ODILI MY FIRST (SERIES 4) – A Serpent Bite
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‘Ukwu m oo..! Okpa m oo…!!’
Ikenna and I listened intently to ascertain the direction of the painful screams. It was difficult to make out the human form as it was still early. The croaking call from the rooster was a clear sign that it was still dawn.
Three figures approached our compound. It was so still early to entertain visitors I thought aloud. I squinted my eyes as they approached and saw Udoka being carried by the other two persons. My heart skipped a bit.
Ikenna and I rushed immediately to them on recognizing Udoka’s painful cries. My two older brothers, Chikelu and Ozioma who went to the stream with Udoka followed suit with empty buckets; despair written over their faces. Ikenna and I bothered not to take into cognizance the faces that carried Udoka as he writhed in pain.
‘Udo, o gini?’, we both asked simultaneously. Kneeling beside him as the young lads put him down carefully, fanning him with their head pads-aju.
Papa outran Mama as they both rushed out of the house. The wrapper Papa tied on his waist shifted as Mama followed with the ‘mpana aka’. Thankfully, the sun had not risen to expose Papa’s bare thigh. Papa stopped, adjusted his wrapper, and blew out some chaff from his chewing stick.
‘Udoka, o gini?’, Mama asked kneeling beside Udoka, almost knocking me off balance. The hint of fear clearly in her voice as she touched Udoka’s face tenderly. Udoka could barely speak. He had grown weak from screams and he was already running temperature.
ODILI MY FIRST (SERIES #4) – A Serpent Bite
‘He was bitten by a snake, one of the two boys that carried him answered.
‘Chi m egbuo m o!’, Mama shrieked. She lifted herself from her sitting position close to Udoka and rolled herself on the ground. I never knew Mama could be so dramatic. I sat down where she was and supported Udoka’s head on my lap. On seeing Udoka, Papa ran inside the house, got a piece of cloth, tied it around the area the snake had bitten Udoka, and made a sharp cut around the bite. Thick darkened blood gushed out of the wound. My brothers and I gasped in pain.
‘Nnee, stand up’, Papa told me noticing I could withstand the scene. Ikenna held us; Ozioma, Chikelu, and I as we watched our brother battle pain.
Mama Ifeanacho, our neighbor came to our rescue with ‘gbogbonise’, bitter kola, and black stone. She was one woman that kept such things handy. She was always the go-to person when someone is either stung a bee, a scorpion, or even bitten by a snake. When her daughter, Ngozi was stung by a scorpion, she effectively handled the situation without much fuss.
Expertly, she placed the black stone on the wound, cut onions, and asked Udoka to chew. She dipped her into the jar containing the ‘gbogbonise- a black substance believed to be anti-venom and fed Udoka with it. She peeled the bitter kola and asked Udoka to chew them also.
It was 6 am and ‘ndi uka Fada’ attending the 6 o’clock Mass were already trooping in our compound. It’s a norm in Aku village that the pain felt by one is felt by all. One could think people were coming for condolence visits in our compound. Udoka lay down on a mat at the veranda while Mama fanned him.
‘Nobody knows when that nwachiobubo strikes’. That was Mama Lota describing the snake as nwachiobubo – a destroyer or a Serpent. ‘The day I was bitten by this idiot, I rolled the compound with my head. My leg doubled its size. Tufiakwa!’, she said making a gesture with her shoulder lifted and making sound with her fingers.
Mama Lota was one of the staunch Roman Catholics in Aku. With her glasses adjusted here and then as she spoke, I kept on wondering why she could not buy the one that fits her face. She kept on pushing the pair of glasses to the brim of her nose, peering her eyes from the glasses too as she spoke.
She joined the church choir because of the shrill of her voice. Whenever one passes Mama Lota on the road, you would always hear her chanting, ‘d s d’. The children in Aku named her ‘Mama d r m s’.
‘I have to get going. A na m ekwe ukwe na uno uka’, she announced. The crowd in our house started thinning. It was quite sad that the Sunday service we have woken up early to prepare for had ended in a fiasco.
Moving to the kitchen to remove the morning ashes, my gaze went to Udoka’s direction where he lay on Mama’s lap on the mat with his eyes closed. When he had taunted me earlier in the morning, I had wished I could deal with him terribly.
Seeing him lying down helplessly, I fought back tears. My thoughts were filled with so many what if’s…
What if I never got to see my brother again? What if the people coming to our house had come for a real condolence visit? What if Udoka never returned to tell his story? I shuddered at the thought.
ODILI MY FIRST (SERIES 4) – A Serpent Bite
To be Continued…