PRINCESS AMARACHI Episode 16 by Okafor Erasmus Ugochukwu
With joy, without hesitation, even without consultation, Amarachi left for Onitsha very early to start the Akara business as the diviner directed. Due to her sentimental attachment for her business, she still had her apron and utensils for frying akara intact at her new duplex in Emejulu Street, even though the house had been under lock and key because Amarachi feels lonely staying there when Ego Oyibo that she grew up with had gone back to her home in Delta state.
Getting to the house as early as 6:30 am, some people in the neighbourhood were still sleeping, so they didn’t know when Amarachi entered her house. Her akara spot was still unoccupied by any seller because it was widely believed that no one could do the business better than Amy who was popularly known for the akara business, even to the extent of naming the place ‘akara buss top’ by commuters. Many had missed her akara a lot and many have stopped eating bean cake from other sellers because the taste of others wasn’t to be compared with that of Amarachi who had the mastered cuisine of handling it.
Being that she needed the blessing of her destiny to reach the entire family members, Amy made sure that before travelling to Onitsha her family was involved in the processing; Mkpulumma provided the beans, Olaedo did the washing and processing while Chisimdi prayed over it before Amy left. So Amy left being hopeful that whatever might be the reason why she was sent back to the business that had hitherto been her life partner would be fruition and successful in no time.
On the street, people were surprised seeing Amarachi at her akara spot (at Emejulu junction) when she was grinding the beans into a paste as the frying oil was ready on fire waiting for her attention and to get the akara ready.
It was surprising that people gathered in large numbers more than she could even serve. It wasn’t even easy controlling the crowd because they were many jostling to be the first in the queue. Amarachi was both happy and confused at the turn out because since she’d been into the business she’d never had such population. Even the traders going to the market that early morning gathered and waited without minding if they’d be late to meet their proposed customers at Onitsha main market, Ose Okwo Odu and other major and minor markets in town.
At this point, Amarachi needed a helper but there was no one to help, so she took her phone and called Obinna and Oji Isi ebu mgbo but their numbers weren’t going through. She just had to continue serving the public but the problem was that the beans weren’t enough to go round and feed the numerous customers waiting both patiently and impatiently; a crowd characterised by gossip groups, fights, a battle of words, and the peacemakers trying to help create orderliness.
After the first batch of customers served, Amarachi started serving the second group but the crowd kept growing and there was no one to help, and the beans not even enough to serve all around for akara dika akwa (bean cake likened to an egg).
As she was shouting and yelling at the people in a quest to maintain peace and order, Amy was surprised to see Chisimdi’s SUV parked. She didn’t need to guess to know if she was the one because she already knew the car even if she’s half asleep.
Amarachi was shocked to see Chisimdi coming down wearing a very fine apron and struggling to drag the processed beans she already prepared out of her trunk.
It was like a miracle that a helping hand just came from nowhere, especially from the least expected person. It was then obvious to Amarachi that her twin sister had changed for good.
Without hesitation, Chisimdi with the help of one of the male customers brought out the beans; poured them into the mortar, and started grinding even without saying anything to Amy who was stunned.
“Did you enter the road immediately I did?” Amy asked chuckling.
“As you can see,” she said and continued grinding the beans professionally as if she’d mastered the art.
“Why are you so perfect as if you’d been into…”
“Bia, madam, biko be fast and stop talking!” One of the voices in the crowd yelled. We are late to the market jor (please)!”
“Is her hand not busy as they talked?” A lady defended Amy and her sister, “men are always impatient,”
“Shut up, woman!” Another male voice hollered, “Do you know what it means to be a man? Ina akpu nwoke (can you produce a man)?”
The exchange of words and rain of curses continued among the people; those defending Amarachi and those supporting the first talker who complained.
