Vasant 2019, Short Stories - Promise Ugochukwu Nwafor



By Promise Ugochukwu Nwafor

“When a god dies, the wood carver is summoned, and a new god comes to life.” -African saying


That night, in spite of the clouds revealing signs of imminent rain, Ogbonna and Nworah swore in their hearts to execute their long, well thought-out scheme. However true it may be that if one listens to thunder, they shall not be soaked by the rain, it did not apparently hold for these two who had chosen a road of absolutes. All in all, whatever awakens a vulture from sleep must be lifeless.



Mr. Jasper had just concluded the interment of his late father. Being the richest man in the state, the people of Nsogwu had anticipated nothing less than a grand ceremony for the occasion. This held in spite of the fact that the state of the country was abysmal. The cost of everything was exorbitant. The soul of the masses had nothing soothing to look forward to. Not the current fuel price that just escalated to N250 per litre, nor the cost of food and worse still, not even the cost of good drinking water.


In such a horrible situation, people still expected Mr. Jasper to do wonders on the said burial day. And truly, he performed magic and actually propelled events beyond everybody’s imagination. On the anticipated day, after his father’s corpse was conveyed in a helicopter to the new house he had built him five years ago, the expectation of the crowds - both invited and uninvited - rose regarding the much-awaited spectacle of the day.


Many presumed it was going to be grandest in the series of events that day but the truthwas that Mr. Jasper had merely opened the stage. Before the mass commenced twenty different catering services, each with their cooling vans, were already lined around thevicinity in strategic positions. The compound was already filled by the seething crowd as early as 9am. The empty field of Community Secondary School Nsogwu opposite Mr. Jasper’s house also came in handy as extra seats and canopies were positioned there to accommodate the monstrous crowd.


Even the traditional ruler of the town, who was also present that day, was humiliated by the sight of the crowd - incomparable to the number that had ever turned up so far during his Ofala festivals, and even the day of his coronation. After the mass, when the Apams funeral services’ minions were ready to lift the coffin for their infamous cavalcades which ultimately ends at that destination where all roads - high and low - lead to, Mr. Jasper was called upon by the officiating priest to unveil his father’s coffin which was covered in white shrouds since its ‘descent from the air’. “This one na artwork display o,” a boy innocently observed as he saw the veiled coffin. Funny and true as it was, when the coffin was ‘unrobed’, the sight froze the great crowd for some minutes as Mr. Jasper had effected the second significant marvel of the day. Positioned on a glass table was 24-carat gold, enjoying the excuse of a coffin.


As the men heaved the gold-plated coffin onto their shoulders, the shimmering afternoon sun aligned with it to throw forth sharp yellow rays which correspondingly sent wild screams of astonishment through the vocal parts of the crowd. Subsequently, as the reception was taking place Mr. Jasper proceeded to ‘release’ the final phenomenon of the day. As the pop-highlife sensational artist Flavour enchantingly elevated the spirits of the ravenous and gluttonous crowd into high spirits, while mostlyhailing the celebrant in that most engaging, usual art of titular praise reminiscent of Africa’s legendary griot heritage, Mr. Jasper stylishly walked right through the arena towards theextreme right exit and brought out his cell phone to make a call.


“Hello, can you hear me?” he said.


“Sure, sir! AP1 on the line,” reported a man on the other end.


“Hope you are ready, alert your crew. You should start in five minutes.”


“Alright, sir.”


Soon after Mr. Jasper resumed his seat, two helicopters started hovering in the air with deafening sounds. Ogbonna and Nworah were still eating.


“Guy you want to kill yourself?” Nworah asked as he downed the remaining of his Stout beer.


“On which level na?” returned Ogbonna, who was moulding in his right hand an awkward ball of fufu which was defenceless against flies.


“Are you eating for your whole kindred? In case you collapse here, you are on your own.”


