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Sola Osofisan



Sola Osofisan

Osofisan is a Writer, Video Filmmaker and Web Administrator of Africanwriter.com, Naijarules.com, Nollywood.com, etc. He is the author of DarkVisions (Malthouse). He lives in New Jersey, USA.


 Blood will Call

It was not a Storyteller’s moon. It was not the rotund moon that presaged the old man’s previous visits to Ifeloju. Horned, it only lightly kissed the leaves farthest from the dusty ground upon which Itanpadeola’s sandaled feet trod, and it did not wash the now-you-see-it-now-you’re-not-so-sure track to Ifeloju in an endless glow that promised laughter and songs and sweet wine and dance. No, it did not speak breezily of life and love and fertility and rebirth and all other things with which the full moon was associated. It clung desperately to the coming night; seemingly fearful it would lose its grip and plummet like a fallen god…

That was the early moon hugging the sky the night the Storyteller appeared. A tall weathered man with a long face, he was thin like the staff in his right hand and feeble like the flame of the wick lamp in his left. His arms had a multitude of minute cuts clustered on them as if a swarm of flies wielding miniature knives had tried to hack their way into his bloodstream. The leather bag around his neck swung loosely as he walked. It was the first time in his more than forty years of walking this path that his arrival in Ifeloju would not be preceded by a full moon.

Aside from a GSM tower planted on a distant hilltop, the village had nothing to show that the outside world was interested in its affairs. Spared electricity, tarred roads and modern amenities, the children walked four miles to and from the nearest school. Some of the adults – when they were not dyeing fabrics - walked even farther to their farms.

Ifeloju, a modest community of adire artists, once sustained itself solely by wooing city merchants to its dye-spattered monthly market. But the village had fallen on hard times and many of the indigo wells had dried up. Demand had waned for their tie-and-dye fabrics and most of the bulk buyers from the city had switched to more affordable, higher quality alternatives. Some young men and women followed the money to the city. Those who remained rediscovered the supplemental attributes of hunting and farming; and the drum of life continued to throb.

As the Storyteller approached, Foyeke bathed in the mild rain of light from the sky. So did Tamilore and Ifariike. The children played outdoors, holding hands, singing, chanting, stomping their feet in eager circles, occasionally hiding the light of youth in the soft shadows of the huts. Night games were a ritual in Ifeloju, and even a struggling crescent moon could not dampen their enthusiasm.

Suddenly, a voice rang out like the clap of the town crier’s gongs in the endless cavern beneath the Ifeloju rocks. 'The Storyteller! I see the Storyteller!'

The night held its breath, gripped by the promise of surprise. Heads with black hair, graying hair, tied hair, flying hair, no hair popped out of curious doorways like little nocturnal creatures cautiously sniffing the wind before chasing the night.

The Storyteller?

As if on cue, all the heads turned to question the night sky. It wasn’t a storyteller’s moon. Everyone knew Itanpadeola rode only on the back of a full moon to Ifeloju. The moon was his guide to the village, the wine in his gourd, his promise of seasoned songs! The shriller must have been a child. Children were susceptible to wild imaginings in the dark. Someone ought to send her to bed. Or was it a different storyteller?

'I see him too! I see him!'

It was a different voice now. A pair of eyes could be fooled by the night, but two pairs of eyes? The situation certainly called for further investigation.

The night quickly regained its voice…All of its happy voices! The children screamed and swarmed as one in the general direction of welcome - toward the main road that fed the village!

The adults reacted differently. Clusters of excitement formed as they recalled the last time the Storyteller visited. Was it not just three markets ago? Others scampered indoors to hastily conclude chores in progress, rouse early sleepers, grab aso ibora in readiness for the chill that accompanies late nights outdoors. In Ifeloju, the grownups loved tales as much as the children and none told a tale better than the storied Itanpadeola! His name became a chant.



