Thursday, November 2, 2017

Ekundayo (3/3).

Click here for Ekundayo 2/3.

The pale blue lights cast long, wavering shadows across the cemetery grounds. The grass was shortened but not removed from the earth, and many graves farther back in the lopsided rows were slowly, gently being overtaken by nature. Most mounds did not possess a significant marker beyond an erected piece of wood or stone, but several off to the left were highly conspicuous in this regard.

Four oblong rises of soil in the earth were quite fresh, as were the offerings arranged around them as a group. Several sticks of resin incense still smoked, and the melted , slowly solidifying wax rivers of a few candles stood out against the dark earth. Bundles of fruit, spices, and salt were wrapped in scraps of decorated cloth, each marked by a piece of bark carved with some personal identifier of giver or goodwill, in place of an entire written message. The visual arts of the village were more robust than their textual.

Abeni looked upon these mounds with quiet, somewhat confused respect. Why was she being brought to see the dead first? Once more seeking the old man's odd-hued eyes, she looked up toward him.

Grandfather Corpse was already looking back down at her, his smile lessened somewhat. But it did not vanish.

"They been missin' you terrible since the fiah. Ya maam, pah, little Dayo too." He spoke of the girl's baby brother, no older than four years by now.

The confusion intensified, and then turned to worry, as she looked back and forth between the mounds and the old man. The corpses backed off respectfully, as if they knew that they would be intruding upon a very personal conversation.

Joints creaked and groaned as the old man set his staff down, altering the angles of the shadows again dramatically. He set his flat hands with long, steady fingers upon the girl's shoulders, and he exhaled. Just as it always did, his breath smelled faintly of smoked taba leaves. He seemed to be waiting for the girl to speak first. When she didn't, he nodded his head and glanced aside once more, as if he were seeing and listening to something which she could not detect. He nodded his head upon that thin neck of his.

"Ya gotta go to 'em, Abeni. Me know it be frightenin', we awl do. But it time." With that, his hands reached past her shoulders, and he pulled the girl in lightly. One hand patted against her back as he embraced her, and then in the next moment he was twisting away on his long, scrawny legs and standing back up, staff in hand.

Abeni lingered on the three mounds for a time. She approached them slowly. She looked over the fourth, nestled between the third and the soil heaped up against the base of the fence.

She turned back to the man, tears reflecting the light beneath her eyes.

"Please... tell yuh wife me said hello, one las' time?"

"Course, sweet'aat."


Before she went and laid down upon the loamy soil, she snapped a piece of red-colored sugar candy from one of the offering baskets and popped it into her mouth. It clicked against her teeth, and the wind rustled the scorched hem of her dress one last time. It wasn't as soft as her bed, but it was close. She felt tired finally.

The old man sighed, and canted his head at an odd angle to listen again. The smile renewed itself, and he turned away. Knocking his hickory staff upon the nearest hard surface, he brought the still and silent bodies back to attention. They lined up like soldiers at attention, and then shambled forward on his instruction, clamoring through the place of restful death until they found emptied mounds of their own. The old man followed after each, packing the earth down tightly once they had clawed it back over themselves, all to the rhythmic chants of joro, jara, and joro.

Once the last particles of dirt were settled back down, he ambled over toward the gap in the fence once more. The staff extinguished itself with an almost imperceptible sizzle. With his free hand, he lifted up a length of hemp rope which tethered one end of an ancient wooden box, long and narrow, with one end wider than the other. He shouldered it upon one sagging side with a soft grunt, and then he trudged forward, back out into the mist once more.

"Ya 'erd awl dat, lub?"

The coffin knocked once in response.

((Ending this messy little amalgamation of ideas, I hope that the end of the last month and the beginning of the new has left you each with an affirmation of life. You can't have one side without the other. Happy Día de los Difuntos.))

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