Ebenezer Saah Davies
The night was filled with blessings from its smiling bright face that passes through the countless stars I have tried counting with my fingers and toes, remembering the short lines uncle Fayiah had drawn in my books when I was adding and subtracting numbers. I could tell the energy his face kept as we walked through strange towns and villages in Nimba County, where he had gone to cover stories for the next day. Each distance we covered, I watched his camera slung across his shoulder when I was done counting the stars.
The next morning, uncle Fayiah walked through the jam-packed market that was not there when we passed the day before. Women shouted, men did the same, calling attention to a variety of vegetables that was on sale. “It is market-day buy at once,” I heard a lady screamed right behind me. Uncle Fayiah had stopped to respond to one of their calls, and I could remember him standing and pointing to a pile of groundnuts up which was a measuring cup.
The marketers had greeted him well and, though he could not respond to them in the Gio language, kept his smiles. Sharing with them what he had bought, he continued on his journey to the next town.
The village square hosted people of the village, like it was a July 26 party in Monrovia. As it was market-day, few men had stayed to heat the benches as they sat for long hours drinking palm wine. Their presence directed uncle Fayiah towards them, like he had been there before.
I watched as he shook hands with the men who stood behind a table that had been fashioned out of reeves.
“My name is Fayiah” he said as they watched and smiled at him joyfully.
“Welcome Fayiah,” one of the men said.
“Feel free, this is our home,” another said.
Saye, a renowned hunter, shouted when the handshake had reached him, “Fayiah, is one of those people that slaughter and eat dog-meat in Liberia.”
Taken aback by Saye’s sudden outburst, Uncle Fayiah stood as if he could not believe his own ears. Saye’s accusation must have sounded like a complete scorn, and sweat began to roll down my uncle’s face.
He watched as the other men burst out laughing, their sides seeming to split with the effort. Saddened by their response, Uncle Fayiah watched a dog he had passed by when he walked through the village square.
Hurriedly, he ran towards the dog, picking up a stick that lay in his way. The men could not have understood his plans until they saw him chasing the dog.
Here and there he followed the dog. The men ran after him to know what was happening. The dog ran and started barking. Villagers followed the marathon, appealing for uncle to stop chasing the dog. But as he ran it was obvious that his mind was bent on a singular purpose, until uncle Fayiah’s race brought him through old man Sando’s farm where the dog had ran seeking refuge; my uncle could see old man Sando walking toward him, asking him to calm down.
As breathless as he was, bending to his knees as if searching for strength, one of the men explained to old Man Sando what had transpired at the table where my uncle had met he and the others drinking palm wine.
Holding his head, old man Sando cautioned they had wronged the stranger.
“You can’t hang judgment on a man because of what others are involved with; the headache of one chimpanzee lying in your path does not mean the others are aching. Watch your step,” he concluded, insisting they must pay for the disrespect they had shown my uncle. His appeal was that Uncle Fayiah be offered two fat hens and a lodging place.
The new day had begun, and Uncle Fayiah had been preparing meal for the morning. He sat waiting on the early morning breeze that would signal birds singing from the back of the cotton tree. He walked through the town hoping he would see the village men at the village square. Close to the spot he remembered he first greeted, he met fewer men than before, and invited them to dine with him. As they walked back, Saye, who was among the invitees, apologized for his words. Eventually, they all reached my uncle’s house and sat down to eat.
As they ate, Uncle Fayiah, raising his voice, told them boldly, “Congratulations, we all have eaten a dog meat, this is it.”
The village men, who could not believe that they had eaten dog-meat, dropped their spoons, spitting out particles of food that had been left in their mouths. Uncle Fayiah could see Saye placing his fingers beyond his tongue, wanting to pull out a share of what he had eaten.
At this moment, my uncle burst into laughter. And then, catching his breath, he said softly, “You have not eaten a dog, this is your share of the hens you gave me.”
Together they all laughed, hugging each other.
“Good day Fayiah. You ought to come and join us under the palm wine hut,” I heard them say as they walked off.
Dedicated to strength and professional journalistic career of Mr. Edwin M. Fayia, III, environmental writer of Daily Observer, whose lecture with me on the first day of my vacation job at the Daily Observer inspired me.