Season of Scorch
by Unoma N. Azuah
The harmattan had come with an unusual
chill. Doshima would not have felt it so much if it was not for her malaria
fever. She tossed on her bamboo bed, wrapped the blanket tighter around her, and
gazed at the thatched roof. A gust of wind blew in through the two small
opposite windows, cooling her face. She moaned, rolled over and lay on her side.
Her joints ached, particularly her waist and knees. Her hut was a round building
and held her wooden bed made out of bamboo sticks. Two cane chairs were at the
opposite corners of the room with a table standing in the center. There were
four other huts surrounding hers. One was for her father, one for her mother and
the other for her stepmother and her children. Hedging all five huts were huge
Iroko trees with their branches falling over the huts like canopies. Beyond
these trees were farmlands, yam farmlands with freshly ploughed mounds, moist
with yam seeds. Doshima’s mother stood by a low fire, cooking herbs, a few yards
from her, and sometimes strong winds blew the hot air from her cooking fire into
“Doshima! Doshima!” her mother called.
“Mama!” she answered, holding her throbbing head. She had nearly drifted off to
Her mother had gathered large pieces of firewood to boil medicinal herbs for her
fever. “I hope you feel well to see the in-laws today,” her mother said,
stirring the boiling herbs with a wooden spoon. She had mentioned that the man
interested in marrying her was visiting, but Doshima was not happy about
marrying a stranger, a man who her mother had told her was much older. She was
eighteen and was not quite ready for marriage. That was probably part of the
reason for her illness. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine what Tekula
would look like—a lanky and drooping old man with a walking stick, his face
gaunt, probably with sunken eyes and cheeks. He might also be drooling with
stained tobacco lips. Doshima bit her lower lip and opened her eyes. Her gaze
returned to her roof and she wished her life had been as calm as the day she sat
with Hembafan at the Ukan riverside laughing with him and pinching him.
They had sat on a low rock beside the river, their legs washed by the slow
flowing river. Doshima felt a tickle on her toes and hurriedly removed her legs
for fear that it might have been river snakes, but Hembafan assured her that
they were only weeds and asked her to put her feet back in. She refused and
stood up. Hembafan held her, persuading her to sit, but in her attempt to
wriggle free from him and step away, she slipped on the marshy soil and fell
into the river. Hembafan dove in with a huge splash and carried her out. “You’re
heavier than that rock we sat on!” he said, grinning at her. They both laughed
as water trickled down their faces and gathered beneath their feet forming
circles of wet soil. The strong wind made them shiver and goose pimples spread
on Hembafan’s glittering legs and arms. He folded his arm around his large chest
and his thick muscles bulged. His black shorts were sticking to his thigh and
groin. Doshima stared at him. Her own blouse clung to her chest and revealed the
nipples of breasts that looked like almond seeds. She bent down and gathered the
edges of her wrapper and tried to wring out some water, squeezing as tight as
she could. As she squeezed harder she asked Hembafan to do the same with his
shorts. She noticed the black piece of rope he had used to secure his loose
shorts and tugged at it. Hembafan grabbed her hand. He held it for a moment and
told her they were the softest hands he had ever held. That he wouldn’t let her
touch a thing when they got married. Doshima snickered at him and told him to go
get himself a nice belt first. And he chased her and they ran all the way home.
Doshima’s stare moved away from the roof and settled on her mother. As her
mother lifted the pot of herbs with her bare hands, a squall of smoke assailed
her face. She blinked and gently dropped the pot on the ground.
“Get the blanket, you need to sweat out the fever with these herbs,” her mother
Doshima sighed, dragged herself up from bed and rested her hand on the wall to
ease her aching legs, then she sauntered out with the chair and the edge of the
blanket brushed the ground as she dragged it along. She sat with the steaming
pot between her legs and her mother, like a fisherman casting his fishing net,
hurled the blanket over her and the pot. The intense heat with a strong lemon
aroma invaded her face, and then her limbs. She closed her eyes. Large beads of
sweat broke out on her face and crept down her body. She inhaled several times.
On her tenth attempt to inhale, she felt as if she would choke, and pulled away
the blanket. She took a deep breath of fresh air and smiled at her mother who
was beside her watching. Then her mother offered her a calabash full of the
herbal medicine to drink.
“Drink, drink!” her mother urged her.
Doshima eyed the bowl of herbs with a frown and looked away.
“Go on, drink some,” her mother persuaded.
