Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Christmas Story of Anagrams

'Tis charms that brought three charmists to Nazareth that cold night. Led by a star which one of them mischarts, the three sirs match pace to the stable of christ's ma, bearing gifts unplanned.

A stable richly blessed with timber fetters and a roof of hay houses the infant. Rich masts of Jewish kilt gilds the babe's cot; spot-lit in soft light reverently shone by the moon.

So beautiful the picture was, it would stir chasm between the hardest heart and the stiffest head and split both in schism. Rat, goat, wisemen, cattle, ram, schists of hay...(this crams the haloed stall) around where the heavenly angel sits. March in O king of peace. Christmas has come to stay

Only minds tuned fine can find all the anagrams of the word CHRISTMAS in the Christmas story above. There are 11 of them.


Of Masks and Hoods

There was a masked ball in Venice on a certain holiday.
People came in hoods and masks of all finery.
We danced and spun and drank, till stupor
rose in the air and caused us to pour
Wine into imaginary cups and laugh to words unjoked.

It was a merry day; that day. And I learnt a merry tale.
It was told to me by a drunk as we drank our ale.
‘It worrs of a certn ball ich was eld of late
'ere a king had drank so much as to auction his mate…’
Though his words slurred I heard him clearly for also drunk was i

‘The king had opend the biddin with an ounce of gold flakes...
'An’ hands and hats had gone up to raise the stakes
Till the prize landed in the hands of the last to ask:
A million pounds of gold from a bidding mask'
The merriment continued till dawn and each went his merry way.

The winning bidder did wake the next morning,
And saw his wife beside him, yawning.
‘How was the ball?’ asked the wife rubbing her eyes.
‘I was too drunk to know ‘cept I won a prize,
I borrowed a million pounds to win and was too drunk to keep’

The wife kept mute; for that night, she had masked as king,
she had gone with the auctioneer with which she had a fling,
and they had both plotted to play a prank:
of which none ever has surpassed in rank.
A prank only behind masks was deemed possible

To cut off the in-between;
that morning, the king woke without a queen;
The queen woke in a stable having slept with a stranger.
Venice lost its entire savings: The town lender,
having lent it to someone he could not recognize.

Our lives are a tale of pretence as of the bidding:
where we wear Masks and hoods to keep our true selves hidden.
But masks and hood breeds nothing but trouble
Making the king a fool and the pauper heir to the royal stubble
So ended the tale of two drunks on a night in Venice.

The story of a Miracle

George Miller sat back in the orphanage cradling the littlest of the boys in his arms looking at the pale moon through his windows. The moon had greyed everything in the orphanage as there was not light in the great room where they all gathered to pray every night before he tucked them all to bed.
There were ten of the boys and Isaiah, the one he was cradling tonight was the youngest and smallest of them all. Tonight Isaiah was sick, not for illness or anything but for wont of food. The famine had raged across the village and had squeezed the orphanage of all it had and tonight she was claiming to take away one of his own.

He looked at the little boy in his arms and the large eyes and slender frame looked back and whispered fraily.
'Poppa when are we goin' 'tu-yit'?

A large tear plopped from George's eyes and broke on the small one's forehead. George had never lied to the boys before, He was devout as any Christian would be but tonight he had to keep hope alive for the boys in the room who all sat in different corners staring at him, and particularly, isaiah whose frame he could feel withering in his arms.

He had told them God would be bringing food and like children will they had had no reason to doubt him.

The first fruits of his tears ran into a steady harvest as he cried tears he could not utter or reveal in the grey darkness of the room.

'Please God, he prayed, send us food'

Anthony Reed could not sleep. He kept tossing and turning in his bed. He just could not figure out why. Was it the ale? or was it the fact that his wife had left him barely a week ago without any indication of where she was going?

All sorts of ideas ran through his head but he could not place it. So he got up, slapped on a shirt and strode into the night, walking casually into his barn and in the dark, saddling the horse he first set his eyes upon. Abbey, groaned a bit as the reins tore into his sleeping hide. 'where was the master off to tonight he would have asked had Anthony been Ballam.

