Some gods Love to Loiter

Some gods Love To Loiter | James-Ibe Chinaza | Nigeria


The first time Ajanaku came in, Odili’s stomach was as flat and empty as my bottom; she could lean freely and toss me into the darkness to bring forth water for her. To describe Ajanaku is to carry live coals on your tongue: he might think you are making fun of him. Since I have no tongue and no life to consider, Ajanaku was barely the size of a grasshopper and as brown as a locust. In fact, when Ajanaku first came, I brushed him off as an unfortunate insect about to be bewildered by the vastness of the well; his legs were spindly and coated in a thin layer of moss. But when Ajanaku spoke, his voice shook the waters, and if there were any ships, they would have sunk. When Ajanaku stomped his feet in vexation, the walls of the well rent themselves slightly open in despair. Sometimes I feared for my back because it is very easy to be discarded and replaced when you are just a well bucket. Odili was too new-fashioned to consider melting plastic underneath a tripod to mend me or using a long Icheku branch to pull me out if my rope cut and I fell in. I was offered just one life, but Ajanaku was merciful to me and softened the waters that kissed my sides and bottom.

At first, I didn’t know what Ajanaku had come for until Odili’s stomach began to grow. Odili would come, stop, and speak to her belly before bending over the brick wall. She would say:

“Nwam kuru ume, kam kute mmírí, inugo?” My child, take a breath, so I can fetch water, you hear?

Ajanaku would rub his stiff brown belly and chuckle. Odili would keep coming to the well throughout her pregnancy. As time grew short, Ajanaku would get increasingly restless and stir the waters all night. The cracks in the wall deepened, and water began to unite slowly with the earth around it. I waited and waited, for when the baby’s father would take Odili’s place and take the short trips to the well in her stead, but it never came.

This is to remind you, reader, that I’m only a well bucket, a yellow custard bucket, a high-density polyethene bucket, an unable-to-converse bucket, a tied-by-the-hand bucket, an under-rain-and-sunshine bucket, and a recyclable bucket, in case you start to blame me for not warning Odili of what awaited her child in the dark.

Odili gave birth to a girl child, and there were no ululations, just hers and Ajanaku’s.

There was no talcum splurge. The day before, Mma Anna’s dog gave birth to seven brown puppies, and she screamed in delight until her merriment wafted through her fence and spread like a pandemic. The neighbours trooped in to see, to admire, and to not forget. Mma Anna was about to make a small fortune.

Odili gave birth to a girl child, and even though, she named her Bialenuidimmachukwu. “Come and see God’s goodness”, nobody came because a dog was worth more than a woman with an illegitimate child in Umuishi. That night, Ajanaku rubbed his belly with patience as he whistled a solo into the night.

2 am.

Bialenu is six months and three days old. The world still treats her like a stubborn turd. She doesn’t notice, or maybe she does; maybe that is why she answers to the only one aside from her mother, who has wanted her since her conception. Every morning, by 2 a.m., Ajanaku would whistle out to her a sweet tune he had learned from Odili; Bialenu would crawl, sometimes slither out to the well, where Ajanaku would size her up. You see, Ajanaku is a patient deity; he does not drag raw meat off a furnace — he lets it roast. Do you or do you not know that patience is a rare virtue? If you wait, you get the most water. Ina anụ?

Bialenuidimmachukwu nwam. 2 a.m. Breeze and fog. Ukwa falls on a distant farm; she crawls. She crawls with mud on her frayed socks. With bright eyes, like she hadn’t been sleeping a minute ago, she comes to the one who wants her. Ajanaku will eat and drink. Odili sleep sleep sleep. When a god cries “blood,” don’t call it greed. He has loitered long enough in waiting. He who waits will escape the corn cob with the teeth of an aged woman.

Bialenu comes as usual, but Ajanaku does not come out this time; he crosses his spindly legs and whistles more beautifully. Six-month-old Bialenu straightens like an adult. She grips the brick wall, raises one foot as though to release a fart, and tumbles in. “Spatush!” Quiet. Ajanaku will have his fill. A bird cries.

Ajanaku has had his fill, so he finds a crack in the wall, and with the same ease as water, he slips through to the earth, rubbing his warm brown belly all the way.

Odili has used her eyes to see her two ears. She jumps, she screams, and she screams, but nobody comes. Nobody stirs. She is leaning and looking down into the well; her legs are shaking. The water is blood-red. She falls to the earth and beats it with her palms. Then the shock seals her lips, and she sits still and stares into space. After a while, Odili smears mud all over her body as a sign of grief. She leaves and returns with a group of whiskered and bent men. She kneels before them as they take turns looking into the bloodied well and exclaiming.

“Ndi mụrụ m. Have I ever asked for anything more than space?” “Did I beg for money for my child?” “Did I wipe my muddy feet on anyone’s doorstep?” Odili asks, her voice shaking, as tears slither down her eyes and into her mouth. She continues:

“Ndi mụrụ m. When you called me less than a dog, did I not answer?” “Did I bat my eyelids at anyone in disrespect?”

The five bent men look down at Odili, and there is not the slightest sign of pity in their eyes. But one is exceptionally quiet — his hands are welded together at his back, and he throws occasional disturbed looks at Odili. One bent man scratches his gray whiskers and stoops lower to Odili’s level;

“If only you would tell us who fathered that child.” He says and straightens up to his full bentness.

“What Child?! The one in the well? Is that still a child? Tell me!” Odili’s eyes are bloodshot, and she is now screaming at the top of her voice.

The bent men shake their heads and begin to plod away. When the exceptionally quiet one passes, Odili lands a mouthful of spittle at his feet and curses:

“May your back twist and snap in two!”

Remember, I am still but a well bucket, and if I had known the past before me, I would have told you how Ajanaku came to be. Of how his thirst for blood came to be. I would have told you that many years before even Odili’s grandfather was born, an impotent, bent man cursed his wife for getting pregnant for an unknown man:

“Whore!” “May every bastard you birth be torn to pieces by evil!” He was fuming, and sure that every child she birthed could not be his. But a curse spat in the air will settle to the ground, and whatever finds its way into the soil will be taken by the gods, and they must bloom. No matter the terror. No matter the pain.

And if I were not a well bucket but a gossip, I’d have told you of the time a bent man kissed Odili with so much force at the well side — his hands gripping her buttocks, like she was a prayer and he a god. I’d have told you of the assurances he whispered into her ears:

“I have four wives, but I love you most.” “I’ll marry you.”

For the next fourteen market days, Odili sits and smears her visage with mud. She lays curses on the land, bites her tongue, and spits blood onto the soil. The well has begun to stink, but nobody comes. Nobody stirs. Mma Anna has sold her brown puppies, and she cooks her soup with stock fish and beef. She entertains a small group of friends every evening, and they come along with their children, and teach them how to bless a person who feeds them for free.

Nobody will come to Odili because dogs are worth more than a woman with an illegitimate child in Umuishi. Even if it’s dead and stinking.

James-Ibe Chinaza is Nigerian, and studies at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. She loves writing, listening to music, and viewing sunsets from various angles. She has had her works published in the following literary magazines/Journals/Blogs: Kalahari Review, Arkore Writes, the Agbowo magazine, One Boy Like That, the Fiery Scribe magazine, and Forthcoming in Brittlepaper.

Facebook: @James-Ibe Chinaza

Instagram: @yellowin_teeth

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