Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bartender! Another Insult, please! Part 5

Beckett Reed and Samiyo Datoru
Original Characters 
Written by Snarks 
Beginning March 2014

Samiyo hadn't told me what we were having for dinner, but when we got out of the car in the parking lot the wind carried enticing smells to me and I breathed deeply.  I saw him grin, that lovely gap-toothed grin I loved, as I took the bouquet of flowers and the five-pound box of Russel Stover candies out of the back seat.

"Tastes better than it smells, believe me,"  he said, giving me a quick kiss on the cheek.

The apartments were built side by side, rather than one atop the other, so each apartment looked more like a miniature townhouse arranged in a semi-circle around a tree filled courtyard.

We walked across the courtyard toward his apartment.  It looked almost like a small park, filled with trees and large boulders that looked ripe for climbing.  As I looked, I noticed some of the giggling neighborhood children peeking out from behind them and then disappearing again.

"Cute kids."  I smiled.

"They're little cockroaches,"  he replied with venom.  "Shine a light on them and they scurry back under their mother's skirts."

I didn't have time to ask what he meant before we reached the front door. 

"Mama, we're here!"  he called as we walked in.

A short round bolt of energy barreled into Samiyo and he grunted, pretending that the air had been knocked out of him.  "Ummmmph!  And what did mama tell you about doing that, Kanonu?"  He said fondly, tickling the young man. (Kanonu - Cannon)

The boy, who had to be in his teens, laughed, entirely pleased with himself.  "I cannonballed you, Sammy!  I cannonballed you!  You have to sink now!"

I watched as Sam staggered over to the couch, clutching his stomach and groaning.  An Oscar-winning performance if I ever saw one.  He collapsed onto the couch, reaching toward his brother and said, "Tell mama... I... love her,"  he gasped before falling still and silent. Leonine eyes closed as if in slumber, long dark lashes brushing his cheeks.  Not for the first time did I wonder what it would be like to wake up to that sight every morning.

The young man, Kanonu, clapped and giggled through Samiyo's death throes and then jumped on him again, "You do that so good, Sammy!  You do that so good!"  

Sam pretended to lie still for a while and then jolted up, causing Kanonu to shriek and try to get away, but he was too slow as  Sam grabbed him and began to tickle every part of the younger man's torso that he could reach.

"What's all this noise down here then!"  came a woman's voice from upstairs.

"You forgot to disarm the cannon and I got shot when I walked in,"  Sam laughed, disentangling himself from the younger man and approaching the woman who I could only assume was his mother.  He bent down to kiss her cheek.  She grabbed his face and gave him a loud kiss on the forehead before letting him go.  Kanonu jumped up from the couch and ran to her, demanding kisses as well, which she seemed more than happy to deliver.

She was a good three feet shorter than her 5'7" son and pleasantly plump.  She turned toward me and smiled widely, exposing a wonderful gap-toothed grin, the mirror of her son's.  Except for the hue of her skin and the color of her eyes, she was in fact, a female version of her son.  All I could think was that the man who had allowed this lovely woman to escape had to have been insane.

"An' this must be Bec-kett," she said, making my name sound exotic.  She looked at her son, eyes wide and sparkling with affection and humor.  "Welcome to our home," she said, enfolding me in a matronly hug.  I was still holding the flowers and candy but I returned the hug as best I could.  

She turned her gaze toward her oldest son and said with a glint of mischief in her eyes, "Iyen o! O si jẹ lẹwa! O ni won ko eke. Fun lẹẹkan."  (Oh!  He is beautiful! You were not lying.  For once.")  

I couldn't help grinning as I saw Sam blush.  "Mama."  He said in that tone that all children who are being teased in front of their friends by their parents use.

"Beautiful!  Yes, he's beautiful!"  Kanonu said, clapping, "He looks like an angel!  Just like an angel!  Just like you said, Sammy!"

"Hush you!"  His mother smiled as she laid one finger gently on her younger son's lips. "Why don't you take these lovely presents and put them a-way,"  she suggested to Kanonu.  "There is a tall vase under the sink that will fit these flowers be-u-ti-fully."  she turned to me and enchanted me with another smile, "Thank you, Bec-kett. That was very thoughtful of you." 

