Cowries and Dowries

“My son, when last did you get a call for an interview from all your prospective employers?” Baba asked the young man sitting in front of him in his semi-scary shrine. Before the young man could answer, he raised a hand to silence him like one who was in a library and he nodded his head and said “avaniki vaholashi” (meaning, wonders shall never end). He scattered the cowries again and made some weird incantations, with his right hand, he picked three of the cowries tainted with blood and something brown and hairy, whispered into them and threw them inside the clay pot sitting on the small mat he sat on. He winced, mumbled more incantations and asked the young man to rebuke every evil that has been casted his way by circling his right hand over his head three times. Baba looked at the young man with a pitiful face and said “Your mother-in-law is against all of your progress, she doesn’t want you to succeed in anything you are trying to attain because she wants her daughter to stay barren and poor till she dies as she has sowed her life into her occult world.  The only remedy is for you to leave your wife but don’t worry, we will fix it. We will cast out any evil curse she has placed on you now. The young man desperate and scared of this new revelation began to cast and bind any form of evil in his life. He started to speak in tongues and with his eyes closed so he missed seeing Baba wince in pain at the words that were coming out of his mouth. Immediately he reached for the young man’s hands, he in turn automatically went mute and opened his eyes to listen to what Baba had to say, again. “Stop all these things you are saying, when you get home, you can do that but before then we have to offer sacrifices to the gods. We will buy a goat, 2 black cocks, 3 yards of red cloth, and the hair from a virgin girl. At the mention of a virgin, the young man’s expression changed and he was about to say a word when Baba raised a hand motioning him to listen as he touched his cowries again and threw them on his mat, around the clay pot. He closed his eyes, opened them and stood up immediately to go into another pouch that was hanging on the wall at the other side of the room. He brought out a gong and a rod, and some alligator peppers, chewed on it for some seconds, spat on the gong and hit it for some seconds before rubbing whatever he spat on the gong on his head. He went back to his mat, sat down opposite the young man before speaking. “Hmmm my son, this woman is very, very powerful. She doesn’t want me to help you at all. She said you do not give her money and you will not have a child with her daughter or even a good job. She said good things can only happen to you if and when she dies”. Hmmm “she is in a cult group that has given her a life of eternity and power”. The young man looked at the Baba desperately and started to weep. He hadn’t been able to say a word since because he didn’t know where to start from. Baba looked at him and finally asked “what did you do to your mother in-law that has made her hate you and despise you this much”? The young man reached for a handkerchief, wiped his tears, blew his nose and started to speak. “Baba, my mother-in-law is dead. She died before I met my wife. The only woman I know that my wife respects is her late mothers best friend, Aunty Shirley, because she was the one that trained her through the university and since her mother died, she has been like a mother figure to my wife. She doesn’t really like me because she said I am not looking after her daughter well so she always comes around every time to check on my wife. She seems harmless. Baba, are you sure of what you are saying?”
Baba looked at the young man in shock and made some incantations again mentioning Shirley’s name, he winced like he had just been hit on the face and then he looked up and asked the young man to leave his premises with a gesture of his hands. The young man stood there perturbed, he didn’t understand what Baba meant with the gesture so he moved towards the door. Baba didn’t move for about a minute, and when he eventually did, he reached for his stick, stood up looking frailer than he had when the young man walked in and he looked at the boy with a pitiful look and spoke in a faint voice “young man, I cannot help you, I am sorry, she is stronger than both of us. She is not listening to any of my pleas and she has refused any form of sacrifice from you or my gods. Go home, pray to the God you believe in. Pray my son, I do not know why she hates you so much but she is someone you know but I don’t think it is the name you mentioned earlier. Go. Go my son”. 
