The story of how my father became rich starts in 2002, shortly after Savannah bank, where he worked for nearly twenty years, closed down. Papa had gotten a job there as a junior clerk through the help of his uncle, even though all he had was a secondary school certificate. He’d gone on to become a chief clerk, but there was nothing else he could do when the bank closed. His uncle was dead and gone, and Papa had missed the chance to improve himself. ‘I should have gone back to school,’ he would say in those days, mostly to Mama. Often, Mama would shake her head and say, ‘No, no, Nathan. Don’t do this to yourself, ni to ri olohun.’ I suspect in those days that Papa liked to hear this. He liked to be consoled, petted and comforted by Mama, as if he were one of the children. Once, I saw Mama spoon-feeding him when he broke down one day, after Folu, my six-year-old brother, told him he wanted a bicycle like our neighbor’s sons had. The stupid boy, he hadn’t understood why we were only having boiled corn and groundnuts for dinner that night.

We lived on an estate, and some of our neighbors also worked at the bank. It seemed many of them had seen this coming. Indeed, it had been rumored for some time that the bank might soon close. So, in the weeks following the end, we watched as family after family rebounded. First the Unegbus, who lived behind us, our backyards separated by the half-fallen fence my friends and I dubbed ‘the wall of China’, won the American visa lottery. I saw how the ill-tempered Mr Unegbu, his wife and their two daughters, one of whom many people hoped I would marry, vanished to America. Then, the Ayos. Some relative who was a politician awarded a contract to Mr Ayo, and overnight they became rich. Within two months, that nasty smell that used to be about their house was gone. They repainted the front wall that was once stained with everything – charcoal, ink, oil, kerosene, egg. And Mr Ayo, who limped and stooped, began driving a fairly new Toyota Camry, which he parked across the street from our house, as if to spite Papa. There were countless others – the Oriyomis, the Ajeros, the Ekpos etc.

Papa did not surrender. He fought his slide into poverty as if he were fighting something supernatural, a demon. In the last days before the bank closed, he went to all the other banks touting his experience. But each, once they heard that he had no degree, slammed the door. He made a last effort to go into business. He sold his car, and he sold the Nigerian Breweries stock he used to boast of, and plunged it all into a fishery business his friend, Engineer Victor, had started. The business folded up three months later when Engineer’s young son poured kerosene into the big indoor pond, killing all the fish.

I swear to God, the night Engineer Victor came to break the news to Papa was perhaps the day it all began. I still relive that night in my mind these seven years on. The weeping and lamentation in our house was stronger than at any other time in living memory. Not even after uncle Thomas died was there such sorrow. It was all made so by Engineer Victor, a small-headed, deeply dark-skinned man who thrived on gesticulations that imbued almost everything with knife-edge animation. This man came in sobbing with his wife and less than a quarter of Papa’s contribution to the business. At first, Papa tried to be calm, gnashing his teeth and looking down as Mama put her hand under his shirt and gently rubbed his back, occasionally wiping her own eyes with the helm of her wrappa. Things were all right until Engineer Victor fell prostrate on the rug at the center of our sitting room and began to sing the damning, sorrowful Yoruba song Baba Wande sang in that stupid film, Ti Oluwa Nile.

I have been caught in a thick spider web

I have ran, crawled, to no avail

There is no solution to this great trouble

This is a dilemma

The traveler has undertaken a journey that leads nowhere

The farmer is unable to reach his farm

This is the strange story of the world

This is a dilemma.

I swear to God, you’d need to have heard the way this man sang the song to understand how sorrowful it made everyone. He dragged the refrain, ‘This is a dilemma’, out every time he sang it, went cold on the line after, and delved into a whisper so faint we all thought he’d stopped. Then, with a voice full of bitterness, he declared that this situation was ‘the strange story of the world’.

The reaction was swift. A clump of sobs burst out of Papa with force and the sound of a belch. The great rocking of his big body began, as if he were slowly dancing. Engineer’s wife let out a cry; Mama buried her face into her palm, weeping; my brother, Folu, began crying, too, and even I, as stupid as I thought Engineer Victor was for singing that song, felt my own eyes cloud with tears.

