The Midwife: by Ridwan Tijani

Photo credit: @ozshaw via Instagram

I hope so,” the first gardener said.

The sun was beating down on him but he was quite used to it. He was swinging a machete effortlessly, crushing weeds and short stumps of trees, as the insects on the stems and leaves jumped onto another.

“Right? You say we might have independence? Isn’t that what some people said when the British first came? I hope so, I really hope so.”

“Uh-uh-” The second gardener said. “Let’s do our job here, should we cut that large tree first or clear this small amount of grass? And then we should not forget the Elephant grass in the backyard.” The second gardener added, he was new to the job but he had always looked up to the first man.

“I think we should cut the tree first you know, let’s take the big obstacle out of the picture, then trim the big garden, you forgot that, yes you did…then cut the grass.”

The compound housed a government house, painted yellow. The interior was painted green but the men under the sun didn’t know that of course, they had never been inside. When a liaison comes in from Britain, he gets a house in the government residential suburb, minded and essentially guarded by men securing foreigners against their own people.

The political climate was also elitist. Men like the gardeners did not care for politics. They lived to survive.

“How’s your wife?” The second gardener asked the first. He was smiling in that way that indicated he already knew about the wife.

“She’s fine, you know how women are in that condition, always stubborn and hungry, just yesterday she finished a huge bowl of Garri meant for both of us… I had to prepare another bowl for myself but she still ate out of the new bowl too.”

The men laughed.

“Have you decided on a place?” The second gardener said, solemn. The sweat on his face glistened deep in circles around the tribal marks on his cheek.

“No not yet, there is no money yet and she’s close, it troubles me.”

“I know a place.”

“What place? You’ve known this and you’ve not told me?” The first gardener was smiling.

“I’ve just been thinking about it, you might not like it… it’s the Oluomo Oluweri, they’re midwives.”

The smile vanished off the first gardener’s face. “But… they’re ritualists, idol worshippers!”

The second gardener laughed. “They are not, it’s just their culture, look… this is the best idea you can use, the women do it for free. You’ve started to sound like the British yourself ehn? In the days before them? How did we deliver our babies? There were no expensive clinics then you know?”

“You’re right about that and if it’s free… that’s a good thing but it’s just that I have promised the Lord that me and my family will serve him just like Joshua or is it Daniel?”

“And so? It’s just birth, nothing can happen.”

A snake appeared from under the Elephant grass. It slithered towards the men. The second gardener stepped on the tail and quickly grabbed the head. He pointed it at the first gardener who flinched. “Do you know that people use the head of snakes to cure diseases? It works.”

“But the blood of Jesus Christ is stronger.” the first gardener muttered to himself.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing, I said when are we going to cut this tree?”

“Oh we can cut it now, I’ll extract the venom from this snake later, and it’s really a great cure for things, I tell you.”

“Yes, yes I hear you.”

When they walked up to the semi-huge tree, the second gardener began to whisper to it. He patted it.

“What are you doing now?” The first gardener asked.

“I’m pacifying it? It’s these kind of trees, Udala trees…that spirits live in.”

“The blood of Jesus Christ is stronger” the first man muttered to himself again before saying: “There are no such things as spirits in trees.”

“How can you know that?” The second man said.

“Because I’ve been doing this job for so long and I’ve not seen anything like that.”

“Well my cousin said it happened, that bees came out of a tree and it attacked a man…and that after seven days, the man died.”

“Ok, but I don’t believe it.”

Both the men went to separate sides of the tree and began to chip at it with their axes. As they worked, both were lost in their respective thoughts. The first gardener was thinking of his wife and if he should take her to the midwives that the second gardener had recommended. Doesn’t that go against the Ten Commandments? He wondered. The second gardener, was thinking about a girl and if he was going to see her again at the market under the bridge. He had seen her three times in a row, it must be destiny, he thought.

They finished cutting the tree after an hour and by the time the tree had hit the red earth and the squirrels had scurried away, the men had decided things in their thoughts. The first gardener had decided to take his wife to the midwives and the second had memorized the little show he was going to put on for the girl at the market.