His name became a melody that hugged the cool night wind, slipping wirily around the contours of stained shelters like blood through arterial routes, under the waist high fences that confined goats and fowls, over the rusty corrugated roof of the village Chief’s bungalow, through the wet-season-fattened branches of trees towering above the village… onward…




It was a ceaseless call emphasized by the thump of every footfall. The whole of Ifeloju was soon possessed by the spirit of expectation. Itanpadeola walked into their warm reception, smiling familiarly, head and shoulders above the clamour, a tall weary wanderer mildly bent by uncertain years. He seemed hauntingly discernible in the weak moonlight, the dust of unimaginable distance hiding in the folds of his skin and faded white agbada. He walked fluidly, seeming to float above the whirlpool of children and adults around him, stepping carefully here, touching a known smile there, a head, a shoulder, caught in the vortex, one with the vortex, carrying the vortex along with him as he headed for the center of the village…

'Where is Ayandele? Someone fetch the drum maker. Tell him Itanpadeola is here and his drums must speak until they grow hoarse tonight.'

A bare-chested boy grabbed the message and ran off to deliver it to Ayandele who lived on the other end of the village where he could practice new rhythms and school apprentices without driving the village to distraction with too much drumming.

'Itanpadeola,' hailed a man of seemingly equally mysterious years from his perch outside a doorway, 'my brother, you walk well.'

Caught in the vortex.

'Ogunbodede,' Itan answered, his voice a well-oiled chunk of roasted plantain sliding down the throat, carrying even above the wave, seeking the gaps, riding the wind. 'I see the hunter has kept well.'

One with the vortex.

'We thank the gods for their mercies. How is the world? Is it well with world?'

Carrying the vortex along with him…He was the vortex, whirling and twirling to their welcome song, all bones and jutting elbows, but right where he belonged, one with their song…One with the sing-song…

'The world grows weary like me, my brother. Her eyes water now and her lips smart from fanning too long the kindling of a reluctant flame. I am weary as the world.'

'But there’s always the story, old friend… And there’s always Itanpadeola.'

'I thank you, my brother. So long as what pleases teaches, Itanpadeola will tell the tale. I hope the animals are still enraptured by the whiff of your gunpowder.'

'They haven’t complained to my hearing yet.'

Both men laughed out loud at the familiar joke. A hand tugged impatiently at Itan’s sleeve.

'Will you join us at the village square?'

'I shall be there if you promise to pass the night under my roof.'

'Who can refuse a gift so kindly wrapped? As always, the path from your doorstep shall lead me on at dawn.'

'You walk well, my brother.'

Itan allowed the growing crowd to suck him in. Each crease on his forehead, each dust-layered pore, each gray follicle of hair stored a memory of things seen that cannot be un-seen, lives lived that cannot be un-lived…He was a vast depository of memory, like the sea-held fish that eyes would never see; like the shore-harbored sand that could not be numbered…He was the rain touching leaves and skin in the most secret of places… He was the transporter, the physical wheels of intangible culture, the custodian of stories that transcended generations…His father’s stories, his father’s father’s stories, his father’s father’s father…

Unlike the typical storyteller who lived in one community, freezing their moments and conquests in stories and songs, Itanpadeola towered above locality. His was the extended limb of recall transferring whole traditions between communities, the itinerant spirit chronicling cultures and mores, the arable imagination inventing allegories when memory stumbled.

Itan was the Storyteller of storytellers!

The vortex grew a tail, a stream of adults who would form the protective outermost layer of the attentive circle that would soon enclose the Storyteller near the Odan tree in the village square. The sonorous rhythms of Ayan’s drum had joined the singing at some point, driving the dancing to new heights of elation. They passed the Baale’s house. A plump woman with a child strapped to her bare back stepped out of its doorway to join the procession, carrying a large gourd of palm wine that foamed sprightly in the burn of the many lamps in many hands. The Chief would be joining the storytelling soon.

