Ahamefula She never thought she could lose her husband to an excuse of drunkenness soon after the haulage firm where he worked without saving a coin had packed up. She didn’t prod him or wait out his daze when she brought their baby home and found him on the carpet gazing up at them through a haze of recognition, too drunk to lift a hand. She plucked a ripe fruit from the tree—that udara tree in their compound, sturdy with the care of several old fingers— split open the fruit, squeezed sweetness into the tiny mouth and whispered a prayer. Then she held the baby to eye level and called it—Ahamefula. The boy grew up like that tree. Twenty years later, I bumped into him in a mall. His father late, but Ahamefula looked dapper and settled. He spoke with a lilt as if mindful of the heft of word, shaving each syllable, smooth as butter. I heard in his voice how distance kneaded people, clipped tongues, as we recalled childhood mischiefs, slips in high school, and flights from our land. Midspeech, he spun at the sound of a name, so toneless. I was about to think he’d turned only out of curiosity, when a girl, with skin like freshly cut pawpaw, sailed into view and latched onto his arm, flicking chestnut hairs off her face. I caught a smile on the sheen of his face. Ahamefula introduced us to each other. The girl called that name again, and I remembered the story of how his mother had let his name lift in praise to the sky because of what she thought she had lost—or might lose. Now, we three sat at a table in the food court. Ahamefula and I laughed, the girl sipping bubble tea and calling him by that name every minute or so. I almost asked him if he’d heard how his mother had wailed while zealous men hacked down her old tree to make space for what was new. Roots left in the sun to wilt. We laughed more and mapped places to visit in the coming summer. I watched them leave— Ahamefula walking with flair, the girl leaning on his arm, like a pelt, the name he now bore clinging to her lips. I headed for the exit and rolled my name over my tongue, feeling its timbre as if to flatten its history. Coyote Down the Valley during your usual walk in September when the sky is losing its blue the air is the scent poplars have shed the trail a rotting carpet the wood is sparser now count the gaps between grasses hear the fall of your footsteps until you’re surprised by another sound a swift rustling across your path you stop he watches from the other side eyes of a stranger his fur a lighter brown than yours pariah of stealth and shadows to move untethered between backyards and the wilds even as commerce exhausts space you like to think you’re not animal you’re never territorial this here is myth in the flesh that is how you encounter the other stories that go before their presence stories you hear before you’ve had that encounter the worlds you make the other carry the worlds each of you carry some myths branch off such encounters— before you’d grab a stone scare off the trespass until your grandmother told you a story how the bridge between sea and land was home she once stood aside let an iguana ply his way home now you stare at the story you’ll someday tell an encounter different from the telling you heard in the hall where a boy pointed up at a shoulder mount of a coyote as people skirted around him his father said Oh, you mean—that? That’s just how people remember.
About the Author:
Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Alberta, Canada. An alumnus of the International Writing Program (USA), Umezurike is the author of Wish Maker (Masobe Books, 2021), Double Wahala, Double Trouble (Griots Lounge Publishing, 2021), and a co-editor of Wreaths for Wayfarers, an anthology of poems (Daraja Press, 2020). His poems and short fiction have been widely anthologized online and in print magazines, and he has interviewed dozens of writers for Read Alberta, Prism International, Brittle Paper, and Africa in Words.
Feature image by blauthbianca / Pixabay