~~~ Night Has Fallen in the Afternoon ~~~
Chapter 4 -- What [the Flute] Has Blown Has Broken

If someone is told a secret and is greatly excited about it, what about the thief [the subject of the secret]--has he agreed [to the accusation]?

Ezennaya had not yet reached Onyeanisi when a man called out his name and told him to wait. Ezennaya waited. Kuja approached him and told him that Nonyerem had been taken to Okanu's house so Okanu could provide treatment for his head. Ezennaya thrust out his tongue, raised the palms of his hands and said, "God witness for me." They then started off for Okanu's house. But Ezennaya stubbed his left foot on a rock and pulled off the nail on his little toe. Ezennaya shouted that something bad was in store for him, that things had gone bad, because when a lump appears in a young woman's breast it is not a trifling matter.

Okeke Mmoro told him that the Lord would not allow that to happen, because you don't poke your nose with the same thing you use to poke your ear.

Ezennaya replied that if he [Okeke] told him to come and look at an elephant, he would say look at the elephant's footprints on the ground. If his friend scratched a bump, he would scratch it into scabies. [There was no time to waste.]

Okeke then entered the bush, gathered leaves of the ulanjina [a kind of shrub], rubbed them between his hands, and pressed the liquid on the place where Ezennaya had stubbed his foot. That hurt him, he cried out, and Okeke expressed sympathy. He thanked him. Ezennaya went to a sand hill, gathered some sand, and spread it on the place where he had stubbed his foot, then began his journey.

Okeke told him that it was all right for the mouth to touch the ground but it need not be closed forever. Ezennaya gnashed his teeth and said that an unlucky person should not strike his wife on the head, that would cause a swollen foot. [Bad luck would double.] And the elders say that when the wind blows you can see the chicken's bottom, and because of it we can differentiate between sweat and tears.

Ekwuigbo stood by the road, took a stick, and was cleaning his teeth while watching his three sheep enter the bush chewing iroko tree bark. He called to Ezennaya and asked if everything was all right, since they were proceeding in such a hurry.

Ezennaya told him that if a person is fat only in his legs it is not good fat, because the toad does not run in the afternoon for nothing. [refers to impossibility--something must be going on.]

Ekwuigbo asked him what happened. He replied that he should go with him to see, because if a woman relates every little thing to her husband about her daily activities, when her husband goes out, too much salt has been added to the stew pot on the hearth fire. [No time to go into detail.]

Ekwuigbo then told him that he would follow behind him, because if you stare at the face of a corpse you will not eat anything. And he would not because of "hurry hurry'' [sudden event] unwrap his cloth and throw it into the bush.

When Ezennaya and Okeke Mmoro and Kuja reached Okanu's house, Okanu rubbed his [Ezennaya's] leg and drew out a clot of blood that was black as dirt. But the gourd cup he used for the rubbing was on his head.

Ezennaya took Okeke Mmoro and they went to Akueche's house so he could tell them what else the divination had said, but Ekwuofu and Kuja and others in the group stayed in Okanu's house.

Akueche was twisting the rope [made from stalks of palm leaves] he was going to use to tie up the new obi in his compound. They knocked, he told them to enter and they did; he gave them seats and they sat down. He went to his leather bag and brought out kola and examined it, found the kola infested with insects, split it open and threw the lobes to the ground.  He put his hand in and brought out another one, it too was infested; he hissed in disgust and threw it out.

He then went to the shelf above the fireplace and brought down a head of kola nuts, took a knife and split it open and took out one nut and put it on a platter, got three pieces of pepper, placed them around it, took chalk and made chalk marks, then called them and presented them with kola.

They accepted the chalk, thanked him, and returned the kola to him, telling him that the chief's kola was in the chief's hands, and also told him to recognize that the head pad was uncomfortable on the head of the spirits and the toad did not run in the afternoon for nothing. [indicating that something was brewing.]

He responded and said that "lead me out'' was wonderful, that anyone who headed home would surely arrive there, and it was good if a person gave his child the same thing he gave his brother. They agreed.

He then began to bless the kola, although Ezennaya felt uneasy because a person whose house is on fire does not go hunting for rats. [He was anxious to get on with the matter.]

After he had blessed it, he split it and spread it on the kola dish, so the spirits could chew the tongue of the kola. Akueche took his own and ate it, gave some to Ezennaya and Okeke Mmoro and they took it, ate and thanked him saying, "Thank you for the kola." He thanked them and told them to eat what was keeping them awake so that they could sleep.

