stole furtive glances at the cashew fruits. He contemplated on whether to pluck some of it or not.
“You can have as much as you want.” The unknown voice said.
Again, the boy had heard, audibly. Not with his heart, but with his ears. He had contemplated plucking some cashew fruits, and he just heard an affirmative from the tree! The whole world changed before him. The cashew tree had undulated into a head with escalated dreadlocks. With a few inches apart, two ripe cashew fruits hung loosely at the centre of the tree. Swaying gently, blinking as an eye. A few leaves, stretching from both sides, overlapped on one another, a few inches below the imaginary eyes. It waved and recoiled in an attempt to enunciate words.
The air began to blow forcefully with an unimaginable crescendo. The atmosphere was changing. The clouds began to move swiftly away from the surface of the sky, just as an endangering darkness crawled towards the surface. The innocent boy was beclouded by fear and terror. He shut his eyes, shook his head, and flicked his eyes open.
Darkness vanished. Everything returned back to normal. The cashew tree swayed gently under the sunny afternoon. But the eyes and lips had remained. The boy began to peer closer at the organs. His mind raced beyond the hills and rivers. His heart thudded heavily against his chest. Suddenly, a great strength rejuvenated his whole being. He held unto it. Quickly, he turned away from the cashew tree and fled to the market.
His hasty arrival into the market was unnoticed. The hustling and bustling of the market ignored his consciousness. He heaved a sigh of great relief and calmed down as he pushed his way through the busy market.
The immense Kajola market was most busy on Saturdays. It was the market day. On this day, things were sold at an exclusively cheap rate. And the villagers took advantage of this day to buy things in stock. Belonging to the people of Kajola, yet the market was shared with people from the neighbouring village, Irewolu. The two villages fostered a healthy relationship by trading with one another at the market – which has spanned over several decades. The boy was from Irewolu.
The sun descended upon the market atmosphere. It radiated heat from its core and stung the people with its piercing arrows. The breeze blew hotly against the perspiring bodies. Traders and buyers sweated under the sun. Buyers haggled angrily with the persuasive traders and threatened to leave, hurrying to flee from the wrath of the vengeful element smiling at them in the clouds. Still, gossip was at its peak, as some people cared less about the scorching sun.
“Good afternoon, mama.”
The little boy stopped in front of a large, old counter. Wet vegetables were arranged on the counter. Water dripped from the vegetables unto the dusty market floor. A large quantity of melon seeds were evenly scattered across the old counter. The old woman’s eyes blinked in cognizance of the boy.
“Good afternoon, my son. How is your mother?”
“She is well. Home is well too.” The boy responds generally.
He wasn’t a stranger to the generous, old woman. He knew she would take her dutiful time to ask after everyone in his family. Enunciating her words carefully and simultaneously delaying the young boy. Since he had answered her next likely question, he quickly declared his purpose before the old woman thought of what to say next.
“Mother needs some melon seeds,” the boy cuts in.
Ignoring his demand, the old woman stoops low. She sticks her neck over the counter, peering closely at the boy.
“Are you not the child born to Amope seven festivals back?” She enquired.
“Yes, mama,” he replied quickly, as his impatience grew.
“Oh! You have grown so big.”
She remarked gleefully; clasping her wrinkled palms against her chest. She stared at the boy in total surprise. The young boy fidgeted with his fingers to hold back his impatience. The old woman had seen him three days back, and asked the same question. And she had also reacted the same way. The boy watched her throat, as she mumbled to herself. The weak flesh around her throat contracted and threatened to snap at the slightest strain.
“Mother needs some melon seeds.” He repeated, more calmly.
Ayo Oyeku is an endearing writer who enjoys weaving verses in prose and poetry. His publishing credits spans over a decade, with poems appearing in notable anthologies across the globe, most recently,Kalahari Review. He has published some Children Storybooks too, and also co-authored a novella series. His debut novel – Tears of the Lonely – earned him a prestigious award from the Society of Young Nigerian Writers. And through his works, he has established himself as a perfect subtle prose writer with a humanitarian edge. He his currently tidying up his much awaited second novel.
Tears of the Lonely can be purchased through these mediums: Konga and is also available at Booksellers Bookstore, U. I. Bookshop, and Writehouse Bookstore, the Book Website | Amazon | Barnes and Noble