Anthony kicked the horse's side and rode it off with an echoing clatter into the grey of the night, hoping to ride out the frustrations he could feel but could not explain as he saddled top speed toward the dying village that was about to sleep the sleep of hunger.

The famine that year had been the worst in his twenty seven years of existence and had it not been that he had planted more grains than potatoes, he would have also been in most of the villagers shoes. He thought about the incidence and the mistake that had made him plant more grains and he could not help but feel a hand of providence in tweaking fate in his favor as unreligious as he was.

He had not ridden for long when he passed the orphanage. Usually he would hear the noises of the little kids at play or the chiding of good ol miller but tonight, it was like the orphanage had died.
No light shone from its rickety casement nor happy voice from the interior of the lonley hut. looking back, he slowed the horse to a halt and turned back, allowing the horse to walk at it will as he thought for a moment.

Maybe it was the famine? Then he remembered that he had gone to trade a sack of corn in the market earlier that day and had not sold it all for he had planned to sell in such quantities as would make him rich whilst not exhausiting his store no matter how long the famine lasted.

As he was thinking, the horse can to a stop outside the door of the orphanage. Anthony wondered if he should go back home, when he realized that he had not unstrapped what was left of the sack from the horse. Tied to the side of the saddle was the remainder as he had left it that afternoon. climbing down quickly, he unstrapped the parcel and dropped it in a heap at the door of the orphange and rode away into the yawning darkness beyond the grey.

George Miller heard the horse clatter, come to a halt, then a pause, a gradual trot, a thud and a quick gallop that faded out almost as soon as it'd started. He did not know what to make of it. He had not been one to recieve visitors at such odd hours. Especially one that rode in in the night and rode away so quickly. The children were scared and the older ones had ran to him from the nooks and crannies of the room where they all perched. They huddled closer to him and Isaiah on the rocking chair in which he cradled the child.

They all waited for what seemed a long time to see if there would be any more sounds but none came. The night beyond thier rickety casement had returned to its unassuming calmness.

Then Isaiah the feeble one spoke with a wan smile on his face, in a little more lively tone than he had all night. 'God must have brought the food'.

George Miller broke into uncontrollable tears to the chagrin of the children. He had never broken down in thier presence before. Not even when his helper and wife, who mothered all the children with her own had taken ill and died. He had simply explained to the children that she had gone to wait in heaven for them all. But tonight, the grief was much more than he could conceal. How Miller cried!

Slowly, Will, the oldest of the children walked to the door and inched it open out of curiousity. George did not notice in his bowed grief as the boy opened the door even wider pulling in the sack Anthony Reed had left at thier doorpost.

Putting his hands into the bag and scoopingup a handful of corn, he shouted.
'Poppa, Poppa, Isaiah is right. God has brought the food!'

George Miller raised his head in fear. Fear for what? He did not know. But as he saw the grains slide continously from Will's hands into the sack and the now happy throng of children running to the door to see the manna, his resolve fell apart and he cried hopelessly. Like the day he was born: Like he had never done before.

Anthony Reed got home that night knowing why he had not been able to sleep and for the first time in a long while he slept like he would on his dying day.



It is the season of the hot months in the Serengeti when the parched throats of animals run their brains amock: both predator and prey suppressed by the master predator; The drought.

In the undergrowth is Chilolo studying the wizened frame of a once-graceful gazelle grazing on dust;

Chilolo had remained in this crouching position for a while: considering his options before the chase. This, because in the time of drought, every chase must be worth the while knowing that energy is scarce.
After a while of considering his options, Chilolo sprang from the thicket and gave feeble chase. The gazelle could hardly start off before Chilolo caught it in the jugular and dragged it off to a shelter.
'Sniff, struggle, feeble-wiggle' - it did a feeble jiggle before gasping its last.
Teeth still in jugular, the blood oozed into Chilolo's dry throat quenching his blood thirst and temporarily satisfying the thirst that arose from the pseudo-chase he had given.

