BOYS TO MEN

The older I get,
The more I miss my father.
The more knowing I grow,
The more I miss him.
The more I know him.
The more I understand him.
We live life forwards,
But understand life backwards.
When it‘s too late to change anything,
That’s when we understand everything.
The young shall grow.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije
(I just feel like remembering today)

THE SEVEN BROTHERS FROM SOKOTO

THERE WERE once seven brothers from Sokoto who were in everything contrary. They were of contrary mentality and of contrary belief. And, returning from worship on a Sunday morning to find their family home raided and burned yet again in another stab of religious violence, they finally yielded to the plea of their dying father to leave him there in their ancestral land and move south to a place where they could build safe lives for themselves.

Being contrary as they were, the brothers decided that this was the best opportunity to actualise a dream they had always borne deep within their hearts. They decided to find the sea. This was a monumental decision, for the desire to get to the sea had long been the professed desire of many a soul from their corner of the country, for all kinds of different reasons. Now they decided to find it and get to understand this mysterious pull. They knelt down solemnly before the dying Namah, their father, he blessed them with the sign of the cross; and then after one last tearful embrace with Awabe, their gracefully ageing mother, the seven brothers from Sokoto left the large rocky hills and wide arid plains of their homeland behind them as they set off southwards to find the sea.

KERMA, OR THE FIRST BROTHER

They journeyed for a long time. They passed towns and villages and towns again, then came one evening to a village which at first seemed to be empty. Curiously they made their way towards the village square where they found the entire community sitting around a storyteller. The storyteller was an old man who in his youth had travlled far and wide, seen many wonders, survived many adventures and accumulated many memories in his soul. Having arrived, in his travels, the twilight of his life, he parted generously with these memories, cloaked as stories, sharing them with grateful listeners who repaid him with money, clothes, food and, most precious of all, smiles. His old age thus became too a beautiful experience of which he would one day tell, cloaked as a new story, in a new life when he came back to the earth.

The seven brothers from Sokoto were welcomed into the audience and listened to what the storyteller had to say today. Was it providence? For upon this special evening, the old storyteller was telling the village folk about the sea, the immeasurably great sea at the other end of this large country. Magnificent was the sea, he said, and powerful, surging like the roaring of angry giants.

The diminutive, bald-headed chronicler sighed, looked far into the distance of his memory, and added in his surprisingly strong voice that the sea was close to indescribable. It needed to be seen in order to be understood, believed. It was vast, vaster then minds could grasp, and at its outermost boundary, far beyond reach, shone the line of God’s light.

Nor was the sea empty. It was bordered by strange hollow stones called sea-shells and populated with creatures of all types and sizes – he tried to describe fish ten times as large as human beings, and multiple-limbed creatures, and beastial hunters more ferocious than lions. The pictures he painted were gripping. In colourful language he tried and tried to describe the character of the sea, in perpetual motion, never still, water coming and going forever, rocking back and forth.

The listeners were mesmerized. What kind of water was this?

But that was not all, said the wizened old storyteller; there was more, much more to be said about the sea, but it was getting late… he would continue the story the next day. With great effort he stood up, his folded skin, stubborn like old brown leather, reluctantly stretching into its imitation of an upright form. The people were disappointed, they groaned, yet nobody complained. They all loved the storyteller and followed him at his pace.

The seven brothers prepared to travel on before the sun set completely. But Kerma, the first of the seven, was suddenly seized by a contrary ambition. He was a student, a learner, by nature, and had been gripped the deepest by the words of the storyteller. Solemnly Kerma announced to his brothers that he was going to stay here with these villagers and listen to this glorious storyteller who unveiled the sea to him. He could not understand why the others were travelling on. Did they not know that here they would realise their longing of finding the sea?

Nothing that any of the others told him could make him change his mind. Bluntly Kerma blocked his ears to their words and maintained his stand: Here he had found the sea! –

BANDI, OR THE SECOND BROTHER

So his six brothers turned their eyes to the road and sojourned on, hungry for the sea, their appetite whetted by the storyteller’s tales. Further south they travelled, seeking the sea. They crossed boundaries and hills and then one day they came upon a mighty river, the grand River Niger!

How were they going to cross it? They thought and searched, but saw neither boat nor bridge. They then set off down the banks of the river until finally they saw some of the inhabitants of a rustic little village. To them they revealed their mission, explained their present predicament – they did not know how to cross the river.