The animated march stopped just short of the Odan tree. As the crowd gathered, the tree swayed in the wind, whispering, seemingly eager to eavesdrop on yet another tale. In the daytime, through the seasons, the Odan was the durable host of countless meetings; tall enough to shelter many, but not enough to call down lightning from water-logged clouds. With the moon above struggling to light the night, it would be darker directly under the tree, even with all the lanterns on the ground, hooked to tree branches, held up by hands…

Only three moons had passed since the Storyteller last stood in this same spot. He could see the questions struggling to displace the anticipation in their eyes…Why had he come back so soon? What changed so radically his normal cycle of one visitation per year? What drove him to traverse the distance tonight without his bride, the full moon?

The big smile on Itan’s face concealed the turmoil that raged within him. He couldn’t reveal to them how in the last few years, increasingly, the big city had eroded his audience. The young men and women were leaving, attracted like moths to the bright lights. Many of the villages and small towns he performed in were now inhabited by shadows and memories. No one wanted to farm the land anymore. They all nurtured dreams that were too big to realise outside the city, dreams of driving 'motor car' and working in towering edifices and conducting a symphony of mobile phones. For years on his travels, Itanpadeola had heard stories of how cities beyond the stretch of his sandals charmed young men and women and devoured them where no parents could salvage their bones. They were all like streams and rivers frothing blindly to be swallowed by the faraway sea. It was said once you answered that call, you could never retrace your steps home.

He still remembered his foray into the city after a lifetime of living on its periphery. Idera, his wife – several months heavy with their only child - had finally succumbed to the invitations from the karakata women to investigate the wonder of city trading. Her first time in the city had been her last. A hit-and-run, surreal like a scene from a phantasmagoric story, her travel companions had reportedly rushed her to a clinic near the market. It was there she breathed her last, still waiting to be attended to by a doctor. She had pushed Itangbemi, their son, into the world before death’s eager hands could seize him too, giving the Storyteller two reasons to go to the big city for the last time: a baby and a body. A wailing Iya Ibeji, one of the women she had journeyed with, returned to tell him what had transpired. It was she who took him to the city to fetch his living and his dead.

Iya Ibeji, probably feeling partially responsible for his mother’s demise, gladly raised their son Itangbemi with her own twins and ensured he attended the public schools with the other children. As soon as he was old enough, Itanpadeola took him on the trail like every storyteller’s father had before him. The experience was short-lived. He was a sickly, sensitive child forced too soon into a harsh world and the travels were hard on him. Itanpadeola persevered, hoping age would make him stronger. Itangbemi, conscious of his father’s disappointment, withdrew into a world of his own creation and began scribbling his thoughts on little bits of paper.

In due course, Iya Ibeji informed him that his son was unusually smart and the school was paying special attention to his education. His son had gone away on several occasions, to university in Ibadan on scholarship. He had even gone to Kano for his service.

The boy remained frail into his adult years, by which time they both came to the painful conclusion that the itinerant lifestyle was not for him. Even if his modern education wasn’t a deterrent, his health was. In various conversations, Itangbemi tried to show his father the stories he was writing in thick folders. He vowed that words on paper, once published, would last continually and go places a traveling Storyteller’s feet could not. Even after the source of all stories expired, a book would thrive, he said. The Storyteller could live forever in pages of words, like history recorded in artworks outlived the creator and generations unborn…Forever.

Itanpadeola thought the boy had lost his mind. It showed the jarring distance — physical and emotional — between father and son. The Storyteller, devastated that he was surely the last of an extended line, strayed longer on the road, while his son warmed to the city’s call, eventually moving away to make a home in what he knew had been his father’s anathema since his mother’s passage. The Storyteller sought solace in what he knew best… spreading a little joy in vanishing villages, even if he could find none for himself…

Storytime. The people of Ifeloju parted like thick grass beneath constant footfalls. The Baale and his counselors had arrived. Ogunbodede was with the small entourage.