They went up to the balcony of the big house and the second man knocked. He knocked twice. A white woman opened the door, she smiled at them. They liked her and the feeling was mutual, she was too kind. Even her husband they tolerated but the brother was another case. They had considered asking her how she had a brother that was utterly useless and wicked. She gave them fruits and biscuits wrapped in red paper. They thanked her and proceeded to the big gate. The gateman was fast asleep but he jumped when he heard their voices (The men were singing now) the gateman had thought it was his masters. He waved at the men.

The gardeners walked a long while before the first spoke. His voice was low, it was almost a whisper.

“What’s the address of the midwives place?”

“Oh you’re going to take her there? I thought you didn’t like it,” The second man laughed.

“I’m not joking, I’m serious now,” the first man replied with a straight face.

“Ok ok, it’s…hold on, how can I describe it…do you know the dam?”

“Palaver dam?”

“Yes, it’s after the dam, the fourth house after the dam, you can’t miss it, it’s colourful.”

“Ok, thank you, thank you my friend.”

“What are friends for? Ehn? I’m happy that I can help.”

The men came to a crossroad exactly five miles away from the government house. The first man took the right. He wanted to go to Palaver dam before dark and the second man took the left, he was heading to the market. As they passed the crossroad, they ceased to be nameless. The beginning of the crossroad signified the end of the day’s work and the end of the government house which only recognized workers and not their names. Wole was going to Palaver dam and Ogunde was going to the market.

***

The Palaver dam was built in 1930. Massively structured, the arches and the big chunk of concrete walls around it which intertwined with the rocks particularly fascinated Wole. Everybody knew where the river flowed from and they also remembered what happened when a part of the dam was badly opened. Sixty villages were flooded, the crops of all those farmers! Just thinking about it made Wole’s stomach turn. It was beautiful he conceded, but it came at a price. He had heard that the British allocated a big sum to the villages but then another bird told him that the village heads and corrupt contractors took the lion shares. Wole found himself fearing for the safety of the people that lived in houses close to the dam. What if the structure crashed? What did Ogunde say again? Fourth house after the dam, yes fourth house. As he walked he began to think about the place he was headed and about his wife, she was really close. There was no going back, he had no choice. It’s just a birth after all. He counted the houses mentally as he went by. One. Two. Three…

The house was shabby, small and the roof was made of corrugated iron which was painted white. All white, down to the doorknob. He paused for a while before he knocked. It was out of fear, because even though Wole liked to vehemently tell himself that things and places like this can’t hurt him, he was still very afraid. He knocked on door and a tall woman opened it, she smiled. It was a very nice smile. Well she doesn’t obviously look like a witch, Wole thought. She seemed surprised to see him.

“Come in,” she said. “And take off your shoes.”

Wole took off his worn out boots. He stepped into the room. He felt his feet sink. The white rug was soft. He wondered how they managed to make the rug still look very white and pristine, then he saw the brush and bucket next to the wall. That must be a lot of work.

“Sit down,” she said.

He sat down on the rug with his ankles crossed over each other.

“I know why you are here,” the woman said

Wole’s heart skipped a beat. How could she know? How?

“How do you know that?” He asked.

The woman laughed. It was sonorous and it sounded like it bounced off the walls and echoed. Wole fidgeted with his hands like a schoolboy caught stealing a chocolate cake.

“Well people come here to ask us to help deliver their babies, so…unless you came here for another reason?”

“No no that is why I came.”

“Your wife?”

“Yes.”

“How close is she?”

“I really don’t know…but the pharmacists I have gone to say she’s supposed to deliver next month which begins the day after tomorrow.”

“Oh, doctors and their whiteman’s medicine.”

“The man is not a doctor he’s a pharmacist.”

“They’re all the same,” the woman said in a very matter of fact way.

“Where is she?” She said again, crossing her legs.

There was a white pot in the corner of the room and smoke rose to the air out of it. The room itself was not very big but it contained different things. A sculpture of a man eating an egg. A huge bucket of clear water. White beads, Cowrie shells and a huge mirror. He could clearly see the woman’s eyes now. He had previously been focusing on her long legs.

“She’s at home, my house.”

