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|Excerpt from my Upcoming book, "Guardian Of The Crown." by justcool(m): 2:12am On Mar 04, 2013|
Three weeks later, Edna lay on her back, completely devastated. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she opened the test result.
Her whole life flashed before her eyes. She realized that the only time she had truly been happy was when she was a little girl, when her father was still alive. She remembered the day she was told that Daddy wouldn’t be coming to visit. He had died.
She was only eight-years-old and couldn’t fully grasp the consequences of somebody being dead. Back then she was in the boarding school, and her father, the only person she had, visited every weekend.
That particular weekend she waited earnestly to tell her father that she had excelled in her math test. But her father never showed up. At the end of the day, the headmaster called her to his office and announced the news of her father’s departure. This left a hole in her heart that nothing could fill. That was many years ago when she was still pure; now a lot of things had changed in her.
Many years of struggling parentless in a world where nobody cared had made her impure or what the world regarded as “mature;” the same “maturity” that often allowed adults to act in the most intellectual manner and disregard any warning from their consciences.
And every now and then her conscience warned her, but she was always too smart to seriously consider such foolish sentiments. Now she was an adult, and she had to cheat or be cheated. This she always told herself.
Had she listened to her conscience, maybe she wouldn’t have ended up in this situation. Had she accepted living in poverty, maybe things would have been different.
There was always an unfathomed pain in her heart, maybe the pain of not being mothered, of not knowing her mother.
This pain she thought she already overcame, but this recent blow of fate brought back the pain, or better said, this recent blow of fate reawakened the pain for it never went away.
She moved in with her father’s friend when she graduated elementary school; this friend of her father’s was very nice to her, but his wife didn’t like her. This made Edna’s life difficult, and at the height of her discomfort, she ran away even though she was only thirteen.
Having no home at thirteen exposed her to a lot of things. She became sexually active earlier than her peers. She had to fend for herself. Experience taught her that the only way to get what she wanted was to give what she had. And all she had was her body, which men were always eager to accept. She offered herself to whoever had what she wanted, money.
With money she could get a place of her own, and she could get the things she needed. Her philosophy became “follow the money.” She followed it aggressively because only money could ensure her survival.
She had long given up her dream of finding a perfect man someday, one who would treat her with respect. Who would settle with her and raise a family. Her experiences taught her to dismiss such foolish dreams, for such a man did not exist, at least not for her.
She had grown to learn that men only treat women with respect when the woman has power, the power of her family’s protection or her financial muscle. But Edna had no family to empower her, nor did she have any money. Her only way out was to make as much money as she could, hence she followed the money. It was in her pursuit for money that she met Chris, and then through Chris, Joseph.
Only when she met Joseph did she realize that the pursuit of money was not the true reason for her promiscuity, for in reality, all those years she had been looking for that perfect man. Only then did she realize that the dream of finding Mr. Perfect someday never really died; it was dormant within her.
And the love for Joseph not only awakened this dream but also materialized it. The life of wild parties, intoxicating drinks and drugs were now being drowned in the deepest ocean of love. This love was like a rope stretched toward a drowning child; if only she could hold on to it, maybe she would turn out all right.
Gone were her fears of quiet moments, which she didn’t allow herself because she always feared that in such moments she’d be forced to listen to the child crying within and confront the pain in her heart. Hence the wild parties, booze, and drugs.
She was exposed to all these in her pursuit for money. Rich men sometimes had bad habits, and in her quest to be on their good side and caress their generosity, she had to not only consent to their wishes but also indulge in their habits.
Now this blow of fate had dashed to pieces her already materializing dreams and forcibly brought her face-to-face with the silence she had all the while avoided.
In the silence and stillness of the moment, she could only hear the voice of conscience.
The room wherein she lay was totally dark. It was twilight when she entered it hours ago. But now the sun had completely set, and it was dark.
She made no attempt to turn on the light for she figured that there was a power failure, as often happened in Nigeria. Otherwise, light from the other rooms in the hostel of the university would have entered hers, too. But everywhere darkness prevailed.
It was a strange night, too quiet for a university campus, probably because exams were fast approaching and the students were inside studying, or maybe it was the early setting of the sun and rumblings in the sky, which warned of an impending storm.
It was definitely going to rain again as it did yesternight. Yesternight’s storm was indeed a downpour; it was a baptism that commenced the rainy season, and as always, it was extremely heavy. The earth must have cried to the skies for water as she had thirsted through the dry season.
Nightly storms always put people in reflective moods. Many people lay on their beds, listening to the soothing sound of the rain. Every now and then, lightning would illuminate the night accompanied by a heavy thunderclap. Sometimes the thunder was so loud that it would scare children into their parents’ arms.
In the arms of their parents, they would sleep carefreely, trusting the love of their parents to protect them from whatever monster that was raging in the sky. Their parents would, in turn, lie upon the belief of the protection of the Supreme Being, God!
Edna was not one of such children. Once, when she was a little girl staying in the house of her father’s friend, a storm broke loose in the middle of the night. The thunder was terribly frightening that night. All the kids in the household ran to their mother for protection. Edna followed them, but she had to stop in front of the door, knowing the woman would not let her sleep in the same bed with her. So Edna returned to her room and curled up under the bed. Alone and sobbing, she faced the terrors of that night. That was an experience she'd never forget.