There were indeed a few bridges across the river, answered the very curious villagers, but they were few and far between. The next one was further yet down the river. Together they all walked along until they got there. As they were then about to cross the bridge, taking their departure from the helpful villagers, whom they had however also paid for their services, one of the villagers mentioned in passing that this river actually eventually flowed into the sea.

Into the sea?, cried Bandi, the second of the seven brothers.

Yes, the villagers said.

Bandi was a true adventurer by nature. Having understood that this river flowed into the sea, he made the decision to buy a boat and navigate the flowing river to its end, the sea. This he revealed to his brothers.

They reflected upon his words individually. His ambition made sense. And yet…! – they had set off to find the sea, and by walking south they would arrive at the sea. This here was a river, not the sea; nor were they trained mariners.

They bade their restless brother farewell and continued towards the sea. Let Bandi be content in his belief that in the river lay his possibility of finding the sea. Every man has his free will, let each man be free. –

AZEKA, OR THE THIRD BROTHER

The remaining five brothers journeyed on. On their path they met many a city, each full of attractions new and interesting. Unable to resist the temptation to explore, they lingered a little in each new place before they moved on. It was not long before they, upon entering a certain city, found themselves in a marketplace of arts and craft. There they came across a group of people admiring a giant-sized painting… a painting of the sea!

The five brothers halted in wonder and gazed at this beautiful painting of such extraordinary beauty. This was their first time of ever seeing the sea, albeit a painting of it. The sight stunned them! It seemed as if they were standing at a mighty window, gazing out into eternity. And as they stared at it in awe and wonder, the third of the seven made his own decision.

Azeka was a quiet person, he did not talk much. Opening his wallet, he extracted the exact amount of money demanded and bought the masterpiece. When his brothers asked him what he was doing, he told them that with this painting his ambition had been fulfilled. How glorious… could they not see it?

They could not. Silently shaking his head to himself, Azeka walked away from them to build a quiet house for himself away from crowds, and hung his painting on the wall where he could see it everyday. Now he would forever have the sea with him. For the quiet, introspective Azeka, the painting was the sea. –

DIRI, OR THE FOURTH BROTHER

Four brothers were left. They progressed on, further south. The vegetation, climate, landscape changed as they plunged deeper into the tropics.

Eventually they got into the city that was the gateway to the last western stretch of the south, leading to the sea. Soon they came upon a place they learned to be something called a club. The name plastered upon it was what arrested their attention – “Big Sea!”

They stopped, their eyes thoughtful, and looked in. It was a recreational establishment with a very large swimming pool in which many children and adults swam and made a lot of noise. The most impressive thing about this water was that, for some strange reason, it was actually in motion, rocking back and forth the whole time, like the storyteller had once described. How was that possible? Was this the sea?

For the first time, all four brothers were confused. Then the fourth, Diri, a somewhat physically fragile, but fun-loving and sociable character, wearied from the long march across the land, suddenly made his decision. Yes, this was the sea!

Buying a pair of swim trunks, Diri happily jumped in and joined the people playing in the pool. –

SENCHI, OR THE FIFTH BROTHER

The last three brothers, however, remained doubtful that this was the sea, however much like the sea it looked, and silently they journeyed on… until they arrived at a land of which they soon learned that it bordered the sea, and which called itself a land of aquatic spleandour.

It was not long and they began to intermittently happen upon strange hollow stones which they were told were sea shells. Lots and lots of them. And laughing triumphantly, Senchi, the fifth of the seven, a brilliant-minded man full of scientific curiousity, picked up the shells and began to study them, declaring:

“Look! I have found the sea.”

Without saying any further word to his brothers, he walked away, picking shells.

Had Senchi gone mad? –

CHONOKO, OR THE SIXTH BROTHER

His brothers could not wait to find out… the sea was too close. They left him and hurried ahead.

Now there were only two left. They walked and walked, walked and walked, tirelessly. Finally they got to the edge of the mainland and gazed across the lagoon at the island. Or rather, the seventh gazed across the lagoon. The sixth only gazed at the lagoon itself..

Chonoko’s senses swirled. Joy erupted within him like a volcano. He could smell the ocean very strongly… he saw shells everywhere… he felt the soft sand… marveled at the sight of the lagoon, water everywhere… and he began to weep with deep emotion. Were these not the promised signs and wonders?