“So where do you want the delivery? Here or your house?” The woman asked

Wole looked around the place again. The face of the statue, the beads and the…

“No my house will be good.”

Wole paused and asked again. “I just wanted to know something, I don’t want anything happening to my wife, if it’s going to be any spiritual thing… I just don’t want…”

The woman interrupted him with her laughter. Gone was the sonorous laughter of before, this time it was harsh. It was as if her eyes were piercing his. Wole found himself actually regretting what he had said.

“Spiritual stuff? This is a spiritual place mister, we are the Oluweri’s, every child is always delivered here free and both the mother and baby survive. We believe that children are the embodiment of our mother goddess. If you want us to deliver your baby, just say so, that’s our fate, to preserve babies destiny and bring them to life. So yes? Sir?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll see you next tomorrow then.”

Wole nodded. He almost practically jumped up. He didn’t even look at the woman as she opened the door. Outside he breathed a huge sigh of relief. I hope she isn’t looking at me through a window. As he walked back into town, he didn’t notice the birds on the trees or the beauty of the sky as the sun set. He kept thinking about the strange white room.

As he came into town with his head still buried in the avalanche of thoughts, Wole didn’t see the car coming at him. The sound of the horn blared. Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeem! Wole jumped out of the way. He landed close to the train tracks on the other side of the dam. His arm hurt but it was not bruised.

A man came running out of the car. “Are you okay chap? I’m really sorry…my wife and I were having an argument and uh…she’s pregnant and I wasn’t concentrating on the road and…”

Wole interrupted him. “She’s pregnant? Your wife is pregnant?” He smiled.

“Yes,” the man nodded.

“Mine is too, I’m fine.”

Wole stood up and shook the man’s outstretched fingers. They nodded at each other for seconds. It seemed like the man wanted some escape. Pregnant women were really much trouble. He felt for the man. Then the man said “Okay I’m glad you’re okay chap, really sorry for that nice meeting you.” and then he walked back to his car. He waved at Wole. Wole didn’t wave back but he watched the car leave.

***

It had gotten dark by the time Wole finally got home. The air was heavy with the sounds of the insects and the smell of grass. The streetlights in his part of the city were vandalized three days after it was installed by some kids looking to make some quick cash. The potholes in the street leading to his house was probably big enough to swim in when the rains started. Wole averted his gaze as his eye caught the wears his neighbor hung out to dry on the fence they shared. His neighbor’s wife’s panties were quite big. Jezebel. She wants to squeeze my ears. It’s dark, why hasn’t she packed it inside? Wole always thanked God for making him arrive safely, then he knocked twice. He was still going to open the door, because he had a key but the knocking was to make his wife know that it was him at the door. His balcony always smelled of raw meat. He took off his work boots and wiped his feet on the mat that had UNITED STATES OF AMERICA written on it. His wife was sitting on the couch. It was mostly foam, the leather had torn away. Her face was puffy and she looked bloated. Wole didn’t like how she looked. How can she look so much different than last month?

She attempted to stand but he held up a hand to her.

“You sit, I’ll get my food don’t worry, or have you finished it all?” He laughed.

She simply smiled and he knew she had eaten a lot of food. The big radio was in her hands and she was searching for a station. She hated the BBC.

“I found a place.”

“Where?”

“The woman is a midwife, that’s what she does, she’ll be here the day after tomorrow to help you.”

“Thank God, I thought we were going to have to deliver it ourselves and it would be funny to watch. The way you hate blood.”

“Uh-uh.”

“How did you find her?”

“Ogunde mentioned her, it’s like he knows everybody in the city.”

“God bless him, he’s a good man.”

“Yeah amen.”

Wole began to pick insects out of beans. He knew his wife would also be hungry. He began to sing. She had always liked him singing. Infact they had first met while he was touring with other folk singers in those days before he became born again and met Christ. She was a dancer then. With the beads on her buttocks, oh and the way she moved her feet. Everybody loved to watch her. He hated beans but it was the only food they had in bulk. Rice was a precious commodity. The beans was the cheapest kind. There was three different kinds of beans at the market. The sweet beans, very expensive, general thing for the rich. Then there was the semi-sweet one, also for the moderately rich. Lastly, the sour, insect-filled beans, a staple diet for the poor. The poor only bought the first kind during Christmas or some other holidays that required outlandish thoughts.

