It is night in a once noisy village, and the cool wind of the evening blows around the rest of the dust floating around the sky. During the day, the bustle of the street rivals that of many small markets around Ibadan. Children racing with used car wheels from baale’s house downhill towards Mama Lawyer’s clinic at the end of the street, young girls hawking vegetables scream the price of their wares on the top of their lungs, children run around bare-feet without any care in the world, and loud music plays from the many rooms around the street. Now, at night, everything is quiet, except for the little transistor radio in father’s hands as he paces around the house looking for the signal for the Voice of America.
The concrete slab that extends from the front door of the house bends towards the sand at a steep angle. It goes on for a few metres and is suddenly cut off, leaving a ledge where water drips down into the open field when it rains. The field has grandmother’s garden of vegetables. It had garden eggs, yanrin, and spinach. Farther down a few metres on is the well for water. All the other parts of the compound has different crops, depending on the time of the year. Maize grew in April. We planted them in March. Cassava grew many times during the year, as did coco-yam. As soon as the rain fell, we went out with hoes and made heaps. We got loam from two houses away where the chicken farmer dumped the waste from the poultry. They told us that the soft black dung when mixed with the soil in our compound made the corn come out bigger and stronger. They gave us buckets and seeds. We were six, and seven, and ten. We fancied ourselves as brilliant farmers who knew just what the land wanted, and gave it to it. We treasured millipedes and centipedes, and the little white worm that surprises us from within the dung. They called it ogongo. Ogongo was another name for ostrich, but I’d never seen an ostrich before.
Behind mother’s window north of the house was a large guava tree. Underneath is was the softest soil around the house. Two plots for a house compound was large enough for any kind of play, and we ran around to the best of our strength. When raining season came, we settled on that spot behind her window for the site of the corn and beans garden. The soil is heaped in serrated ridges and space is put in-between them for walking. Corn is planted in twos and threes. Olaolu said he had been told that planting them in threes made the odds more favourable for the seeds. I looked at the small black bed of soil and smiled in contentment. It always took two to five days for the first leaf to sprout out of the heap, and all that would be left is the need to add water, or just wait for the rain to pick up. But there I was just smiling at the result of my accomplishment. Mother looked out of her room through a striped red curtain and giggled. “Kola, you won’t be standing there forever, would you? It doesn’t start growing as soon as you plant it, you know.”
Night. We lay on mats on the concrete slab just a few feet away from the front door. It’s quiet and the evening breeze blows around the village tossing up the remaining dust left of the children’s running feet. There usually is no electric light. If there is, it would have been put off deliberately. What lights the evening is the moon and the cheer in our voices as we talk about whoknowswhat, mostly in hush and sometimes excited tones. Father is still pacing around the house this time with his little transistor close to his ears. Occasionally, the words Tamil Tiger rebels or Bosnia Herzegovina will assail my ears as the others giggle at his strange hobbies. Mostly, when he comes around in those heavy paces holding the radio to his ears, those giggling a few minutes earlier would have relapsed into a mode of pretend-sleep. The front porch had its charm, especially when it rained. It was the best place to sit and watch the lightening rip the blackness of the village sky into shreds, and give certain shivers needed for a good night sleep. But those were the days.