The streets are crowded
A glowing yellow ball
seats at a vantage point,
hiding behind rooftops.
Ike tiddled his flute
This early in the morning,
he had to go the farm.
He spent the first hour
lying on his back,
playing the instrument
then he buckled his belt,
and begun harvesting cassava.
Other kids his age would frown
at the thought of picking up a machete
or being stuck in a field
for most of their day.
They would rather play football
or shoot arrows at bush animals
but not Ike,
he didn’t see the need to play
when he had four younger siblings
relying on him.
Both his parents were gone
few rumors have settled across the village
regarding their disappearance.
Some say they couldn’t appease Sango
on the eve of the New Yam’s festival
as every man had to present his harvest
outside his hut.
In the still of the night,
Sango would descend on the land
and claim what is rightfully his.
However, the god was offended
by the measly bundle of cassava
at their doorstep.
He was so appalled that
he broke into the home
to kill them all.
Ike’s mother pleaded for the sake of her children,
asking Sango to spare her younglings
Pity overshadowed Sango’s wrath
so he agreed.
Others rumored that his parents
were so frustrated with their life,
that they took off in the dead of the night
without so much as a farewell.
Ike doesn’t recall much from that night,
except that his mother sent him
into the other room in their minute two-room hut,
and instructed him to not come out
In the morning, his parents were missing.
In Ike’s world,
there was no time for football
but on this particular day,
the sun was deterrent to his job
He straightened his posture,
and in a burst of fury he exclaimed;
“Oh Osun, You know my heart and all I wish to do
is plowing the earth so I may feed my siblings.
I have no shilling,
only a leaky thatched roof above my head.
Why must I be cursed by the sun for my ambition?”
When he finished, the sun grew black
Ike froze in fear.
He wondered if the day of reckoning
the high priestess spoke so frequently of was nigh.
He could feel his heart implode in his chest
and minutes later, the sky became bright again
but something had changed.
The ember hue beamed eastward,
away from the field.
Ike picked up his machete and gear
He ran across the fields into adjacent farms.
He ran into the village,
past the maidens bearing terracotta pots upon their head
He crossed the village stream
and came to a halt at the east border of the village,
before the forbidden forest.
The forest was home to the gods
Only the high priestess and witch doctor
were welcome to enter for their customary rituals.
Without much pondering, Ike ran into the forest
He came to a halt at the foot of the tallest palm wine tree he’d seen.
That was the vantage point of the sun, he was certain.
He dropped his gear and tugged his weight up the tree.
Once at the top, he could see not only the village,
but other settlements,
even the city of Lagos,
where the traditional King lived.
He was amazed at the view surrounding him.
It occurred to him that he wanted more.
He wanted to explore life outside his village.
Eventually, he conceded to the blinding sun rays
and climbed down the tree against his wishes.
What he saw bemused him.
At the foot of the palm tree.
Ike was looking at a polythene bag
filled with iron ore.
He considered grabbing it
and running away
but he was no thief,
and besides, only a dumb fool
would steal from the gods.
A familiar voice came from beside the tree
Ike stretched his neck to see his mother.
“The gods are rewarding your good will,
you could leave this village and live comfortably in Lagos,”
she continued, “or you can come with me, Ikechukwu.”
He wanted to wail and roll in the dust.
He had no strength left in him.
Eight years have passed since he last saw her
His eyes locked with his mother’s
and he knew if he left with her,
he wouldn’t have to toil the soil another day in his life.
He would have peace.
But, he wanted to be more
so he held her face, pecked her cheeks and bade farewell.
He grabbed the bag and begun his journey home,
away from the fading sun.