Four jackals standing by watching Chilolo drag away the now-lifeless body of the gazelle sprang after the leopard, trailing in their scraggy hide, which had further been worsened by drought induced alopecia. Chilolo glanced off his side-eyes as he noticed the pack. Quickly doubling his leap, he expended non-existent energy until he could run no more. Sadly taking a chunk or two, he ran off before the jackals closed in.
On getting to the carcass, the jackals howled 'HOO-HOO' in 'jackalous' happiness and settled down to meat when the roar of the lion caught them mid-chow. Scurrying off like ferrets the jackals ran off in mock-cry boo-ing, 'BOO-HOO' as they ran.

The lion arrived the scene in stately manner, flexed its tawny hide- stretched thin to reveal rib lines and started to tear the dispossesed body of Chilolo's gazelle: Chilolo and all the other jackals spitefully watching the scene.

Chilolo sat in a corner of the wild, under the scattered shade of a wilting tree: the tear-lines of a leopards eternal cry running down his face and his bulging sides billowing fast to recover wasted energy. He watched as the lion devoured his catch and as he sat there in the wild in the heat of that Serengeti drought, he asked the same question many of us have asked forever,



The mountain plains of the Plateau held the clouds to ransom and invited such cold rarely found in the tropics. Even though the sun shone high above, a cold breeze still blew over the face of the plains and swished tufts of shallow grass rooted in the scanty savannah that dotted the mountain sides.
Bare chest and laying flat on his back, the man lay on the cold rock in absolute silence. He did not see the Seeker but the Seeker saw him. He had watched the man since the day of his birth and the time was now.

Two continents away, a half way round the world was the reason for the Seeker’s mission: A little girl about seven years of age on a hospital bed- white and balding; neither from age nor curse but from the gnawing of cancer within and the war of chemicals without. She was so frail, she resembled death. Her skin was whiter than her Caucasian complexion and dark patches encircled her hollow eyes casting shadows that were not.

The seeker adjusted his scope and looked at the plan again even though he did not need to as he had it all in his memory. Everything about him moved to the song of the wind but his eye kept still and kept watch: The focus of his attention- the unmoving man.

The man lay there staring at the calm blues skies but he did not see it. Neither did he feel the cold nor the hardness of the rock against his head. His mind was on one thing: the bottle in his pocket. It was a lethal mix that held the end for him and now felt uncomfortably warm on the sides of his thighs.
Suicide, they said was evil and so he had believed. But now, here, on this rock, he had concluded that neither good nor evil existed. Contemplating suicide had been the biggest hurdle for him but he had crossed the line now, there was no going back.

One year earlier in a place far drawn from the cold mountain, a woman had met a little girl in a cancer awareness conference and had been moved by the sight of the frail child speaking of finality and hope as was the purview of one dying- the aged; but no! Not a child. What struck her the most was the happiness in the little girl who was about her last daughter’s age; she had that wan but true smile that indeed was rare.
After the conference she had approached the girl and her parents and over a period of three months they had written a book. Meeting that little girl had changed her life.
Now sitting at her reading table, dimly lit by a dusty lamp, she held the book in her hands looking at the familiar words spoken by a child and written by her. She flipped to the picture page and unconsciously started to cry. Smiling back at her from the centre page was the face of the dying girl. She was wearing the pink frock she loved to wear but which had started to hang loosely on her fading frame.
When she met the girl at the conference about a year ago, the doctors said the girl had just about a year to live. That meant her time was nearing now. The woman cried again; for herself, for the unfairness of fate and the eventual wilting of a flower that never will have the chance to blossom. She wanted to scream out loud but the inhibitions of impersonality restrained her from doing so.

Two days before the present, a school boy with unkempt hair and rumpled uniform detached from his little group of friends on their way home. The war in his mid-regions had reached an unbearable stage and he could not hold his bowels anymore. So running for the nearest thicket he could find (where presently the Seeker stood) he hurriedly yanked off his shorts, squatted and let his bowels loose just quick enough to prevent the watery stool from pouring in his pants.
‘Ah!’, he let off a sigh of contentment before beginning to rationalize his action. He had nothing to clean up with!
He looked around with darting eyes before realizing he had some books in his back pack which he had dropped beside the now buzzing fecal broth in the grass. Diving into his bag, he searched for the first book his blindly groping hands could find.
He had brought it out before realizing it was the book he had earlier stolen from the school library- the one he had hidden in his shirt on his way out. Opening it hurriedly, he tore off the first page he saw; it was a glossy page in centre spread with pictures. Arching his back for clearance, he wiped his backside with the page unsettling some buzzing flies in the process. The gloss did not do well in its role as tissue paper so he had to tear off three more matt pages till he was satisfied.
Feeling better, he made to put the book back in his bag when he noticed the picture on the cover. It was a funny girl with missing teeth and no hair. He thought she looked ugly; like his naughty younger sister who just lost her teeth too.
HOPE was written boldly on the cover.
‘H-O-P-E’, he spelt it out to himself before putting the book back into his back and running off to join his friends, screaming their names from a distance.