I found myself entranced by her accent and wondered why Sam and Kanonu bore no trace of it.

"Can I have some candy, Mama?"  Kanonu asked as he headed toward the kitchen, which was only separated from the living room by a stout pillar behind which the refrigerator stood.

"Yes, but only after dinner, young man," she replied fondly.  "Sa-mi, would you please finish setting the table?"

"Yes, Mama,"  he replied, his tone so unlike the one I usually heard coming out of his mouth, even when he was with me, that my brows rose in surprise.  She saw my reaction and leaned in conspiratorially, "He is a good boy, Bec-kett, don't let his razor tongue fool you," she whispered.  "He only needs a good spank now and then to straighten him out."

Pretending not to notice my shock, she said, "My name is Emira, Bec-kett, but you will call me Mama, eh?  All of our friends call me Mama."  She smiled.  "Please, sit," she said graciously, gesturing toward the couch before turning toward the kitchen.  She returned moments later with a bottle of wine and three glasses, which she placed on the coffee table.

I had been looking around while she had been in the kitchen.  The room was tastefully decorated, striped curtains in earth tones hung at the window.  The furniture was simple, a couch, love seat, and recliner in rust brown, an oriental rug that picked up the colors of the furniture and drapes.  The whole room gave the feeling of being hugged.

All around the room, covering nearly every wall, were beautifully crafted wooden shelves which contained enough books to fill a small library, as well as wood carvings, statuettes and carved wooden boxes which looked as though they must have accompanied Ms. Datoru from Nigeria to the United States.

"Samiyo, Nigbati o ba pari pẹlu awọn tabili-ti wa kan mimu. Mu kan gilasi ti cider fun Kanonu, jowo,"  she called before gracefully seating herself beside me on the couch and pouring wine into the three glasses, handing me the first one. (Samiyo, when you finish with the table come have a drink.  Bring a glass of cider for Kanonu, please.)  

"Bẹẹni, Mama." came the obedient reply to whatever it was she'd said.

"I can get it!"  Kanonu shouted happily.

"No, Aaya, I'll get it.  You go and talk to... ahhhh!"  (Aaya - Monkey)

The unmistakable sound of liquid splashing to the floor explained the unmistakable sound of tired frustration coming from my Samiyo.

There was dead silence for a moment before Kanonu began to cry.  I was about to get up to see what I could do to help, perhaps even mop up the spilled liquid, when Ms. Datoru, Mama, put a gently restraining hand on my arm.  She smiled a calm, sweet smile, and shook her head, indicating with her glass that I should drink my wine.  "It is very good wine, Bec-kett, I make it myself,"  she said softly.

The crying became muffled and I could hear Samiyo speaking quietly and reassuringly to his little brother, although I couldn't recognize the language.  The crying subsided little by little while Samiyo continued to speak.

"I'm sorry,"  said the truly penitent sounding Kanonu.

"It's all right, Aaya.  We all make mistakes, right?  Everyone has accidents.  Everyone.  Eh?" Came Samiyo's gentle reply.  Only now could I hear a trace of his mother's accent.

"Yes," Kanonu sniffled.  “everyone has accidents."

"That's my little Aaya," I heard Sam say fondly, "Here are the towels.  You clean up the mess and then come talk to us.  I want to hear about your day.  Eh?"

I could hear the sounds of a loud kiss and Samiyo's brief laugh.  I heard liquid being poured, and his footsteps as Sam came back into the living room carrying a clear plastic tumbler of cider.

When he placed the tumbler on the table his mother reached out to him.  Sam knelt by his mother who pulled him into a hug, murmuring something into his ear in their language before delivering a light tap to his backside, which caused Sam to blush and smile sheepishly.  He kissed his mother soundly on the cheek then stood up to come sit on my right.

I handed him the third glass of wine and looked at him, seeing him in a whole new light. Something in my expression caused him to blush again and he gazed into his goblet as though looking for something in the wine.  

I leaned toward him and gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek before taking a sip out of my own glass.  My gesture was met with a pleased, impish smile.  I was grateful that we were in the presence of other people because I wasn't sure if I could have restrained myself otherwise.  I caught a glimpse of a knowing sparkle in his mother's eyes. Suppressing a sheepish grin of my own I took another sip of the wine.

