Fiction Faction: Calabash Goulash (For Chinua Achebe)

by Ikhide R. Ikheloa

America. Every day we go to the same place and we talk to the same people who have the same ideas and the same views on the same things. Every day. It is a bit like pushing against amused walls. Every day we go home exhausted from this exercise like Don Quixote huffing and puffing at windmills in his head. The windmills stay standing, And we are diminished just a wee bit. Every day. And our days do not morph into our nights. They clash into the nights and the explosions send us merrily into the bosoms of tired deities. Dawn comes in the morning with the rude roar of the bugler’s horn. And the cycle continues. Every day. In America, we call this life, this spinning around on a treadmill that never stops spinning.

And Fear slinks out of our souls, shoots out of us in hurtful mouthfuls.  Bluster asks Fear: Where are you running to, fool, preening, prancing, peacock princess of the concrete desert? Fear wonders: Where is the night leading? He steps inside the room. It is a huge cave, this room full of men, women and plastic feelings. He fishes in his mask’s pockets for his plastic feelings. He is rearing to go, not far from beneath the skin of his heart. And he puts a face on his face to mask his contempt for the evening. Tomorrow, he swears, I will slink out of my skin to drown your prejudices in the color of my blood. For my blood is the color of your blood. I am your brother, you fool!

He says, tomorrow, I will step into the shadows of your power. Help me, he says, I am your brother. Your blood is the color of my blood. I am your brother. Blonde colossus, I will dance in the shadows of giants before I clamber on to your shoulders to yell my name to the world. Giants have shadows; you, you have no shoulders. Blonde colossus. The dibia told me: Gawk at a monkey and lose yourself in the forest. We have left our gods and followed alien gods. I will die for you, goddess of blonde chemicals. Hey, look, the life of the party is here.  The party begins. Let’s party! And Joy rides our senses, going places in the heart where fear clings to life. Look at joy bounding up and down the steps of happy memories. Joy takes us by the hand and says everything will be alright, you’ll see!

See, the clouds are scampering about with furtive rage seeping through their watery bandanas, rebels gathering storm buckets of rage. The clouds are scampering back and forth across the sky of blue moods lugging buckets of rain, imploring us to wait under the umbrella of rain buckets for the coming deluge of retribution for sins unaccounted for. The clouds are raining water buckets of rage on us and deep inside Jonah’s belly are wet slimy muddy remnants of his snacks from the feast of the land of people that have too many in the first place. Somebody give us a sump pump!

Even in the land of many there are poor people and they wail on, disconsolate about soggy beds, ruined teddy bears and waterlogged memories of days in the summers past. And from across the ocean, the truly poor but really rich look through the skies window-shopping and wishing for what they really don’t need: They pray, one day we’ll be like that.  America. For now, I am holding my lamp in my hands. It is a good lamp. The lamp’s shade broke. In America, it is cheaper to buy a new lamp than to replace the shade. America! But I have a perfectly good lamp. All I need is the shade. Maybe I’ll buy a new lamp and replace the broken shade with the one from the new lamp.  But what do I do with the new broken lamp? America! I miss my old lamp.

The more things fall apart, the more things stay together. The boy stood in the path of the Iroko tree, gentle giant of the savannah. And the boy sat down before the eagle seated on machines that weave life into unbroken giants. Show me something, the boy said; tell me a story, the boy chanted. I don’t want to watch TV, the boy wailed. The eagle shook his head, mane all wooly from the winter of his life’s journey, and the voice, gentle messenger of the gentle masquerade, the voice said, my son, I will tell you a story…

And the eagle told the boy yet another story about things falling apart when things come together. And the boy said: Teacher, you teach me a little something in big ways. Every day. After all these years, I am now old enough to sit still and listen to you, teacher. I love you, teacher.