Night Birds by Arinze Ifeakandu

Home Latest
Sign in

It’s past midnight and the candles are burning low as a visitor stirs up memories in this story from Arinze Ifeakandu

For a long time, Ifeanyi said to the American, the house was the biggest in the village of Urukpaleke. It was square and white, surrounded by walls that were in turn surrounded by flowers, a one-story building whose head he could only glimpse, hidden as it was behind dense trees. Then everybody began to travel out, to Kano, Lagos, Toronto, returning to pull down their families’ rust-roof bungalows for mostly-white mansions that would have turned their village into little London did the roads not cough up red dust each time a car careened by. Still, everyone back home continued to refer to it as the big white house, dwarfed though it was by mansions built by the Edu Houstons and Uche Shanghais of the village, strapping young men who had gone off and made it elsewhere, through hook or crook or real human sweat. The villagers always had the stories.

Ifeanyi and his brothers passed the house on their way to the stream, which would have been pointless – there was a water tank in their compound, right near the gate – if their mother hadn’t put their adventurousness to good use, stream water for baths and dishes and laundry, tank water for cooking. They were metropolitan children of the Obasanjo years, when everything still seemed simple, or not as difficult as it was today, and the tap in their compound in Kano still rushed clear water.

“Right,” the American said, nudging him from his ubiquitous digressions. It was clear that he was eager to get back to the story of the old man and the white house. It was a little after midnight when the American had showed up for the second time, knocking softly on the door. Ifeanyi thought of saying, If it isn’t the cool cat, but it was too soon for sweetness. He was happy to see the man at his door, his backpack bursting with wares, but it was past midnight after all. He crossed his arms and said, “Is everything OK?”

To continue reading …