The International Writers
A Bigger Life
of Passing Warmth
if the body grows to length overnight, I roused myself from sleep
one auspicious morn and discovered a startling old image of self
before the mirror. Have I slept all my life? The beards and complementary
moustache have reached full maturity. The number of scars and
fresh pimples that tattooed me all over might be a clue to the
number of years Ive spent on this rollercoaster of an earth.
smile I always had was no more, being replaced by this smile of pride;
someone had described it as mischievous. What had happened to my teeth
that always plucked out at every opportunity, with new ones sprouting?
They were now large, carious and yet, they didnt pluck out themselves
anymore. Ive been required to visit the white collar extractionists,
who made use of their versions of swords, shears and shovel to dig out
my teeth from its earth of gum. It replaced the babyish pleasure of fallen
teeth with the pains of excavation.
I beheld myself with the awe of a stranger, stumbled on by fierce-looking
extramanic men; but I thought I had amnesia at that moment. I remembered
next to nothing in relation with my past, but an extra effort activated
my antennae and was able to have a glimpse at retrospection. In a surreal
state, I heard the voice of dead grandfather when he gave his counsel,
"Age is no thing, but what stuffs your small brain. The important
thing is the wisdom you acquire through the passing years to cope with
the years ahead of you." He would also add, "Your name makes
a lot of difference. Preserve it like a treasur
had passed on with those words unfinished, hanging on his lifeless lips,
amidst tears and cheers.
And there, he lay supine, dead to self and the world around him with his
body crevices stuffed with white wool. Just this once, he actually resembled
the Santa Claus he always described to us while he yarned. It had been
pinned and spread in the air that he had died, and there were counter-reports
that he was killed. The difference between dying and being killed, no
matter how subtle, is major as a consideration in my part of the world.
To me, however, it was inconsequential; grandfather was dead!
So I had thought when I was really a kid, happy with the mound stains
of clay and laterite; and played about the couple with lady
friends, the biro wrestling, the elbow twist,
hide and seek and a host of other games very much unknown
to a colleague of mine, who never had an adventurous childhood. That was
then, when I had no beards and complimentary moustache; no scars and no
pimples; and when I laughed in anticipation of a tooth to be plucked and
mocked self over the gaps created by a tooth that jumped out of
Now I know better, neither was grandfather dead nor was he killed. He
only underwent a transmogrification, beyond his will and control. He gave
up to the mill of passing warmth, as mild as it might have been. He was,
ebullient though, strong and warrior-like in literary injections, which
strived to pitch the revamping of the identity of his people. He was up
for the propagation of societal ideals, which helped in building the home;
even though this brought disparity between him and colleagues. It was
only at such a thought that an autopsy was demanded to be conducted on
him to determine if, according to hearsay, he had been killed by his dissenting
colleagues with a poison. However, and in confirmation of my assurance,
the stethoscope-carrying bespectacled family doctor brought his report,
announcing that grandfather never died of poisoning. Grandfather had always
boasted of being above the death of known causes; he would rather sleep
and pass on with no knowledge of it. He proved that severally to me in
escapades that baffled me. Once, he had attempted slicing himself at the
tummy with a freshly sharpened home knife, but this only came down as
the play with plastic ruler. It never cut a bit! At other times, he would
introduce a quantitative portion of labeled poison into his food; and
as it was usual, it would only turn out as another spice in the food.
There were others he subjected himself to that ordinarily would take the
life of man, but not an extramanic man, as he would brag, like me.
I had wondered, always wondered what made him strong and invincible. Was
he sinless; as some would believe sinners are the only ones prone to death,
but you are above death if you are above sin? Or maybe he was Akanda!
That is the special creature that is beyond the limitations of mortality.
Was he created with special features? I doubted that since he had the
same, or even more primitive, appearance than most of us.
The saving consolation was that grandfather was an old man, dying when
he was well over three-and-a-half scores. Such was thought to have completed
their assignments on the planet; and grandfather was not an exception!
However one thing stood out, he was agile until death and as healthy as
youth. He was physically present and did a number of rigorous exercises.
He was so strong as to still be given to weightlifting and football tapping.
He had had a good innings. There were many questions begging answers pertaining
to his life and death; but such rarely got resolved. It remained a mystery
to our probing knowledge and the doctors scalpel. Grandfather died,
but no one was able to tell of what; yet, it was certain not of old age,
since the youngest of his dead ancestors died at 85.
In the neighbourhood where grandfather had lived and died, it had become
customary to burn their wastes and use up all waters available. No rubbish
was left to decay for the scavengers to pick, but a duty of all to burn;
and no water was abandoned to stagnate. All waters were utilized; even
the clogging waters were diverted to farm use and to wet the roads. Everyone
had lived long and well until things changed and negligence set in. Everyone
locked him/herself in the cosy rooms of large compartmentalized buildings
and churned out bags upon bags of wastes, domestic and otherwise, that
never got burnt. They littered no ones house and no one had the
streets, such that no one became everyone. The greedy gutters gulped up
the waters and never gave them up, harbouring the seeds of flying ants
that sting. Even when the waters leak, they do onto the roads and gorge
the potholes, forming the crèche for nursing mothers of sucking
ants. It was only then that contemporaries began to die; the
warriors who went to war and returned unhurt; men, who adorned themselves
with muscles and terrifying figures; those who picked up the coats of
the bull to challenge the obstinacy of the wall and fire. They began to
fall, giving no sign and sound, to the clasping cold hands of death, incognito.
Without pain, without tears, but with the opportunity of a parting word,
they gave up and sneaked through the dark tunnel, a chasm of soul departure.
Their muscles failed them; and confidence, built over the years, deserted
them at the crucial time. The bull in them was silent and they were sure
to surrender this time to a tiny proboscis, smaller in size but greater
in clout than the piercing bullets at the warfront. They all gave up,
those who never gave up to war even that of attrition, to this mill of
passing warmth. They were there and grandfather was there too!
Malaria swept the country and took them all along with it. The most powerful
members of our town, even the extramanic man became subject. It ravished
the entire landscape and the cities were becoming deserts, for want of
men. It lurks around, in the gutters, on the roads, in bins, at yards
and now everywhere with its snouts, seeking the pure and poisoned bloods
to mix and drag kids, their parents and the childless along with it, to
a place where muscles and special creation matters very much less.
As I do not believe yet that I have stretched my bones beyond childish
comfort and age has added to my doubts, manifested in the beards and moustache
that plague my smiley face, I have come to pose questions, questions and
questions about this passing warmth that leaves but cold and turgid body,
supine with stuffs of wool. Lifeless bodies of warriors and heroes! What,
Malaria; what have you done to crash brothers against brothers and tout
those trailers of yours after them; until they are, and we are, beaten
down perplexed beyond a wake.
© Lakunle Jaiyesimi
lifestories in Dreamscapes
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