The Storyteller looked at the staff in his hand. Old age hurt the hands now. Old age hurt everywhere, body and mind... He couldn’t play the drum or dance like ikoto anymore. He couldn’t grip the staff tightly either. His father had carried one. As did his grandfather. It was a storyteller thing. Maybe it steadied a shaky hand contemplating strangers, or readied a trembling voice about to soften a new gathering… In the years since his son departed for the city, the grasshoppers and ants of eternity had descended on his mind, nibbling resolutely away at whatever spark they could find, slowly snuffing out the lamps and turning his mind into a long dark night. Archiving some of his stories the same way he stored those handed down to him by his forebears became an urgent necessity. His performances still arrested the imagination of the crowd wherever the long limbs and booming voice took him, but old age and the corrupting call of the city compelled him to shrink his itinerary in response to his shrinking audience. He liked Ifeloju.

He raised the staff and the merry-making ceased instantly. The villagers looked at him with expectant eyes. This was how he remembered it… How it was, how it ought to always be; a story on a pedestal, bordered by a living audience waiting to unravel it, longing to cradle it… His son had no idea what he was talking about. He was already forever out here! Eternal! There could be no better way to tell the story. What could best this repartee, the flexibility to embellish the tale or alter it altogether in response to spontaneous feedback, shoring the performance with music and dance and pantomime and every creative distraction! Even if he died, he lived on in these eyes! These lives! Didn’t he? Ah! He still had children after all! Itanpadeola smiled bitterly, cleared his throat and projected his voice so that it reached easily the farthest ears.

'Gather around me like a fine garment, children. Powder your faces with the husks of the no-sleep tree. Fill your bellies with food enough for the long night, for we have a ways to go. Old Itanpadeola is here to stir your mind. I am in the mood for a tale and what a tale it is! A tale of power, greed, adventure, triumph! Children, gather around Itanpadeola and come hear my story. Clear your throat in readiness for song! Stretch your limbs for the eloquence of dance! Tell me are you all here?'

The crowd responded in one voice, 'We are!'

He placed his staff on the little stool they had positioned for him to sit on and put his bag beside it. 'Story, oh story! My story hails from the West, the East, the South and North. My story hails from afar where mysteries never end, and it hails from nearby where the spirit never bends. Listen my children and let Itanpadeola tell you of the little tree that wanted to be a lofty forest -'

His audience burst into laughter. 'Baba, you told us that story the last time you were here.' The villagers thought it was a game.

'Ah, forgive me. Age has been unkind. The mind, my friends…It plays tricks...' While his voice and body occupied their attention, he was stumbling about in his mind, reproaching himself for forgetting such a thing. 'Let me see, hmmm…I don’t recall telling you about Adewuwon and the feather of fire...'

'You did.'

'How about the python that became so hungry-'

'-It swallowed its own tail little by little until it disappeared.'

'Or the cloud that wanted- '

'-to steal a piece of the earth.'

'Ah, you listen well. That is one of the reasons Ifeloju is my favorite place of all. You welcome my stories like you welcome a steaming plate of pounded yam and egusi soup.' The gathering laughed as Itan comically mimed eating with his bare hands, licking the imaginary soup that dribbled down his arm, all the way to the elbow. 'Let me see now…'

He reeled out a list of stories. They had heard them all.

'Have I been here too many times or have you been peeking into an old man’s mind?'

They laughed again.

'I must try harder.' He turned to speak under his breath to the drummer who waited beside him, 'Ayan, help an old man, will you, performer to performer? Keep them occupied please.'

The drummer got the message and began to rap madly on the tight leather skin of the drum around his neck, playing to attract, playing to distract.

Itanpadeola sat down and took a long cooling drag from the cup of palm wine someone had placed beside him. His mind rapidly rifled through what was left of his mental filing system for a story he could be sure had never been told at Ifeloju. None was immediately forthcoming. It was as if he was groping in darkness. It was time to look in the bag again…

He pulled it nearer. A dark brown affair patched in multiple places, it was mileage frayed. He had had it a very long time. It was his bag of no-forgetting. Every storyteller had something similar, a way to 'store' stories outside the mind, a mobile archive of sorts. Itanpadeola kept the most valuable of his stories in the bag. More importantly, the bag held stories he’d inherited from his progenitors, each carefully wrapped in leaves like crucial pieces of a personal puzzle. While the drummer tapped and talked the crowd into renewed frenzy, Itan’s right hand disappeared into the bag, all the way to the elbow.