“What do you think it’s going to be?” He asked his wife, who was already dozing, soft snores escaped her mouth. She never used to snore but since the pregnancy, she was like a locomotive. Wole didn’t like it, but he told himself that he couldn’t blame her since he was the one that impregnated her. At the sound of his voice, she swallowed and refocused her eyes.

“Uh? Did you say something?”

“I said what do you think the baby is going to be?”

“I’ve had dreams of a girl and because it kicks a lot, it could be a dancer like me.”

“If only we had the…what’s it called…the ultrasound?”

“But you said no.”

Wole took the bowl containing the insect free beans to the tap.

“I just didn’t see the use of it, a baby is a baby, and we can’t change it and our knowing? What will we gain? When it comes out, we’ll know.”

The woman laughed. Wole always contradicted himself. She loved him even though their intimacy was very formal. He had never kissed her. She knew he was not shy, he was just completely oblivious. When they had sex, he was always on top but she wanted to try something else, her sister had told her about something she saw while cleaning her employer’s rooms. A newspaper. In the paper, a woman was on top of the man and they were having sex. Wole’s wife wanted to have sex and she laughed at that. I’m so close to giving birth and this is what I’m thinking about? It’s what I just dreamt about. She looked at Wole, his back turned to her. His hands moving expertly separating the water from the beans. She loved him.

“Check the beans ehn? While I go get water from the well, you know today is our last day of free water, the water corporation is having problems, the dissenters have began their protests again.”

He smiled at her. It was not a smile actually, but a grimace that her brain read it as a smile. As he walked to the door, her mind wandered. Oh how bad she wanted to have sex.

***

Wole’s wife delivered a baby on a day that started out dry in the wet month of the rainy season. As she lay on the bed, all she could see was the sky, for the wind last month had caved part of the roof in. She could also see her frantic husband, Wole, whenever he popped up in her view. She wanted to say: “Relax, it’s not you who is having a baby.”

She had been in labour for seventeen hours. She had promised to wait for her husband. The midwives were scared and they bustled about and whispered sweet nothings whenever the contractions worsened. When her husband came in, he was aloof, he did not still like the midwives and their unorthodox ways but he had no money to pay at the new ‘free hospital’ built by the British, so he had no choice. The head midwife was all in white, her hair was also white. Ogunde, that very morning at work had said that she worshipped the goddess of the lagoon. Well goddess or no goddess, you promised, so do your job, Wole decided.

“Push!” The midwife shouted, when Wole’s wife’s water finally broke. She began whispering strange incantations. Wole looked displeased. “Push!”

Finally, the heavens opened and out he came. He had his eyes open immediately after he came out. He came out like a warrior, his cord wrapped around his neck and firmly held in his right hand. His eyes were asking the midwives questions. His fingers wouldn’t open until cold water was poured on it.

“His destiny rides on three horses,” the head midwives suddenly said.

“A cursed Destiny,” she said again.

“Three horses,” She added in a whisper.

“Destiny!”

“Destiny?” The new mother whispered, still reeling from the pain. Childbirth is equal to the pain of a thousand bones breaking, an activist from Britain had once said to all the village women.

The head midwife said again, “His destiny rides on three horses.”

Wole scoffed, he had been in service and prayers to the king of all kings, Christ and believed in no false gods.

The woman on the bed shook her head. Something had it her on the forehead, it trickled down to her tongue. Salty. Rain.

The head midwife jerked her head up excitedly and said, “Look! the goddess sends her blessing. This is something unseen, you need to bring this boy to us, we need to name him…or else a danger will befall somebody in this family. I only speak once as the emissary of the goddess, the queen of the waters and the beasts that reside in it, a danger will befall your son or your wife, even you…if you don’t bring him to us.”

For a split second there, Wole looked shocked but he regained his composure.

“Oh you’re trying to play me? A trick? This is why I never wanted you people to deliver this baby.” Wole turned to his extremely tired, drowsy wife. “See what I told you? They’re trying to bring their demonic agenda into this…name what?”

