“Nnanna, please go to Nne Azuka’s house and get me some burning embers. I want this food ready before your father returns from visiting Mazi Ezeudo,” Nnanna’s mother called out from the kitchen where she was peeling yams with her daughter, Amarachi.
“Eh, nne,” Nnanna answered.
The gangling thirteen year old got up from the spot outside his father’s obi where he’d been tanning a goat hide and went off.
It was just before dusk, the time when women were preparing the evening meal while men drank palm wine and rested from a hard day’s farming or hunting. Some children were returning from the streams; others played or chased lizards with catapults.
“Ekene unu o,” Nnanna greeted from the entrance of the compound.
“Who is it?” a woman asked from inside.
Nnanna went closer to the kitchen. “It is Nnanna, Mazi Ogbueli’s son. My mother sent me to get some burning coals from you.” He came to a stop beside the kitchen door.
“No problem, my son,” Nne Azuka said. She leaned forward from the tree stump that served as a stool, picked up a piece of firewood and with it, pulled out some red coals, which she placed inside a broken earthen bowl. “Lee ya eba a. Here it is,” she said, handing him the bowl.
Nnanna didn’t hear her, for his attention was riveted on the bubbling pot atop the fire. The heady aroma from the frothy mix of yam, chunks of bush meat and palm oil made his stomach rumble loudly.
“Oh, daalu. Thank you,” he said, startled out of his hungered reverie.
Collecting the bowl, Nnanna threw one more longing look at the pot’s contents and sauntered off. Azuka’s mother laughed softly at the look on his face and proceeded to add ugwu leaves to the pot.
Halfway home, Nnanna was struck by a sudden thought. He pondered for a minute and then looking left and right to make sure no one was watching, he tossed the coals in the bush beside the path. Done, he turned around and headed back.
“Nne Azuka, abiago m ozo,” he called out from the kitchen doorway. His eyes quickly noted that the pot was off the fire and half empty. “I’ve returned. The coals fell into a puddle of water and quenched.”
“Ama’m. I know. You can take some more, but first, sit down and eat,” Azuka’s mother said, handing him a steaming bowl of yam porridge.
Written by Eketi Ette