 

*

 

Through all this, we could have managed. Papa was at least making kobo-kobo from the construction job he began doing on a daily basis. Mama augmented that with the proceeds from her provisions store in the wooden shed in front of our house. And she, above all, was a shrewd manager. Give her five loaves and two fishes, and I swear to almighty God she could feed more than five thousand. She grew up in the village, working mostly on the farm. She did housework as if it was a hobby. She did not see lack as a great inconvenience the way Papa did. She saw it as a necessary condition of life. It was to be contended with, managed. Maybe because he grew up in township and had a good job from which he was able to start a family, buy a car, and put his two sisters through university, Papa’s view of lack became extreme. Poverty was the unblemished evil, an impenetrable darkness opposed to order. A person who becomes host to this evil spirit had only one option: to root it out and cast it into the outer dark.

We would have held on. Mama was adamant that we would survive, always saying to Papa that our situation was bad but manageable. After all, she’d say, a crying person can still see. But Papa’s view of poverty drove him to the bottom of a pit. After he accepted Engineer’s pleas and abandoned – as was common with us Nigerians – any thought of litigation to get his investment back, he began to descend into a kind of insanity. One day, he broke one of the louvres in the sitting room, trying to kill an insect he’d seen flying around. My brother and I started to avoid him under the counsel of Mama, who no longer rubbed his back or fed him, watching him from a distance and speaking to him from other rooms. Papa was brawny and still had those big arms from his younger days, marked with straws of veins, though now, with his belly bulging, there was hardly any chest to speak of. He was still intimidating. Yet, people frequently got into fights with him. He’d become fully possessed by this darkness that was opposed to order – poverty itself.

We all felt the lack. My clothes didn’t fit any more, because there was almost nothing to eat. Twice, Uncle Lukeman, Mama’s brother who lived in Jos, sent money. Papa thanked him effusively over the phone, one we couldn’t charge at home now because the NEPA staff had mounted the electric pole in front of our compound and disconnected the electricity to our house due to outstanding bills. My brother cried constantly from hunger, and Mama almost emptied her store, giving him the snacks she’d bought to resell.

One day Papa came home with a serious wound. He’d fought with a driver of a bus for ₦50 change. Papa had been stabbed in the belly with a bottle, and lost a lot of blood. Instead of going to the clinic, he staggered home and fainted. Mama screamed until our neighbor, the now wealthy Mr Ayo, came to the rescue. We carried Papa, a tough job, into the man’s car and rushed him to Doctor Ekezie’s clinic. He said Papa needed blood. I am sure the situation was not as serious as the doctor made it sound, shaking his head in agony as if he cared. He moved his spectacles up and down over his eyes, then waved at the nurse holding a tray of cotton wool, needles, and other supplies to leave the room.

‘He must get blood from the blood bank, Madam Akinrele. It is a must.’

‘How much will everything be?’ Mama asked.

The man pretended to be thoughtful, fiddling with the buttons on his overalls, licking his lips, gazing up the ceiling at the slow-turning fan and said, ‘Maybe, twenty-thousand.’

‘Ah, mogbe!’ Mama cried, her hands going up at the same time as her voice. She did a dance of distress, retied her wrappa around her loins and faced the doctor again.

‘Madam Akinrele . . . Madam,’ he was saying all this time, but Mama seemed not to hear, saying, ‘Please, doctor, plea-se, I use God beg you, please’ as she sank to her knees.

The man seized his chance. He helped my weeping mother up as I held onto my brother in the corner of the room to stop him from crying, too. The doctor, with the pretense that he wanted to speak with my mother in private, took her by the waist and led her out of the room. It is difficult to tell what happened there or afterwards since, being their child, my parents would not discuss such things with me. I was just ten at the time, but I was not stupid. Even a blind man could see that Doctor Ekezie had always liked Mama. No one knew why he liked her – a married woman with two children, (this is not counting our little sister who died at three months, and one miscarriage). It must have been her dimples and her beautiful soft brown skin. Mama was also fashion crazy. During times of good fortune, she dressed well. On Sundays, her asoke and gele always drew attention. The doctor attended church with his wife, a tall and intimidating woman who was three times bigger than the doctor and wore copious amounts of make-up, spoke in baritones and never smiled. The doctor was fat, and was always wearing plain trousers, which often got trapped between the divide of his buttocks. He was constantly pulling them out of his yansh. Even while we were sitting in church, I would see the doctor eyeing Mama.