“Okpo! If you like don’t eat. I don’t think hunger have dealt with you. Eat when you still see food.” Ogbonna said, licking his soup-laden fingers. “And why are they even shouting over there?” he asked carelessly as he tilted his head backwards to gulp from a bottle of Goldberg. The bottle was still in his mouth when he observed flying papers. At first, he wasn’t sure if he was becoming disoriented by his acknowledged gluttony, but then he called out to Nworah to second what he was seeing.


“What are those flying things?”


“What…Where?” Nworah asked.


“Don’t you have eyes? Look up there.”


When Nworah looked up, he caught the vision, dissolved into a mad frenzy, when he realized what they truly were: currency notes spewing down from the helicopters. A true manna from the sky.


“Money!” screamed Nworah as he turned towards Ogbonna who, he realised, had promptly vacated his seat. He had swiftly disappeared into the centre of the field with his

unwashed sticky hands, one among the many other ambitious hands, to scramble for the riches raining from the air. On their way back from the burial, Ogbonna brought out from

his pockets the squashed notes smelling of Onugbu soup, before he mockingly said to Nworah: “I never thought you would come rushing for the money.”


“Perhaps you think you are rich now, heh?”


“A man must start somewhere. No time to waste any opportunity,” Ogbonna affirmed, while grinning over the money he was earnestly counting.


“So you believe you’ve just jam fortune when a dead man will always be richer than your whole generation?”


“But what shall a man do then…like half bread is not better than none,” Ogbonna said. “But true though, this is a dead man in a breathing coffin.”


“You are mad shaa,” Nworah sneered with a brief laugh.


“But it’s true. Finally, only God knows how much gold they buried there.”


“I was going to ask you yesterday, do you know anybody that deals in gold?”


“Seek those that wear gold, Ogbonna has not had any since he came into this world.” The two friends talked of other things as they walked home. They talked about the current

state of the country’s economy and the horrifying devaluation of Naira. Nworah talked about how he was sacked in the mattress company in Enugu where he used to work as a driver. The manager said they needed fewer workers for them to meet their remuneration requirements. Ogbonna talked about his unsuccessful apprenticeship too. He used to learn the automobile spare parts trade under one man at Lagos.


But not too long ago, he was alleged to have stolen the man’s money and was dismissed abruptly. Back in Lagos, most of their customers and neighbours at the market still thought that Ogbonna was innocent. Some even held that the whole incident was a hoax contrived by Ogbonna’s boss to get rid of him as the business was fast fading and he couldn’t bear the extra stress of thinking about how to go about Ogbonna’s settlement. Meanwhile, when they got to a Y-shaped junction where they would have to take different routes to their houses, Nworah turned to Ogbonna and though his words weren’t swift and formal, they still had a tone of seriousness:


“But no jokes, do you know anyone that is maybe dealing in gold?”


“No,” Ogbonna replied with a sudden crease materialising on his sweaty forehead. “But there should be someone around, of course. It’s gold.”


“You know what, I will come around your place tomorrow morning. There is something we must discuss,” Nworah said.



The time was midnight. A torrential rain have been pouring mercilessly for several hours as though a deluge was being sent once more by God to chastise a sinful world. As for Nworah and Ogbonna, they have decided to be ‘self-proclaimed Noahs’ unto the ordeal. Wretched drainages stacked with debris had flooded and as a result, the water was almost knee-high. Every other sound has been shut out by the noise of the endless downpour and the thunderous clouds. Nworah rose from his bed, walked to the window and thoughtfully peeped outside. He brought out from his pocket a small Nokia torch-phone, strapped in place with a rubber band, and started dialling a number.


“My friend, are you sleeping or what? What’s the time?”


“Calm down, Oga, or didn’t you notice this evil rain?”


“This fool! Have you lost all your common sense? Can’t you see how the ‘evil rain’ will help us silence everything?”


“Ah, this man. You are too much…eh eh em ok. So I should start coming out then?” Ogbonna asked.


“He still asks! Don’t forget those things o. I will meet you there soon.”