After all these months of traveling, of seeking and persevering in faithfulness, at last he had found the sea. Gratitude welled up in him, gratitude to God. Chonoko, a deeply religious fellow, sank down to his knees and in a trembling whisper uttered words and songs of praise to his faithful God. Then, full of a mixture of trepidation and excitement, he dived into the lagoon and happily began to splash about. –

PENI, OR THE SEVENTH BROTHER

But the seventh… he looked at his brother for a long time and he looked at the lagoon. Everything seemed so right. Then his eyes arose and he gazed in quiet curiousity at the little bridge that stretched over the lagoon, from the mainland to the island…

What if?…

And quietly Peni began to climb the bridge, and he walked across the lagoon and stepped upon the island.

Gradually he progressed.

As Peni moved forward, his thoughts travelled backwards in time, back to his arid northern homeland of few trees and fewer rivers, the thick bushes that crowded around his father’s household well. He remembered the mixed emotions with which the seven brothers impressed upon their memory for the last time the old faces of Namah and Awabe, their father and mother, as they took their leave. He remembered their determination to find the sea, the cameraderie which had united them as they set forth upon their way. And he remembered his six brothers who were now no longer with him:

The first, the knowledge-hungry Kerma, who joined the listeners of a story…; the second, the wild and adventurous Bandi, who began to sail a river…; the third, the dreamy introspective Azeka, who bought a man-made painting…; the fourth, the fun-loving Diri, who joined sunny pool-swimmers…; the fifth, the brilliant man of science Senchi, who started picking shells…; the sixth, the gratefully believing and religious Chonoko, who dived into a lagoon… –

And he the seventh, Peni, he knew there was, there must be, something more. So he kept on walking. He stopped not, looked neither left nor right, just kept on walking… walking… walking…

On and on.

First he heard the roar… and then, rounding a corner as he emerged from inner streets… suddenly… he saw the Sea.

For a long time Peni stood still, breathless, and looked at it. The sea was glorious, more magnificent in real life than any story or painting could depict, grander than any river or pool.

He breathed out and at once the shock of the attainment of his goal, of the encountering of the sheer size of it, fell away. He inhaled the rough sea wind sharply and let it out again as a cry of joy that pierced crudely the loud shout of the ocean. A silent, wordless prayer of gratitude fortified his heart.

And then Peni put his quivering little boat upon the sea and set sail towards the Horizon.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
From my book, available on all Amazon stores: THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015

THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE

TWO MEN in search of fortune.

Said the first:
“I will stay and farm my father’s land!”

Said the second:
“I will go and find the Wheel of Fortune, and I will turn it in my direction, and I shall possess it and I shall wield it, and I shall be a controller of happenings, a decider of destinies.”

Said the first:
“You will come back and beg me for a little plot of land on which to farm.”

Said the second:
“You will seek me and plead with me to turn your fortunes around with the Wheel of Fortune.”

Said the first:
“You cannot find the Wheel of Fortune. It is not a physical thing that can be grasped with the hand or seen with the eye. It is a power which started as a concept. It is everywhere.”

Said the second:
“It is a power which started as a concept and ended up as a wheel, a physical wheel that can be grasped with the hand and seen with the eye. I will find it and I will place a firm hold on it. It shall be mine. The Wheel of Fortune. Fortune!”

Said the Spirit of Fortune:
“The sooner you start, the better.”

The years have gone by and still he seeks. Through fortune and misfortune, through pleasure and pain, he seeks the wheel of fortune, that he may become a controller of happenings, a decider of destinies.

Said the first:
“The years have passed. Fortune, which smiled at me in the first few years, frowns now upon me. The harvest is meager. The earth sits hard upon me. Where is my friend who went to seek the Wheel of Fortune? I must find him. He will surely turn the wheel in my favour, and the winds shall turn in kind.”

Said the second:
“The years have passed. My wandering feet thirst for rest, my restless heart for peace. I have searched everywhere, in vain. I must return to my friend. Surely he will find for me a little plot of land where I can seek my fortune and fulfil my destiny.”

Said the Spirit of Fortune to the first:
“The sooner you go, the better.”

Said the Spirit of Fortune to the second:
“The sooner you return, the better.”