After Doshima drank as much as she could, her mother gave her a sponge bath with
what was left of the herbal medicine. Doshima hurried back to her hut and sat
down on her bed. As she tried to stretch herself out, her mother came in with a
bowl of guinea corn pap and some roasted plantain.
“Not yet, put some food in your stomach before you lie down,” her mother
ordered, dragging out a chair from under the bed. “There!” She said and placed
the bowl of plantain and pap on the chair.
Doshima ate a little plantain, but finished the pap. As she scraped up the last
bit of pap, she heard her father’s voice.
“Tor!” her mother called. “You?”
“Yeei, I showed the laborers what to do. Our in-laws are coming, you didn’t
“No, Doshima has fever.”
“Not again! She had fever last week, right?”
“I must have overcooked the leaves last time. But no worry, she’ll be well to
He placed his hands on his waist, bit his lower lip and headed to Doshima’s hut.
He was hoping that she’d be well by the time Tekula arrived. He found her
looking at her hollow roof. “Doshima, how are you?”
“I am fine. What is it I hear about a high bride price?”
He rubbed his hands together and said, “What matters is that you will soon be
married. You are the best woman farmer in this village. The amount of yams you
will produce for Tekula in months will cover the bride price and give him even
more. I know your worth, Doshima, I do.”
“Who is this Tekula?”
“You will meet him today. He is a good friend.”
Tekula was a seventy-four year old farmer and trader whom Tor had met at a yam
market two years go. The harvest had been good. I t was one of the days when Tor
came with too many yams to sell. He had hopes that he would sell them all. He
did not want to take them back to the barn and watch his year long labor rot.
The market was closing for the day and he still had half of the yams he came
with. He stood beside his pile of yams, calling out, “Yams! Yams! Sweet yams!
Buy good yams!” But few of the men, women and lorry drivers who bought yams in
tons stopped to buy from him. He arched his hand over his eyes to shade the sun
from his face to see how high the sun was. Then he called out louder, “Buy yams!
Big good yams!” A scrawny dog trotted into his stall, with its tongue hanging
out. It stopped at one of the wooden poles supporting Tor’s stall, lifted it
hind leg and pissed. Tor yelled at it, “Shaiii! Go away!” But the dog eyed him
and continued pissing. The swarm of flies perched on the dog’s sour ears buzzed
as Tor waved his hands at him, so he left him alone.
The sun bore down like an angry god. Then the old man Tekula walked out of a
stall, his gold-rimmed walking stick raising dust as it cut into the hot sand.
He puffed out a thick smoke from his charred lips and asked with half closed
“How much for all? They look good.” He said and picked up a large yam.
“Cheap!” Tor told him, “Take all for 500 naira.”
“No, 250.” Tekula said, removing the pipe from his mouth.
“350 last.” Tor said and lifted two yams. “See, they’re fleshy and good, no
Tekula held up one of the yams and smiled. “They are quite fleshy and no rot at
all…isn’t this what we all look for in everything…fleshy and good, be it money,
children, wives, houses, stocks…just name it.”
Tor’s face spread with a wide grin and he shook his head and said, “You’re very
right…very right.” They both laughed. Then Tekula bought up the rest of the
yams. Their business relationship matured into a friendship. It was on one of
their market days that Tekula mentioned to Tor that he was interested in
marrying a fourth wife. Tor immediately recommended his daughter, Doshima. But
Doshima was hoping to marry her childhood friend, Hembafan. He was tall like an
Iroko tree. Long-faced, very dark and handsome. Her father had turned down
Hembafan’s proposal to marry her with the reason that he was not financially
secure enough to take care of her. Hembafan left the village in frustration for
Zaki Ibiam, a town more than two hundred miles away.
“Papa, he’s old” Doshima said. “Please, let me marry Hembafan.”
“No, I’ll not let Hembafan marry you, he’s only a boy. You need a man, a full
blown man, not a baby like Hembafan who is still eating off his mother’s pot,”
“Papa, please,” Doshima whined.
“Tekula’s age has nothing to do with him as a man. Do you know your mother’s age
when I married her?” Doshima’s mother must have heard them. She tapped a spoon
on the edge of her boiling pot of soup and poked hard at the dying embers of
“Look,” her father lowered his voice and spoke softly. “I have invested money in
my farm and I cannot afford to pay it back, so if you misbehave, I will thrash
you like the child you are,” he scowled and stormed out.