Ever since then, whenever there was a storm in the night, she would prove to herself that she could survive it without anybody’s help. She would pull herself away from whoever she was spending the night with. Had she nobody in her bed, she would kick away the pillow she often hugged as she slept. All in defiance to her desperate need for somebody who cared.
But yesternight she reacted to the storm differently, for she was in Joseph’s arms. She always used intimacy as a means to get what she wanted. It was always nothing but a job she had to do, and in such intimate moments, she would shield her heart from bonding with whomever she was being intimate with.
But yesternight, while in Joseph’s arm, a storm broke loose in her as it raged outside. It was a terrible outburst of affection, as terrible as the storm outside. For the first time in her life, she opened her heart to the intimacy.
Afterward, mollified by the downpour, they both fell asleep.
That was yesternight.
As she lay in the dark room, she prayed that time would stay still as she could not deal with another tomorrow. All her previous tomorrows had brought only sorrows and pain. She prayed that the darkness in the room that enveloped her would hide her forever for she could not bear the light anymore.
But the bright rays of the light pierced through her half-closed eyes, forcing her to shut them tightly. She had left the light switch on, and as if in defiance of her prayer, the power came back on.
Gradually her eyes adjusted to the light as she fully opened her eyelids. She must face the light now. She had to get up and do something rather than burying her head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.
She had to go to Joseph and show him the test result. She got off the bed and nearly lost her balance as she placed her slender feet into her high-heeled shoe. She did not hesitate to put on appropriate walking shoes, nor did she make any arrangements for a taxi. She didn’t even pick up her purse on the table and inside which was her cell phone. She was not thinking. She folded the test result and put it inside her skirt pocket.
She stepped out of the room, daring the impending storm. She descended the stairs that led from the girls’ hostel to the parking lot. She walked through the parking lot to the narrow alley behind the dormitory. The alley of broken dreams!
There was always something broken in this alley. Sometimes there were broken bottles on the ground, and as one carefully walked amid the broken glass, one could hear girls moaning or whispering in the shadows, breaking the heart of someone somewhere else. Within the shadows of this alley, cheaters found their love nests, promiscuity found its protection, and so did everything that could not stand up to the light of the day.
She walked like a ghost through the alleyway, not minding what was going on in the shadows. Every now and then, the lightning would light up the alley for a split second, revealing couples hiding in the shadows. Edna made no attempt to discern them. She kept walking, totally absorbed in her own mind.
The gloom in her mind was indescribable. Within the alley of her mind, there were also shadowy places. Within these places were hidden things that Edna would rather let sleep. But her intuition, like the most ruthless lightning, shone forth and awakened those things. The sorest of all her sores, the thing she hated the most, her mother.
Had she not abandoned me, I would not have ended up in this, Edna surmised. She knew this thought always led her to the most painful conclusion; the conclusion that her abandonment by her mother was due to the fact that she was not good enough. To be abandoned by one’s own mother, one had to be totally disgusting.
She would rather have left this issue alone, for it brought lots of pain. As she walked through the alley neglecting those in the shadows, so would she walk through the alley of her mind neglecting the shadowy places.
But her conscience would not let her walk through in peace. Are you better than your mother? Did you not get rid of your child within your own womb? Your mother abandoned you after carrying you for nine months and giving birth to you. Within the comfort of her womb, you found the protection you needed to flourish. But you couldn’t give your child this comfort. Rather, you removed it even while it was budding within you, her conscience admonished her.
This ruthless conscience, like lightning, never failed to enlighten things that one would rather keep in the shadows.
But I got rid of the child when it could feel no pain. It was better for the child than giving birth to it and abandoning it in this harsh world. Besides, it was not a child, a pregnancy at that stage is just a cluster of cells, her intellect comforted her.
The intellect, like the snake that once convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, never failed to offer an intoxicating wine that would numb the pains of the conscience. This wine of the intellect, this poisonous fruit of the intellect, had always been a substitute for the harsh reality of the conscience. Mankind, even from the time of proverbial Adam and Eve, had always shown preference for this wine.
Edna, being a human being, chose the same old way, the way of the intellect. This intellectual thought she held like an umbrella to shield her from the brimstones that her conscience dropped on her. Were these brimstones coming from the sky, then the intellectual umbrella would have worked. But the brimstones came beneath the umbrella, from the deepest and innermost part of her heart, from her spirit, the source of her intuition.
She dared not consider the admonitions of her conscience for it would lead her to forgiving her mother and blaming herself for all her mistakes. It was easier to place the blame on someone else.
So she walked on.
Soon, she was past the alley of broken dreams into the open streets. The frequency of the lightning and thunder indicated the storm was imminent. She increased her pace so as to get to the palace before the storm. But then the skies erupted. The rain was terribly heavy, and soon Edna was wet through to the skin. She tried to run, but her shoes, which were not appropriate for running, blistered her feet. Ignoring the pain, she took a few sprints, but then something gave way underneath her, perhaps the high heels her shoes. She lost her balance, tripped, and fell. She gasped as her face hit a puddle, forcing her to swallow some of the dirty water. As she tried to get up, she felt a shivering pain shoot up her spine. It was as if someone stuck a nail in her ankle, for with each movement the pain intensified. Her left ankle had been dislocated.
