Writings of the general word's body

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Reads

In Unoma Azuah's short story, Season of Scorch (a finalist in the 2nd Glass Woman Prize), a young girl is forcibly married off into the polygamous household of an elderly man.

Tekula was a seventy-four year old farmer and trader whom Tor had met at a yam market two years go. The harvest had been good. I t was one of the days when Tor came with too many yams to sell. He had hopes that he would sell them all. He did not want to take them back to the barn and watch his year long labor rot. The market was closing for the day and he still had half of the yams he came with. He stood beside his pile of yams, calling out, “Yams! Yams! Sweet yams! Buy good yams!” But few of the men, women and lorry drivers who bought yams in tons stopped to buy from him. He arched his hand over his eyes to shade the sun from his face to see how high the sun was. Then he called out louder, “Buy yams! Big good yams!” A scrawny dog trotted into his stall, with its tongue hanging out. It stopped at one of the wooden poles supporting Tor’s stall, lifted it hind leg and pissed. Tor yelled at it, “Shaiii! Go away!” But the dog eyed him and continued pissing. The swarm of flies perched on the dog’s sour ears buzzed as Tor waved his hands at him, so he left him alone.

The sun bore down like an angry god. Then the old man Tekula walked out of a stall, his gold-rimmed walking stick raising dust as it cut into the hot sand. He puffed out a thick smoke from his charred lips and asked with half closed mouth.

“How much for all? They look good.” He said and picked up a large yam.

“Cheap!” Tor told him, “Take all for 500 naira.”

“No, 250.” Tekula said, removing the pipe from his mouth.“350 last.” Tor said and lifted two yams. “See, they’re fleshy and good, no rotting spots.

Tekula held up one of the yams and smiled. “They are quite fleshy and no rot at all…isn’t this what we all look for in everything…fleshy and good, be it money, children, wives, houses, stocks…just name it.”

Tor’s face spread with a wide grin and he shook his head and said, “You’re very right…very right.” They both laughed. Then Tekula bought up the rest of the yams. Their business relationship matured into a friendship. It was on one of their market days that Tekula mentioned to Tor that he was interested in marrying a fourth wife. Tor immediately recommended his daughter, Doshima. But Doshima was hoping to marry her childhood friend, Hembafan. He was tall like an Iroko tree. Long-faced, very dark and handsome. Her father had turned down Hembafan’s proposal to marry her with the reason that he was not financially secure enough to take care of her. Hembafan left the village in frustration for Zaki Ibiam, a town more than two hundred miles away.

“Papa, he’s old” Doshima said. “Please, let me marry Hembafan.”

“No, I’ll not let Hembafan marry you, he’s only a boy. You need a man, a full blown man, not a baby like Hembafan who is still eating off his mother’s pot,” he said.“Papa, please,” Doshima whined.

“Tekula’s age has nothing to do with him as a man. Do you know your mother’s age when I married her?” Doshima’s mother must have heard them. She tapped a spoon on the edge of her boiling pot of soup and poked hard at the dying embers of fire.

“Look,” her father lowered his voice and spoke softly. “I have invested money in my farm and I cannot afford to pay it back, so if you misbehave, I will thrash you like the child you are,” he scowled and stormed out.

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