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The Bird That Carried One Hundred Messages To America

The Bird That Carried One Hundred Messages To America

The Bird That Carried One Hundred Messages To America

by Abuchi Modilim

Elochi was the only child of the parents. He had proven to have a future in the scholarship graduating top of his class, and winning the state Medal for coming top in the state’s debate competition. His parents could not sponsor him to go to the university. He bought a gin and kola nut for the elder’s council, and expressed his passion to go to the university. They were touched by his enthusiasm to study, and would later call for a meeting that had everyone in the village present. At the end of the meeting, the villagers agreed to contribute shillings and pounds to sponsor Elochi to a university in America. They had no problem with the course he was going to study. They were happy to be sponsoring their son to America. The first in their village; he would come back one day with stories of the place and take some villagers when going back. The day he was leaving to Lagos where he would board a ship to America, the villagers recounted what they had told him earlier:

“Bring back American food, my son.”

“Remember, our village will be popular now that you are leaving for America. Make us proud.”

“Focus on your studies. Your chi will be with you.”

“I hear that white people don’t talk like we do, so learn their tongue for us.”

“Don’t forget to bring back the money they use in America.”

“Buy an American TV, buy American clothes, buy American shoes, buy anything you can.”

Ten years passed, and he did not return nor send any letters. This worried the villagers; especially Elochi’s parents, who had grown white hairs and walked with the support of long sticks. The villagers held a meeting at the village field and four elders were chosen to embark on a journey to the nearest village where a strong Dibia Udido lived, to find out the reason why their son had not returned.

“It is only a wise bird that perches on the iroko to see the distance of its journey,” Udido said. “If it continues flying without resting, when the storm descends, it would seek shelter on the small tree in the forest and would miss its way.”

“You are talking in parable,” one of the elders said. “Please explain what you mean, Udido.”

“The young man you came to inquire about is alive and healthy. He does not plan to return home, but I can bring him back.”

The elders decided that it was right to go back to the villagers who sent them and report what Udido told them.

The gong was beat at their arrival and the villagers gathered at the village field. The oldest of the four elders narrated their journey. There was a swift silence in the field before a series of murmurs rose afterwards.

“We should not tell Udido to bring back our son,” one of the elders said. “He may not have finished with his studies. Remember we told him to buy many things for us.”

The villagers nodded at this suggestion and started leaving the field in groups, and soon the field was left with the elders who started discussing another pivotal issue.

Twelve years passed. Elochi’s parents had died. The elders had died too. The boys and girls who were kids at the time he left the village for America had grown to become strong men and beautiful women. Udido had died. It was a few young men that practiced Dibia now. Their learning did not transcend digging out Iyiuwa. They could not conjure a stray son home. Udido had conjured a man who left the wife and children to Lagos back to the village. The new elders called for a meeting to know the possible ways to bring back their son home, and every idea was vain. They sent for the Dibia Agba. Although he was one of the young generation Dibias, his devotion to work foretold a great future for him ahead. He came and without wasting time told the elders that nothing can be done. The villagers had left the field saying,

“He used the money to marry a white woman.”

“I pity for that boy. The spirit of the papa will kill him there.”

“My mama sold her cassava that year to contribute for his studies in America. See how Elochi paid them back.”

“Elochi has brought shame to our village.”

“My papa sold our yam that year for this boy that does not have sense.”

Onya, a successful hunter known beyond the village had gone to the bush to check his traps. He saw that a trap had caught a white bird with long beak and small eyes. It had a ring with the inscription “100” on a leg. Onya took it to the village. The villagers who saw him on the road followed him, reaching for the bird and saying,

“This is no ordinary bird.’’

“This bird came from the spirit world.’’

“I am sure that this bird will cost plenty shillings and pounds.’’

“The nose is what I like.”

“My spirit tells me something about this bird.”

Before they got to the village field half of the villagers were following him. A message was sent across to the elders and by the time they arrived, there was no space for shadows on the field. The elders took turns examining the bird, after which they decided to send the village messenger to get Agba.

When Agba arrived, the field became quiet. He inspected the bird for some minutes, laughed, and said, “Elochi sent this bird from America.”

There was uproar among the villagers. He continued, “He said we should give the bird 100 messages. This is what this ‘100’ written on this ring means.”

The elders praised Agba and promised to visit the shrine later with an offering. He left, looking to the sky. The villagers were dancing and singing now. Every family contributed what they had: yam, fowl, roasted meat, and palm wine. An impromptu feast began.

Later, families were called according to the clan to give a message to the bird. Numbers were remaining after the families had delivered their messages. The elders decided that the children should exhaust the remaining numbers.

“I want to go Amelica.”

“I want to go Amelica.”

“I want to go Amelica.”

“I want to go Amelica.”

“I want to go Amelica.”

“I want to go Amelica.”

The children gave the same message to the bird and it was freed to take the messages to America.

Abuchi Modilim is an Igbo-born storyteller and playwright. His writing has appeared in No Tokens Journal and elsewhere. Currently, he is studying English and literary studies with a minor in Theatre and film studies, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.