She managed to get on her feet again. However, she had to take off her shoes; because with them on, the ground seemed uneven. Only when she took them off did she confirm that it was the heel of one of the shoes that snapped off and caused her to fall. She continued walking, this time barefooted and limping. With each step, a terrible pain seared through her body. She dared not put a lot of weight on her left leg; the dislocated ankle would not let her. She could only tiptoe with her left leg. Limping like a handicapped person, she kept moving while the rain fell mercilessly on her. It was as if the elements were punishing her.
The pain she felt in her leg now forced her back to her senses. She realized her decision to walk to the palace while the storm was approaching was a terrible one. She would have still called for a taxi had she not left her cell phone in her room. She left the room totally absorbed in her sorrow; she thought she was too dismayed to care what happened to her. But now, being hurt and totally desolate in a storm brought back her feelings of self-preservation. She was presently halfway to her destination; therefore, it would make no sense to go back. She had to keep walking toward the palace.
She cried desperately as she thought of her life, of how everything was denied her, even the comfort of having her mother in her life. But like every other thing that was denied her, even the tears she shed were washed away by the falling rain and were denied the opportunity to run down her cheeks.
|Re: Excerpt from my Upcoming book, "Guardian Of The Crown." by justcool(m): 5:26am On Mar 06, 2013|
From another part of the book
He packed his bag hastily, leaving behind anything unimportant. It was daytime. The sky still had its eyes, and he must wait for the sky to close its eyes before he would leave. He would run away to a distant country where no one would find him. He would start a new life and do whatever it took to forget this time, a time that rejected him.
Sorrow filled Joseph's heart, for everything he had put his trust in had disappointed him. He would forgive neither Thomas nor Caroline nor anybody else. He opened the drawer next to his bed and found Caroline’s birthday present for him. He removed it from the drawer and opened it; it was a beautiful sweater.
He was not in the mood to admire it however; dropping it hastily on the bed, he left the room. Geraldine requested he see her immediately after meeting with the king. She had a special present for him.
He stood before Geraldine.
“So you knew all this while?” he asked.
“Yes, my prince,” the old woman replied.
“Your prince?” Joseph repeated. “Is that how you address me now? Am I no longer your grandson? What have I done that you’re rejecting me?”
“Sit down, Joseph,” Geraldine said.
Joseph sat beside her.
“Nobody is rejecting you, you are still my grandson. Or am I not noble enough to mother a prince?” she asked.
Joseph offered no reply. As if Joseph had replied with a “No!” Geraldine continued. “If not, why would my grandson be angry when I call him my prince?”
Joseph was quiet for a while, then in a very low tone, almost a whisper, he asked, “What was she like?”
Geraldine allowed a sigh of relief to escape, then shook her head regretfully, as if she remembered something so precious that used to be hers but was now lost forever.
“Oh, Joseph, you should have seen her. She was indeed a princess.”
“And him?” Joseph asked.
“Gregory?” Geraldine asked, and Joseph nodded. She continued. “I never got to know him very well. I did see him a couple of times. Your mother seldom spoke of him to me. All she talked about was her baby, you. The day you were born, before she died, she gave me a parcel to give you when you turned eighteen.”
“How did she know she would not be around?” Joseph asked.
“You know, I never thought of that. I accepted the parcel, and I thought she would request it back the next day—as you know, she was mentally unstable. As she gave me the parcel, she made me promise her that I would keep it a secret and not open it. She made me also promise to take care of you like my own son and see that nothing happens to you. I asked her if she was planning to run away, and she said, ‘I shall be with him until this injustice is avenged.’”
“What injustice?” Joseph asked.
“I have been looking for you, Joseph. I went to your room and saw your bag packed. Are you planning to leave us and ascend to your throne so soon?” Thomas interrupted.
Joseph turned and looked at Thomas.
Thomas had been standing by the door, but Joseph was so absorbed in Geraldine’s words he hadn’t noticed when he initially appeared.
“What injustice?” Joseph repeated.
Geraldine was about to reply when Thomas interrupted again. “The king told you everything, Joseph. Remember, your mother was insane and probably did not know what she was talking about.”
Joseph looked at Thomas.
Is he trying to prevent Geraldine from telling me something? Joseph asked himself as he wondered what Thomas was hiding.
He had looked up to Thomas all his life as his father and inspiration, a man of truth and honesty. Now, for the first time in his life, he was seeing his father as a different man.
The whole situation seemed like a hideous dream to Joseph. Indescribable feelings filled his soul. He yearned to embrace Thomas and beg him to keep him as his son. To remain in the family, a family he loved much.
But he was now a man and must not yield to sentiments. He must think, he must calculate, he must use his intellect. He thought about the situation, his rejected father, his poor mother—and now they were rejecting him, too.
A different feeling awakened in him. It urged him to hold Thomas and threaten him. If Thomas had had anything to do with his parents' deaths, he would kill him.