It had always been this way. Even when Doshima was a child he had insisted that
she only wore dresses of the proper color for her age-grade dances. As a child
of seven Doshima had once left home early, wearing her favorite bright red dress
to join her age grade in a dance practice, but her father broke into the circle
of dancers, waving a brown dress over his head. “I told you to wear this!” He
yelled at her and dragged her out of the group. The group looked on alarmed. A
couple of them ran to help snatch Doshima out of his hand, but his clenched
mouth made them step back as he glared at them. Doshima tugged at his hand to
let her go, but he picked her up. She shot out her hands, kicking her legs into
the air, squirming in protest, and shaking her father’s whole frame, but he
ignored her, took her to a cluster of shrubs and tried to rip off the red dress.
Her head got stuck at the neck but he yanked hard at it till she pushed through
the dress and had it off. He didn’t like bright colors, like red, bright
yellows, turquoise and orange, which Doshima loved. He felt they called
attention to Doshima and preferred brown, green and dark blue. He also once
insisted that she could not sleep in the same hut with her mother when she was
ill with flu, but Doshima sneaked out of the hut, and lay beside her mother,
holding her in the dark.
* * *
A few days later Tekula walked into the compound with a group of four men and
two women. The men had two enormous kegs of palm wine placed on their shoulders,
with two brown bags dangling beside their arms. The men looked about the same
age. Doshima could not tell which one of them was Tekula, they were all family
members, but she suspected that the bent old man with a walking stick tapping up
tiny clouds of dust must be him. The men wore long-sleeved T-shirts with long
wrappers thrown over their shoulders. The women had the same blue and white
wrappers tied over their waists. One or them had brown headgear with a black
handbag clasped under her arm. The second was wearing a blouse that was
originally white but had turned somehow ochre. Her toenails were slipping
through her rubber sandals and brushing the ground as she walked.
Doshima’s parents saw them approaching and went out to meet them. They took the
kegs of palm wine from them, set them on the ground and embraced them one after
the other. Doshima’s stepmother was supposed to be there to welcome them, too,
but she had taken ill and had gone with her four children to stay with her
mother at Ugba, about three hundred miles from them. When they were seated,
Doshima’s mother served them bowls of pounded yam and they set to eating.
Her mother called and Doshima came out of her hut. “I greet you,” she said and
bowed in respect. “You are welcome. Please, which of you is Tekula?”
“Doshima, go and wait. We will send for you when we need you,” her father
interrupted, and sat beside Tekula on a bench.
“Oh!” The man with the walking stick cooed, and stood up. “She is beautiful, a
stout strong woman. She has your round face and her mother’s hands,” he said to
“Come and greet your husband,” he then said to Doshima with his hands
outstretched. He also seemed to be smiling on one side of his face. “I’m Tekula.
I’ve been seeing you from a distance, but you’re much prettier up close. The day
has finally come to make you part of me, child.”
Doshima’s heart skipped. She turned back to her mother’s hut. But her father
stood, cleared his throat, and spoke up. “My daughter has been ill, but whatever
it is she has to say to her husband will be said in your home.”
Tekula fixed a quizzical look at him and said, “Doshima has been sick? But you
should’ve sent a message to me. I would have taken her to one of the best
medicine men in Buruku. Anyway, we will come for her by the next Burutu market,”
he said, crunching a chunk of kola nut. He stood, and his relatives stood as
well. “We’ll be going,” he announced.
Doshima’s mother scampered out of her kitchen, wiping her nose with the edge of
“You have done well, in-law, your food was quite delicious,” The first woman
said rubbing her palms together. The woman whose toes stuck out sucked her teeth
and yelled out a “thank you!” She reached for a nearby shrub, broke a twig and
picked her teeth. A man with the tail of his cap dangling into his eyes
whispered a “well done” to Doshima’s mother, and belched loudly. “We look
forward to good things,” he added with a smile that looked like a frown because
of the many wrinkles in his big face.
Tekula belched loudly, too, and said “Humm! That’s a good belch, we’re all
belching like kings. It means our in-laws fed us well.” He patted Doshima’s
mother on her back for a thank you and held firmly to his walking stick.
Doshima’s mother thanked them and waved them goodbye.
When Doshima saw her father walk away with them, she walked out to her mother.
“Mama, I don’t want to marry Tekula.”
“Not to worry. Despite his age, he could still give you many children,” she said
holding Doshima’s hand. “Don’t be like my sister Ila who rejected men because of
their ages. Though she’s doing well now as a nurse, she ended up not being
married at all.
* * *
The road to Tekula’s home was long and windy. The donkeys they had were trotting
and galloping. Their hoofs stirred clouds of dust as they ran. Doshima cupped
her hand to her face to prevent the rising dust from entering her mouth. When
they finally arrived at Tekula’s house, there was a crowd of people waiting.