“Name what?” He said again. “My baby will be named in the Anglican church. Is it money you want?”

Silence

Wole’s wife muttered something, “Maybe we should listen to them. I’ve heard stories.”

Silence.

The head midwife sighed and shook her head. A word is enough for the wise, she had spoken. “I have delivered your message O goddess! Only a fool decides not to hear it.” She grabbed the black bag in which they had put the placenta. Wole relieved her of it.

“I’ll bury that myself.”

That night, in the pitter-patter of the rain, a priest from the local Anglican diocese christened the baby. “Maximilian,” the priest said. “That will be his name.” The soaking wet priest said to the tearful parents: “It means ‘the great’ in Latin.” And since bishop Paul had said Latin is the language of the angels, Maximilian’s father rejoiced.

***

Theoretically, daily work for Wole and Ogunde was hard, but because they had both been used to it, practically grew up all their lives doing it, it seemed quite easy. Wole’s mind wasn’t at ease though. The remarks and the prophecy of doom of the midwife was bothering him and it was starkly clear to Ogunde that something was up. Wole was usually the organized one.

“What’s wrong..any problem?” said Ogunde.

Wole dropped the Machete. It struck the ground upright. They say in the days of the old days that people used to think it was bad luck for any kind of blade to be facedown, it angered the gods they said. Wole didn’t believe in any of that these days, but such things could be potent, he thought and now it bothered him in the form of the midwife.

“You know the midwife you told me to meet?”

“Yes, yes, the one that delivered your baby.”

“I warned you that they were idol worshippers!”

“But they delivered your baby, free without any problems.”

“The woman says I should bring the baby to their shrine! and that his destiny is like a horse and if I don’t bring my baby, something bad is going to happen to him… I told you that all these people have are tricks and lies. Threatening a new baby?”

“But they delivered your baby, she must have seen something…these women don’t lie.”

Wole scoffed. Ogunde was quite an admirable man but his belief in the pagan things were the only blemishes to Wole.

“All those things are not true, I don’t believe them.”

Ogunde shook his head, “It doesn’t make it a lie, just because you don’t believe something? That makes it a lie ehn? This generation of women have been around for centuries, before the British, they do have potent power I believe so. See ehn? I think the woman saw something. People who deliver babies, how can they be bad? What was the message? What did she say?”

“She said his destiny is with a horse or something… I don’t understand it and I must bring him to the shrine or else.”

“So have you gone?”

“Of course not! No… I have named my son in the church.”

“You have him named already? When was this?” Ogunde said, his eyebrows raised.

“That very day, I was going to invite you to a small naming ceremony later today,” said Wole.

“A priest named him? Why! Why are you like this? Ehn? Do you know that you should have, perhaps heard what the Oluweri’s have to say? I’m serious when I say that. These people helped my daughter when she had the accident, I could not go to a hospital…I remember you then, even trying to lend me some of your salary! It’s simple, the old religion is real and it’s not bad. I used to be like you, until they helped my girl… I actually went to a catholic church, the one after the beach? You know it? Yes I went there, they said her leg was “too far gone” Too far gone? But these women with their herbs and leaves made her whole again, now she is betrothed to be married! You don’t understand what I’m saying do you? My daughter was a cripple and they healed her, isn’t that the miracle you people talk about? Ehn? What you sing to me about in your attempts to convert me?” Ogunde ranted breathlessly.

“Ok,” Wole sighed. “What do you think I should do?” His voice was a whisper, as it usually was when he was confused.

The sun was coming out now and the dew on the leaves were vanishing. The canopy of trees that surrounded and arched over the men filtered the sunlight and made the grounds shine like gold.

“As a friend I will advise, and I’m sorry for shouting earlier… I will advise you to go there, the midwives place….this is really serious. These people don’t accept payments, why do you suddenly think they want your money? They help unconditionally, because they believe in the goddess of the waters and it is the philosophy that water doesn’t have an enemy, that guides them. Don’t you see them on the roadside begging for money? Why couldn’t they just make money off unsuspecting fellows that come to them for healing and childbirth. Ehn? Ehn? Why couldn’t they just do that?”