Something was wrong.

His left foot began to twitch imperceptibly on the village square ground where the grass had been permanently worn away by the feet of many meetings. His other arm quickly joined the first in the bag, digging deeper, scrabbling about, fingers feeling their way around even as the smile on his public face never wavered. Four fingers poked out of an unexpected hole in the bottom of the bag. A ball of sweat tracked wetly behind Itan’s right ear.

Ogunbodede seized the moment to inch up close to him.

'I see all is not well, my brother.'

Itan grabbed him by the shoulder and whispered in his ear. 'My stories are gone…My father’s stories…His father’s…They’re gone!' His left foot was shaking visibly now and his friend placed what seemed to be a tempering hand on it.

'May I?' Ogunbodede leaned forward to look in the bag his friend held open for him. He reached into the bag. He frowned. 'Is this a book?'

Itan nodded, putting the book aside.

'You have leaves in here…'

'They’re asowoje leaves.'

'Ah, the evergreen…There are objects in some of these leaves…'

'Yes, but there should be more.' The storyteller replied.

'You will have to tell this story on some other night,' Ogunbodede remarked. He stood up and crossed over to whisper in the Baale’s ear. The Chief nodded, rose and departed with his aides. Next, Ogunbodede silenced the drums and made an announcement, informing the villagers that Itan had come down with the sudden fever. The performance would have to be postponed. The villagers were disappointed, but Itanpadeola had never failed them once in decades of hawking his tales in Ifeloju. They accepted the explanation and dispersed, their blackened lamps floating and vanishing in the night, fireflies blinking off to sleep.

Itan mumbled under his breath like a doddering old man as Ogunbodede helped him to his feet. His eyes desperately swept the ground in the dim light as he allowed himself to be guided away. Nothing. He had no idea when the hole in the bag let out his precious repository. He probably lost the items on the road between Ipara and Ifeloju…or was it between Idimu and Inumidun? Retracing his steps made no sense. He had no idea where to begin.

He ducked his head to follow Ogunbodede into his yard where he was led to a seat under the open skies. His friend barked orders like the warrior descendant he was and in no time at all, water to wash up appeared. A bowl of eba, goat meat tumbling in ewedu soup and a palm wine gourd completed the picture. Itan could not eat. He had much on his mind. Besides, there was still Idera…

Ogunbodede shushed him gently. 'She will understand, my brother. She’s not going anywhere. Eat something first. Retrieve your strength.'

The storyteller reluctantly sipped a little palm wine. He emptied the bag on the ground beside him and inspected the contents. His abetiaja cap, a small cup, the book, a knife, his orogbo chewing stick and less than half of the precious wraps… Several of the leaves were unraveled and empty. They trembled as the night wind teased them. The crocodile’s tooth was still in there though. So was the kola nut fired dry in Ogun’s kiln. The small piece of the skin of all snakes was gone. He couldn’t see Oodua’s coronation story either. The glassy pebble from a moss green wall at the lost lake of Apangbejo, a catfish’s left eye, the eba odan kingmaker’s toenail, other treasures…Each piece specially preserved to trigger the precise recall of an event or story in its totality whenever memory stuttered…Stories ancient, some frozen slices of immortality passed from mouth to ears to mouth to ears by his forebears long before he was born… Gone.

Ogunbodede stopped eating in sympathy with his friend. 'So it was the hole?'

A hole in the bag!

'When a Storyteller’s tales begin to vacate his memory, he traps them in asowoje leaves to preserve in a bag. While plugging holes in the mind, who knew to anticipate holes in bags? How can such a tiny thing lose so much?'

