~~~ Night Has Fallen in the Afternoon ~~~
Chapter 12 -- Obujulukpa Passes Through

The bell is ringing ''dong, dong, dong,'' and everyone is looking around to find out why it is ringing. The baby chicks are crying ''pio pio pio.'' Nonyerem's mother Ugonwa then thought that it was a hawk trying to carry off a chick, so she started to shout, ''Hoa! Hoa!! Hoa!!!'' But it was not a hawk carrying off chicks, but a chicken that was crying loudly in Ogbuehi Obujulukpa's bag.

Obujulukpa went along pounding the ground with his walking-stick and groaning. He scared the children when they met him on the road, because he was very old. Also, his beard and the hairs of his head were pure white.

If he had been a goat entering the barn and eating yams one time, he would have been pushed out of the compound, but he had barely eight teeth remaining in his mouth, and his face looked very old and his body was wrinkled.

Many people said that he could fly like the hawk and the vulture, any time he wanted to go to a far-off place.

While Obujulukpa went along groaning, many children ran out into the paths to their compounds, laughing at the way he was walking and trailing behind him.

Then he looked at them, ground his teeth ''kpakwuru kpakwuru,'' and said to them, ''My children, are you laughing at me? Go ahead and laugh, it is said that if you all were chicks the hawk would have carried you off.'' He then left them and went away.

Those children continued to laugh until they were tired, but kept on laughing. Some of them defecated and urinated but continued to laugh. Tears fell from their eyes like rainfall on a thatched house, saliva dribbling down like a snail's trail, but they kept on laughing.

When they were out of breath, they all lay down on the ground but did not stop laughing.

This surprised some onlookers, because they said that it was not real laughter. But there is no place where the rain falls that the earth does not know about.

Their kith and kin then gathered together, but they did not know how they were going to carry someone whose waist is broken, because one who is not there to observe where a body is being buried starts at the leg when exhuming it.

That whole crowd of people stood asking the children questions, but they said nothing, rather they kept on expelling wind ''puum puum,'' and kept up their laughter.

Only a certain widow, who was gathering banana leaves on her yam farm while those children were laughing at Obujulukpa, knew what had happened.

The parents of the children then proceeded to go to Obujulukpa's house to beg him to have mercy on the children who did not know what they were doing, because the knife makes a slash mark on the kola nut.

When they reached the Ichekoku village square, they saw him sitting at the base of a stump, grinding his teeth. They then begged him to leave the children alone, because they were innocent. He then looked up and down and told them that he had done nothing to them; rather, they were just laughing. They then went and brought him a basket of yams and a young cock. He took them, but told them to keep a strong watch over their children, because you do not clean your nose with the same thing you use to clean your ears.

They agreed with him.

He then told them that they should go and tell those children that they should stop that laughing.

They agreed with him, thanked him, then went and did as he had told them. Those children then stopped the loud laughter and no one spoke a word.

All of their parents then scolded them firmly and told them that they should not make trouble, thinking that they had parents to rely on. But the condemnation did not affect them at all, because the woman who sees the place where her husband is counting his money does not permit her friend to go through the compound. [Feeling rich, she becomes arrogant.]

Early in the morning of the following day, Nonyerem went to Obujulukpa's house, greeted him, and asked if he had slept well. Obujulukpa told him that he had, and that it was only toothache and throbbing knee pain that was bothering him.

Nonyerem wished him well, he thanked him and told him to enter the house to partake of the morning kola nut. Nonyerem entered the obi [special house for head of household], took a piece of coconut, sat down, and carefully looked around so he could take note of all the medicines, both those that were tied up, and those that were made of leather, and those that were in pots, and those that were tied around with palm fronds and hung from the ceiling.

What frightened him the most was the numerous cows' heads, goats' heads, rams' heads, and those of he-goats, that were suspended from the ceiling.

Obujulukpa ground his teeth and entered the house, put his hand into his leather bag and took out a kola nut, blessed it, split it, chewed his own, and then gave Nonyerem his and he chewed it.

Nonyerem then told him that he had come to ask him to teach him about some medicinal herbs and roots.

Obujulukpa told him that he should go and talk to his father Ezeonyekwelu so he could say what he thought about it, because a girl should not consider herself a woman just because she has a sore on her genitals.

Nonyerem agreed, thanked him, and left, because it is the first day's argument that the judge uses to ponder about.

~~ *TO CHAPTER 13* ~~


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