Kill Thomas? The man who fathered him? No! Joseph roared in his mind. He can never kill anybody, much more the man who raised him.
Beyond these confused thoughts, feelings, and sentiments—within the deepest recesses of his heart—a child was crying, the genius within.
Joseph clasped his hands and rested his chin on them. Tears welled in his eyes. Thomas was also suffering deep within him. He moved close to Joseph. “Son, have you made up your mind?” he said.
“You heard what I told the king. I shall not accept the crown. If you want me to leave, I will, but I shall not go to the palace, nor shall I accept the crown. I have planned my life and how to lead it. Nobody can simply wake up one day and tell me to change my destiny,” Joseph argued.
“And what is your destiny?” Thomas asked.
“I want to achieve my own greatness.”
Thomas put his hand on Joseph’s back and said, “Joseph, this is the tide of your life, and you must seize this current and achieve all that you aspire.
“A good captain does not run away from his ship when the sea gets angry or a great tide appears. He seizes the helm and fights his way through. Our people say that a man’s reaction to suddenness shows his greatness. Have I trained you all these years for you to see but a tip of the iceberg and run away?”
“You call this the peak of the iceberg,” Joseph said. Looking directly at Thomas, Joseph continued, “So there’s more to it that I don’t know yet. What monstrous base must this iceberg have if its peak is as hideous as this? What could be worse than being rejected by the family you love, the only family you have known?
“No! I cannot accept the crown. A veil of shadow still covers a lot of things. When I asked the king about my father’s death, he was reluctant to tell me. Who knows what he was trying to hide from me? And I should serve this tradition that could have killed my father? And—”
“Joseph!” Geraldine cut in sharply. “A man shall not venture into the cause of his father’s death until he has seized the hilt of his sword! Else what killed his father shall kill him, too.”
“Therefore, I shall seize my sword first before venturing into the palace. I shall seize my sword, and I shall stand in the palace someday. Not as the crown prince but as an avenger.”
“Joseph!” Geraldine called. “You want to fight? Against what? Hardly did you learn of your parents' deaths, now you want to avenge them. If you eat without asking, death will come on you without warning.”
She was well familiar with the Igbo adage that one should carefully consider one's actions, as the results could be disastrous if one acted impulsively.
Geraldine continued, “You must wait first. Take things one at a time. Seize the crown first and wait. Upon the throne shall you sit, as the most powerful man in the empire, and fish out the cause of your father’s death. Remember, only the patient man makes a good fisherman.”
As if he did not hear those words, Joseph rose up. “You two do not love me!” he yelled. “You never did, for all you care about is for me to become the king.”
“Joseph!” Thomas called. Thomas’s voice embodied so much sorrow that Joseph was taken aback. The accusation was difficult for Thomas to bear; indeed, the whole ordeal was terribly difficult for both Thomas and Geraldine, for they knew more than everybody else, except Reverend Mike, who was part of the cover-up. There was more to the situation, but they dared not tell Joseph the other part of the story; it might be too hard for him to bear. Besides, the king might learn of it. It had to be kept secret for now. Thomas promised himself to tell Joseph someday.
Joseph looked into Thomas’s eyes and was struck by the sadness he saw within. He had never seen him so deeply hurt. What have I done? Do they deserve this after all they did for me? Joseph berated himself.
Thomas bade his mother good-bye and left the room without any further words to Joseph.
“Thanks so much, Joseph, for your ungratefulness,” Geraldine said. “Take your parcel, leave. Do whatever you want to do.”
With the parcel in his hands, Joseph left.
Once alone in his room, Joseph opened the package. In it was a piece of cloth and a letter. He opened the letter:
A princess gives up her life
A slave is sacrificed
A king’s heart broken in half
A woman cries in desperation
She wants to be loved
But love for tradition
Consumes love of blood
The defender of the truth
Seeks to veil the truth
To keep a romance secret
A romance is conjured up
They think I am insane, but I am not. My heart conceals secrets, secrets I wish you to know. But I cannot write it in plain language out of fear of somebody reading and understanding it.
Only Geraldine, Thomas, and Rev. Michael know the truth; Caroline, my father, and my brother know nothing. The poem above contains everything, but only experience will allow you to understand it. Let no one else read it.
Be thankful to Thomas, Caroline, Geraldine, and Rev. Michael for the way they treated me. And when you return to the palace, trust nobody but my brother and my father.
As I depart this world, my heart delights in the trust I have for the Ndubuisis to take good care of you.
Geraldine loved me like a daughter, and I’m sure she will love you, too.
I love you, and I will always be with you.
Joseph clasped the letter to his heart. Something slipped from the page. He picked it up. It was his mother’s picture. She looked directly into Joseph’s eyes. Geraldine was right. Rose was indeed a princess, Joseph thought.
In her eyes Joseph read her words, “My heart conceals secrets.” He turned the back of the picture. “The queen of the night” was written on the back.
What did she mean, referring to herself as the queen of the night? Joseph asked himself. He wrapped the piece of cloth around the letter and the picture, sealed it, and put it in his luggage.
Would he still run away?