A hole in his bag!

He sighed heavily. 'I suppose we all must run out of time eventually...'

Ogunbodede spoke sharply, yet protectively. 'The wings of a bird never grow weary, Itanpadeola. We do not know what evil roams the night. Take that back'

'You wish me well, my brother, but the times are bad. If you have never traveled far enough to where land ends and the waters begin, imagine waters swelling and falling, rushing up to the shore like a little child to wash the memory of footsteps off the sand…That is exactly how the last few moons have trifled with my remembrance. My stories, my own stories - not just the ones I inherited from my father and the ones he inherited from his father - mine…they have been coming undone like a raffia mat that has seen better days. I am forgetting, old friend. Like Ifeloju’s dye pits and several of the villages in the path of my wandering feet, my well of stories grow dry… What you witnessed tonight has happened twice in the last one year, with me under the glare of waiting eyes, temporarily lost for a tale to tell. On both occasions, this bag rescued me. Once familiar names now seem not so familiar. Yesterday, at the Bamigbopa crossroads I have passed uncountable times, I stood there like a fool, unsure which direction to walk. My feet and staff seized control and led me here… I say it is old age, but old age never crippled my father’s memory… He told his stories until the day he died. I forget, my brother, and I am thinking time has moved on, leaving me talking into the deaf left ear of the village idiot…I think my story may be told. The times are bad, my brother…'

The night had grown completely silent now. The people of Ifeloju had retired for the night. Ogunbodede sighed like one surrendering to the crush of a mighty weight. 'Heavy words' he said finally, 'Heavy words.'

Silence returned, quickly shattered by a solo cricket somewhere in the compound stridently seeking to become less forlorn.

'You know now why I’m back here so soon…' Itanpadeola carefully returned the items on the ground to the bag.

The two men remained quiet for a while, listening to the night.

'Why did you never relocate to the city?' Itan asked, a polite guest shifting the conversation to the affairs of his host.

Ogunbodede coughed lightly, masterfully delaying to gain time to swallow wine. 'To do what? Hunt cats and dogs? Am I not too old for that kind of severe change?'

'It’s the noise, isn’t it? Even from so far away, I can hear it in my head…the noise and confusion and the crush of people…'

'The idea just never appealed to me. I’m a bush man.'

'The world does not want to hear stories anymore, Ogunbodede. They’re possessed by strange spirits now…spirits I can not even begin to name. Like you, I remain a bush man and the world has no time for people like us anymore. Think on it…How can one out-talk their radio, out-dance their television, out-run their motor car and in the same breath out-electrify electricity? How?'

'The new always replaces the old, my brother. The ears must decide of its own what to take away from the tale. The mouth has the liberty of speech, but the luxury of listening and understanding belong to the ears.'

Silence. The cricket served a brief interlude, truncated by Ogunbodede. 'These ruminations you give voice now, they have been on your mind for some time, have they not?'

The Storyteller nodded. He stared dully at an unlit corner of the compound. Even after all these years, he still remembered her like the many incisions on his arms, each tiny cut signifying a story completely told in the presence of an audience, notes to compare with his fathers in the afterlife. She was carved indelibly on his very being. 'I miss her, you know… Every day.'

'I know, husband of my sister. I know.'

'She would have done a better job of raising him.'

'She did a better job of everything she touched.'

'Her son is somewhere in that city, Ogunbodede. Our son.'

'Ah, that explains this conversation. Blood will call.'

Itan contemplated the darkness a little more. The cricket shrilled anew. He had met Iya Ibeji last week. She had offered him a gift from the city. At first, he’d rejected it, saying 'I doubt the city has anything of value for people like me. Or you want to tell me my son has changed his mind and will now walk the way of his fathers?'

It was familiar ground to either of them. She had tried several times in the past to resolve their differences, father and son, but the bridge strong enough to connect their two riverbanks had long ago been washed away by swift currents. In the end, they had simply avoided the subject of his son in their occasional encounters.

