OYIN OLUDIPE – Alhaji Keulere’s Goats
Alhaji Keulere’s Goats
There have been too many robberies in our town and Papa’s panic has become as a spirit. When a bullet probed the midnight sky, it spun rapid spirals, as did his legs. And like troubled smoke, his legs awoke every breath under our roof. They knocked the empty purple vase over, fumbled at the helm of our bed, and became feeble. Became bare.
Tonight, another bullet has stung the sky and there is a sudden silence in our street. “Up! Children, up!” The voice when it came, tense and low, was Father’s. “Up! Wear something. We must leave for Grandmother’s now!”
Grandmother’s was a safe haven on the outskirts; but mother, it seemed, would not leave. “Tonight?” she said. “We would end up seen or even shot!”
It was Alhaji Keulere’s gate. It had jangled loudly again. Three blows, then four. Then five, the sixth so brute and brash. Father sprang to another curtain and peered from a slit. “If we do not run now, we are next.” A seventh blow. “Iwo woman yi! They would enter this compound and shoot us, all of us!” Father continued to shout: Mother was too bold. Mother would not bulge. Was Mother not hearing the noise? Why would she not bulge? Was Mother ready to die? She was not.
Yet puzzled she was, in the way she had looked at me; a brief struggle in her eyes, in the way she had opened the gates and not returned to close them. Dark mist gleamed in the headlights as we passed a waving night-guard. When we arrived at grandmother’s flowered compound, everyone’s eyes sleep-stewed; the puzzle was still there, now, in her silence…
Morning is here. I hear our night-guards had a drunken midnight festival. And Alhaji Keulere’s goats too.
Iwo woman yi – You this woman