Some were dancing in groups, others were spectators. The dancing group of girls
her age had bright red wrappers tied around their waists, which were heaving
with cowry beads. They also had shell beads tied around their shins, so that, as
they danced, the clattering of beads harmonized with the rhythm of their drums.
Their feet were covered with dust as they stomped them forcefully into the
porous sand. The group of men made a circle around the dancers. The men in this
circle chanted what sounded like a war song. There was lots of dancing and food
to welcome her.
Tekula’s compound was large, eight huts built in a circle with a large space in
the middle. In the space was an enormous tree with great limbs like the trees in
Doshima’s compound. The trees shaded all the huts from the sizzling sun. He
shared the compound not just with his three wives and children, but also with
his grandsons and their own children. Children ran about everywhere, seeming to
multiply from the huts as if they were ants oozing out of a hot hole. They all
looked alike with protruding cheeks and stomach, and only wearing blue
underwear. Even the bigger ones, whose breasts looked like pebbles, wore
underwear. All of Tekula’s money would not be enough to buy clothes for the
crowd of children in his house. They all seemed to be of the same height. Their
ages could have ranged from four to ten. They were screaming and chasing after
each other in a game of hide and seek, but as soon as they noticed Doshima’s
presence they stood still and stared at her. The older ones of about ten
whispered among themselves and then giggled. All together, there were twenty-six
people. In her father’s compound, they were just nine: her father’s second wife
with her four children, then her mother, and her youngest brother, who had
settled in his farm away from home.
Tekula’s wives served her a meal of paw-paw leaf soup, grilled rat meat and
plenty of pounded yams. But Doshima watched the ceremony like a spectator. She
did not feel like she was part of it. To her it was not a time to celebrate, it
was a time to mourn, and a time to bury all the dreams she had nursed of being
married to Hembafan.
The next day came with fierce sunshine. The bare grounds seemed to be panting in
the sun. Leaves drooped in weariness, but Tekula’s wives chatted away in the
first wife’s hut. As Doshima looked through her open door, Mimi, the first wife,
called out to her, “Doshima, come and spend some time with us, dear one. You
need as much wisdom from us as you can gather.”
Doshima blinked a number of times and joined them. The second wife, Hedon,
tapped her fingers on the stool next to her for Doshima to sit. Just before
Doshima sat down, Hedon reached for her hand, held it for a while and stared at
her full breasts. Then she asked her to turn, and looked at her buttocks.
“You are beautiful, you know.” They took their turns teasing her about how
beautiful she was and how their husband would practically move into her hut. She
smiled, but shuddered at the idea. She sat with them and listened as the chatted
As evening crept in, Doshima decided to cook dinner for the whole family. She
gathered loose pieces of dry wood that fell from tree branches surrounding her
hut. She had found several logs of wood behind Mama Lupe’s kitchen and broke
them into manageable sizes with Tekula’s axe. The axe reminded her of Hembafan’s
axe. It had a small metal edge, but a long handle. Hembafan used to carry it
with him whenever he accompanied her for fire wood hunt. They would usually take
a rest and she would snicker at him. Hembafan would hold her hand and repeatedly
count her tiny fingers. Sometimes, he would pull her to his chest, turn her head
and blow some air into her ear. Doshima would wriggle away and laugh into his
shiny eyes. They often wandered into fields of wild berries, plucking and eating
as much as they could. In between their hunts for woods and berries, Hembafan
would pinch her and run into a thick shrub to hide. Doshima would ignore him at
first, but he would keep pinching until she would chase him around the shrubs.
She held the axe closely to her bosom and whispered to herself, “Maybe he’ll
come back for me.”
She didn’t find Mama Lupe’s kitchen big enough, so she decided to cook in the
open compound. She had formed a tripod with three large stones, stacked the
cooking wood in between the three openings, then broke the loose pieces of wood
into small bits and spread them on the larger pieces of wood before she poured
some palm oil and struck a match to light them. A ball of smoke rose into the
air. Doshima bent down and blew some air into it. The fire burst into a huge
flame and reached for Doshima. She promptly moved away, sniffing, and squinted
After a bit she sang her favorite song, “Slow but Sure,” a song about justice
her mother had taught her. But she stopped singing when she heard Tekula’s voice
in the background. Tekula’s five small children ran to her and stood beside her
while she completed her cooking. Then she collected enough for everyone and
dished out the food. The children watched as she generously scooped soup into
their plates. Tekula’s wives took theirs, washed their hands and sat with the
children to eat. Doshima took Tekula’s to him. He didn’t touch the food. When
everyone was done, they all complimented her for her good cooking except Tekula.
