Mami Water Boy
by Martins Deep, 3.24am July 10th 2021
All behind him now; the chant of singers, accompanied by drums and bamboo flutes. The earth was wet with sweat and drink offerings, feet of dancers juicing every grain of sand for their scent. It was in celebration of his brothers marriage to a young widow. Obim walked, sullen face mirroring the restless sea. Flotsam at his feet, all washed of their screams to tell what household the owl would cry.
The soles of his feet savoured the wet sand as he treaded slowly, as if following a trail of golden cowries over the boundary forbidden him to cross.
He finally stood. As still as a scarecrow, when it pretends it is inanimate to avoid a farmer's worship. Here, he remembered the mermaids; their turquoise eyes, scarlet hair and slender fish tails swayed by the current, his music box set amidst them, on a pirate's skull. The gift by an European sailor was the first exchange he made to sing clams to shore, carrying granules of gold from the seabed to his leaking pockets.
Memories of the coral rift filled his mind. They poured in, wealthier kind of waves bringing something other than flotsam, and news of a shipwreck. To the shores of his mind, each detail motioned, like pixels forming a picture. One would watch them fit into the scene that cost him the haunting sight of waking up see his father's tears. A man he mistook for ironwood wailing over his body. My son, my son! gushing out of his mouth, like a spell failing to bring him back to life.
One Sunday morning, whilst the Aladuras prayed, at the beach, his father walked up to him, wool in hand. What do I need these for? He had asked, eyes quickly lowered from his, as if the second more he held his gaze, he would perceive the smell of his burnt eyebrows. For your ears whenever those voices starts calling your name to the sea he had answered, his back turned against him. What voices, papa? Fog.
It was a dream. Relieved, he cleared his eyes, lifted his pillow and found there, two pieces of wool like the size of pebbles. Outside, he walked into the news of his father's passing. He died peacefully in his sleep, a kinsman said. Your father was a good man.
After his father's burial, Obim's oars were lassoed with the silken thread of a whisper. He had gone over the long line his father drew with a harpoon. It was a mermaid. She asked him to alight his canoe, her mouth echoing a familiar song.
He threw the weight of his heavy heart to sink him, like a millstone tied to a balloon. And on he sank into the void lighted by the brightness of the wonder that called him. In sight, a heap of keepsakes; necklaces, bracelets, and chaplets. There was a maiden swallowing a charm amulet cut off the wrist of a fisherman brought in the mouth of a shark. Little mermaids swum towards her breasts to suck the tears of the casualty's widow, their scales giving off the glow of a yellow, dying sun.
Obim returned, a boy walking in a seascape, feet not printed on the sand. They said he exchanged his footprints for séance with his mother's wraith humming cradlesongs by his brother's early grave.