“Don’t reply them,” Amy advised laughing and snorting, “I know that my sister I used to know would start a battle of curse with these guys, so try not to be the old Chisimdi and concentrate,”
“Ha-ha,” Simdi giggled, “as if you know that I already had a bomb to throw on his head. And that would make him miss his first position and allow others to buy,”
“These people?” Amy said and laughed as she kept turning the akara already on fire, “even if you utter a curse that would make them regret being humans, they would never leave the queue. So don’t even try…”
“Wow, that means the akara is hotter than fire,” Chisimdi said as she remained wowed.
“You bet,” Amy said and started serving the current batch while the population grew larger.
As the business was going on, people were happy until when the second batch of the beans was about to finish and it couldn’t go round to reach the remaining people, so murmuring ensued. As this went on Amy and Chisimdi saw a blind old beggar with a little boy standing before them and asking for alms.
Amarachi who’s usually nudged to pity knew that the beggars came either for money or akara but her conscience kept directing her to give them both. As she was serving the last batch and knowing full well that the akara won’t take care of the remaining ten people in the queue, she became so troubled as she listened to the sweet song that the boy sang while her dad responded to the rhythm.
The akara was almost finished, making the boy take his dad forward as if they wanted to buy; shoving the people just to be served.
“Hey, nwokem (man),” One of the impatient customers blurted, “why not take your dad away from here or do you want the hot oil to pour on…”
“Allow him, please!” Amarachi shunned the verbaliser and then put the remaining balls of akara into a paper bag and gave to the child, “Take and feed your dad. Meanwhile, I love the way you sing. You should think of being in the choir, even your old blind dad too,” she added and raised the receptacle, parked the entire money she made for the day and put in a nylon bag and handed over to the man directly saying: “Papa, this is for you,” and to other customers who already knew that akara had finished, she said: “Tomorrow, try to be here on time. I’m sorry,”
The old man scrambled to hold the bag since he was blind, and when he finally did, he felt the fatness of the bag and was perplexed. “My daughter, isn’t this too much?”
“Papa, she gave us the entire money she made from the akara sale today,” The little boy said with tears in his eyes while the old man joined in that nostalgic cry.
Chisimdi was so surprised that Amarachi gave the entire money to the blind beggar without even consulting her. Her human nature made her feel so sad but she wasn’t in a mood to conjure the divine nature to allow her to see the spiritual implication of Amy’s action. She tried to concentrate and summon Oduenyi spiritually but the atmosphere wasn’t conducive for it.
The people became angry and dispersed because the bean cake didn’t get to them, making some of them sad while others furious but Amarachi didn’t care except concentrating on the old man and his son as they sat beside the Dogo Yaro (Neem) tree eating the akara voraciously as if they hadn’t eaten for days.
It was only Amarachi, Chisimdi and the beggars remaining as the akara sellers washed the ditches and cleaned the business site.
As the twin sisters wanted to leave, they realised that the beggars were still there and never left, so Amarachi went closer to them and asked: “Won’t you enter the street to beg for more as the day is still young? You can make a huge amount before nightfall,”
With tears in his eyes, the little boy muttered: “We have no home but on a mission to revive my elder brother who is in St Charles Borromeo hospital; the reason why we’re street beggars,”
That statement touched Amy deeply, even Chisimdi who was eavesdropping, making her come closer to get the details. “But why didn’t you go ahead and beg for alms without involving the old man who can hardly walk?” Chisimdi asked concernedly.
“I couldn’t just allow him to go alone,” The old man croaked followed by a bead of tear dropping on his sagged cheek, “I won’t allow my son to die, and I’ll do everything possible to ensure he’s safe and alive. So I had to enter the streets believing that a father’s love can help more than just allow my old bones wither while my son lay lifeless in the hospi…”
“Life…Lif…Lifeless?” Amy entered stutteringly, feeling touched, “what could have been the cause to have made him lifeless?” she asked looking at Chisimdi as if Simdi had answers for her, “is money the problem?”
