SÒNPÓNÀ

in fiction •  last year 

It was the first market day after father had exchanged hot words with Oloye, a friend of the Sònpòna priest and who always wore a cowried agbada(Agbada is one of the names for a flowing wide sleeved robe worn by men in much of West Africa , and to a lesser extent in North Africa. The name "Agbada " originates from Yoruba language, one of the major languages on the continent) source and the whole house was silent save the periodic outburst from Ire, my 2 month old sibling.

There was not a sound to be heard, for not even one of our many chickens made any noise, instead they all moved, like they had a director, to three compounds after ours and there they gave the crows and cackling a voice.
The silence was unearthly even to my young mind.
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Mother sat beside the elevated mud platform that served as a bed and silently shed fat tears,the drops rolling down her dirt covered face and breaking them into muddy rivulets.
I was fascinated by it and watched as the tears chased each other across her handsome face.
Father lay on his bed covered. And from within the covering came deep, rumbling groans like the early noise thunder makes before a rain.

I tried to touch his feet, but mother even without turning pushed my hands away, not unkindly.
I could not understand why I was stopped from touching father, for this was not the first time he had fallen ill in the 6 years I've spent on earth, and he always let me touch him.
Mother was still crying even as I wondered why mama Titi who always came to collect salt or pepper for her meals was not here to console her.
Even Uncle Ifalomo who was always visiting seemed not o have heard that his elder brother was sick.

I struggled to make sense of all these, but I couldn't.
From outside came a faint throbbing hum. It sounded like a mixture of feets dragging heavily and a sad, gentle song.
Surely the priest was coming to heal father!
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Mother's cry suddenly broke out as she picked the sounds and I ran outside to meet the priest, thinking she was crying for the relief that he came with.
The priest of sònpònò was outside with his acolytes and a cluster of first class chiefs among whom was Oloye, his cowried agbada matched with a cowried cap.
Two of the men, with red bands tied across their foreheads held a stretcher.
The priest himself, looking scary in white and red, his eyes blazing with cold fervence, pointed to the house and said
"This man has been visited by the good god. Go inside, carry him and take him to the forest of bones. Take his wife and children out and seize his properties!"

I could not cry, my young mind was trying to grasp the meaning. When finally I saw them taking father away, I cried. I started to run towards the men, but strong hand held me down until I couldn't even struggle. We were held, mother and we the children, in a room until evening and then mother was ordered to go prepare for a cleansing sacrifice.
Later I asked maami,
"Why did sònpònò not visit other families? Why ours only?"
"Hush hush my son she said, sònpònò knows best."

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