'Our father, forgive me if I overstep my bounds,' Iya Ibeji had responded. 'I know this matter weighs heavy upon your heart. But what would you tell your father of blessed memory if he asked you how many of those marks on your arms accounted for stories you told your own son? Isn’t continuity all that we owe our ancestry? Is no more sharing with Itangbemi a progression of your long heritage? Is it not wiser to properly entrust the tradition to him like it was to you, and let him worry what he does with it, since he will be the one to answer for it?'

It was probably the most cohesively presented statement the woman had ever made to him. He accepted the gift without another word. It was a book of stories, his son’s stories. Tales My Father Gave Wings, he called it. According to one of the twins who’d read it, it was so good, the Government had made it compulsory reading in schools all over the country. That was supposed to be a big thing because it meant more people may be reading it and hearing his son’s words than he had performed to his entire lifetime on the road. Itangbemi had sent him the book through Iya Ibeji with a message. One word really: Forever. On her own, she added the news that his son was a husband now. And his wife just delivered their son. Itanforijimi.

Iya Ibeji’s words dug furrows in Itan’s already unsettled mind. The thought of seeing his son and grandson had possessed him ever since, contributing to the derailing of his usual plod between communities, upsetting even further his rattled calendar. It was like he should be doing something else now…Age was no more on his side. Time was becoming a stranger. Maybe the ancestors were telling him to go rebuild his fallen house. He had been looking in all the wrong places for a way to still his troubled spirit. The answer wasn’t in familiar places, skulking amongst familiar faces, re-enacting familiar graces…He had done that for far too long. No one could continue his work. Not the way he and his fathers had done it. He was out of date, a living relic. Living the storyteller’s life was not enough for the times anymore…Not when a tale just as compelling could be fired to the entire world in the passage of a text-messaged second. The unfurling of his memory and the hole in his bag was final proof of that. He was a dying breed seeking unsuccessfully to remain relevant. The times were changing and it was his turn to leave whatever could not readjust behind. Maybe there was no harm in exploring his son’s better way to record and transmit the moments and challenges that enveloped them all.

That was the real reason for his out-of-season presence in Ifeloju.

Itanpadeola rose to his full height, took one of the lanterns and walked slowly to the dark far end of the yard where a simple concrete headstone waited over a grave. He had brought her home to Ogunbodede, her elder brother who’d deputised as her father on the day he asked her in this same courtyard to marry into an itinerant lifestyle shorn of even the most mundane of human trappings. He married her and became more than a narrator of stories to the villagers… He became family. He had brought her body home to be buried among them. Every subsequent trip to Ifeloju was not just to tell a story. It was an annual pilgrimage to commune with his dead.

'Idera…Are you awake? It has been three years since I saw our son… Iya Ibeji tells me he has a wife and son of his own now. I thought I should come and tell you. That is why the road steered my feet to this familiar place. I know you are happy. This is Itangbemi’s book. See?' He placed the paperback on the grave where the wind riffled the pages like a brisk hand. 'He even put my likeness on the cover… I think it is time to revisit the city, Idera… I’ve been a fool for too long. Before I become a fool stuck with a bag full of empty leaves, let me find out from him how he tells his stories in…books. Maybe during the conversation, we will uncover how to trap the rest of our patrimony before they become wind too.'

Itan did not wait for dawn to set off on his journey to the city. There was a disconnected generation out there. They grew up conversing with concrete, listening to bedlam and inhaling exhaust fumes. He walked erect, his shoulders straight, blazing moonlamps where his eyes used to burn. He walked, a weary old man given wings by new promises lurking in shadows. He was going to see what waited in those shadows… He might even encounter the city’s stories along the way, obscured by the chaos. Itanpadeola had no idea how they would be told, but he would ask his son… Itangbemi would know. His son would know, after all, he had found his own voice amidst the turmoil. He was a writer. In the end, his son was just another Storyteller… .

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