The Seeker stood still and made the wind to sail the rumpled page stained with dried faeces, nimbly in the air till it stopped at the feet of the unmoving man.

The man saw something fly out of the skies and land at his feet but he didn’t bother to look. Lying still for a little longer, he took a deep breath, sat up and proceeded to remove the bottle from his pocket. Then the pictures on the stained glossy page caught his eye.
Bottle in one hand, he picked up the sheet with the other. On the picture page, though rumpled and stained, were pictures with captions beneath and he started to read them, one after another. It was the story of a seven year old girl. Cancer…awaiting death…her bald head…with daddy and mommy…her smile.
Her smile;
He could not take his mind off ‘Her smile’.
Why did she have to die?
What did she do to deserve such?
But why?
Why did she smile?
What was it that made her happy?

Then all of a sudden he started to cry. Such tears as would well hot in ones nose and blind the eyes to sight: And he started to wail, screaming and shouting into the distance.
He wailed.
His life…his sorrows…losing everything….
But ‘Her smile’….
Then he shouted out loud and smashed the bottle in his hands on the cold rock crying for as long as time stood still. He had never cried like that before and possibly never would.

The Seeker folded the plan and stood by the girl’s bed side. Her weak frame madly ravaged by chemotherapy but her smile never diminishing. She looked up and when she saw the Seeker, she smiled again and in that same breath, closed her eyes forever; her mission done. The Seeker did not need to see the flat line. As he left the ward, he saw on a shelf in the pediatric ward, a stack of dominoes. He smiled at how much humans resembled them; one on another, their destinies forever intertwined.

Writers' Block

Writers’ block is the dormitory mid-way between the dining halls and the water taps. It was not that the dormitory was exactly midway in distance but because the bells for food rang at the same time as the taps were turned on, we usually had one of two options: to eat or to fetch.

To eat was to boycott the taps where our inspiration flowed.
To fetch was to forget food upon which our survival depended.
Such dilemma we all encountered in the Writers’ block were we called home.

I had my mattress besides the door not far from the many others that inhabited the same room as I did and every time I looked out of the windows one way I saw what I did not see the other way. They were pictures that besieged my mind in the rushes of water and jingling of bells: Bells of wants cloaked in necessity and the rushing of waters seemingly to no end.

When the bells rang, some of us would leave the writers’ block with our bowl in our hands, our pens in our pockets and leave our books behind on our mattresses and run in the direction of self-fulfilment. While some others would run for water even though their bellies echo forth in hollowness speaking belches through their mouths. Yet one over the other possessed no supremacy of thought or desire- only the future stood to judge us all whether or not for food or water we had gone.

The jingling in my head and the echoes and pangs chimes as the bells ring for I am in no less of a quandary as I think of the future and an audience unborn
Of the present: and my gifts untorn,
And I look to the pages of my book forlorn,
knowing I won’t remain here for long.

Midnight at noon

The news of the eclipse approached with foreboding.
Everyone had heard so much of it but no one had ever witnessed it. This year, the weather people had said it would pass through the town and the townfolk had heard numerous explanations on what it would be like. Some said it was going to be dark for three days and a lot of people would die because a curse had been pronounced on the town; others said it was the government's way of shielding the many problems of the society by instilling fear into people; others said after the eclipse, the devil will be released to earth and the world would come to an end- the last reason seemed to be the popular feeling about the early hours of the morning when the eclipse was scheduled to take place.

