“Yes, Juwon?” Felix answered, without raising his head. Droplets of sweat had started dripping from his forehead.
“Why is the moon so big?” Juwon asked, peering from inside the house.
“Your dad doesn’t know such things Juwy, come and sit down.” Mosun said from her woven chair on the airy verandah. The regal view of the city, some kilometers away, was the main reason Felix had chosen this apartment. It was a sparkling sight to behold, a redeeming quality of an otherwise shoddy living space in the industrial part of town. The agent called it promising; an inaccurate description if there ever was one.
“Ah, but I do my boy.” Felix said with a smile. He was toying with their generator, twisting knobs and pressing buttons, hoping it would start. He had never been the handy type but he was always willing to try. The generator had made a funny burp-like noise moments before shuddering to a stop. The poor thing was a Japanese hand-me-down he had received from an old friend who moved away. It was a worn, yellow, and whimsically adorned with shiny stickers Juwon had gotten from daycare. In some ways it reminded Felix of his own life up to that point, intermittently underwhelming.
“Please daddy, tell me about the moon.” Juwon said, squirming away from his mother’s grasp and crouching next to the generator. Felix yanked at the generator’s rope again, putting his whole weight behind it. The contraption shook, quivering into life momentarily before dying out. Felix let out a laugh, an unusual one in the face of defeat, stood back and looked at his wife, a little embarrassed, knowing that they would have to sleep in the dark tonight.
“Okay, Mr. Many Questions, come let me tell you about the moon and why it’s so big.” He said, grabbing Juwon off the floor. His son seemed to be growing everyday, his burgundy shorts hiked up his slender legs as he settled on Felix’s lap. Mosun hissed in the background; she had been watching Mundo Malo, her favorite TV show, when the power went off. It was a fast-paced Mexican telenovela Felix could never keep up with. He knew she would be irritated.
“Let me take him inside,” she said. “There is still water for his bath,”
“Daddy no, no, no. Tell her I want to stay,” Juwon pleaded, burrowing himself deeper into his father’s embrace. An action that warmed Felix. The little man adored his father in ways that kept surprising Felix.
“Let him stay?” Felix asked with a playful look in his large brown eyes. Eyes that shone so brightly when he first met Mosun, during the singing days of his youth, when the promise of glory was real. Times that so contrasted the present that some days only pictures were able to convince him they ever existed. Their hopes were so far away now, seemingly resigned to the platform of dreams and slumber.
“Fine,” she muttered, “if you agree to bath him after.” Juwon squealed with excitement, reveling in his victory.
“Ah, I see. Well, you’re in luck young man, I happen to give the best showers in the world.” Felix said, smirking in Mosun’s direction. To which she responded with a laugh that revealed her impeccable smile; a wonder that had, of late, become a rarity. Juwon laid his head back, pulling his father’s thick arms closer to his body as he prepared for a story. “Are you ready?” He asked.
“Bye bye mummy,” Juwon said, before looking up at his father and nodding. She waved softly at him, before heading back into the living room. “I’m ready now, you can start,” He urged.
“Ehen, the big moon. You see many people think it’s just a bulb in the sky,” He stopped to scoff comically. Juwon, delighted with the show, giggled on. “You see, we know better than that. When the world was first created, when there were no tall buildings or airplanes and the gods were among us, the moon was a place we could go to. It was–”
“Can we still go now?” Juwon asked, his small face lighting up as he spoke.
Felix sighed, realizing it could be a very long night. “No, we… well, yes but you would need a rocket, but that’s not the point. Back to the story, in those days there was a god named Arika, one of the sons of the creator of the universe, a mighty protector, feared–”
“Stronger than you daddy?” He asked, with a bit of disbelief.
“A lot stronger than your daddy. He could wrestle a hundred men at once and then outrun a pack of wild dogs.” He toned his voice theatrically as he wove his tale, laying and releasing emphasis. When he got a visible reaction he would continue. “In all this he was a fair being, faultless in all his doing. Do you know what that word means?” Juwon shook his head. “It means to be perfect my son, Arika was perfect. The other gods were jealous of him.”
“Like Joseph?” Juwon asked.
“Like who?” Felix asked, bewildered by his son’s comment.
“Joseph, from Sunday School. He had brothers that didn’t like him.” Juwon said defiantly. “So Arika is like Joseph,” Felix laughed, knowing he would have to incorporate Joseph into the story or lose his audience.
“I guess so,” Felix said with a sigh.
“Did he have a shiny coat like Joseph?” Juwon enquired.