He lay down on the bed and gazed to the roof, and thoughts filled his heart. He thought of his mother’s poem and letter. He recalled his mother’s words: “The poem contains everything, but only experience will allow you to understand it.” He did not understand what his mother was saying for nothing was difficult to decipher in the poem. Everything was clear to him:
“A princess gives up her life.” She lost her life.
“A slave is sacrificed.” Her lover, the Osu, lost his, too.
“A king’s heart broken in half.” Her father’s heart was broken, all because his love for tradition would not let him accept his daughter’s romance with an Osu. Thus, “Love for tradition consumes love of blood.”
And the words, “A woman cries in desperation.”
Sorrow filled Joseph’s heart, sorrow for his poor mother.
The next passage, “The defender of the truth seeks to veil the truth,” made no more sense to Joseph than the last part of the poem, “To keep a romance secret, a romance is conjured up.” He could not figure out what the last part of the poem meant.
What romance was conjured up? “Conjured up?” What did she mean by that? Joseph asked himself. He sought to find the meaning behind those words, but he couldn’t. His head ached as much as his heart.
He passed out.
Somebody called him from a distant place. He woke up. It was Geraldine. He had heard the call in his dream. He looked around him, not recognizing the strange environment that enveloped him. Slowly he began to recognize his surroundings, his room. He looked at the clock on the wall opposite his bed, and it was 5:30 a.m. He had been unconscious for hours.
Now he was fully awake. The events of the previous day passed before his memory. Sadness and guilt filled his heart when he recalled the way he spoke to Geraldine and Thomas the previous day. In his mind burned in flaming letters his mother’s words: “Be thankful to Thomas, Caroline, Geraldine, and Rev. Michael for the way they treated me.”
He stood. He must run to Geraldine to apologize to her and thank her for all they did for his mother and him, and then when the day broke, he would apologize to Thomas, too.
Like a ghost, he groped about the dark morning into Geraldine’s apartment. He walked through the living room and stood before her room. He knocked at the door expecting Geraldine to tell him to come in for, by now, she should be awake, sitting on her bed and praying as he had always known her to do.
But no sound came from within. Something urged him to move in. He opened the door and entered. Geraldine lay on her bed. The room was dark; he could hardly discern Geraldine from the pillow and blanket.
As he moved closer to her, he felt weakness in his knees. A terrible chasm seemed to have been placed between him and Geraldine. He prayed Geraldine would accept his apology and forgive him.
He reached her bedside.
“Grandma,” he called softly.
No sound came from the old woman. She was lying on her back, hands by her sides. Joseph slid his hand on hers, but she was cold.
Geraldine had passed away.
|Re: Excerpt from my Upcoming book, "Guardian Of The Crown." by justcool(m): 5:34am On Mar 06, 2013|
From another part of the book
Later that evening, Thomas sat on his balcony bathing in the evening breeze. He usually sat there after work with his wife, Caroline, but this time, Caroline had to run some errands so Thomas sat alone.
It was the season of the queen of the night, and as night approached, her aroma increased. The queen of the night was a rare flower that, in due season, gave off its aroma only in the eve.
Thomas remembered the day he planted the flower, the day Rose died. Rose was a strange woman, Thomas thought. As strange as she was beautiful. Thomas remembered the day Rose gave him the seeds of the flower and made him promise to plant them to remember her by. He had taken the seeds and misplaced them, only to find them the day Rose died; the same day Joseph was born.
Memories both sweet and bitter filled Thomas; consumed by thoughts of Rose, he sat there gazing into the ever-darkening sky. Soon guilt and sadness enveloped him, leaving him with an indescribable feeling of nostalgia.
Poor, poor, poor, sweet Rose! Thomas thought.
From Rose, his thoughts drifted to Joseph. He remembered the first time he saw Joseph. He remembered how circumstances did not permit the poor boy to be breast-fed. He remembered a lot.
He wondered what Joseph’s reaction would be when he learned everything about himself. Thomas felt sorry for the boy. He dreaded the day he would have to tell Joseph the truth, but he knew that it was inevitable.
How would he do it? It would hurt the boy so much. But was it necessary to tell the boy? Must the poor boy know? No, he mustn’t. After all, Joseph was his son, his own flesh and blood, and he loved Joseph.
Thomas knew he was deceiving himself for he would have to tell the boy the truth when the time came. But there was still plenty of time. He must wait for Joseph to be at least eighteen years of age before he would be told. The years standing between Thomas and what he must do comforted him. He must use those years to prepare himself and the boy. He must train Joseph to be a man; he must equip him. Henceforth, Joseph should no longer be allowed any leniency. He must go to school and become the best in his class like Ada and Gilbert.
Thomas vowed to himself to do anything that would make Joseph strong, even if for now such measures seemed hard on Joseph.
Thomas recalled the promise. “I shall,” he said aloud as he did six years ago when the boy was handed to him.
A few days later, children gathered around Geraldine as they did every evening to listen to her bedtime story. She sat in the middle of them, and they sat around her like dogs sit around their master awaiting their food. With great appetite, they awaited the utterance of her mouth. Children from the neighboring compounds all visited, especially those who did not have grandmothers.
Unlike most children when they were together, they were quiet and peaceful. That particular evening, Geraldine had not decided what story to tell. She sat silently, searching the recesses of her heart for a story she hadn’t told in a long time.