Ezennaya told him that they had come for divination, so he went and brought out his divination equipment and began to do the divining. After he had finished, he told them that they should go and dig up Nonyerem's talisman at the base of the silk-cotton tree in the Ichekoku village square.  They thanked him and asked him if there was anything else. He replied that that was all, and that if they did what he told them, the thing that was gripping the child so hard would leave him. They then thanked him and gave him some money, some cowrie shells, and a head of kola nuts. He took them and thanked them, they thanked him and left.

Ezennaya said that the one who carries the load is the one who bears the burden. They then started off for the house of Okafor Ndakubu so he could come and dig up Nonyere's talisman. By then the chickens were going to sleep [it was early evening]. Ndakubu was grinding snuff when they reached his house. They waited until he finished grinding the snuff; he took a pinch of it himself, gave it to them, and they took some. Ezennaya told him that a certain mad man said that the way people knew he was mad was that he wanted to say one thing and another thing came out of his mouth.

Ndakubu told him that human beings go through a lot [of troubles]. They all then went to Okanu's house and picked up Nonyerem and went to Ichekoku. Ezennaya went to Osota's house and bought a white cock, killed it, and went to the place where they were going to dig up the talisman.

Ndakubu looked for the place he had buried the talisman, took the chicken and spread its blood there, then took the chicken's body and set it down on an oil bean tree that had been cut down.

Ndakubu then mumbled some secret words, but the people did not understand what he said. He took something he had tied up in antelope skin, threw it out on the ground and picked it up three times. He then put his hand into his bag and gathered some dried leaves he had put inside of it and chewed them, coughed and rubbed his eyes, took chalk and rubbed it on his eyes, then began to dig up the talisman.

He had dug to about the height of a man's knees, but the palm kernel had not struck the swallow [he had no success]. And night had fallen, the moon was shining but the moonlight was not sufficient. Ezennaya then went and lit up an urimmu [local lantern similar to a candle].

At times, as Ndakubu dug, he took the thing he had removed from the antelope skin and rubbed it on the hole he was digging, so he could find out where the talisman was.

Soon, they heard something like the sound of a bell; they stood still and listened and it seemed to them like a gong sounding. Then, Nduru came out and struck the gong and said that everyone, great and small, should go to work in the Dunu village square early the next morning, and anyone who did not come would have to give the people of the town one gallon of wine.

Not long afterward, Ndakubu dug out something that had been tied up. He took it and opened it up. Then everyone shouted, and they saw something that shone like silver, and a ring, and necklaces, and waistbeads woven out of cotton.

Ndakubu grasped another chicken and spread its blood on the opening, placed the chicken near it and then closed up the opening.

Everyone thanked him, and called him "a man of his word." He then took the body of one chicken, gave Ezennaya what he had dug up as the talisman, and told him to take the other chicken and go home and cook it and that only Nonyerem should eat it.

Ezennaya took the thing that he dug up, took three cowry shells and gave them to Ndakubu, then took Nonyerem and gathered up his hoe and his knife, and they all went home.

When they returned to Ezennaya's house, no one was able to sleep because Nonyere's fever went high and low, and he was babbling.

Crowds of people then filled his house. His mother and father could not even sit down. They were rubbing him with pomade, palm kernel ointment, and oil from palm nuts.

At the first cockcrow, Nonyerem was gasping for breath. Everyone was concerned, because Ezennaya had not relaxed his efforts for a minute, yet Nonyerem was hanging on to life to the point that death would have been better.

Before the second cockcrow, Nonyerem's mother cradled him, wiping away the foam that was coming out of his mouth, but his eyes were closing.

Everyone was crying. Nonyerem then called to his mother and father and they came to him. He bade them goodbye. And when he had finished speaking, his hands drooped down and he died. Commotion  broke out everywhere.

At that time, it was slowly getting dark; all the people came together and threw themselves to the ground. What bothered them was not only that a person had died, but that something ongoing had come to an end, and night had fallen in the afternoon.

Now, whatever had eaten the food had also licked up the soup. Nonyerem's mother was crying and she did not want people to comfort her. She said that a poor person lives a long time but he is beset by a lot of trouble.

~~ *TO CHAPTER 5* ~~


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