"This is wonderful, Mama," I said, combining the word and wine on my tongue and liking the combination.  "You said you make this yourself?"

"Yes." She smiled proudly, "There are stands of wild blackberry in the woods behind the apartments, and I found blueberry bushes as well."

"I am told that this property was once a farm.  I have also found patches of potatoes, onions, and cabbages which I tend and harvest.  I grow tomatoes.  There are wild turkeys, and rabbit and other small game that come to eat my garden.  It is a shame to let perfectly good food go to waste, eh?"

"Yes ma'am, I mean, Mama," I grinned at her mock warning expression.  "Your neighbors, they leave the garden alone?"  I wondered.

Sam made a disgusted sound which caused his mother to raise her eyebrows at him.  He quickly subsided but explained, "Most of them don't know what she harvests from the woods and they call her a witch. The children tell each other that the plants are poison and to touch them will cause them to die,"  he said with that familiar bite to his tone. "Others, the elderly ones, she cooks for and shares the food so that they won't go hungry."  His tone held both admiration and anger.

"If it were my sons, or grandmother who were going hungry, wouldn't I want someone to help them?"  Mama said, pointedly looking at her oldest son.  "What does our friend St. Matthew say?"

"Mama," Sam said pleadingly.

"Matthew twenty-three and thirty-five!" Crowed the nearly forgotten Kanonu, as he walked into the living room, "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me,"  he recited proudly. "And in Hebrews thirteen and two it says, 'Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.' "

Sam released a mighty sigh borne of long-suffering and Mama laughed.  "Very good, Kanonu."  She praised. She turned to me and explained, "Kanonu can remember almost everything he hears.  However, he's a little deaf when it comes to doing his chores," she smiled.  "All of the juice is cleaned up?" she asked her youngest son.

"Yes, Mama!  I even moved the refrigerator to make sure there wasn't any more underneath.  I know that ants are God's creatures too, but I don't want them in our kitchen,"  he said, shuddering comically.  Without skipping a beat, he blurted out, "Our Angel is here and we need to feed him too, Mama, and the food smells real good and I'm hungry.  Can we eat now?"

Our dinner, as promised, tasted even better than it smelled.  I was grateful when Mama told me that she'd used beef instead of goat since Samiyo had told her I'd never had it before and she wasn't sure how my stomach would handle it.

"In Nigeria, this is what we call edikaikong."  Mama said with a smile, ladling out a thick, fragrant soup.  "Which is just a fancy way of saying vegetable soup. And this..."  she continued, placing bowls of thick white paste beside each bowl,  
"is called Fufu."

"See!  Look!"  Kanonu said excitedly as he scooped a small amount of the fufu out of his bowl with his fingers, deftly rolled it into a small ball and dipped it into his soup before popping it into his mouth, "Mffff guud!" He said around a mouthful.

"Ṣe awọn awon to dara tabili iwa awọn, odo eniyan?" His mother said quietly but sternly.  (Are those proper table manners, young man?)

Kanonu bowed his head in shame, "No, Mama.  I'm sorry."

"Don't do it again."

"No, Mama."

"That's my sweet boy.  Now, show Bec-kett, like a gentleman, how to do it,"  she smiled.

Kanonu smiled back happily and showed me, slowly and without speaking with his mouth full, how to roll the fufu and dip it.  I tasted the soup and was surprised to find it was more than vegetables.  There were fish and some kind of meat in it as well.  I did wonder why it was considered a vegetable soup, but it was so savory that I forgot to ask the question.

The second course was Nigerian Fried Rice accompanied by spiced beef, which was so mouthwateringly good that no one could speak for fear of drooling.

Dessert was a surprise for me, a typical American who was used to cake, pastries, cookies or even ice cream.  Not tonight.

Mama Datoru served up a Nigerian delicacy called Nkwobi which contained no pastry, cake or ice cream.  Instead, it was a mixture of several different types of meat, garnished with chopped greens and fresh onion rings.  Except for Kanonu, who was given a glass of ice water, we all had another glass of Mama's homemade wine.

The rest of the night was spent in laughter as we listened to Kanonu regale us with the events of his day.


No comments:

Post a Comment