They told the stories in turns, and that evening it was Geraldine’s. Whenever it was her turn, the children got excited because Geraldine sometimes came up with a totally new tale, one the children never heard. The children also told stories when it was their turn, but it was always one Geraldine had told before, for the children lacked the ability to invent their own.
But whoever told the story and whatever story was related, at the end Geraldine always offered explanations, which unveiled the hidden moral that the story embodied.
Gilbert, Thomas’s five-year-old son, was sent on an errand but was not yet back. Geraldine, ostensibly, was waiting for Gilbert to join them before she could start her story, but really, she was contemplating on which one to tell.
But where was Gilbert? Thomas wondered.
Thirty minutes earlier, Gilbert was sent to deliver a parcel to their neighbor, an errand that shouldn’t have taken him more than five minutes.
Thomas became worried. Caroline, who sat beside him in the balcony, rose up and said, “I’ll call Jacinta and have her go out and look for Gilbert.”
Minutes later, Jacinta came back with Gilbert.
Gilbert couldn’t dare to look at his father’s face. He stared down as he stood before him.
On his way to the neighbor’s, Gilbert was distracted. He saw his friends playing soccer and joined them.
After learning of this, Thomas was angry with the boy.
“To teach you a lesson, today you must not listen to Geraldine’s folk story,” Thomas said, and as the boy was about to walk away, Thomas continued, “And there shall be no playing for you this evening. You must sit here 'til it is bedtime, then you go to sleep.”
Gilbert sat on the balcony. He felt like crying for every day he looked forward to evening for Geraldine’s story. He looked at his mother for leniency, but he knew her compassion was powerless before his father’s orders.
After waiting a long time for Gilbert to join the gathering, Geraldine went to Thomas’s balcony to find out what was going on. Thomas told her why Gilbert was being punished.
“Please, Thomas,” Geraldine pleaded with her son. “You must let me do the grounding today. I have a story that will teach him to be more responsible.”
Thomas consented. Geraldine, taking Gilbert by the hand, left the balcony.
Once Geraldine was in the middle of the children again, she looked deeply at Gilbert, who was sitting directly opposite her. Then she started:
“Once upon a time, in the land beyond seven forests and seven seas, tidings came from God for all things living on earth to request for their dearest need. All the livings things on earth needed to come up with one wish, and whatever it was, he would grant it. But there was division on earth then as there is now, a division between the dark forces and the good forces. The two forces were at loggerheads about whose request would be presented to God. Finally, they came to an agreement: each side would send a messenger to God. They knew that God only granted the first request, so whichever among the two messengers reached God first, his request would be granted. To the good forces belonged all the beautiful, fast, and courageous animals and humans. And to the dark forces belonged the clumsy, ugly, and cunning animals, evil humans, and dark spirits.
“On the day of the petitioning, the good forces chose the dog to be their messenger, trusting on the animal’s speed and enthusiasm. Among the fast animals belonging to the good forces, the dog was the most enthusiastic.
“Out of their scarcity of fast animals, the dark forces chose the tortoise, which was the fastest they possessed. Though the tortoise was far slower than the dog, they trusted its cunningness.
“When the hour came for the messengers to leave, the good forces told the dog to tell God to grant that after death, one shall return to earth and continue a happy life.
“The dark forces told the tortoise to tell God to grant that once a person died, he shall be buried, shall rot in the grave, and shall never return to earth.
“At the same minute, the dog and the tortoise left on their journeys to reach God. The dog ran and ran and ran with so much speed and excitement that in minutes, the tortoise lost sight of the dog’s back. The tortoise unhurriedly crawled and crawled and crawled.
“The dog ran so fast that soon he was already half the distance, but on the way, he saw some farmers harvesting palm nuts.
“‘Please, rest for a while and enjoy some of our palm nuts,’ the farmers invited the dog.
“The dog paused and took a glance at the nuts. They were so luscious and appetizing. The dog tasted some of the fruits and then realized how hungry he was. He sat down and started eating. So much did he consume that he felt dizzy after eating.
“With a little sleep, I would regain my strength and continue my journey, the dog thought. Besides, the tortoise is still many hours behind me, so thirty minutes sleep will not hurt, the dog concluded.
“He lay down and slept, hoping to wake in about half an hour, but he slept for hours without waking.
“He was still asleep when the tortoise reached the place where he lay. The tortoise didn’t even pause to examine the dog. Neither did the tortoise pause to examine the farmers and their most tempting palm nuts.
“The farmers invited the tortoise to rest and eat, but he refused.
“I must not allow myself to be distracted, the tortoise reminded himself.
“With neither haste nor delay, the tortoise kept crawling.
“He reached God and presented his request before him. God granted the tortoise’s request.
“On his way back, the tortoise met the dog. The dog hastily went by and soon was before God’s golden gate. But the guardian of God’s palace wouldn’t let him in.
“‘The first request was granted by God,’ the guardian told the dog. ‘You are too late.’
“Mortified and frustrated, the dog left.
“And that’s why up until today, when people die they get buried and they rot in the grave without ever coming back to life.
“And that, children, is the end of the story,” Geraldine concluded.