They met again upon the Highway at the halfway point between the going and the returning.

Said the first:
“My friend, have you found the Wheel of Fortune now? For you must turn it my way. The soil is unyielding, the farm is fruitless.”

Said the second:
“No, I have not found the wheel of fortune and was just on my way to you, that you may find me a little of your land where I may seek my fortune, for the road grows weary beneath my feet.”

Said the first:
“But you assured me that the Wheel of Fortune is a findable physical thing.”

Said the second:
“And you assured me that the land would one day support both of us!”

Said the first:
“The land is a deceiver, now I know. It is the whore of fortune and his worthless plaything! I shall go now and find the Wheel of Fortune. Then shall I own the land.”

Said the second:
“Oh, my friend, but you err. Fortune has no wheel. Myths have given birth to this belief. The land is the key to fortune. The land is the wheel of fortune. Possess the land and you have grasped fortune’s wheel.”

Said the first:
“I have turned the land several times, sometimes with my pitchfork, other times with a multitude of other implements such as my shovel, my hoe and my fingers, but not once did my fortune lastingly turn, although I turned the earth repeatedly. Sometimes the winds turned, briefly, but fortune never really. Thus I act with full clarity today. You can have the land if you wish. I shall find the Wheel of Fortune and I shall posess it and I shall wield it and I shall be a controller of happenings, a decider of destinies.”

Said the second:
“When you return to me, begging me to return your father’s land to you, I shall not do so. For it is now mine! Bear this in mind.”

Said the first:
“When you come to me, pleading with me to turn the Wheel of Fortune in your favour, I shall not do so! I shall abandon you to your fate. Bear this in mind.”

Said the second:
“Oh, you fool, why will you not come that we may together plough the land?! Two pairs of hands will soften its heart. There is no physical Wheel of Fortune! It is a power that began as a concept.”

Said the first:
“Fortune is a person. He bears a face and owns a wheel. I shall find him and I shall take the wheel from him. Then shall I turn the wheel against him. My wheel.”

Said the Spirit of Fortune to both:
“The earlier you proceed, the better.”

The years passed by like the wind, and old age crept upon them. The land softened and yielded rich harvests, but Fortune and his wheel refused to be found.

Said the first:
“I am old and grey. My days are numbered, my memories rich and poor. I shall return to my father’s land and there shall I lay down, for I do not want to die upon the road.”

Said the second:
I am old and grey. My days are numbered, my memories many and few. I shall set off again after the Wheel of Fortune, that I may turn it and prolong my life and reactivate the youth in me. If I die now, all is lost and I shall be buried upon another man’s land. But if Fortune, who has smiled at me through the land, permits me now to find his wheel, then I shall change the course of my future.”

Said the Spirit Fortune to the first:
“Hurry, hurry, time is.”

Said the Spirit of Fortune to the second:
“Hurry, hurry, time is.”

Their paths crossed again, this time at the junction that leads everybody on.

Said the first:
“Why are you here? Have you not mastered the land which for you is the wheel of fortune?”

Said the second:
“I am tired of you. Please, move out of my way. Your father’s land is there. You can have it if you wish. Die on it; you are old enough for that now. I will have nothing to do with it anymore. It has brought me nothing but comfort, and prevented me from seeking the Wheel of Fortune, which was the ardent spiritual goal of my youth! Look at me: now I am an old man.”

Said the first:
“Then you shall die upon the road. I hope somebody finds you and buries you. I shall conclude my earthly wanderings there where I belong.”

Said the second:
“Rest in peace. Adieu.”

And then they parted ways, never to meet again upon the earth.

Said Fortune:
“Another twist, another turn,
And life goes on…
If they ask, or seek, or yearn
All I can do is turn and point them on…
The path they must go themselves –
The change they must work themselves
The moment they must grasp themselves –
The seeds of fortune they must sow themselves –
I am just a referee…

“Though men pass me by a thousand times
Never do they recognise me;
Nor is it necessary, as long as they heed
The Inner Voice in them that speaks to me.

“For I must obey, I must obey…
And place what they ask for upon their way.”

—–

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

MUSICIAN’S MORNING

EARLY IN the morning Egwuobi practised the minor chords on his box guitar, his best friend, whom he called Freedom. His soul was full and empty. He gripped the strings with his heart and gradually played, first arpeggio-style, then a-strumming, slowly changing from one chord to the other, one key to the higher.

