the house of Ikekwem Okpuruka. He takes out his climbing-rope and his knife,
then checks the sharpness of the knife. He sharpens it a bit on a stone,
then takes out his pipe and smokes. He calls his wives.)
IKEKWEM: Nwaibari! Nwaibari!
NWAIBARI: Master! (She holds a broom in her hand.)
IKEKWEM: Are you still doing the morning sweeping? What have you been doing all this time?
NWAIBARI: I first went to fetch water, so I didn't get back in time to sweep the house.
IKEKWEM: Do you remember that today is Eke? Whose duty is it to cook my breakfast on Eke day?
NWAIBARI: Master, it is mine. I have started to cook it on the fire.
IKEKWEM: Are you saying that I am to go hungry to cut palm trees this morning? Hey! Am I not asking you? Do you want me to fall out of the palm tree from hunger today, while you take the time to do as you please?
NWAIBARI: Please, my husband, don't be angry. I didn't know you were going to go early to cut palm trees today. I gave Amadi and his brother last night's leftover food and had planned to cook more for you early this morning. But I didn't know there was not a drop of water left in the pot.
IKEKWEM: That's enough I don't want any more of your explanations. It's this way every day that it's your turn to give me breakfast. If it isn't that you shot a bird and its mother flew out and perched on the iroko branch, it is that the rat carried off your fish, climbed on the wall, went across to your soup pot and then fell into it. A story like this every day.
NWAIBARI: Please, it's not a lie that I am telling, rather . . .
IKEKWEM: Come, come, come! I've told you that I want no more of your explanation, let me look a bit at what I have heard. Go and bring your rope so we can go and cut palm trees in the "Main farmland" bush.
NWAIBARI: Please, have patience, let me finish cooking this food. It will spoil on the fire if . . .
IKEKWEM: Have what? Have-have-have what? Leave it on the fire so it can burn there. Go and bring your rope immediately. (Nwaibari goes out frowning.) What about Obiageli? Obiageli! Obiageli!
OBIAGELI: Master! (She enters immediately.)
IKEKWEM: What do you have in your hand?
OBIAGELI: It is nothing.
IKEKWEM: Quickly, bring your rope so we can go and cut palm trees in the "Main farmland" bush.
OBIAGELI: Master, please, my stomach is killing me. My stomach cramped during the night so that it did not feel good at all.
IKEKWEM: All right, leave the rope. But you still must come along to the bush. You can pick up palm fruit. If the dog does not eat una [a root vegetable], it still warms itself around the fire.
OBIAGELI: All right. Let me go ahead and join you. Who will carry the palm fruit?
IKEKWEM: What is Nwaibari doing? Since she cannot cook breakfast for me, she should be able to carry palm fruit. Nwaibari! Nwaibari!
NWAIBARI: Master, please, I am coming. (She then enters, carrying a rope on her head.)
IKEKWEM: Hurry, let's go. (they leave.)
In the House of Oguamalam
(Oguamalam holds a raffia climbing-rope and a knife in his hand. He is whistling. He stops by his sharpening stone and starts to sharpen his knife. When he has finished sharpening his knife, he calls his son, Chibunnanwolu.)
OGUAMALAM: Chibunna! Chibunna! Chibunnanwolu!
CHIBUNNA: Yes, Father! (Chibunna enters.)
OGUAMALAM: Where did you go?
CHIBUNNA: I went to Jamike's.
OGUAMALAM: What did you go to do there so early this morning?
CHIBUNNA: I went to listen to the world news.
OGUAMALAM: Goat of world news! You won't let the day dawn before you go to listen to world news. Every morning world news, every evening world news. One day, if you keep on listening to world news, the world will listen to news about you. Fly of world news! If you finish listening, look for me in the "Main farmland" bush, so you can come and carry palm fruit. I am going to cut palm fruit there. Did you hear what I said?
CHIBUNNA: Yes, father.
OGUAMALAM: I am going. (He goes out. Chibunna then returns to Jamike's house. Jamike is braiding rope.) [This rope is udo, made from bush plant material, less strong than ete, a tree-climbing rope.]
CHIBUNNA: Jamike, quickly, turn on that news radio of yours.
JAMIKE: It's not time yet. There are still a few minutes left before the time comes.
CHIBUNNA: Turn it on. I'm hearing the world news music coming from Madame Mpa's radio.
JAMIKE: Hey! It's in that big bag. Okay, let me turn it on for you, you world news junkie. I don't blame your father for calling you "fly of world news."