The children did not move. They sat motionlessly in great amazement. That was the first time Geraldine ever told a story in which evil defeated good.
It was time for Geraldine to expose the moral lessons embodied in the story. She was about to say something when Joseph interrupted her with a question: “How can evil defeat good? You have always taught us that in the end, good triumphs.”
“Yes, Joseph, but not without the right effort,” Geraldine explained. She looked at Joseph for a while, then continued, “No matter how much you’re blessed and how much you’re given, you must put your talents to use. Watch it, and never neglect it. And no matter how far you think you have gone in life, don’t ever stop or become complacent. Walk through life slowly but steadily, not minding those who hastily rush ahead for they stand the danger of getting tired and may fall along the way. But you, who take it one day at a time, shall neither get tired nor crash on your way. And don’t ever underestimate those who are still far behind you, for with diligence, they can still meet up with you and pass you by. Remember the warning the Savior once gave: ‘The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first.’”
Geraldine paused, glancing at Gilbert, who looked down in guilt. She continued, “And whatsoever your mission is in this life, you must never allow yourself to be distracted from it. You might never get another opportunity to make up for what you neglected.”
Greatly moved, Gilbert sat motionlessly, gazing at his grandmother. In the story, he recognized how irresponsible he had been and what grave consequences such thoughtlessness could bring.
|Re: Excerpt from my Upcoming book, "Guardian Of The Crown." by justcool(m): 6:47pm On Mar 06, 2013|
A certain atmosphere of serenity pervaded the luxurious private room of the esteemed German hospital where the dying African king, Gĩtonga, lay.
Next to him sat a beautiful damsel; she held the sick man’s hand, as if trying to keep him away from the ruthless hands of death eagerly waiting to snatch him at any moment. Tears ran down her delicate cheeks as she watched her beloved father gradually yield to his demise.
The room was almost quiet. There was no sound except the beep beep beep that came from the heartbeat monitors attached to the patient. But the beeping did not disturb Nia’s peace, neither did it leave her in peace; it was a music she dreaded yet, wouldn’t want to stop, a dirge to which she had to dance. For each beep reassured her that her father was still alive, yet it reminded her that his death was imminent.
Every now and then, she would look at the monitors of the beeping machines to see the lines of waves that rushed across the screens; at each peak, a beep befell her ears. She knew a time would come when the lines would go flat and the beeping would cease; her father’s heart would have stopped beating by then.
“Nia,” Gĩtonga called. He had just woken up, but he didn’t have to open his eyes to know that Nia was by his side; she always was. “What time is it?” he asked.
“It’s 10:30,” Nia said, looking at the clock on the wall.
“Where is Jabori?” the dying king asked.
Jabori was supposed to be there by 10:00 a.m., for the dying king wished to speak to his two children, Nia and Jabori, in private before the selected members of his cabinet arrived. The cabinet had to be there to witness the departing king pronounce his son as his successor as was customary. But Jabori was late, as usual.
The pains, from the diseased body, that Gĩtonga was enduring was nothing compared to the torment he felt when he considered handing his crown over to Jabori. For Jabori never failed to disappoint him.
“Nia,” the dying king called out.
As readily and as handily as always, Nia answered, “Yes, my father.”
“Promise me you’ll look after your brother,” Gĩtonga asked his most beloved daughter. The irony of having to ask his very young daughter to look after her elder brother, his first son, saddened him greatly; under the weight of the sorrow, he almost gave up the ghost. But he had to wait a little longer for the benefit of his people, so with great strength, he fended off death for another hour.
“I will, my father,” Nia answered. Then upon noticing the despair on his face, she firmed her grip on his hand and said reassuringly to him, “But don’t worry about Jabori. He will be fine. Jabori is wise and strong.”
“I will not hand my crown over to Jabori,” Gĩtonga said as Nia listened. “I will let you have it.”
“No, that’s uncustomary, my father. I’m a woman, and Jabori is your first child, your only son,” Nia said.
“You will share power with my cabinet. It is nontraditional, I know, but it has happened in our empire in the past.” King Gĩtonga paused to catch his breath, then after a while, he continued, “The governorship of the empire will rest on yours and my cabinet’s shoulders. I will not give Jabori complete authority over the empire, as I know he will plunge it into ruins.”
“The responsibility will strengthen him. Please, dear father. He has waited for this all his life. Deny him this, and you have given him a blow he will never recover from,” Nia pleaded.
“Jabori is afflicted with countless diseases, cancers of the character. He is plagued with a thousand leeches, each draining his judgment,” the sick man said as he shook his head regretfully. He paused for a while and then continued. “The greatest of Jabori’s afflictions is his wife, Kadezi. Much like a malignant sore on his body, she drains out every ounce of common sense in him.”
Nia fell to her knees and redoubled her pleading effort, “Please, Father. Let Jabori have his birthright. I will always be there by his side to help. Jabori loves me, and he will listen to me.”
“Rise, my daughter,” the king said as the door opened and Jabori walked in.
“My father,” Jabori said as he gave the dying man the customary genuflection, “I’m sorry for being late.”
Minutes later, the cabinet arrived. They stood around the dying king’s bed, shocked and finding it difficult to reconcile the broken and weak man on the bed with their king whom they always knew to be exuberant and robust.
