That day, the morning was misty and the air mixed with the smell of wet sand and scents that came from breeze running through the leaves of big trees. Ajulu the town crier passed again repeating the announcements that elicited responses like- “finally, chukwu aluka, chukwu daaluand other responses that could be heard in the scene of a ghastly auto crash where no one died. The announcement tore the veil of the early morning serenity that enabled the birds to perform serenading concerts.
Death is a healer; when a man or woman who lived their lives as brute slave masters and oppressors are arrested by death, their subtraction cum removal from the affairs of this world heals the tormented souls of their slaves. It places smiles on their age long unsmiling faces. Tears dribble down the cheeks of the slaves. Now, those are tears of joy.
The death of Ezekwelu in the village was a balm to souls that were wounded by his callousness. His death was a full stop to the conventional ‘every weekend-burial’ in the village. Ezekwelu; that lanky man with sprinkles of coiled hair strands on his forever-oily-scalp. He smelled of a cross pollination of several cheap alcoholic spirits popularly known as ‘abuo-five’. He was always clad in near-rags and white bathroom slippers which turned brown as a result of his vagabondism. He was known for his incessant vagabonding. His slippers knew the route to everywhere in the village. Always on his neck was a swaying rope which had a cow hoof as its pendant. They said that was where his power rested. They also said he was responsible for all the sudden deaths in the village. We villagers are the ‘they’.
They said many things. They also said he killed the igwe’s personal trumpeter. I think this one is true because I was there. Anayo was his name. That vertically challenged sanguine natured man that didn’t have a comma in his verbal bank. He could talk for one hour without inserting a comma. He was hot tongued. A pot belly, knocked knee plus an elephantine gait were all his. These things were used against him anytime he engaged in a verbal attack or a mudslinging session with his peers.
That evening, he was entertaining a mixed audience that cut across infants, children, adults and even old men with his trumpeting. His audience cuts across social class. The sky was near-purple and a generous breeze graced his performance that evening. Immediately the sound escaped the cylindrical-tube, the breeze carried the sound right into our tympanic membranes. The symphonies were ear-healing. The performance made knees jerk, made palms to slap against palms, made foots stump, made heads nod .
While we clapped and hailed Anayo, Ezekwelu walked into the circle and told Anayo that he was disturbing his peace. Ezekwelu said with his right index finger stuck out “kwusi ifea in’eme nwokem! Akpasunam iwe kita!” He told him to stop or he would end up like Phillip. Oh Uncle Philip! Father said that Philip was his mothers’ sisters’ uncles son. So, he was my distant uncle. He was the village treasurer who always wrote Ezekwelus name down each time he came late to the meetings. Ezekwelu would refuse paying the fine attached to being late in meetings. So, Philip threatened to remove his name from the umunna entirely. As he said it, Ezekwelu removed his legs from his slippers and stood on the ground with his bare foot and bent down, picked sand with his thumb and index fingers and told Philip that his end has come. The rest is history. Philip died on his way home.
Anayo on the other hand was too drowned in the ocean of the sweet melodies he blew. So, it was obvious Ezekwelu was throwing feathers to the wind. Ezekwelu removed his slippers in front of Philip and left hesitantly.
Soon, that vigorous sound that serenaded us began to wane; the musicality of the trumpet sound took flight. His grip on the trumpet loosened. Next, the trumpet fell of his hand and he staggered around Ezekwelu’s slippers and fell hysterically like a plantain tree that was hewed down from the stem. Fear arrested all of us, that circle widened as everyone ran towards the road directly behind him. It became a wider circle.
Ezekwelu was also responsible for the obesity of people’s legs. They said he places this one on the floor. Whoever steps on it begins to add weight only on his leg. Because of Ezekwelu, folks who sold shoes fell from their high pedestal of wealth to poverty. Shoe line was shut down because they couldn’t pay for their rents. Doctors call it elephantiasis. The leg looks like the bark of a stem, as time goes on, that fat leg turns to a pore vault. Pores escape through the scales and disgusting cracks. A sticky yellow liquid emerges from the crack. It stinks, your nostrils go numb, those hairs inside your nostrils cannot filter the stench. The patients inhale this foul smell each time they breathe in. They become subjected to frequent farting. They do not tighten the muscle of their anal opening anymore. They let go of the fart and inhale it again for it to be farted sometime in the closest future. This disease he gifted to countless people.
He is dead.
Tomorrow is his burial.
He wasn’t seen for days.
Elders went to his house.
They met a gory scene.
Ezekwelu was lying carelessly on the floor like a wrapper flung on a bed. His eyes had already been eaten up by insects, giant ants crawled in and out of his nostrils, and his ears have been half-eaten by what they wouldn’t know.
Tomorrow is his burial.
Today is tomorrow.
The day we wished would come.
It is a celebration.
The doom peddler is gone, a wrapper was spread on the bare floor, he was rolled into the wrapper, and he and the wrapper were rolled into a bench that stood in the stead of a stretcher.
The conventional depth of a grave is 6ft. That of Ezekwelu was thirteen plus feet. If the villagers could dig deeper, they would have, if they knew the location of hell, they would have way billed his corpse to hell. He was a thorn in our flesh.
He was water in our veins.
He was the devil we knew.
Ezekwelu was plunged into the grave. Concrete was poured on top of his corpse. The concrete-pouring was a prequel to the laying of huge stems proportionately on the concrete. That was not enough; gravel was emptied on those stems. Finally, sand was poured on the gravel. Ezekwelu was sent forth. His burial was a send forth party. We didn’t bid him goodbye. Nobody cried.
We ate, we danced, and we drank. We ate more, danced some more and drank a little more.
When he murdered people, we were hurt.
When he died, we were happy.
When he was buried, we were liberated.
His death was craved.
His burial was a celebration.
Yes, a celebration of death.
Osuchukwu, Mark Anthony is a madman who parades himself as a writer. (Ironically speaking) He is a student of life and an abstract thinker. He writes short stories and essays. His biggest influence is Chimamanda Adichie.
Image from ©Artist Carol Brown.