Mama never spoke about what happened at the hospital. Even Papa, who was – as he made me understand – the one who was humiliated by what happened, only talked of it in bursts of ire. Sometimes, between drinks, he’d say, ‘Your mother fucked doctor Ekezie! Can you imagine?’ Papa of course knew what he was doing. He knew he was building a track that led nowhere. Never once did he go into detail. Ask? That would have been seen as the worst insubordination. So, no, I never asked. At times, when Papa felt I had disobeyed him, he would say, ‘You, Saka, want to abandon me like your mother and brother, abi? Go ahead, then. See how life will treat you.’ He said this in Yoruba, of course, fuming, often shirtless, but with nobody to rub his back or comfort him or feed him.

The doctor forgave the hospital bills which, were everything in our house sold, we still would not have been able to pay. Papa was treated, given blood, became well, and was discharged. When he came home, for days he asked Mama how she got the money to pay the bills. It seemed she didn’t want to answer. One night, after my brother and I had gone to bed, they began arguing. Mama broke out crying, then began to shout, ‘Natty! Natty!’ I heard the sitting room door slam shut. Not long after, Mama ran into our room, woke my brother and dragged him out. ‘You stay with him, Saka. Please, okoo mi, stay with him.’ She rushed a shirt on my brother and raced about the house, gathering her things. I followed her to the kitchen, back to her room where clothes were scattered all over the floor.

‘Mama, where are you going?’ I said.

‘Saka, oh my son.’ She was crying. ‘Your father is very angry, very angry with me. It is not good for me to stay here now – listen, don’t speak. Just hear me. I am going to live with my brother for now. Just be here with him.’

I swear to God, I don’t know if Mama actually did anything with that stupid doctor. I saw him and his big wife in the street a few times after that, and he stared at me as if I were a ghost. Papa never returned to the church, I believe because he did not want to see the doctor. Mama leaving home with my brother Folu was the last straw, the final stage in the process of Papa’s descent into that great darkness. Another man had slept with his wife because he was poor, he would say in unhinged soliloquys. ‘Look at me, Nathaniel, Nathaniel Akinrele. Me – another man used money to fuck my wife? My own wife!’ He would beat his chest, snap his fingers, or sometimes he’d smile as if what he’d said had amused him, then he’d shake his head and say, ‘No problem. No problem.’ The moments I hated the most were when he sang that sad Ti Oluwa Nile song. I would do anything to stop him. I would go into the kitchen and drop a pot or spoon. He would fall silent for a bit, ask me what had happened and I would tell him something fell. He would sigh and go on: The farmer has been unable to reach his farm . . . Once, I went out into the yard and screamed, holding my foot, to try to get his attention. I had planned to say a scorpion bit me, but realising that this could lead him to take me to the clinic, sending him into further debt, I simply said I had dashed my foot against a stone. He sighed, mumbled that I should be careful and ordered me inside. Back in the sitting room, he sat at the center of the floor, and in that maddening elegiac tone, continued: This is the strange story of the world. This is a dilemma.

 

*

 

The real ‘strange’ story, though, is about how my father became rich. I was falling asleep in bed one day, having eaten the last bit of the jollof rice Papa had cooked three days earlier, when he arrived home from his construction job, dragging a young goat along. It was the dry season and his lips were cracked, his eyes slightly bloodshot. I had put on the kerosene lantern as it was almost dark, and there was no electricity. At first, I didn’t know what to think, but I was happy. Had Papa won a lottery? Had he played Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, like he had been vowing to do? He stood inside the sitting room, parted the curtain to invite in the last vestiges of daylight, stooped low, and fastened the rope around the neck of the goat to a barstool. He stretched himself and yawned while I watched the stupid show in disbelief.

‘Get me a cup of water, Saka!’ he said, sitting down in one of the worn sofas in his dirty clothes and mud-caked shoes.

When I brought the water, he drank everything, then faced me.

‘You see this goat?’

I nodded.

‘It is a sacred animal, nkan etutu.’ He moved to the edge of the sofa as though he would rise. ‘A strong Babalawo has blessed it at a shrine and the ritual process has already begun. So go and dress up, let’s go.’

Papa and Mama often did this kind of thing. They talked to me sometimes about a subject I knew nothing about as though they’d already discussed it with me and I knew all about it. ‘The ritual process,’ he’d say for instance, and in my head I would ask, which? But I asked no questions. I put on a shirt, my shorts and sandals. Once I returned to the room, he nodded and said, ‘Saka, do you know I was once a rich man? Maybe not rich, but OK?’

‘Yes, Papa,’ I said.

‘OK, so you can’t blame me. Look at this my life. I must change it now. OK?’

