The first implication of the new arrivals was that our population in the house increased by two. Now, we were told the woman Musa had earlier intended taking as a second wife, who was in the care of his family went with another man, when she learnt Musa was no more interested in having a second wife.The woman he brought was searched out for him in a hurry. In this relationship of total strangers, the beginning was sweet. The new wife, El and her brother, Yak, joined the work in the farm, like the rest of us they met in the house, except our eldest brother who had left to live with a childhood friend a block away from the house. She shared the kitchen with Ai. They prepared food together.
It was about sharing. It was a fun in the evening when the members of the family gathered in front of the house, by the late landlord’s tomb under moonlight to savor what seemed like the joy of a happy family life. It was what it looked like at the time. But unknown to us, the joy or what we mistook to be joyful would later be replaced with disharmony, began in the form of discord, fi rst between Ai and El, developed and eclipsed Musa. It later turned into a sort of poison, threatened the fabric and cohesion of the family, and later dealt a fatal blow to what once looked like a happy home. It started with bickering and developed to outright fights between the two women. It did not involve the children and the new wife’s younger brother, who had been accepted into the family and could hardly be differentiated from other children in the household.
There continued a joyful rapport between Ai’s children and the new wife. The eating arrangement in the
house was an outward demonstration of love and unity. All the boys ate in one plate and table with Musa; the girls ate in the same plate and table with Ai and El. All the children who were of school age went to school and joined Musa at work or in the farm whenever he wished. Whenever the kids were not in school, especially on weekend or holiday, they were in the farm, tilling and cultivating the ground with crude implements like hoes and cutlasses. In this area, Yak- El’s younger brother-was dexterous. It had been part of him in the village; he could climb any tree or palm tree, and he said he was not afraid of snakes; he could take up the serpent, play with or kill it with his bare hands.
Clockwise, our eldest brother had progressed in the high school. In the course of the progress, the family changed living accommodation; not for increased population or that Musa was swimming in money and needed a more opulent house. But for sudden appearance of a snake that was allegedly seen crawling across the bedroom door’s panel, and no one knew its final destination after nearly a whole night of search. No one was ready to go to bed with the reptile’s location unknown. An attempt to fish out the snake suspected to have escaped into a gully or a tree in the gully at the back of the house failed. Inability to trace the snake set Musa on a search for a new accommodation. He got another room and a parlor, a little farther away from the area,
the palace area we knew and grew up as children.
After we had settled down in our new abode on Oduduwa Street, named after the legendary founder of the Yoruba race,and my eldest brother was about to complete the high school education, a negative development set in. He was expelled for allegedly impregnating a school mate. He denied the allegation. The school kicked him out anyway. It claimed he was known to be a pal of the young woman and believed they had an affair.
Musa confirmed the same information that it was not a discreet affair.But Dele was stoic; he told the family not to bother about what happened. He was determined, he said, to turn the table against what seemed like a set back, to an achievement we would all be proud. Despite his confidence and assurance to the family,
the incidence was like a tragedy. It seemed like Musa’s investment on his first child was about to be wasted. But Dele was not bothered, unlike the rest members of the family.
“I will go to Lagos, look for a job, and when it is time to write the examination, I will come and write it.”
As soon as Dele left, another misfortune struck. Musa and his colleagues in the college’s laundry department lost their vital source of income. It was not that the school sacked them. The school deleted the laundry from its monthly pay roll. They were no longer to be on monthly salary, but to be paid based on the number of items they laundered. It was clear that a great opportunity for a regular monthly income was lost by all the laundry men. There was no way the five of them in the school’s laundry department could make as much as they did on monthly wages. It was like an unseen power had conspired against the laundry men, since other laborers, carpenters, fish pond keepers and cooks were retained in the school’s pay roll.
The first effect of the school’s decision to sever the laundrymen from its pay roll on our household was that Musa’s prospect of training more than his first son in high school was aborted. The emotional impact on him was unquantifiable, and the future of his innocent children hung in the balance. When Musa lost his monthly wage, I was about to gain promotion to the final class in the elementary school. My immediate elder brother who was supposed to be stepping into his first year in the high school was diverted to learn photograph. He did not object to it, because he probably realized that with our eldest brother’s impromptu departure from school, and Musa’s loss of a regular income, there was no point wasting his time thinking about education.