I was still stoking the tripod with firewood when mama Sholape called out for my name from the living room. “Sholape!” With utmost alacrity I responded, “yes ma!” I scampered through the veranda from the backyard, making sharp twists and turns like a tremor struck rat trying to escape the wrought of an angry man whose last meal had just been made mess of. The path which I tried seemed to lead a burrowing, dusty, into the bleak of the wind, into the center of the lost waste screened by congested and fretful buildings. I menancingly, teleported myself into the presence of Mama Sholape who was busy detaching the ponny-tailed weavon she had barely worn for two weeks.
I smelled of burnt kolanut wood and parafin, which swallowed the fragrance of the camphur stoked at each corner of the rooms. I pathologically sniffed in to restrain cataarh from dropping from my nostrils. My eyes were welled-up with unintended tears as my forehead buldged out of my face with sweat covering it completely. The windows were opened and the silk windowblind wasn’t there anymore. Mama Sholape had stripped the window naked and two patriges perched on the widowgape, chirping and trotting from spot to spot.
Mama Sholape sprawled on the floor and her back was braced by the three sofa sitter.
“What have you been doing since?” She thundered.
“I have been preparing the yam you instructed me to prepare”, I replied fidgeting.
She looked at me and gave a very strange smile. This smile could only mean two things: either you insulted her and she is thinking of the perfect way to deal with you or you have done something that really surprised her. I have never being so lucky to be in the good book of mama Sholape for a whole day without being struck. No matter how hard I tried, my efforts had always headed for the rock.
“Thank your star for helping you to carefully select your choice of words. You would have been beckoning on the keke maruwa to take you straight to your grave.” She resigned her anger to her work, although, the atmosphere was still surreal.
She continued “The windows gape is without its curtain. I have soaked everything in the wash-basin in the bathroom. Quickly round off your cooking and get them washed as soon as possible.”
“But mom, the firewood is not burning fast. It is wet and it creates smoke everywhere”, I petitioned.
She looked at me in sympathy and I felt relieved.
“Sorry Sholape”, she muttered and continued.
“You can cut either both my hands or legs to stoke up the adogan.”
I knew I had gone overboard and I quickly tendered an apology and retracted my plea while I receded.
Without wasting time, I quickly dashed down to the backyard where I was cooking. Before I got to the backyard, the fire was fugaciously out. I tried to intensify the heat by stoking the tripod with more firewood with some broken plastic. The base of the pot was charcoal black as the soot produced by the fire transcended half part of the pot creating a blend of browny gold at a point, then fadinging into silver, the original colour of the pot.
We seldom use adogan as it was considered last resort whenever Mama Sholape did not have cash on her. She would only come to the kitchen when the food is almost ready to examine the quantity of seasoning, salt and spice applied. Her taste bud was efficient enough to interpret the exact quantity of anything applied.
It was always Mama Sholape that would prepare the food for me when I was five. The experience of eating a plate of food prepared by Mama Sholape was about five years ago when I turned nine. Before then, she had been calling me to help with little things while all her focus was on the food. I was asked to bring salt, peel off the wrapper of the Maggi Star as it was her favorite seasoning. At seven I started chopping ewedu, tete, soko, ugwu, ‘gure and other vegetables like carrot, which was always chopped simultaneously with lettuce, cabbage and cucumbers whenever Mama Sholape was to make her kind of salad. Asking me to chop onions was a punishment whenever I misbehaved. It was always onerous as tears would well up my eyes effortlessly.
At nine, I started boiling rice, beans, yam, water for eba and other swallows. I was taught how to make simple stew to compliment any of the meal I prepared. The major exemption was that I was never allowed to make any soup not until I turned ten. I constantly made noodles for Adebimpe whenever it was just the two of us at home. We were forbidden from eating outside, so we were never given extra money even for confectioneries. Collecting edibles from a stranger was a delibrate suicidal.
Some years ago, a man visited us on a Saturday morning. The day was still much young when he started knocking as if we were about to be alarmed against a fire outbreak. Tremor paced through my marrow but Mama Sholape in her usual self, went to the door to enquire who it was.
As she heard the voice of the person at the other end, she asked me to take Adebimpe into the room while she opened the door to allow the man in.
We we’re occupying a room and palour self contained. The ten by twelve palour was perpendicular to the passage that demancated the kitchen from both the rooms and convenience that were on the same column. The man was already in while we were about to disappear into the dark lungs of the passage. The man, a dark skinned and a tall figure of a yoruba traditional chief with beeds on both hands and neck, also on his head was a semispherical white cap. He was putting on a golden yellow ginni brocade. The tailor had diligently made designs around the wrist and chest of the clothes to make it look adorable even without jewelries. We were close to parting the entrance curtain when the man rattled at Mama Sholape.
“Jumoke! are these not your children?”
Silence swallowed the cadour of the entire house as the man’s tone was reproachfully acusing. A sulty quititude had swollen like an over inflated balloon not until Adebimpe whimpered and suddenly burst in to a very loud cry, which broke the silence. Her high pitched voice created a diminished triad that slured into an augumented triad with the distant sound of elepa-ijebu’s ahuja speaker and the loud blazing music of Baba Soliu who was playing Sunny Ade’s Merciful God from his long obsolete but efficient enough sound amplifier for public patronage.
Without uttering a word, Mama Sholape paced towards me and tossed me into the room while hijacking Adebimpe from me. She was only cladded with a mustard colour towel streen around her chest, overlapping through some inches above her knees. Her fingers fluttered around the curtain unveiling the room, which was typical of a teenager’s room. Clothes were flung here and there. Underwears were dangling on the burglary proof. The room was bright enough as the windowblind was knotted creating an upside down isosceles triangle.
She inclined the child to the floor bending in front of her to assure her that everything was going to be alright. Several pats on the back were rained upon the four years old girl and the little ‘Bimpe resigned her effort and rather hopped towards the matrass and folded herself in the bedspread.
Mama Sholape looked at me maliciously and snapped her fingers at me while she headed towards the door.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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