Abeng Short Story
Amalaika Vs. The Council of Elders
(The Palm Wine Controversy)
copyright K. Omodele 2016
Amalaika, gazelle-like in body but dragged in spirit, chucked her son all the way to the Circle of the Council of Elders. Bursting with vexation, she beat the over-sized boy with a bamboo-cane stick as the people of the village looked on, bemused, but with sinking hearts because Amalaika's husband and her two older sons had been captured and herded away with a dozen others, most likely to the slave fort hundreds of miles to the south. So, all that was left of Amalaika's family was a young daughter and this degge-degge, thirteen-year old son.
Breathing heavy and fast, the woman shoved the dirt-crusted boy to stand and face the elders. She addressed the council.
"Greetings Elders. This one will not stop drinking - he is a drunk." She wrinkled her nose.
The leader of the council was a bald, creaky-limbed man who nevertheless harnessed the presence of a growling leopard within him.
"Woman, this man-child will be initiating rites of passage soon."
"Yes, Baba." She straightened her back. Folded her lips in a fit of restraint.
"Boys will be boys. One rotten fruit now and then will not kill monkey," the council leader said, dismissively.
"Baba, he thinks he is a man but he does not hunt; does not bring food. All he wants to do is drink palm wine, day and night."
The boy dug his chin into his chest. He didn't move or look up; not even a twitch nor hint of protest.
Amalaika pleaded. "Wise One, if YOU tell him to stop drinking, he will obey. He will have to stop."
The council leader assessed the mother. HMMMMPPPH!
Then the whole Council of Elders roped in together, grumbled amongst themselves for a moment or two, then broke their huddle.
The Wise One's voice waded through a swamp of pity.
"Woman bring the boy in seven days. I will personally take care of this matter, then."
Amalaika grabbed her son by the back of the neck like a lioness transporting her cub, and lashed him homeward with the bamboo-cane stick.
Seven days staggered by; then finally, Amalaika, pepped with anticipation, brought her son back before the council.
The boy once again dug his chin into his chest.
The Wise One growled. "Look at me when I speak to you!"
The boy looked up, head still partially bowed.
Now the old man roared. "DON'T DRINK ANY MORE PALM WINE!"
The boy shivered, nodding. "Yes Wise One." Then, he backed away.
The council nodded and grinned, clearly pleased with themselves.
Amalaika stood still, grilling the council over coals of bewilderment.
"Is that all?"
The Wise One turned to her. "Yes...What more is warranted?"
"But you could have told him that seven days ago."
One of the Elders held up his palm. "Woman, you challenge the council?"
Shaking his head, the Wise One drew the man back and then told Amalaika.
"Seven days ago I was also drinking palm wine."