CHIBUNNA: No! no! Jamike, that's enough. It has gone past joking. Be careful.
JAMIKE: (He turns it on, then tunes it to find the Owere station.) Please forgive, let me turn it on for you.
REDIO: The time now is exactly ten o'clock. This is Igbo time on Radio I.B.S. [Imo Broadcasting Service], Owere. Listen to the world news. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is Nnamdi Olebara speaking. These are the headlines today, Tuesday, Eke [Eke is a day in the four-day Igbo week]. The head of our country, General Olusegun Obasanjo, has told the American government in no uncertain terms that the time has passed when the Americans can use threats and scare tactics to hinder Africans in their struggle to redeem their fatherland from European slavery. The Military Governor of Imo State, Commander Ndubuisi Kanu, has called on the people of Umuahia to not allow greediness and land-border disputes to get in the way of the various progressive things that the government wants to bring to them. In Italy, the earth opened and swallowed more than 1,900 people. News we received from China tells us that their capital, Peking, has suffered an earthquake that killed two hundred people outright and seriously injured many others. Now, listen to all the news we have in further detail. The head of our country, General Olusegun Obasanjo, has told the American government plainly that the time has passed when America and her friends can use threats and scare tactics to hold Africans back from the war they are fighting in South Africa. General Obasanjo said this when he was welcoming delegates sent by the Angolan government. He also said . . . (A shout comes from afar.) O! O! O!
CHIBUNNA: Jamike, turn off the radio! Turn it off!
JAMIKE: What's the matter?
CHIBUNNA: Turn it off! (Jamike then turns it off immediately.)
JAMIKE: What is it?
CHIBUNNA: Shhhh! Listen!
ULOAKU: (Shouting) Akabo [name of a local community], don't you all be silent! Olololo! o-o-o! Okpuruka and his people have killed Oguamalam-o! Chei! Chei! Ihiem-ei!
JAMIKE: She called the name of your father. I heard Oguamalam.
CHIBUNNA: Jamike, come, let's go. (They then go running to the place where Ikekwem and his two wives are fighting Oguamalam. Oguamalam grasps his arm firmly. His wives then beat him all over his body.)
NWAIBARI: Take your hands off him, thief! Let him go, may Amadioha [god of thunder] strike and kill you!
OGUAMALAM: Rather than let him go, rather than let him go-- chei! I will die!
NWAIBARI: If you don't let him go, you'll die right now. Take your hands off him.
OGUAMALAM: Rather than leave this palm tree to you, let me die for it. I will not leave this palm tree while I live today.
IKEKWEM: Chei! Are you letting up on him? Strike him so that he dies.
OGUAMALAM: Ye-es! You and your wives will kill me today. If Oguamalam does not die today, Amadioha will strike you dead. Shame on you all.
NWAIBARI: Thief! You will die today. (She takes a stick and tries to strike Oguamalam with it, but strikes her co-wife, Obiageli, on the arm.)
OBIAGELI: My arm-o! My arm-o! Eee! Eee! Nwaibari has killed me-o! She has broken my arm-o! Chei! Chei! My arm-o! My arm-o! She has killed me-o!
NWAIBARI: Alas! Obiageli, I'm sorry! Please I'm sorry! I did not hit you on purpose. Please, I'm sorry! I'm sorry!
OBIAGELI: Take your hands off me! You struck me intentionally. No! No! Take your hands off me. (Uloaku then leaves Ikekwem and Oguamalam, and comes to see what is happening.)
ULOAKU: Obiageli, what is it? What is it?
OBIAGELI: E-ii, look at my arm. Nwaibari has broken my arm. I am dying. (Uloaku then shouts out.)
ULOAKU: People of Akabo, hey, you should not ignore this! An abomination has taken place here-oo! Oh, my goodness! (Obiageli falls to the ground, writhing in pain. Oguamalam and Ikekwem still remain where they are struggling over a head of palm fruit. Just then the palm branch and the rope fall and strike Ikekwem's leg. He cries out.)
IKEKWEM: Ow! Ow! Ow! My leg! My leg! My leg-o-o! My leg-o, chei! I am done for! Oguamalam has killed me-o! My God-o! My God-o! I am done for!
OGUAMALAM: Shut up, thief! It is not Oguamalam who killed you. What you have done has killed you. I hold the ofo and ogu [symbols of innocence]. If you do a deed, make sure your hands are clean. You are a thief.