“If money isn’t the problem, why then are they begging on the streets?” Chisimdi asked and then tried to help the old man get up but he was too weak to stand, “Daddy, you’re weak and shouldn’t be doing such begging stuff,” she advised.
“I have no choice, my beautiful daughter,” The old man said and smiled faintly, “the gods are with you and there is something strange and beautiful about you. I could feel it from touching your hand,”
In that blushing state characterised by her rosy cheek, Chisimdi smiled, and then said: “But papa, since you’re blind, how did you know that I’m beautiful?”
“Beauty isn’t on the face but attitude, and you just showed us at first impression,” The little boy said and smiled, “my dad sees further with his mind because, in life, we don’t know how further we can see until we lose our physical sight and left with the mental one. The mind sees further than many eyes put together, no wonder we don’t sleep with the eyes but the mind,” he concluded and continued counting the money that Amarachi gave to them even without waiting for the donor to leave.
“What an intelligent son you have,” Amarachi praised the smart boy.
“I am wondering already,” Chisimdi said and smiled, “I love him already. What’s your name young man?” she asked looking at the boy and feeling so proud of him.
“I have no name, and my dad doesn’t too,” the boy replied astutely and stubbornly, “but suffice it to say that all we want is to wake my dad’s son and go home. Telling you our names wouldn’t bring him back. When the heart and mind are burdened, the mouth remains shut until the heavy load is light,” he added and remained calm as if he wasn’t even the one that just mouthed some paradoxical speeches.
The reply sounded more shrewdly than offensive to Chisimdi, so she smiled and said: “I share in your anguish and grief but…”
“We’re not grieving but hopeful that one day he’d get up and continue taking care of daddy than leaving us beggars on the streets and stressing the aged papa here,” The boy said looking serious-minded and humming an indistinct song that no one could hear but the melody was sorrowful and cool.
“I guess that the best thing for us to do now is to visit the man in the hospital, talk with the doctors and know what we can do to help,” Amarachi suggested, making the old man smile freely for the first time.
“My daughter,” the old man said and beckoned Amarachi forward and then held her palm. Holding Amy got him shocked, making him utter a cry: “Oh my God! I just felt so hopeful that my son will get up from this illness soon. You’re a great woman, even greater than your peers,” he added and opened his eyes; making his son shout, even not knowing when he scattered the money he was counting as he jubilated seeing the old man see again.
“Papa, your eyes are open, your eyes are open papa. God, I thank you oooo!” The little boy hollered and started shouting and running around even to the point that Chisimdi rushed at him and held him so that he wouldn’t rush into a speeding vehicle at the roadside.
“How is this possible, or have you been seeing before?” Amarachi asked looking confused as the old man still held her firmly as if he was reading her palm.
“I’m so confused that my gift won’t even work or allow me to see further than this akara spot that we’re standing,” Chisimdi confessed looking so surprised and depressed as if the supernatural just failed her.
“There is something about this that gets my mind so confused,” The old man said feeling so surprised, “I lost my sight a couple of weeks ago making it hard for me to locate my way back home. But now that I’ve seen again, I can do that and find a way to get my son in the hospital back to life,”
“I’m glad that you’ve seen again. So can we now go to the hospital?” Chisimdi asked enthusiastically.
Still holding the boy, Chisimdi suddenly began to feel dizzy, making all of them surprised, so the little boy suddenly took her to a corner and made her sit.
“I think you’re passing out,” The boy said and held her firmly.
“No, she’s not,” Amarachi said and came closer to her twin sister.
Amarachi knew that the divine power was already on Chisimdi and she needed some privacy but it was too open at the akara business joint, so she tried to drag her sister away to take her home but the force around Chisimdi couldn’t let Amarachi to even come close let alone touching her but the young boy who held her didn’t feel the repulsion that Amy felt. That was amazing.
It was surprising that what was going on with Chisimdi wasn’t being noticed by the passersby who went about their normal businesses without being compelled to look towards the direction of the diviner.
