A Christmas That Smiles Brightly by Adefemi Fagite – A Christmas Story – PAROUSIA Magazine

We kneel down to pray with the Yoruba version of our mother’s King James Bible open before us, what used to be its fine spine is now a splintered woodwork from endless use. I hold John’s hand with my left and place my right hand on the Gospel of Mark 10 that talks about how Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to little children, and adults would not make heaven unless they become children. It makes me ponder and also pity Miss Bukky who teaches us at Sunday school. Does that mean she will not make it to heaven? She is kind and warm, she usually gives me sweets and biscuits anytime I answer questions correctly. Papa and Mama will definitely not make it to heaven because they are married and have grown old. I hope John and me will never grow old so we can both make it to heaven.

I start the prayer by thanking God for keeping us alive and then I ask Him to allow Papa return from his outing on Okada with a bag of semovita, placed on the tank, in front of the rider. That is the only way to know that his outing was productive and that this Christmas will be a memorable one for us. Papa will buy us new shoes and then take us to Oris fashion house where he will pay for our suits. He had promised before setting out.

When Papa got pensioned, things grew from bad to worse. I usually heard Mama crying and muttering words accentuated with groaning in the bedroom. John would always stare at me with cold eyes whenever Papa returned from job-hunting with the same story of how he was unable to get a job. John would crawl to me and whisper in my ear, ‘If our mother hadn’t given birth to you, Papa would still be working by now.’ 

This accusation always filled me with fear and hurt. There was no way I made my family poor, I would never do that; I always told John so, but he would not be deterred. ‘Papa was pensioned on the day you were born, September 7, 2015,’ he would point out. ‘You made us poor.’
After the prayers, we step outside to await Papa’s return, whenever an okada appears out of the corner, we would jump up and race across the carpet grass in front of our house. We return to the front steps when realize the passenger on the okada is not Papa, and a bag of semovita is not sitting comfortably in front of the rider.

A man called Prophet Tosin wanders towards us. People said that Prophet Tosin earned the title prophet because of the way he prophesies and it comes to pass. There was a time when a five-year-old girl was kidnapped, Prophet told her parents the kidnapper’s location. When the parents got there, they found the girl eating rice and beans from a bowl. 

His supposed white sutana had turned brown, while his dada are so long that it reaches his knees. He stares at us with strange eyes. Swarms of flies buzz around the sores on his ankles. I gripped my brother’s hand, his are clammy with sweat. Prophet’s lips are so dry and ashen that they look like the cracked walls of the unpainted stall where Iya Timi sells akara. John grabs a stone for defense. ‘You will eat chicken for Christmas if you hold on to your faith,’ Prophet Tosin said, then sauntered away cackling.
John throws the stone he had picked up at an agama lizard bobbing its head on the fence. He ruffles my hair and smiles.

“God will provide for Daddy.”

Papa appears, wobbling towards us. He did not come on an okada. His lips are pressed tight and he only gives a terse nod to our prostrated welcome. He goes inside and sinks into the sofa; he is looking around as if this is the first time he is entering the house. I burst into tears when Papa says we will not be wearing new shoes, suit, and no chicken for us. What will I tell Junior and Ayo when we resume school? What will I tell the class when Mrs Ossaiku, the English teacher, asks us to talk about how we spent our Christmas? The whole class will jeer at me when they realize I drank garri on the day Jesus was born.

Papa gives me money to buy bread. But I refuse to get up from my position on the floor, where I am rolling and screaming. I can’t wear my old clothes and shoes. John is also on the floor, speechless. Tears are running down his cheeks in rivulets; maybe he is crying over another bad Christmas, or maybe he is blaming me for making Papa poor. Papa asks John where Mama is, he tearfully replies that Mama went out to seek money.

There is a knock on the door. It is Uncle Alaba. He prostrates before Papa and hands him an envelope. He tells Papa that his father has just returned from the USA on a visit to his daughter. He says that the envelope contains some dollar notes gift from a woman who said she knew Papa when they were talking about him at a party in the USA. Papa’s eyes gleams with joy. He sits upright, empties the envelope and puts the money in the pocket of his sokoto. 

Papa thanks Uncle Alaba, and Uncle leaves after they shake hands. I dry my eyes with my shirt, sniffling as smiles started to return to my face at the sight of money. Papa says my cries must have reached heaven. He immediately stands up and rushes out of the house. John hugs me and drags me outside. The sun is shining brightly but we are smiling brighter. We busy ourselves by counting the number of okada that enters the street. Our spirits start to dampen when no okada enters the street for some minutes. We were about to enter the house when the sound of an okada rekindles our spirit. In front of the okada is a bag of semovita.

Adefemi Fagite is a screenwriter, poet, and world literacy ambassador. He is an alumnus of the EbonyLife Creative Academy. His works have been previously produced and published in Protest through Poetry anthology, Apex Publishing, Oriki Podcast, The African Writers Review, EbonyLife Productions and others. 



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