She smiled at their compliments and hoped Tekula would eat his share. His dinner
was still lying untouched beside him. Mama Lupe asked him to eat up, that the
food would get cold, but he said he was not hungry. Doshima looked at him and
felt like forcing the food, along with the plates, down his creased neck. She
knew he was angry with her, but pushed the idea away from her mind. She would
not accept sleeping with him. When everyone was done with their food, including
Tekula, she assembled all the plates and washed them humming her song, “Slow but
Late in the night, Tekula invited her to sit beside him while he told his
great-grandchildren folktales. Before he finished the stories, Doshima sneaked
into her hut and locked the door. He came knocking when everyone had gone to
sleep, but Doshima ignored him. As he pulled harder on the door, Doshima
repeatedly tied and untied the end of her wrapper in silence until he left.
Early the next morning, Tekula swung Doshima’s door wide open. With a wide
smile, he asked her how she had slept, but she remained silent.
“Did you hear me?” he asked, dropping the nails, chisel and hammer he had
brought with him.
“Yes! I heard you. I slept well, thank you!” she said.
“Why is your voice high?” Tekula asked, staring at her. When he didn’t get any
answer, he sat on the edge of her bed and tried to hold her hand. She brushed it
away and jolted out of bed. She stood in the middle of the room and said, “You
should have knocked before entering.”
“What!” Tekula snapped, “Knock in my own house. You are not serious.” He hissed
and stood up with an effort. Doshima went back to her bed and watched him study
the locks of her door.
“I want to change the lock to your door, so we can both have keys,” he informed
her, but she didn’t say a word.
He must be looking forward to laying his old bones beside me, she thought to
herself and spat beside him. Tekula swung around and shouted at her. “Why don’t
you go outside and spit? Do you find yourself too heavy to carry outside?” he
asked, his large red eyes bulging at Doshima. She stared back at him, and he
looked away and continued with his work on the door. He placed the chisel on the
lock and hammered away. Doshima watched his thin hands with their large veins
protruding, like big earth worms wriggling to escape from under his skin. He
stuck out his tongue, digging his upper and lower teeth into it and landing his
hammer with more force. Doshima winced at the sight and looked away. When he was
done he cleared his throat and said, “Here is your spare key,” dropping it on
her windowsill and slamming the door violently. He had removed the inside lock
of Doshima’s door and replaced the outside padlock with another one. Doshima
wondered what his plans were. Never, she thought. She would keep putting him off
until he was forced to let her go back to her father’s house.
That night, he entered unnoticed. He lay beside Doshima, and she woke with a
start and sprang up from the bed, then moved as far away as possible from him.
The flame of her tin lantern flickered as an insect fell into it. Tekula smiled
at her. She looked away. He leapt off the bed and grabbed her arms. His palms
felt like a worn brush on her skin. She shot out her fingernails and tore
blindly at his face. He whimpered. Doshima pushed him with all the force in her.
He fell with a thud, his face rumpled with pain. He sat on the bed and wiped the
blood trickling down his face with the edge of his loose loincloth.
Doshima looked on, wide-eyed. “I am sorry,” she managed to say. Tekula grunted
and limped out of the hut.
Before dawn, his first wife stormed into Doshima's room and yanked her out of
“Look, you are not the first. You may not even be the last, so the only virtue
you owe him is submissiveness. If you did not tame yourself as a wild cat in
your father’s house, I will help you do that. And if you push Tekula any
further, I will let him deal with you as he pleases!” she yelled and strode out,
the end of her loose wrapper flapping behind her.
Doshima was huddled on one side of the hut till streaks of daylight crept in.
She had toyed with the idea of running back home, but knew that her father would
rather kill her than have her return home.
“Doshima!” one of Tekula’s daughters called. “We’re all off to the farm, take
care of the little ones. Mama Lupe is still sleeping.”
Mama Lupe was Tekula’s third wife, a nursing mother. When there was no sound of
anyone’s movement, Doshima opened her door and windows. A twirl of wind whistled
through her hut. She peered out and saw Mama Lupe under shade, cuddling her
baby. She joined her and carried the baby who cooed like a purring cat, smiling.