‘A brief period of darkness in the middle of the day about noon. There is nothing to worry about’, the weather people had said. In thier words, ‘It was only a shy moon trying to shield the eyes of her lover from the heat of the sun’s passion’.

As much as everyone tried to solve the mystery in thier heads, most people in the town just could not fathom it. So everyone waited and watched to see for themselves how it would all play out; trying hard to maintain status quo as they went about thier daily business; thier collective minds tuned to mid-day. The anticipation in the town was so high, it grazed the surface of the sky where the event was scheduled to occur later that day and people stood in respective clusters each with thier own interpretation of the mystery yet to unfold.

The beer parlors were crowded with ‘drinkards’ hoping to drink thier last beer lest it be the end of the world and they might not have another chance to drink again. 'Ha ha ha!', rained ribald laughter from the beer parlor as they joked to words which normally would not sound funny.
The church stalls were filled with ‘Prayers’ hoping the period of darkness that would cover the earth in that little moment would not loosen the devil from his bounds in the pit of hell and spare him the window of opportunity to be cast back to earth again.
‘Shantabrakata takakaka rekekekke bushma!’ rained mystery tongues from the church stalls, spilling onto the fields filled with children running helter-skelter looking at the skies and singing childhood songs. Songs that once one became an adult, started to reek of folly but in the prime of childhood, meant the whole world.

‘Sun, Sun close your eyes’
‘Run, run, the moon has come’
‘Tunbo, tunbo gbaskelebe’
‘Jasi gutter- push!’

Hawkers everywhere screamed thier wares too; and even dogs, joined the fray, barking in anticipation and chasing themselves about as they too waited for the eclipse. Whether from reading the actions of the entropic people about them or from the inner intuition of animals, no one could say; but all in all, both dog and man, everyone in the town, in anticipation of one same event, ran around in circles, looked up and waited.

In all this commotion however, some slept off at home unconcerned. If it was the end of the world who cared? It was even the better for them. Wasn’t there too much suffering already?

In a face-me-i-face-you bungalow somewhere in the town, in one of the stale rooms banked on either side of a long corridor sat one of the last set of people that did not care much about the excitement that abound without. His mind was on the inner clock that ticked towards noon when the loan shark would send his boys to collect the money he owed. He had been about to leave his room the day before when one of the ‘boys’ had approached him to give him the message, delivering it with a solid slap that boiled water in his ears.

‘Tomoro! He said through lips cracked from crack,
‘Tomoro we go come collet de money!

In another side of town leaning on the balcony of her aged husband’s house, revealing firm cleavage, was a young woman whose body craved for the fleeting window of passion the eclipse would grant her to make out with the houseboy with whom she had discovered an unholy acquintance. As her mind raced through the narrow escape escapades they had had in times past, her juices flowed in anticipation of his rough probing fingers.
She moaned softly to herself, lost in the moment hoping the darkness would come all too soon as she watched the heat of the sun; in denial of the death that stood to befall it later in midday.

With each shortening shadow the fetters cast on the earthen floor, the man’s mind turmoil-turned spat out more spleen. Why had he done this to himself? 49, 17, 15 was sure banker- at least that was what he had been told. How could the numbers not have won?
Now he was in hot soup; one in a boiling cauldron at that. ‘Jaguar’ was going to skin him alive.
Having borrowed a hefty sum from the area father to put into the pools, he immediately knew his life was over when he got to the tally office to find out none of his lucky numbers had been listed in the winning for the week. Having thought through his narrow options, he had decided to leave; but how he would evade the watching eyes of Jaguars goons had remained a mystery until God had blessed him with the news of the eclipse. His only prayer was that the darkness would last longer, if it did not have the courage to last forever.

As the aged man shuffled onto the balcony with his bottle-thick lenses sitting on the rims of his nose and his front teeth open from starring through the bottom half of the glasses the young woman’s heart beat faster. She had not expected the tortoise to live this long. When she chose to marry him, he had looked like a ghost ready to be severed from the leash of mortality. But five years down the line, even though he looked ghostlier, the old man did not seem in a hurry to leave. At first she had kept her restraint but with time, her underutilsed body started to yearn for more than the aged man could offer and like the miracle they said would happen by mid-day, the omnipresent old man had cast a huge shadow over her freedom and her youth, dimming her to just another decoration in the house. He never allowed her to work, shop, cook; and unfortunately did not have the energy to keep her company in bed or in discussions of her age owing to the generation gap between them.