Each time he caused the strings to vibrate, each time there arose sound from the instrument, a breath of calm seemed to sink into his soul. He did not want to stop.

By the time it began to grow bright outside, he had gone through only a third of the exercise. With a sigh he dropped Freedom lightly on his sparse, rough bed and arose.

For a few moments he remained motionless on his feet. His chest rose and fell, lightly. A look of gentle, dreamy reflection was trapped upon his face, a hard, rocky face with full lips and a strong, pugnacious forehead. He had an angular skull, radiated an intense and awkward, almost overpowering crude handsomeness. His observant grey-black eyes were turned inwards, his profile was angled towards the window.

It dawned on him again, like it did every once in a while, that destiny is like a skin. It wrapped itself around you even ere you arrived. It encapsules, encloses, protects and undermines you. Captures you. Teleguides you. It limits you. It links you to your world. It is hard to shed and hard to change. It lasts a lifetime.

Once again a wry smile was his reaction to this ever-recurring moment of recognition. A wry and sad smile. Yet it was a smile of amusement. No wonder snakes shed their skin. His humour was sometimes dark, sometimes light. He suddenly remembered that he had written something into his diary sometime in the middle of the night, something about train tracks, cocoon and the birth of butterfly. He remembered the feeling of the struggling butterfly. He reached across his bed, lifted his diary, opened it and read it again. Everything came back, the nocturnal stab of clarity that subsequent sleep had temporarily blotted out. It was the same recognition that had just come back again in the skin analogy. Now he felt calmer.
He emerged, composed, out of his reflection and went into the bathroom. A normal prelude to another abnormal day.

This was how it always started – with music, unfinished, and a startling recognition that would fill him all day long. This was the cycle of his life.

An awakening musician.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

REMEMBER THE SUN, LOOK UP –


image

ONCE UPON a time, there was a bird.

It flew and flew for a long time, over great distances, over lakes, mountains and forests, over deserts, countries and valleys, over vast oceans and across mighty fields of thought.

One day, as it was flying over such a field of thought, it looked down and saw a little girl playing in the red-brown soil of Owerri, a small town in south-eastern Nigeria. Dressed in a short, tie-dyed west African boubou and skipping merrily on bare feet behind her father’s house, the little girl threw thoughts up into the air, bright blue and yellow thoughts, the way other children throw up ribbons and balls. And when the thoughts went into the air, they would take wing and fly high into the sky, so high up that not even the bird could see the height into which they soared.

One by one they would then, after a long while, reappear in the visible firmament as they began their downward flight to the girl. Upon their descent the thoughts were bigger, brighter, more beautiful, and they all bore a crown on their heads. This the bird could see.

By the time the thoughts returned to the girl, her father’s house had washed away and she had grown into a woman, a young and beautiful woman with a silent sorrow on her face, a deep question in her eyes, a lovely, innocent yet knowing smile upon her lips. For in the period in which her thoughts had flown to heaven, many men and women had loved and left her. Some had loved her too little and some had loved her too much. But none had loved her enough. Now she stood there with the universal question in her heart; the search for her destiny.

A song. Beautiful was the song that came out of the bird, descended along with the woman’s returning thoughts. One by one, her thoughts alighted on her breast, folded their wings around her like in an embrace and dissolved into her. As each thought disappeaed back into her, her eyes became brighter, the sadness upon her ebony features faded away, little by little, the question gradually disappeared, and she gradually grew up… until the last thought had reunited itself with her, and she stood there, tall, pretty, mature, clear.

Then did she hear the song… the song of the bird… it pierced her heart like a bird’s beak penetrating into the heart of a wild honey flower and told her wild and gentle stories of things forgotten and remembered. Like the sunflower her heart exploded open and she looked up…

And she saw the sun!

And while she revelled in the sight of the sun, for since attaining adulthood she had not noticed the sun anymore, the bird flapped it’s wings again and flew on, flew away. By the time the woman, filled with the sun, looked around in the sky for the source of the lovely song that made her look up in the first place and awakened her to the sun…, the bird was long gone.

Once upon a time, there was a bird… on and on it flew, over fields of thought and gentle growth. Simple is her song:

Remember the sun, look up –

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

From my book of inspirational short stories and anecdotes:
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015