EYES IN THE WOOD
By CHIKA VICTOR ONYENEZI (Nigeria)
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FOREST OF FRUITS
“Yes, I can see those ripe ones” Ikem said.
Ikem’s mind was on the forest of fruits, where they would gather as much as they can. Their teacher was telling them a fable about lion and tortoise “… Lion is brave and strong. He is the king of the forest. Many animals challenge him in a fight, bravely he conquers them. At times after the fight, he would come back wounded, tired and lay weak in his den, while the tortoise is a coward. Anything that would lead to a fight, he trickily avoided it. Even run away from it. If the worst come, he gently entered into his shell. This makes tortoise the wisest of all animals”. While she was telling the story, she saw those that were not listening and those that were listening,
"Ikem Oduka! Stand up!" She barked.
Ikem was shocked to hear his name. He knew he had bargained for trouble by not listening.
“Now what makes tortoise the wisest animal?” she asked as she held her cane firmly.
“Elm, elm, elm” Ikem voice was wobbling. Angrily she dragged Ikem out of the room and, gave him six hot lashes of cane on his buttocks. Ikem cried all through her class. No teacher had ever flogged him like this. Every teacher that taught him, always found him to be a bright, smart boy. Today he messed up, just because of the forest of fruits.
Immediately school was over, Ikem and Chijioke went to wait for the other boys. From there, they set out to the wood, where the fruits grow in abundance. James and Ugonna went with them as the crossed the main road. They got to a point, where they walked into a smaller road. They walked into a small road that led them deep into the wood. He saw beautiful flowers growing on top the stream. Birds walked on top of the water without sinking, chirping beautiful songs. Truly it is a little forest of fruits. There were plenty of guava, mango and cherry trees growing widely in the wood, little insects were jumping around the beautiful vegetation.
“It’s cold here,” Ikem said
Chijioke and Ikem went closer to touch the water.
“Stop oh!” Ugonna shouted at them.
They ran away from the water.
“This is Nwaorie; it is a wicked stream. It will eat you if you go closer to her.” Ugonna cautioned them. They descended upon the fruits. Ikem climbed that day. He quickly learned how to do it. He searched for the ripe one on top of the mango tree, throwing them down to Chijioke. Soon Chijioke’s bag was full of mangos. Ikem went over to the guava tree. He chewed some up there.
“Can I eat one?” Chijioke said.
“No don’t! Do you think it is easy to climb? If you eat one, then prepare to climb!” Ikem said. He didn’t eat any till Ikem came down. James and Ugonna had already filled their bags with Cherries, their favorite of all trees. The trees are short; you can stand and pluck them. When it was time to go, they gathered all their fruits in their bags; including those that hid in the shrubs.
“Can I pluck one flower from the stream,” Ikem asked.
“Eh! Nwaorie will come in the night and ask you for her flower. She lives in that stream. People say her tail is made of fish tail.” James told him. Ikem trembled at hearing that; he never knew that a woman called Nwaorie lived in water. They quickly left. As they where leaving, Chijioke kept turning back.
"Ah! Ikem look at that one oh! We would have plucked it oh!” Chijioke said squinting at the ripe ones they couldn’t pluck.