Many eyes turned moist and red in their quests to restrain tears. It was frowned upon for men to cry openly, so the cabinet members swallowed their sorrow.
“I hereby hand my crown over to my two children,” King Gĩtonga stated to the amazement of the cabinet. They had never heard of one crown being worn by two people. Yet they kept quiet and listened as the king continued, his lawyer recording every word he spoke.
“Jabori shall wear the crown as the king, but Nia shall be the guardian of the crown. Both must consult each other to make any decisions concerning the administration of the empire, both will have equal powers.”
The cabinet listened eagerly. Like parched men before a water fountain, they had to quench their thirsty ears with the words that poured out of the departing king’s mouth. And the stream of the fountain was weakening, for each word Gĩtonga spoke was less audible than the previous. He was gradually departing as he already stood with one foot on earth and the other in the great beyond. Yet the attentive ears of his cabinet missed nothing.
Questions filled the room. How would that work? the cabinet men asked in their minds. The king usually chose his cabinet, and the cabinet oriented itself to the king who had supreme power. Would Nia and Jabori have different cabinets? Nia and Jabori would definitely experience a power struggle that may split the empire into two, the cabinet men collectively thought.
As if he perceived their questions, King Gĩtonga continued, “The present cabinet, my cabinet, shall not be dissolved, and it shall remain independent. It, too, shall have a share of the power. Hence, the leadership of the Agiku Empire rests on three shoulders: Jabori, the wearer of the crown; Nia, the guardian of the crown; and the cabinet. Each of these three arms of the government will have equal power.”
The king paused; it was increasingly challenging for him to speak. Perhaps he had in fact uttered his last words, but everybody waited patiently.
And when Gĩtonga called out the names of his dead relatives, the people physically present knew he was already gone.
Soon, the chirping of the heart monitor lost its rhythm. A nurse rushed into the room, on her heels was the doctor who checked the king’s vital signs as the heart monitor now beat in rapid procession. Then the beeping quieted, and the graphs on the monitors screen flattened into a straight line. The doctor pulled the white cover over the dead man’s face and left the room. However, he was not surprised, the man had actually lived longer than the doctor expected.
“Go in peace, my king,” the cabinet men said to the deceased man one after the other as they left the room.
Nia had to be torn apart from her departed father’s body. Her cries echoed through the corridors of the hospital as they wheeled her father’s body down the hall to the morgue.
Jabori stood silently, not knowing what to do; as always, he was unsure of himself. Should he show emotion for the loss of his father? No! He should be a man. Should he be angry because his father denied him his birthright, the sole power over the empire that was customarily always given to the first son by a departing king? Should he console Nia? Should he go and talk to the cabinet men?
He remembered that Kadezi told him to call her immediately afterward. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and looked at it; there was no signal reception in the hospital. He headed outside so he could get a signal to place the call. He walked through the corridor as Nia sat on the floor with her back against the wall, weeping profusely. Two of the cabinet men stood over her. Jabori could hear the men saying, “Take heart, my princess,” to Nia as he passed by her.
A few steps away from the hospital building, he was able to phone Kenya. “Hello,” Kadezi said to him, lying on their matrimonial bed. He quickly told Kadezi what happened, everything his father decreed before passing. Kadezi was disappointed; she wondered how the new structure of the government would affect her and Karanja’s plans. But her disappointment did not deter her from recognizing an opportunity to criticize Nia and create enmity between the siblings.
“Did Nia get to him before you?” Kadezi asked as Jabori affirmed. “You see? Nia went there and persuaded your father not hand over absolute power to you. She stole your birthright!” Kadezi screamed.
Minutes later, Jabori ended the call, and Kadezi, back in Kenya, placed her cell phone next to the bed. She turned toward Karanja, the man on the bed with her. She told Karanja everything Jabori said.
Karanja thought for a while and said, “We will have to get to the newly departed king’s will before the cabinet announces it to the people. We will destroy it and silence the cabinet. We will have to let Jabori have absolute power over the empire for a while, and then we will take care of him.”
Karanja pulled Kadezi closer. He was the head of the palace guards. He was supposed to be a bodyguard to Jabori and Kadezi. But to Kadezi’s body, he did more than simply guard. He and Kadezi were lovers.
|Re: Excerpt from my Upcoming book, "Guardian Of The Crown." by asam7(f): 4:55pm On Mar 11, 2013|
This is wonderful, I can't wait to read the book.
|Re: Excerpt from my Upcoming book, "Guardian Of The Crown." by litelov: 10:23pm On Oct 19, 2013|
Sounds really interesting! I just purchased the book.
|Re: Excerpt from my Upcoming book, "Guardian Of The Crown." by justcool(m): 11:01pm On Oct 19, 2013|
You can order the book from any of the following websights:
Barns and noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/guardian-of-the-crown-fidelis-nwabueze/1115472078?ean=9781483608112
|Re: Excerpt from my Upcoming book, "Guardian Of The Crown." by latrust(f): 11:13am On Nov 10, 2013|
Wow!!! This is Excellent, I can't wait to read more. I will order this book immediately.
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