(Early morning of Eke day. Ikekwem sits on his bamboo chair, smoking. Ukadike comes in.) 

UKADIKE: Father, good morning. 

IKEKWEM: Good morning, my son. 

UKADIKE: I thought I should remind you that I will go back to our school today. If I do not return in time, the headmaster of our school will send me back. 

IKEKWEM: What you want to say, is it that you will not be there today, the big day when I swear the oath of the land for you all? All right. It is for your sake that I am fighting for this land. But while I am dancing a different thing, what I tie on the waist is something different. Just go on. 

UKADIKE: What about the money I will need to go back with? 

IKEKWEM: Beast, come and get the money where you put it. I have no money. On the day I finish fighting for the land for you, I will collect money for you to go to Europe. Read yourself to death in school. Get out of my presence, idiot, quickly, before I beat the hell out of you. (He picks up a switch that is near the door. Ukadike dodges back. He then breaks the switch over the chair.) 

UKADIKE: Father, do you really want to hit me with this switch? E-ei! I have something else I want to tell you before you kill me. I had a dream last night. Listen so I can tell it to you. I was in the dream, you and I, Amadi, my mother, and Obiageli then went to clear the "Main farmland" bush. As soon as we started to clear it, a python with a flaming mouth jumped out of the bush. It then stretched its tongue to spit the fire on you. I saw it and shouted an alarm. Before I shouted, it already had used all of its length to wrap around you and my mother and Obiageli. The fire from its tongue was burning you. Obiageli was crying. Amadi and I then ran away. As soon as we ran into our house here, I woke up. My heart was pounding fast. Fear prevented me from sleeping again. Not long after . . . . 

IKEKWEM: No! No! That's enough. I don't want any more of your long story. 

UKADIKE: I only want to beg you not to swear this oath. It is clear to me that God does not want you to swear this oath. What good will this land do you if you die because of it? 

IKEKWEM: Leave my presence immediately. Who told you to come and ruin my prospects this morning? Dream yourself to death in dreams!! Have you ever seen God? Great educated person! Leave my presence immediately. (He fetches a knife. Ukadike then runs away.) 

(In front of the "Main farmland" bush. The Ayaka-owu masquerade is dancing. His leader is following him. Dancers with gongs and flutes follow him. They hold two chickens. He dances around briefly, then runs into the bush. When he comes out again, he holds some medicine that is fastened up and giving off smoke. He strikes it on the ground. His leader then strikes one chicken on his chest and all over his body, calling him various great praise names. He starts to dance again, then runs into the bush again. On his return, he carries another small pot giving off smoke. He dances with it for a little while, then a drum sounds loudly. He breaks it on the ground. His leader then takes the other chicken and strikes it on his chest and body, as he did the first time. He then starts a dance, in addition to the one he did before. They all then go out dncing. During these dances, a commotion is heard coming from the village. His leader keeps on calling him various praise names.) 

LEADER: Catch, catch on fire! The fire is burning the desert! It holds a strong man to the ground, as a woman is held! [This refers to the helplessness of women.] Dry-meat-that-fills-the-mouth! Strength-that-does-not-experience-death! [These are praise-names for the masquerade.] Dance of spirits and humans! Che! che! chee i! Strong as a leopard! Iya! Valley of the bad bush! Do not fear! Keep on going! Forcefully, forcefully! Powerful-as-a-ram! Go! Go! Ayaka-owu! Ayaka! Ayaka-owu! Get out of the way. Ayaka is coming. (They then go out.) 

(In Ikekwem's house. He is sitting on his bamboo chair. Food is placed in front of him. He gropes around in his bag and brings out meat. He takes a knife and cuts it into small pieces and throws it into his soup, then takes his finger and stirs it around in the soup. As soon as he fishes out the first lump and swallows it, a coucal [large bird of the cuckoo family] cries out three times.) 

OBU: Du-du-du-du-du-du tuwi-tuhuu! Du-du-du-du-du-du tuwi-tuhuu! (Ikekwem is silent. He holds a lump of food in his hand and listens. The coucal then cries a third time.) Du-du-du-du-du-du tuwi-tuhuu! Du-du-du-du-du-du tuwi-tuhuu! 

IKEKWEM: God forbid bad things! What caused this coucal to cry out to me at my left this morning? What is the meaning of this? (He gets up and starts to listen by the door to find out where the bird's cry is coming from. But it does not cry again at all.) This bird cry is a bad thing. I have not heard that a coucal crying in the morning like this would turn out well. Especially this one that cries out to me at my left. This oath I want to swear this morning is causing me some doubts. This dream that Ukadike told me about this morning does not allow my heart to take a breath. Now see the cry of this coucal. (He gets up and walks around in his house, saying these things. He still holds the lump of food in his hand.) What I am thinking now is whether I should give up this oath or should I swear it and face death? A strong man does not do a shameful thing. I have reached a place where going back would be something very shameful. It is obvious to me that Ikekwem will become a laughing-stock before goats and chickens in this land. If I withdraw and fail to swear this oath, will I be able to go outside again? God forbid! I will swear it. Isn't this how Ikekwem is? I will swear this oath, whether for good or bad. Rather than a strong man take insults, let him die an untimely death. I will swear it. What will happen tomorrow, let it happen today. (He calls Nwaibari and Obiageli.) Nwaibari! Nwaibari! Obiageli! 

NWAIBARI: Our husband! (Nwaibari enters.) Our husband, are you calling me? 

IKEKWEM: Do I have water in my mouth when I call you? 

NWAIBARI: Please, forgive. I guess I didn't hear correctly. 

IKEKWEM: What about Obiageli? 

OBIAGELI: (Enters.) Our husband, I am here. 

IKEKWEM: Do I understand that you are completely prepared to swear this oath? 

BOTH: Yes! 

IKEKWEM: It is time for us to go. Everyone of you must go, including your children. We all will join in swearing this oath today. 

OBIAGELI: Our husband, Ukadike insists that he will not join in swearing it. He has convinced Amadi, so he will not join us. 

IKEKWEM: Leave me and leave Ukadike. I will show him that the tallest tree sees the road better. When we finish running, we count the miles. Quickly, let's start immediately. 

NWAIBARI: Obiageli, quickly, let's go. (They go out. Ikekwem throws out the lump of food he holds, then washes his hands.) 

IKEKWEM: This food, wait until I return from this trip. If you don't have the patience to wait, go sour when I have returned. It is important that I follow them immediately. (He goes out.)


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