Doshima kissed his forehead and grinned into his face, rocked him for a while,
and handed him back to his mother. When she turned to break a branch of a shrub
for a chewing stick, Mama Lupe noticed a red stain on her wrapper and called her
attention to it. She turned sharply around and looked behind her. “Oh, it must
be my menstrual blood. It’s supposed to have stopped yesterday,” she explained,
shifting the spot of the stain away from her buttocks and retying the wrapper.
“Let me go have my bath,” she continued, picking a large calabash from her hut.
She called out to Ayila, Lupe’s six-year-old brother, “Come with me to the
stream, you are the only man in the house now.”
Ayila smiled and scratched his bulging tummy. They left for the stream, but
half-way Ayila abandoned her and chased after a grasshopper, so she continued
the trip alone. As soon as she got home, Ayila ran to her with his catch, but
Doshima scowled at him and walked briskly into her hut.
She was half asleep when she heard a loud noise. Someone kicked open her door
and Tekula barged into her hut with four of his biggest grandsons. One grabbed
her, another stripped her naked, the other men pulled her to the bed. They
pinned her down, her legs spread wide. Tekula fumbled with his loins, then tore
it out of his thighs. He lay across her and rammed himself into her. She
screamed and felt as if her entrails were being pulled through her body. She
continued screaming as Tekula plunged himself deeper until she passed out. When
she came around, she found herself surrounded by two women, dabbing her vagina
with warm water. She cringed, but they assured her that she’d soon be all right.
Her wrapper was coming loose, so she pulled the ends closer to her chest and she
moved her wide-spread legs together.
“Poor girl, if only you were obedient,” one of them addressed her. She gnashed
her teeth without looking at the women’s faces.
“After this it won’t hurt as much the next time,” the second added, wiping
Doshima’s face with a warm cloth. Doshima pulled away and felt like screaming at
them to let her go, but she knew they wouldn’t let her be till they were done.
When they were through, she eased herself outside and they helped her back into
She lay down and cried, and felt she would have been better off without a father
who cared nothing about her, a father who merely saw her as a part of his yam
wealth, and cared nothing about her happiness.
* * *
Just before dawn, she peeped through the crack on her door to make sure there
was no one up early. She didn’t see anyone or hear a sound, so she tied all her
clothes into a bundle and then tied the bundle with a rope. She peeped again and
then eased the bundle on her shoulder and stepped outside. A man coughed in the
paling darkness, so she stopped in mid-stride. She also thought she heard
Tekula’s whole family groaning and probably clutching onto their hurting
stomachs. But she picked her way into the bush path behind her hut and hobbled
along a narrow path. There were many tree stumps across the path. They slowed
down her steps. When she came to a narrower path, mist-moistened leaves brushed
her legs. She cringed, but kept walking. As the path widened again, she looked
ahead and thought she could see her mother’s hut. She had walked the five miles
home without stopping or looking back.
She tapped on her mother’s door, and the woman came out panic-stricken, then
asked in a whisper, “Are you all right? Did he beat you? Did he…?”
“Mama, let me sit down.”
Her mother clutched her chest, her mouth wide open in fear. “What happened…tell
me…tell me!” she insisted, waving her hands in the air. Doshima looked at her
and started crying.
“Mama, he forced himself on me. Four of his big grandsons held me down. They
watched. They watched.…”
“Tekula raped you in the presence of his children, he.”
“I got away, but if Papa finds me here, he might send both of us away.”
“But are you fit enough to make it on your own?”
“Yes, Mama, I’ll manage.”
“Go to my sister in Zaki Ibiam,” her mother said. She bent down and dragged out
a wooden box from under the bed. She opened it and brought out wads of money,
more than Doshima had ever seen before. Several bundles tied with a rag. “It
will make things easier,” her mother said, putting them into Doshima’s bundle.
Doshima hugged her, weeping, and stepped out of her mother’s hut. The harmattan
wind had stirred a bit, the dawn paling greyly to light. Again the wind stirred
and faded. Her dress lifted just at the hem. She would need new shoes, a dress,
and some other things. She would send for Hembafan. Then she left the small
village for the road to Zaki Ibiam.
Unoma Nguemo Azuah teaches Composition and Creative Writing at Lane
College, Jackson, Tennessee. She is an MFA graduate of Virginia Commonwealth
Richmond, Virginia. She also has an MA in English from Cleveland State
University, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. Her undergraduate degree in English is from
the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Her awards include the Hellman/Hammett award,
Leonard Trawick award, the Urban Spectrum award and the Association of Nigerian
Authors/NDDC Flora Nwapa Award. She is presently editing an anthology of modern
Nigerian poetry called On Broken Wings, which will be published in the spring of