Odwar had had a long day at the shamba with the rains that had settled in. It was August. That time when everyone serious was making a final attempt at planting. The last season of the year. He half smiled as he entered his homestead, knowing that his efforts would pay off again this year. The rains had been good.
He made a beeline for the small hut, tossed his hoe on the side of it and slid the metallic door open. The door, made from old USAID cooking oil cans hammered flat into submission made that kruuurrr sound as doors made from old tired sheets of baati would when pushed to open.
He rushed in as the pangs of the August kec bit his stomach. He checked by the heath and found his wife had boiled cassava. It was not your usual gwana. It was not the okonyo ladak gwana; the kind of cassava that one who shifts moves with because it cooks real quick. It wasn’t Wu roo ki raa. The kind of cassava that easily cooks by merely using raa.
No. It wasn’t the cassava from Kafu either. Neither was it the rooty cassava that came from the cuttings that were given out by NAADS and the supplier had to be queried and later on handed over to the police the year before. This, was a cousin of all cassavas. It was white. It was nwang. The kind of cassava that cracked as you slid a knife through it. The kind that had tiny mouth watering cracks lined on their side upon being boiled. It’s was pure cassava. Pure gwana.
He didn’t wash his hands. What was the point? The cassava would still go down his stomach and down the alimentary canal anyways. He reached out for the odii from where his wife Ayenyo always kept it. Up in the cel. The cel that his mother had insisted Ayenyo keeps much as his wife was reluctant about it. He wandered when his mother would ever get along with his wife as he sat down on the wooden foldable kakara chair. With his knees strangely stretching towards his cheeks given his height, Odwar picked up the saucepan of boiled gwana and atabo odii and placed it before him. His gut told him to put some drinking water on hand but his stomach was in no mood to wait any longer.
He picked up the biggest piece of gwana with nicest crack on the side, scooped it with the odii and started to feed his hungry stomach.
He was too engulfed in enjoying the cassava he forgot he was going too fast. By the fourth scoop the odii and cassava had decided to go slow and blocked part of Odwar’s air way. It was this slow thing going down his throat. He let out a hiccup. Then a semi hiccup. Then his eyes froze. He was helpless. He was choking! He saw his life start to sort of flash before him. He couldn’t move. He was frozen in a cassava -odii-time wap.
For the first time, he understood why Ayenyo had insisted the water pot stays near the center of the hut. She had argued that it would be easier to reach incase one was choking on something. He had rubbished her off and insisted the pot is placed behind the door as it would make it harder for one to locate it incase they wanted to poison them. His mother had agreed. And so the water pot had been placed behind the door.
Beads of sweat started to form on his forehead then smaller ones on his large nose as he continued to freeze in this helpless state. The hiccups were now replaced with a giant paralysing lump in his throat. He couldn’t move. He started to make promises to the gods of Ogili about making good the promise he made to that annoying muluka to go to church and also support his wife with raising the children; just like that overtly talkative reverend had preached at his brother-in-law’s wedding. He still wondered why his brother-in- law insisted on wedding when everyone in the parish knew that he was committed to both is wives. Perhaps it was a job thing. Who knows what these town people will do for a living!
The lump in his chest was getting worse and his eyes were about to pop out of their sockets when he saw the frame of his wife coming back from the river. He quickly reminded the gods that if she got in a lot faster, he would be a better husband. Strangely, she headed for the kitchen where he was instead of the drum where she had been collecting water for making the bricks for their future house. Surely, the gods of Ogili, Lubanga me polo, the Muluka’s perfect God do exist, he said. They have guided Adwar’s legs to this but.
Adwar lifted the 20 litre yellow jerrican off her head while muttering under her breath wondering which goat had knocked the door open again.
As she waited for her eyes to adjust to the dimness of the kitchen hut, she noticed her husband seated right in the middle of it, his eyes bulging with a deathly glare in them. He said nothing. One hand had a piece of cassava, that cassava Okellomone had insisted she brings home, while the other was folded into a fist. She froze. She knew this cassava would bring her problems from the time she accepted them, brought them to their homestead, peeled them, and boiled them. She knew her husband had found out. She decided to confess. She had nothing to loose. Karma and the gods of Ogili had had enough of her misdeeds. It was time to pay.
“I am sorry, Odwar. I told Okellomone to leave me be, but he wouldn’t listen. I told him I didn’t want anything to do with his cassava but he insisted, and insisted, and insisted” she said in between deep fearful breaths, tears suddenly finding their way down her beautiful lamoyaa face.
I told him I was married. Fully married. That you had just completed sending the remaining lim to my parents in Pajule 6 moons ago but he wouldn’t listen. He said Ker ki leyo aleya. So I took the gwana. You can tell for yourself that gwana ne ber. I am sorry I strayed from our home. I am sorry I looked at another man the way I shouldn’t. I am sorry I ala….
Odwar finally gained the strength in his left hand and pointed at the water pot whilst mouthing the word pii….water!
With her mouth gaped in shock, she dashed to the water pot, scooped pii in the old beaten green Mukwano tumpeco mini mug and hastily placed it in his open hand. He gulped the water, once, twice and thrice, his eyeballs sliding back and resettling into its sockets.
He then looked up at her, placing the tumpeco down, the final bead of sweat dropping down his forehead and asked “What is it you were saying about Okellomone’s cassava again?”
They said we should eat cassava.