“Allow her,” The old man said and smiled, “Our hope is near,” he added and patted the back of the young boy, “I think that we’re blessed to visit these great people today,”
“What hope are you talking about?” Amarachi asked looking confused.
“Akilika ndi muo, I know who you are,” Chisimdi called looking straight through the old man as if he wasn’t there, “Ogbuoja,” she also called and faced the young boy, “where is your flute, and why haven’t you used it for long?”
The beggars were startled this time, making even Amarachi shift a bit as she observed what was going on.
“Sir, are you Anyamuo that we’ve been looking for all these while?” Amy asked looking at the old man who suddenly began to feel young and energized. “We’re the daughters of the king, Eze Omekannaya 1 of Ubulu, and we’ve been looking around for you because we were told that you and the flutist were gone beyond the eyes of the villagers. How did you get into Onitsha and why couldn’t you find your way home?”
“The gods are wise,” Chisimdi said and laughed aloud, “Take us to the king at the hospital. I’m glad that I am here with Isioma flower to cure and revive him so that we’d take him home,”
“You mean that the man in St Borromeo hospital is our dad?” Amarachi asked with a tinge of joy coursing through her but Chisimdi didn’t reply to that.
“Did you say Isioma the red flower?” Anyamuo asked wondering, “I hope you didn’t touch it because it can kill you as the user if you’re not a descendant of Ajalindu who…”
“Isioma is effective in my care because the gods have chosen me to revive the powers of the flower,” Chisimdi said audaciously looking at the constellation as if she was seeing everything happening like they were vividly registered in the sky, “My dad would be back again from the Odimegwu forest where he’s chained by the evil spirit invoked into him by Ozo bu Iwem group. The deadly fraternity doesn’t even know that they succeeded restraining the king because their incantations were halfway done but very effective, no wonder they planted spies everywhere to know if they could get a clue leading to him without knowing that he’s incapacitated in Odimegwu forest. The king is in Borromeo hospital and we need to bring him back to life,”
There was a mixture of joy and confusion in their midst because it was obvious that the diviner was hitting the nail of the head without mincing words or guessing them.
The flutist suddenly shoved his hand into his pocket and brought out the native flute and began to give the sweet melody that made tears fill the eyes of everyone. As this went on, the weather suddenly became cloudy for everyone as if there was going to be rain.
The people and road users scampered to get home or find ways to take refuge under shades believing that it was about to rain but they didn’t know that some divine powers were in charge and controlling nature and rain wasn’t even coming anytime soon.
“But I thought you were dead all these while,” The flutist said to Chisimdi and immediately transformed everything into song and then began to use the flute again with joyous tears in his eyes.
“I think it’s time to visit my dad,” Chisimdi said and looked at the flutist, “The king has gone far into the land of the dead if not for the melodious flute that you always use to revive his weakened spirit in the realm of the dead. Whenever you play, I always hear the sound of the flute from the village and it usually comes at night…”
“That’s the time I usually play the flute after begging for the day,” Ogbuoja said and came forward, “I think the flute is best handled by the owner,” he added and handed it over to the Akilika ndi muo who collected the flute with his trembling hands and began to water the entire environment with the sweet music as well as dancing in grand style as if he wasn’t the shivering old man anymore.
The sound of his flute attracted the birds that gathered, even to the point that the birds of the air continued dancing.
The sweet sound and joyous dance of the birds continued until the cawing noise of the crow was heard making Chisimdi raise her voice and said: “The evil spirit is here but we’d ensure that it remains chained. Go on papa ndioja (father of flutists) and disperse evil and darkness with light. The king must live. The spirit of Odimegwu forest that is meant to be a refuge for the king but now used to chain him had just visited. Gbupurum oja (play the flute on)” she added and began to dance in style holding her apron strings while a series of confusing incantations began to flow from her mouth without stopping. Her actions made the evil crow varnish like a mirage.
PRINCESS AMARACHI episode 16