The young man walked out of the cubicle with his head down thus causing him to bump into his friend Stanley who was the one that led him to Baba’s place. He had totally forgotten about Stanley, his mind was booting and rebooting per second and he still had no idea what it was he was thinking of. He just knew that he had to get home to his wife. He needed some explanations and he wasn’t sure she had all the answers. His wife’s father died before his wife so he met her as an orphan. Things were rosy for him before they got married, he had 9-5 job that was enough to look after his family, both home and abroad. He had two good cars, a house, and he had friends or so he thought. His wife had no sibling, few friends and a small family who were not doing so bad for themselves, and an old nanny that had been with her family for years who moved n with them. He sponsored the whole wedding and the few family members he met from his wife’s family accepted him wholeheartedly. They were living happy for the first few months till Aunty Shirley came back to Nigeria. She started complaining about the way his wife looked and she kept hounding him to get her pregnant again barely two months after she lost the second pregnancy. He should have known she was the cause of his misfortune because that was when things started getting bad for him. He lost his job, sold his cars and replaced them with one small “tuke tuke”, he lost his supposed friends save for Stanley, a street hustler who he helped when he was trying to sell off his second car at the mechanics shop. Stanley helped him bargain for a good deal and he gave Stanley some money. They saw for a while afterwards because he was always going to the mechanics shop to fix one or two things in the new small car and they struck a friendship along the line. The only real property he had now in his name was his house. All this happened barely two years after they got married. He should have known she was his wife’s mother because why else will a single woman dedicate almost every day of her life for a girl who is only her late best friend’s daughter.
He drove home without even knowing it. Stanley kept trying to talk to him but he couldn’t hear a word of what he had to stay. He just knew they were voices around him but he couldn’t place a face to the voice or a name to the face. He drove into his compound and started screaming his wife’s name “Pat. Patricia. Patrici…” he didn’t complete the last call before she came out running into him. “Paul, what is it?” She looked at him, the car and Stanley who was standing by the passenger’s side of the door. After verifying that nothing physical happened to any of them she proceeded to asking him the question she usually does every time he comes back from a job hunt. “What happened? Have you gotten a job? Are we expecting a contract?” she said with a smile as she tried to hug him. He stopped her with his left hand and looked at her for some seconds before asking her in a low voice “Is Aunty Shirley your mother? Why didn’t you tell me that your late mother isn’t the one who birthed you? Do you know she is the cause of our misfortune? What other secrets have you been keeping from me Patricia?” she looked at him in amazement. It felt like she was seeing him for the first time in four years. She stifled a laugh and clapped her hands severally before resting them on her hips. “What are you talking about Paul? What is going on here? Are you okay?” she turned to look at Stanley, who immediately looked away but not before she caught the shock in his eyes too before asking as she walked towards him “Mr. Stanley, what’s my husband talking about? Where are you guys coming from” what happened to the both of you? Did you finally drag him to that Baba’s place that he has been telling me about? What’s going on here?” by this time she had reached his side and stood there, arms akimbo. Paul walked over to where they stood and narrated the whole story to them. As he got to the end of the story, his wife passed out.
She came to some minutes later after they had doused her with water and fanned her with a booklet. She looked around her for some seconds, recognized where she was and burst into tears. She cried nonstop. She cried like a child who was refused her favorite candy. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her mother wasn’t her mother and her aunt who happened to be her real mother is the cause of their misfortune. She kept crying till Paul woke up. He looked at his pregnant wife sleeping, brushed some hair off her face and dropped a peck on her forehead. What kind of dream did he just have? He walked to his Window and saw his cars parked in their usual spot with his dogs by the tyres, sleeping. He checked his phone for the time and noticed a mail had dropped too, it was only past 3 in the morning, he still had a couple of hours to sleep before getting ready for his trip. He was representing his company in Germany for their quarterly meetings the next day and his flight was scheduled to leave by noon from Nigeria. He wanted to ignore the mail but curiosity got the best of him. It was a mail from his boss with an attachment. He opened the attachment and his heart did a triple flip. It was a sack letter, his direct bosses were involved in a scam and their foreign partners found out and withdrew their 70% stake from the company.
Patricia woke up to the loud bang from her husband’s fist hitting the dressing table. She walked to him in her sleepy eyes and hugged him from behind. “What’s the matter honey?”. He looked at her, who handed his phone to her and walked over to the foot of the bed to sit. She read…..Screamed and “passed” out bleeding

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5 thoughts on “Cowries and Dowries

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