THE SON IS THE FATHER OF THE MAN: A SHORT PIECE OF FICTION REWRITING LITERARY HISTORY
It rained here that morning, when I awoke to my thoughts still trekking through the echoes of my fading dreams. I had wanted to sleep in, the memory of last night’s thirst still pounded inside my eyes but the rain made me pull myself from my mat, in order to set traps for the droplets of rain that seeped through my leaking roof. I was supposed to have fixed the raffia during the dry season but I didn’t. I was supposed to have done many things that I didn’t do.
I gathered several broken clay pots and scattered their gaping mouths in different parts of the hut. After I was sure that each leaking spot was catered to, I crept on to my mat and tried to find sleep but it had fled my limbs and the warmth coursing through my veins demanded that I do something with the early morning silence. So I took my flute and began to play.
My song ran counterpoint with the steady thud of the raindrops in the different vessels scattered in the hut. It was a love song I set out to compose; something soft, tender, sweet like the earth tilled for sowing but the raucous caused by the storm outside disturbed the rhythm and made my love song become a tempestuous lyric filled with the fiery spirit of a woman spurned. With each rattle of my wooden louvers and rustle of my rafters by the aroused winds, my tune took to new heights its tempo became suddenly violent, suddenly soft, suddenly fast, suddenly slow like the falling feather of a pierced bird and then silence. The wind ran out of steam and I ran out of air to breathe new tunes.
I was still gasping, trying to catch my breath, the warmth in my veins fading away, the ache between my eyelids reminding me of yesterday, when people came to my doorstep. I went out to meet them and they told me that my son had defeated the wrestling champion and claimed the title for his own. They praised him even as their eyes scraped open every part of my body and feasted on my spindly arms and legs. I was happy for him, I told them. They would gossip about this and he will hear. May be he will come to see me, I thought. I could have composed a celebratory tune for him but he disdains anything that comes from my flute as he does everything that I am. Yes he is one of the things that I was supposed to have done but didn’t do. I thanked them, gossips and canker worms that they are and went to stow away my flute.
These people did not come to celebrate at my son’s victory, I knew. They had come to rub it in my face. They mean to say see what you have failed at. Posterity will not be kind to me, I know this but I have lived a fulfilled life. History does not speak of drunks and wastrels except they be able to do something portentous in their lives. It would seem that my place in history would be the father of a great son. Well I have loved and have been loved in return. I have been lucky to have fathered a son who would make any man proud. I have composed great songs that will be sung and danced long after I my bones have germinated Iroko trees. Yes I have lived and I have traveled and seen things. I could smell the change in the winds and I was satisfied that I was born, breathed, procreated, loved and sang.
The world smells fresh and new as it is wont to do after a heavy rainfall. I get water from the small stream that runs behind my hut and try to wash my body in the morning chill. I come back to meet him standing there, at my door, his back stiff with disdain and pride, his face turned away from the very hut in which his birth was discussed and settled upon.
“You came.” I said.
He turned to look at me with that his piercing gaze. My son is a giant. He is a man among men. A leader of peoples. If it were one of those places in the west were men were made gods over men, he would be a king. He spat to the side in distaste.
“I have paid your debt to the palm wine seller as well as what you owe the boys who came to clear your farm for planting.” He replied.
I had not asked him to, the gods are my witness. I have always paid my debts when I can. I had even insisted to these people that they should not take the matter to him under any circumstances yet he seems to know my every business. I felt the old anger rise like vomit in my chest but I tamper it down with a tune and nodded my head in thanks.
“I hear you are a wrestling champion now? Congratulations.” I said.
He looked me up and down then turned to leave.
“Do not let pride lead you astray my son. Be happy for your success but stay humble. Where you stand now, others have stood before and others will stand there long after your name is lost with the last rains before harmattan comes.” I blurted out before I can stop myself.
“I know you envy what I have been able to achieve without your help. If you were a better man, you would be seeking for ways to amend your ways not cause embarrassment for me. What do you know of pride in what one has worked for? What do you know of glory, or how to stand tall as a man?” he asked then he spat again and walked away.
I watched him go and I shook my head. My words are like a fart in the wind. He thought the roar from his lips is of his own making. He knows nothing. I have seen men like him time and time again and I have seen how they end when they let pride dictate their actions. I shook my head again and then turned as a bird’s twit capture my attention. The world is still beautiful and the pain between my eyelids has eased up. There is still so much to see and enjoy. First, I will look for food, then palm wine to clear my throat and then music and dance.
NB: If you have read the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe then you may get what i am trying to do here. It is a truth that everyone has their story and there are two sides to every story. Until we hear the two sides we can never really make unbiased conclusions about what we hear.
In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo's father Unoka is not painted in a palatable light but who really knows what the man had seen and why he was the man that he was?