The Plea

The boy stood barefooted before the elders of his village. A remarkably thin and bronze complexioned youth, he was tall for his seventeen years and cursed by the devil with an effeminate kind of handsomeness. Blood gushed from a wound under what remained of his nose. A strip of black fabric knotted at both sides covered his privates. The wise old men of the kingdom; all naked, save for red damask wrappers tied around their waists, sat on low wooden stools. Their sombre expressions and a noticeable absence of either kolanut or palm wine bore witness to the nature of the boy’s crime. They had decided on his guilt, and this was judgement—what to do with him and how to do it. The mutilated, decaying remains of his father lay exposed on a dirty brown sack. No one recoiled from the stench. To his right, his mother, stripped bare, sprawled on the sand, pleading for mercy. Her long, intricately woven braids were scraped off and her breasts hung loose like full buckets of water. They plastered her with ashes from her head to her toes. Three women stayed behind her, dispensing slaps whenever her crying caused a distraction. Pa Osagie; the most senior in the group cleared his throat. Satisfied everything was in order, he commanded: “Speak Nosakhare.” The accused ran his palms over his chest. “It happened during the early hours of Oba market day. Baba’s shouting woke me. At first, it sounded as if he and mama were having their normal arguments, but his voice grew louder and angrier. When I got to their room, I saw him squeezing her neck. I grabbed his legs, begging him to free her. She was making strange sounds. He colour began to change. He said we wanted to kill him with juju but he will ruin our plans.” “Lies, Oghogho,” Pa Osamuyi yelled at the boy’s mother who seemed to have an unlimited supply of tears. “Tell us what you did to my brother or I swear, the gods will strike you down by nightfall. You killed him before he could take yams to Idahosa’s house. Because your son has been testing the daughter. Eating from his father’s plate. Coveting his own father’s betrothed.”

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