Ogunde’s stammer worsened considerably whenever he was riled up and wanted to really make a point. He considered himself a prudent and humble man and never wanted to disrespect Wole as he looked up to him, but speak his mind he would do.

He continued “Our world is different and not as you see it, now I don’t know what world the white man comes from but is different, they feel entirely at home in their religion but I don’t. When I hear the old ones speak? That’s when I’m relaxed, so as your friend, I say go there and see what she has to say, if it’s money she wants, you’ll know you were right and if not well..” Ogunde trailed off.

***

Tuesdays were peculiar in a way that, if the men quickly finished their jobs, they could take the rest of the day off. Wole was a fast worker and he quickly got his job done, excused himself and invited Ogunde to the party. He also promised to see the midwife, at least to hear her out. But Wole didn’t go straight to the midwife or home, he went to church, seeking guidance.

The church was built entirely out of wood. Inside was stuffy and the first thing a person saw was the silver crucifix at the centre of the altar. The pastor, a short, fat man was singing. His voice was raspy and it sounded like someone suffering from a bout of tuberculosis. The choir was made up of straggly dressed women and men with neck beards.

“Brothers and sisters! the devil is real!” said the Pastor

Wole nodded. The brethren hummed and it sounded like a forest full of insects.

“The devil is trying to take over your life! that’s true! anytime you sin, the devil is happy and Jesus our lord cries, blood flows from his wound because of you! I tell you once more, the powers and principalities that seek to destroy us are very real!”

Wole nodded again.

“Brothers and sisters,” the pastor continued. “It is time for a personal offering to the lord, you are to come here and donate to this church and also share your testimony of victory against the devil.”

Wole raised his hand.

“Yes?” the pastor looked shocked. Was somebody questioning offering time?

“Pastor I don’t have a testimony but a prayer request, a prayer request against the devil and witches.”

“That’s okay,” the pastor looked relieved. “Come forward.”

The pastor took him to a separate part of the church. There was a procession of brethrens walking to the offering basket, the choir edging them on with the out-of tune songs. One by one, they danced, threw the crumpled notes into the green basket. One by one they sang. The choir, as if conducted by an opera Maestro descended into a low contralto.

Take glory Father! Take glory Lord! Take glory Holy Ghost, come and bless us again

Take glory Father! The day of the pentecost is at hand! Come and bless us again

“What is wrong my son?” the pastor said, even though he was probably younger than Wole.

“Pastor I have sinned.”

“Everybody has sinned and fallen short of the glory of our Lord,” said the pastor, quite pleased with himself.

“I have consulted with the occult, I have sinned.”

“The occult is present, it is up to us to steer clear of them, you should pray and fast,” said the pastor. “Or we can do that for you with an offering,” he added with a glint in his eye.

The pastor didn’t want to come out straight and say: we can do it for you if you give us money. These kind of pastors sugarcoat and sweet talk people into tithes, different kinds of fund dropping that is not even prescribed in the bible.

Take glory Father! Take glory Lord! Take glory Holy Ghost, come and bless us again.

Wole said okay. “Come forward to the altar, you who wish to serve the lord,” said the pastor, his raspy voice sounding like a plea.

The people who had dropped money for the offering now went up to the altar, more money in their hands. Offering money. Altar money. Anointing money. Prayer and fasting money. Supplication money. Up above the altar, on a placard, the church’s motto read: To take as many sheep into heaven is our goal.

The choir began singing a slow hymn. It sounded disjointed but the brethren didn’t care about that. In heaven, we’ll be all new. New bodies. New Jerusalem. New voices and all. At home there, Jesus has prepared all the rooms for us.

“Kneel,” the pastor said. “The devils that want to destroy you will fail! In Isaiah 40: 31 it says: but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

“Fortify yourselves with prayer!”

The brethren on their knees started praying. In five minute intervals, the pastor interrupted them with a: “In Jesus name we pray.” “Pray for wealth! Possess your possessions,” the pastor shouted, now working a sweat. His face glistening in the dark stuffy room.