‘Yes, Papa.’

‘Now, listen, my son,’ he began whispering as if someone else was in the house. ‘We are supposed to take this goat round this town from now, 6’o clock, till midnight, or till it dies from exhaustion. We must not stop. If I want to urinate, you must keep walking. Same with me.’

I was, of course, horrified. Images of the drudgery of walking with a goat from one end of the city to the other, rushed into my head. I wanted to run, hide somewhere. But my father had come to this with complete confidence and faith. I had borne witness to his ‘life,’ by which he meant his fall from grace, and knew he would not forgive me if I disobeyed him now. So without hesitation I followed my father on this strange mission to get rich by magic ritual. I had seen many home movies in which people got rich by blood sacrifice. Perhaps, once the goat was exhausted, it would fall down, and as it expired, begin to vomit money. Or, we would bring it home, slice it open and harvest the money. It seemed the latter, as Papa had no bags to carry the money should the goat fall down and die at, say, Oyemekun street, some fifteen kilometers from our house, or at Ijapo estate, some twenty kilometers away. There was a red piece of cloth around the goat’s neck. It looked dazed as Papa dragged it outside.

 

*

 

We began the journey from our door, and walked past our neighbor’s house. I wondered what they would think of us, of Papa whose life had become so tumultuous. Would they think us mad? Or would they suspect Papa had become a ritualist? None of this seemed to occur to Papa. I walked behind him as if I myself were fastened to a rope, and we trod down the street with the white goat. People sat outside their houses or stores watching the sorry spectacle of Papa and I. The animal walked beside him, limping it seemed, as we passed a collection of signs, mostly billboards and posters. We were walking on the side of the road paved with small granite bits and clay, when the beast made a sound, raised its small tail, and dropped a clump of feces on the ground. ‘Jesus!’ Papa shouted and turned to look at me. I was laughing, my eyes focused on the goat as it went on walking, another blob of poop squeezing out slowly from its pinkish buttocks with every forward movement of its shanks. While Papa had turned to me, he’d stepped unknowingly in the shit. He felt it now with a jolt and lifted his foot, and in his distraction the rope came loose from his hand and fell to the ground. The silly animal, leapt up and ran away as though it had planned this escape, dragging the twine along after it.

Papa, perhaps underestimating the potency of anything, whether human or animal, to desire freedom, did not immediately pursue it. I stopped behind him, my laughter stunned into silence now by this unexpected event. Papa gave me a cold stare, his mouth opened as if to speak, but then he turned back to his foot, scraping his shoe against the dirt to rub off the shit. He began walking in quickened steps after the goat, who was now headed in the other direction, towards a field that dead-ended into a trash heap.

By the time we caught up to it, the goat had dragged the rope through a small pothole filled with water, wetting and discoloring it. The goat stopped at the foot of the trash heap and stood there, bleating. Two girls passing by, dressed in exquisite attire, seemed to notice we were after the thing. I tried to turn away from them – these potential girlfriends, and me a fine boy caught in the web of this humiliating project – hoping they would walk past.

‘Scuse me, sir, oh, na una goat be that?’ one of them said, pointing at the goat.

Papa looked at me in the dying evening light with a scowl on his face. The look was also something of a defeat, a ministration of some sort that reflected a falling. It wasn’t the thing anyone wants to see on the face of a suffering man, let alone one’s parent. So, out of a rough sense of duty, as his son, I felt obliged to scare the girls away.

‘C’mon gerout you two!’ I said.

‘Ha, ha, see this one, oh,’ said the one wearing a white top with a brown stain on its chest. She clapped her hands against her friend’s shoulder, shoving the other slightly into a measured dance as they went away.

‘Get out!’ I said again, weakly.

By the time they were gone, the goat had mounted the crest of the dump, looking down at us among rags, a big empty tin of Ovaltine, a torn pillow with enamels spread about. The dying red sun was behind the goat, and it looked as if it were encircled in a glowing corona.

‘You see?’ Papa said now as I drew close to him. ‘You see what you caused?’

‘Me?’

He shook his head. ‘You see, you?’ This time, he had wanted to point at the goat, but the goat was gone.