IKEKWEM: (Gets up suddenly and draws his knife.) May death confront you, beast! May dogs lick your mouth! Is this your mother's land or is it your father's? Wait there, let a dog lick up your blood this morning. (He takes his knife and pursues him. They flail around with knife and stick. Immediately, Chibunna and Jamike run in and break out in tears, as Nwaibari is inciting her husband.)
NWAIBARI: Aha! Kill him! Ikekwem, kill him! Go on after him.
JAMIKE: Hey! Hey! Oh, my God! My God! He is killing him! Oh-o-o-o!
NWAIBARI: Ikekwem, kill him! Honestly, if you do not kill Oguamalam today, I will no longer consider you a man. (Jamike shouts. Uloaku also shoutsl Obiageli is crying, while Chibunna quietly follows behind Ikekwem.)
JAMIKE: Hey! Chibunna, keep it up! A-aa! Please, grab him, grab him! Hey! Chibunna quickly! E! E! E! E ha a a! (Quickly Chibunna comes from behind and grabs Ikekwem by the hand he is using to hold the knife. They struggle for the knife and it falls to the ground. Jamike then picks up the knife from the ground and seeks to run.)
IKEKWEM: Chei! Who did this to me? Don't let him get away. (He immediately follows Jamike. Jamike then throws the knife to Chibunna and dashes away. Chibunna gives his father the knife, quickly takes up the head of palm nuts and tries to leave. But Oguamalam does not allow it.)
OGUAMALAM: No! Bring me the palm fruit, and take the knife. (He returns the knife to him and takes the palm fruit.) Don't cut anyone with the knife.
IKEKWEM: Chei! I am dead! You women whose only strength is in eating! Did you allow Oguamalam to take the palm fruit and leave? Chei! Ikekwem! A goat has eaten a palm frond from my head! The leopard has broken his leg and the deer comes to collect his debt. Chase him. Don't allow him to leave. Really, if Oguamalam takes that palm fruit today, you all will run back to your fathers' houses today.
NWAIBARI: (She chases him and shouts.) Thief! Thief! Don't let him escape. Oguamalam, thief! It is someone else's palm fruit! Don't let him escape! (Chibunna steps in front of her.)
CHIBUNNA: Shiii! If you keep on shouting here, I will put this knife in your stomach and chop you like okra now.
NWAIBARI: Thief! I'm here! Okay, go ahead and cut my stomach! Ehee! Look at my stomach, cut it. Cut my stomach and let the death that kills young boys cut your own stomach now. Are you going to run? Can't you see any more to cut my stomach?
CHIBUNNA: Are you raining all these curses on me?
CHIBUNNA: Are you raining these curses on me?
NWAIBARI: Yes! I am raining them on you. What are you going to do?
CHIBUNNA: Very well. Stay there and let me lay my hands on you. (He swings his knife around and approaches her. Nwaibari then runs away.)
NWAIBARI: Run! He has come! Oh! Oh! He has a knife!
CHIBUNNA: (Laughs.) Ha! ha! ha! ha! Fear is life! I think you're not afraid of death. Why do you run for your life? (Obiageli then enters in.)
OBIAGELI: Come on, look at me, kill me. You won't take this palm fruit home today. It's because of this palm fruit that I have an injured arm. Rather than your carrying it away, let both of my arms be injured at once.
CHIBUNNA: Ehe! Do you want to test me, to see what I will do? Okay, come. If you think that Imo [name of river] has dried up, stick your foot in and see.
OBIAGELI: Look at me. I am here. Kill me so you can kill yourself and your father now.
CHIBUNNA: If you are someone who does not die, stand there and let me come. (He strikes his knife on the ground as though he were going to chase her. Obiageli backs up a little. Chibunna laughs.) He! he! he! he! I-am-looking-for-death has seen death and has run. The hawk and the ogankwo [chicken-hawk] looked for a fight and then ran away. The little bird, not yet having sprouted wings, said that he would go. What do you think that you will do?
OBIAGELI: Shut up, thief! The hawk's offspring will not fail to carry off chickens. Let thievery kill both you and your father. And the thievery that killed your mother will kill you too.
CHIBUNNA: Are you raining all these curses on my mother and my father? Eh? God forbid evil. (He raises his knife up high.) Stand there so that the death that kills women may kill you. May Amadioha [god of thunder] also strike you. Stand up so I can cut you to pieces--slice you like okra this morning. (He chases her vigorously.) The vultures will peck at your flesh today.
OBIAGELI: I am dead!
I am dead! Chei! Cheee-o! He has killed me, oh! He has killed me, oh! Alas!
Alas! Alas! (They then run out.)