“Eh… Yes, but a much nicer one. So our hero was accused of doing something horrible, a crime he didn’t commit.” A mosquito had landed on Juwon’s thigh, he squirmed for a moment before swiftly squashing the teensy thing under his palm. The clapping sound amused him, giggling as he wiped away the carcass of the fallen insect. He nudged his father to continue his tale as he retired to a comfortable position. He was a playful boy, curious to no end, much like Felix at that age. “Arika was accused of treason, of wanting to overthrow the creator. A crime punishable by death.” Juwon gasped as he heard this.
“Did they kill him? Why didn’t he say he didn’t do it?” He asked in a concerned voice, turning to face his father. “What about the creator?”
“Ha Juwon, you will have to let me tell you the rest of the story.” Felix said. “Can I continue?” Juwon yawned before beckoning his father to continue. “Arika’s enemies wanted him dead, they openly suggested that the creator kill him. The creator had a tough call to make, he loved Arika but he knew the repercussions of ignoring the mob. On a night just like this he was sat on his verandah, staring at the moon. That is when it came to him, the solution to his problem. He summoned Arika immediately.”
“What did he decide Daddy?” Juwon asked. “Tell me, please,”
“He called on Arika, ‘My son, my heart bleeds but there is only one way.’ He was going to send Arika and one of his wives away.” Juwon gasped. “It was either that, or he would have to kill him.” Felix bellowed. The finale of his tale beckoned. “Arika was devastated, he had built a mighty clan; sons and scores of followers who followed him valiantly into the famous battles. He knew there was no going back.” As Felix started again the din from inside the house startled them both, the power was back on. He knew that his son’s attention would soon be drawn by the TV, the beaming box often drew him like moth to flame. “The creator had told him where he was to be sent. The moon,”
“The moon?” Juwon asked eagerly.
“Yes, to the moon my son. Our hero had to leave to the moon forever.” He said.
“Is he going to kill his enemies?” He asked, with a rather excited tone.
“What? No!” Felix said before bursting into laughter. “Is that what your Joseph does in the bible?” Juwon giggled, shaking his head. “Like I said before, Arika was a very powerful warrior, in the things we can see and the things we can’t,” Felix said, gesticulating wildly to infer magic. Juwon caught on, his little eyes glimmering. “He decided to leave some power for his children and descendants. A way for them to survive when he was gone.”
“Like an anointing service?” He chortled.
“Ha-ha yes Juwon, like an anointing service.” His son smiled, pleased with himself. “A special time for the sons of Arika. With great sadness he informed those who gathered of his going away. So many cried and wailed, asking if they could go in his place. They really loved him. He consoled them, saying: ‘As sure as the moon shines, as sure as the clouds adorn the sky, I will watch over you.’ That was the message, that as long as the moon was above them, their father would send help in time of trouble.”
“Is he up there now?” Juwon said, standing up from his father’s lap to give the full moon a closer look. Almost as though if he peered hard enough he would catch a glimpse of the stranded deity.
“Yes, he is my son, till this day. It is rumored that on the nights like this, when the moon shines full and bright, that the Aworika, the descendants of the great one, can do almost anything. Anything I tell you.” Felix said, at that moment remembering what it felt like when his own father had told him this story.
Juwon screamed. “We are Aworika Daddy? We must be! Abi that is our name?”
“Yes, we are. You want to see something?” Felix asked. Juwon nodded. “It has to be a secret.” Felix beckoned his son over, theatrically looked over shoulder and picked up a screwdriver. “Watch very closely,” he whispered. After quick look at the moon Felix tossed the screwdriver in the air. Juwon screamed as it hung there, suspended in the air, casually defying gravity. Felix winked at his son as the screwdriver fell into his palm, the little man dazed into silence simply stared back. “Let’s go inside,” He said as he picked up his son.
“You’re the best Daddy,” Juwon muttered in between a yawn. As he bathed his barely awake son, Felix said a silent prayer for his seed. A prayer that he would not abandon his dreams, that he would be bold unlike his father.
“Why did Juwy scream earlier?” Mosun asked as Felix got into bed. “I don’t know how he still has energy to be disturbing people at this time.”
“I think he saw a lizard,” He lied. “It really was beautiful out there, the moon, the lights and the sparse clouds.”
“Theodora got pregnant! Can you imagine? After all they…” She began, her facial features lighting up as she narrated another unrealistically action-packed episode of Mundo Malo. Felix smiled on occasion, grunting intermittently as she spoke. His mind wandered to the moon, the open sky and the feeling of flying.
Jerry K. Ayodele (@) is a Lagos-based writer who has spent the last year on unfunny tweets and a collection of short stories. His interests also include poetry and portrait photography. His work has not won any awards but his mother is very proud of him.
Related country: Nigeria
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