 

*

 

We found it nearly thirty minutes later, behind a restaurant at the end of an awning where people were sitting dining and talking. Loud music was playing and I could barely hear the end of Papa’s long lamentation about his life, his history of bad luck, the sadness of this one last attempt to escape the great darkness of poverty. He blamed me in between all that, promising to beat me if our mission failed for being the cause of the goat’s escape. His reason? Because I had laughed and distracted him, when he could have been in hot pursuit of the goat. It was now dark, but luckily there was electricity and some shops had yellow bulbs or fluorescent lights illuminating the streets. All I could see of the goat was its eyes and its horns, its bobbing head as it chewed something, and its prominent hump from which the shit had dropped. We made towards it in silence, but it seemed the stupid animal could smell us. As soon as we drew close, it ambled on and I saw that, somehow, the rope had become shorter, a third of it was gone, so that what was left dragged just beneath the animal, ending before its rear.

Papa ran after the goat and it fled across the road, stupidly, its legs hobbling in mad haste. You could have thought we were children playing on some school playground, but here was my father – my father – chasing a goat onto the road. It had crossed the road by the time we reached the corner, and all we saw was a trailer slaloming past. Had it slowed only a moment, we would have found the goat’s corpse spread out on the road in a ghastly sight of blood and spilled entrails. We followed from the distance as it reached the front of a high-story residential building with a locked gate. I breathed in relief, because beside us was a wall and a parked bus on the other side. We could catch the goat now, if we tried. It was very late in the night, and I decided to save the situation by getting this stupid goat so we could finish the ritual. All I wanted was to go to sleep and forget what I already thought of as the worst day of my life. As I stepped forward, Papa gestured to me to stop. ‘Saka, don’t do anything silly now, you hear me?’

‘Yes, sir,’ I said.

The goat stood there, only a silhouette now. Papa was walking stealthily towards the animal when, suddenly, he stopped. I saw why: it had raised its head, reclined on all fours and was about to crawl under the gate, effectively putting an end to the ritual for good. Papa looked back at me with tears in his eyes, then back at the goat. ‘Please don’t,’ I heard him say as the beast crawled under the gate.

I stood where I was, holding back an urge to urinate, witnessing this. I saw, in a flash of revelation, Papa returning home in despair, accepting the fact that he would never be rich again. I saw, to my horror, the long nights of him lying half naked on the floor of the sitting room, singing that execrable song and filling the house and our lives with its melancholy. I saw Papa and I growing old in the empty house without Mama and Folu. I saw before me the sad story of my future, all prompted by this single move by the goat. I nearly cried.

Having ruled out knocking on the gate and waking the occupants of the building, we waited for the goat in silence, resting our backs against a bus that was parked in front of the house for what must have been an hour. I wanted to tell Papa that the goat was probably asleep by now, but I fell asleep instead, then squatted, walked about a bit, returned, and my father was still there, keeping vigil, his eyes fastened on the gate. It was nearly eleven when the animal emerged, bleating and running as fast as I’d ever seen anything run. In pursuit of the goat was a white cat. The cat stopped when it saw us, meowed, and ran back under the gate. The goat had made it back to the street. Papa was pursuing and this time blindly, at full speed. He did not hear or see the car, and the driver, though he tried to brake, was too close to stop. I saw Papa fall. When I reached him, screaming, he was lying face down, sprawled on the road, in a pool of his own blood.

 

*

 

When you are young and under the full authority of your parents, you never know you truly love them until something bad happens. I remember Mama’s miscarriage, the congealed black bloodstains on the kitchen floor, and how the pain on her face had made me fear so much that, even though I was a very, very bad sinner, I prayed to Almighty God to help her. I thought it was a sickness, something that could be stopped. I did not know until years later that it was a sibling who didn’t ‘make it.’ That image of Papa lying there while that stupid goat ambled away is something else I will never forget. The car stopped a small distance away from where he lay, and he was spotlit by the car’s headlights. Two men and a woman rushed out of the car – a BMW – shouting ‘Blood of Jesus!’

I swear to God, it was only the quick effort of this couple, Mr Philip and Mrs Veronica, that saved Papa. He would have died the ultimate idiotic death – killed while in pursuit of a goat. He scared me so much – he did not open his eyes for many hours. I tried to use Papa’s Nokia to call Mama but saw that his MTN credit was zero. So the rich man’s wife, Mrs Veronica, gave me her phone. I told Mama everything, making sure to describe the tumultuous journey through the streets of Akure chasing after a goat so that she would be horrified by the low state into which Papa had sunk. ‘If you were here, you wouldn’t have let him do this stupid thing,’ I said. Once I started to hear sobs, I knew I had achieved my aim, that I would force my mother and brother to come back home.

