Santa Maria, January 2
The fiery flame was vaporizing my wax; I was growing shorter by the minute. Cached in one corner on a Milo tin on top of an old wall unit between mold-smeared walls and furniture, under rotting window frames, silhouetted against peeling paint flaunting damp patches, my drooling wax was the least of my concerns. It was the rain. It was threatening the leaking aluminium roofing sheets with torrential patters. As Sima lifted her bathed baby from the plastic basin to wipe it, she realised I was almost dead.
“I need to replace this candle, but your drunken father is now sprawled in his own vomit at the liquor shop, I know. Who will go out to get candles now?” I could hear her grumbling to herself.
Just then I heard paws pounding on the door amidst incessant whining as though the pounder was being pursued, and as Sima stretched to turn the knob while clutching her baby this way, the family dog rushed in, shaking off droplets of rainwater from its fur.
“The rain might get worse. I have to go buy some candles quickly,” Sima finally resolved.
She left me and the dog in charge of the baby, who was lying on the mattress in peaceful slumber with the basin at the bed’s foot, unperturbed by the heavy downpour. I continued to light their darkness, yet not for long…
My cloud-sons are locking airs again, thundering and spitting rapid fire at one another. They were condensed hence had to splash their fury on earth. So they splashed, softly and rationally at first, until even I, the Sky god, could neither rest nor control them. I noticed as Sima, coated in hand-made polythene robe waded through the sparse puddles of water to get candles ahead of what might be a long, dark night.
I quivered at the consequence of what mere mortals would have to bear as a result of defiling the earth goddess, and spitting fume in my own face. Man has pushed me to my extremes. When I rain, I pour. When I burn, I scorch. I quivered for Sima and the little mortal she had abandoned in the darkness. She splashed and stumbled out of the marsh in which their house was seated; past the gutter her husband had built their house by; up the dumpsite along the snaky pathway with scattered household units arranged in no coherent pattern. I heard her thoughts: “If these trees hadn’t been cut, people would not have built their houses in the water’s way”.
The trees had been sawed into strong planks to construct a small bridge across a deep gorge created by the furious splashes of my cloud-sons. Sima trod cautiously over the bridge.
My cloud-sons splashed more rapidly…
“Can I get two candlesticks, please,” Sima requested, wholly drenched by the rain.
“Ei Aunty Sima, you hardly visit us these days,” the little attendant sparked off some conversation as she hopped onto a stool in order to reach the shelf.
“Was Oko Papa here today?” Sima moved on to weightier matters. Oko Papa was her husband. Everybody called him that.
“Yes oo. He took two shots of the regular, danced around for a while and headed home when the sky threatened grey”. I hated her garrulous tongue, yet Sima seemed apathetic. She had grown immune to his buffoonery.
Before she could pay for the candlesticks, the attendant pointed her finger precipitously with shock on her face.
“Look, Aunty Sima,” she screamed, “The bridge is being washed away.”
Initially, I felt the severity of the situation did not dawn on Sima judging by her lax approach to the news, until she opened her eyes in horror and exclaimed, “My baby”.
I observed from my Sky throne- hands tied- a poor mother dashing through the rain in utmost despair and fright for her lonely baby about to drown. And true, the gorge was her dead end. For when she got to it she noticed the rain had swept the wooden bridge away, filling the gorge to its brim and copiously cascading down the dumpsite towards their home with such rough force. She started yelling for help, but the rain drowned her voice…
The situation was getting dire. I had almost burnt my wick to my own death, save several inches sitting in the liquid of my wax. Yet I gave the baby a faint glow of hope. The rain was crawling in from underneath the door. It had filled the room, swallowing the legs of the bed, with the plastic basin floating tumultuously atop. The dog was barking and howling, loud enough to awaken the sleeping baby who started a little supplication for relief on its own, shrieking and kicking.
I was thankful when the door squeaked open.
Oko Papa staggered into the room, his eyes blood-shot, wielding a liquor bottle, sensing danger yet too drunk to react swiftly. He fell heavily in the pool, and dragged himself through it to reach his blood.
The door was ajar. The water flooded the room rapidly. The rain crept up the wall unit and swept away the Milo tin on which I stood. I fell, a splash…BLACKOUT!
Sima was still waiting by the gorge when her neighbours arrived with her baby, clad in warm clothes, safe and cackling.
“We found her floating in the basin”.
Sima held her baby guardedly, as she would a missing but found nugget.
“He drowned while trying to save your baby, we presume”, one man told Sima as Oko Papa’s body was ferried by on a board by do-gooders, all wrapped in a traditional funeral cloth.
Nii Moi Thompson