When the call ended, Ogbonna dropped his phone into his pocket and leaned on the wall of his room for some time. And then he picked out ruffled shorts and an over-expanded polo shirt from a stack of clothes beside his three by ten inch bed. He wriggled his bulk into them. He put on his white Dunlop slippers, picked up a small battery torch from his bed and a sack bag from the floor. He blew out the last candle in his room and made for the door. Nworah was already waiting for him under a Pear tree in a small bush not far from Mr. Jasper’s compound. He was sipping from a small sachet of Captain Jack’s gin when Ogbonna arrived hastily.


“You are already ruining the night…time is very important.”


“Wait, I thought you said we are to keep alert. Now you are drinking kai-kai?”


“I’m just washing my eyes, you empty head.” Nworah was about to take a sip when a loud thunderbolt crashed. And that was the first time that night that one of them conceded to their mortality.


“Eh this thunder sef,” Ogbonna said distantly, “I don’t know if you heard that story too when you were small, but they used to tell us that back in those days, there was once a god our people used to worship. I can’t recall exactly, but his name was something like Kalo or Kamalu. They said then that if someone does any evil, he could strike them down with thunder.”


Nworah flashed his torch on Ogbonna’s face and asked immediately: “What sort of stupid talk is this now? Do you see any moon up there? Listen, now is not story-time. The time of the gods have long passed. Now is time for business, so no nonsense!” With those words, Nworah squeezed the last drop of the liquor into his mouth and then, they commenced their journey to Eldorado.


When they arrived at their destination, everywhere was quiet but for the continuous drops of rain beating capricious rhymes on the zinc rooftops. No one was in the compound except the gate keeper who was slumbering peacefully with his family under the rain’s sway. Shrouded by the sound of the rain, Nworah and Ogbonna made their way through rain puddles and wall edges to the site adjacent to the main building where Mr. Jasper’s father was laid to rest. A puddle had created few rills atop it. Nworah flashed the torch around for the first time. They examined the gravesite prudently because from then on, the torch was to be flashed only at intervals.


“Hold this” he said handing the torch over to Ogbonna, “Give me the digger.” He started tilling the ground while Ogbonna sentineled. The rainwater enabled a smooth tillage.

Nworah worked the ground unwaveringly, exerting his muscular weight until he was almost sweating under the rain. Then Ogbonna took over with the shovel while Nworah resumed the sentry duty at once with the torch. Immediately he packed the first shovel full, Ogbonna asked Nworah with a dubious look, “But eh, what if another person has come here before us?”


“Look man, I have talked too much already,” Nworah disparaged as he brought out something small from his back pocket, “I swear if you ever drop that shovel again, I will bury you in that grave too.” He flashed the torch on his right hand and to Ogbonna’s utter amazement, Nworah was brandishing a short locally made pistol, aimed unsparingly at his forehead. At once, Ogbonna;s face became serious. Fear gripped him and, although he had never bargained for this much of an adventure, he started digging the earth very fast as though his life’s essence was hiding beneath those soils. As he progressed, it became apparent that henceforth his life and that of his accomplice-turned-assailant would never, ever, remain the same.


Ogbonna had gone deep into the earth with the shovel, when the clouds rumbled violently as though furious with earthly chaos. Ogbonna wanted to stand erect and look Nworah in the eye to check for the possibility of a dying speck of alarm but before he could finish his calculation, an incandescent light sped in a flash across the sky, exposing the puffed and festering head of Mr. Jasper’s father in the frontward area of the ditch, covered roughly with sand. At once, a primordial sense of survival took precedence over all things as Ogbonna sprang out from the grave like a cat inspite of his plump body. He was going to yell out something to Nworah, but Ogbonna saw he had already thrown his gun and torch and was scurrying with all abandon towards the fence. Ogbonna darted behind on his trail, his short legs working so hard as to collide against his buttocks. They flipped over the fence like acrobats….they are still running even till this day.




Ugochukwu Promise Nwafor is a Nigerian lawyer and emerging writer. Some of his writing has been accepted for publications on platforms such as Lunaris Review, Fox Spirit Books, and Enkare Review. He has completed a short story collection and is currently working on the first draft of his debut novel. He also writes poetry, enjoys travelling, and is interested in cross-cultural heritage


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