The couple listened to my call and, when I finished, asked me why Papa needed to do a money ritual. I told them. They said they wanted to take me to their house that night, but I did not want to leave Papa alone. I knew he was alive but he still hadn’t opened his eyes. The man gave me a wad of notes; he did not even count them. When they left, promising to return the following day, I saw that he’d given me ₦20000. I almost screamed. It was there with the money swelling in my pocket – more than Papa earned in an entire month since the bank job ended – that I realized the great disparity between the rich and the poor. The man had simply brought this out as if it was spare change, the way Papa used to bring out ₦20 notes when he was still a banker. I became convinced that poverty was truly the great evil, as Papa had always thought it was.

I would have slept with some relief that night except that, at a little past midnight, I was awoken by a nurse who had come to check the drip and Papa’s temperature for the twentieth time. After she left, I heard Papa cough and then let out a big sigh. I called to him, happy he was finally awake. In the dim light, he looked at me and turned his head back towards the window. Then he began singing that song. His singing was tinged with a timbre of sorrow so piercing I thought I would go mad. I tried to call to him, but feared he would get angry. When he was repeating the entire song for perhaps the seventh time, I kicked his bed. Everything shook, and I watched in alarm as the drip bag swayed, one of its switches tapping the iron stand again and again. But Papa did not stop even then. When I could not bear it any longer, I left the room and walked out a few paces into the darkness. The hall was empty, filled with the chemical smell of drugs and antiseptics. I walked about, circled the patient wards, past a lit room where two nurses and a man sat chatting and laughing while another was spread out sleeping on the floor. When I returned to the room, Papa had fallen silent. In place of the stupid song was snoring.

 

*

 

Papa was discharged three days later. Before we took him home – we being the rich couple and me – we went to Mr Biggs to eat. This had been my suggestion to the couple: let Papa feel good about himself by eating at a high-class, modern restaurant. He didn’t want to smile because he had a big chunk of plaster on the side of his face, where he’d fallen. But you could see he was happy.

‘Mr Akinrele,’ the rich man said in the middle of our meal.

‘Yes sir,’ Papa said in between mouthfuls of fried chicken.

‘My wife and me are so sorry about this situation. We thank God you are doing well now and –’

‘Thank God,’ Papa said.

‘Yes, yes, indeed. What we want now is not just that you get well, but to ensure your well-being.’ At this point, the man looked at his wife, and the sweet woman, who always smelled like some precious flower from heaven, smiled and nodded. ‘As God would have it, we just set up a new petrol station at Ondo road, near the expressway. We were searching for a manager. We would like to offer you that position. It is for one-hundred-twenty-thousand a month, plus benefits.’

I stopped eating and Papa, who had stilled as the man began the last sentence, broke down and began that stupid rocking movement of his that only stopped when Mama rubbed his back and comforted him, or put food in his mouth. I don’t know if it was out of embarrassment at seeing my father sobbing like this in public, or just my own crazed impulses, but I reached out to Papa’s back, lifted his shirt, and began rubbing his hirsute back. It seemed to work. He wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. ‘I don’t know what to say,’ he kept repeating, shaking hands with the rich man. By the time the meal was done, Papa had been transformed. He’d gone from a poor man to not even middle class, but rich. He was to be earning twice what he had been earning at the bank – ‘plus benefits.’ And, even I, Saka, was the proud possessor of some secret money.

He could of course not believe it. To add to his surprise, when we returned home Mama and Folu were waiting for us. Before he could open his mouth and lapse into the old argument, Mama said in English, ‘Don’t even talk about that nonsense issue with Ekezie. Please, please, please! Just look at you, eh, look at you. If I was here, you think I would have allowed you to go about chasing a goat for a money ritual? Eh? Please, oh, just sit down jejely, quietly.’

And just like that, like a lamb, Papa sat down and never – as far as I know – brought up the issue again. Somehow, in that one evening, my parents were reconciled, and Papa had left the darkness and gone into light. As though I had not thought about it all along, it struck me that all this had happened because of the goat. In the silence, I burst into a sudden fit of mirth. I laughed hysterically, until everyone fell silent and began asking me why I was laughing. But even before I could tell them, Mama and Folu had joined me. Then I told them and Papa laughed too. And in between wiping my eyes and fighting to calm myself, I cried, ‘This is the strange story of the world!’

 

Image © Chad Skeers

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