The notion of babies from the sky was drummed into us by the mothers, to explain how we came about. I had long concluded that this could not be true. No babies had arrived since the men of the gorge went to the never-ending war in the place below. Still, I had the fanciful idea that morning and I was determined to hold on to it.
But Amugbo had heard me. He sauntered down the steps of his stilt-house, movements unsteady. I did not remember a time when he did not walk like this.
'Foolish children,' he slurred. 'Women get babies from men, not birds.' He ignored our collective intake of breath, scratching his head. I wondered if his hair had ever met a comb. A nest woven by an inattentive bird, the hair was knotted, and bits of leaves peeked from the locks. 'Well, you can't be expected to know any better, living as you do in this unnatural environment.
''Unnatural? Babies from men?' Simisola, indignant, scrambled onto her feet. 'Let me go and ask my mother.'
'And what have I said to you all about hanging around my place? Go and disturb your mothers. Leave me alone.' Amugbo hit the air with a kick thrown in our direction, falling on his backside. We knew he meant none of it. We put up with his interruptions in our play because his was the one place we could converge without being driven elsewhere. He tolerated us and we tolerated him.
And for me, Amugbo's place was a refuge, somewhere I could play with my friends, away from the creeping spectre of death at home.
- Read Smoking Bamboo...