Like the waning sun, she watched the man settle in his low chair and remove his glasses to clean them. She crossed over gently into the living room and headed for the kitchen as soon as she heard the dull thud of the glasses case on the side stool. She knew for sure that the unspectacled old man only felt her presence but did not see her; without those bottle lenses he was as blind as a bat.
‘Akpan!’, she shouted in feigned dryness that smelt wetness beneath.
‘Akpan!’, will you come to the kitchen straight away? What kind of mess have you made of this kitchen?

The heat of the overhead sun had started to dissipate as the ambience of the town dimmed in a forced evening of spheres at war. The eclipse was near.

With each degree of dimming, the entropy about the town increased; making the people look like sizzling bubbles in boiling water colliding against each other.

‘Prayers’ nodded thier heads faster, swinging it from side to side while singing songs of deliverance to keep the devil at bay. ‘Drinkards’ ordered more beer and stood to dance to the music supplied by a set of cracked speakers in one corner of the bar: they didnt hear it anyway, they just danced. Children played around and everyone began to wear the sun shades and look up to the greying skies (the rays of the eclipse alone can blind you- everyone had heard) as they watched the premature night in its grand entrance.

The man quickly packed all his belongings- about two shirts; as the shadows lengthened into the aging noon. He knew somewhere out there, the goons of Jaguar would be watching. About a minute walk from his house was a motorcyclist with whom he had made arrangements a night before to make his escape.

‘Akpan!’ can’t you ever do anything right? The young woman screamed from the kitchen, shouting for the benefit of the listening old man as she hit the Calabar cook hard enough on the rump as to suggest a slap on the face.
Kpa! the slap clapped as flesh hit flesh.
Akpan, grabbing her buttocks with both hands, dragged her towards him, and responded in like manner,
‘Ah! Madam, Werin i do now?’

The darkness was growing deeper now and the ‘Shantabrakata’ of the ‘Prayers’ grew louder with the ensuing noise of anticipation and excitement.
Slowly, the man crept out of his house: like the shadow of the moon creeping deeper upon the face of the earth- shielding the earth from the heat; the woman and her lover (mid-heat) from the blind eyes on the balcony; and the man, from the prying eyes of his creditors. The last crescent sliver of light disappeared into the night like an oversharpened sickle and the motorcycle’s headlamp blinked twice urging the man to walk faster in the dark.

Akpan’s hands found the hasps of his madam’s bra in the dark as he un-cupped the young wife’s breasts allowing only goosebumps to cover them. Digging his way savagely into the crescent cups, he didn’t need the light to find his way deep between his madam’s thighs, teasing out a moan that had to remain suppressed in guilt- lending more heat to the writhing bodies burning on the cooker top.
His hands moved faster as the darkness peaked in her gloom digging deep into the dark void that shrouded the earth.

Outside, the noise continued.

Cameras clicked here and there in brief flashes and sightseers brought out all manner of gadgets to capture the occassion. Campers in 'Aso-Ebi' that no one could notice in the darkness sat on their bonnets; Drummers in tactile discussions with unseen drums beat on their hides- pulling the ropes taut or loose to speak languages, from drum to drum spoken, but understood by men.

In all, the glory of the eclipse kept every watcher in awe, amazed at the mysteries which stood farther than the horizon of thier imagination. And as all things that are not understood, myriads of people seized the opportunity to make a show of it.
Self appointed priests pronounced prophecies; Juju men raised thier fowls to the sky, spinning them dizzy- thier heads to be torn off when the sun ‘came back’; Politicians made speeches on loudspeakers; and ‘Shantabrakata’ increased in tempo as the much awaited event passed letting the light back in on the darkness shrouded town.

Like all great expectations of mankind, the eclipse was forever lost in that single moment; leaving the light sneaking back in like it never left, the man fleeing back-route like he’d never left, and breasts, sore from sucking couched back in thier lace-strained hasps like they never left.