“In Jesus name we pray!” the pastor finally said. The Muslim pianist who had dozed off during most of the prayers now played his own version of ‘Amazing Grace’ to close off the service.

As the brethren dispersed. The pastor called after them. “Don’t forget tomorrow is Holy Ghost night! Don’t be late!”

Wole walked out into the sun, he already knew what he was going to do.

***

“No be me do am oh!” Sarkar laughed at the empty bottle. He was not actually a friend of Wole but he was still invited to the naming ceremony. The small sitting room was full of people like Sarkar. Grass cutters, truck drivers, laborers, people who work with their hands. Basically folks like Wole and Ogunde. It was almost evening, a little too early for being drunk but most of the men were already tipsy.

The brown centre table was littered with different drinks, Kola nuts and assorted meats. The atmosphere was boisterous and joyful. One man was singing a high life tune offkey. Others were playing a board game called Ayo’.

“Soo Wole wetin you name your child? Cos you tell us sey you don name am?” Shouted Sarkar. “Ehen!” The men all said, expecting an answer. Ogunde seemed pretty interested too.

“Maximilian,” Wole said.

“Maxi-what!” Sarkar shouted, even Ogunde’s eyebrows were raised. “Maxi? Which kin name be that? Which tribe get that name?”

“It’s a Latin name.”

“Latin? You be catholic?” The drunk Sarkar said.

Everybody laughed and drank some more. Wole’s wife was in the inner room with the baby and he went to check her. As he stepped back into the parlour, Ogunde pulled him to the side of the stinking sink where no one was.

“What about the issue with the midwives? Did you clear it with them? Everything okay?”

Wole nodded, “I have taken care of it, turns out it was nothing to be afraid of.”

“Good, good,” Ogunde said. It sounded as if he didn’t believe Wole.

***

It was on the seventh day at the seventh hour when all hell broke loose, when the captain lost control of his own ship and left it at the hand of the fates. It was precisely the seventh hour that Wole’s wife and Maximilian’s mother began to have the symptoms. She started talking to herself. Wole wasn’t home when it began but he witnessed it. He had run from work because of the rain, his feet splashing the puddles. He didn’t think when he knocked on the Chatham’s door. What was he expecting? The lady mistress decided to give them the day off. The storm will catch you outside and I can’t invite you in, you must go home.

Wole was perturbed when he saw the door opened wide. The rain was pouring in and the United States Of America foot mat was soaking wet. Something was wrong, his wife liked that mat a lot and she also hated how it smelt when it got wet. Something was definitely wrong. As he walked into the living room, he was visibly relieved by what he saw, but not for long. His wife was dancing and he smiled, it was how she used to, when he first met her, years ago. But something was amiss, and he couldn’t quite put his finger to it. She didn’t look good, she didn’t look at him, even when he talked to her. His smile gradually turned into a grimace.

“Hey! What are you doing? It’s raining, it’s cold and you didn’t lock the door honey, I just had to lock it as I came in, the rain forced me off work.”

No reply.

She was dancing, swirling.

No reply.

He waited beside her. His heart jolted. He grabbed her and shook her but she didn’t look at him.

“The baby, where is the baby?”

“Where is the baby!” He shouted.

Lighting illuminated the room and thunder clapped its hands.

“Where is he?”

No reply.

She was dancing, swirling.

He searched everywhere for the boy. His desperation giving way to anger, fear and hot tears. He was momentarily blinded by the force of his fear. When he finally found Maximilian in an empty bucket, the relief almost made his knees go weak, but it was not he who fell to the ground. It was his wife, she had suddenly slumped. About a second passed and then she started foaming at the mouth.

I only speak once as the emissary of the goddess, the queen of the waters, a danger will befall somebody, your son or your wife, even you, if you don’t bring him to us. The midwife’s warning echoed in his mind.

Cold fear snaked its way up Wole’s spine and grabbed him by the throat.

 


Ridwan Tijani (@RidwanTijani4) was born in Nigeria. He’s a psychology major at Murray state university who writes mostly fiction.

Related country: Nigeria

All rights to this story remain with the author. Please do not repost or reproduce this material without permission.