For the lady, it appeared each minute spent pacing back and forth provoked deeper strains to keep her composure with some goal soon approaching–like the pressed one of full bladder whose restraint teeters on the brink of explosion as the saving urinal comes in view! Here it was anticipation of a colossal buildup seeking hasty release. Minutes again passed, and the pacing continued. The close lean against the shrub unknowingly caused a leaf to graze and tickle the inside of August’s nose. Retracting his neck at the sudden feeling, he ejected a loud sneeze and swiftly repositioned himself. For a moment the lady stopped, her train of thoughts interrupted by a sound hardly discernible, yet sought to ascertain in the quietness of full attention. Hearing nothing, she continued pacing to the rhapsody of stirred expectancy. Being more cautious, August maintained a step further away from the shrub in order to avoid repetition. Again, moments passed. Suddenly, the lady abruptly jerked her head upright, uncoiled her arms from behind her back, and gazed into the distance on tippy toes with her hands slightly above her eyebrows like binoculars.
Just then, a red sedan approached and slowly pulled into the driveway. Two people, presumably a couple, occupied the front row. The flashing brakelights announced a complete stop; the engine followed by abruptly falling fast asleep in motor narcolepsy. Both driver and passenger doors opened simultaneously, resembling wings of a bird outstretched in readiness for flight. Deep smiles lined all three faces, manifested dramatically through a tight embrace between the lady waiting and the male driver of younger age. August suspected mother and son. Meanwhile, the young lady from the passenger side trekked around the car to join the action of the rapturous welcome. The older lady ravenously imbibed the syrup of sweet elation, as the arid ground happily drinks of the moisture granted by torrential rain. As the younger lady came across the car, permitting the older one to catch a full glimpse, her eyes lit up. Swiftly releasing her grip from the young man, she left him standing and hurriedly proceeded to the young lady in suppressed jubilation emancipated by a bear hug of tenacious clutch. Slightly leaning away, she then stared at the young lady’s stomach and rubbed her right arm clockwise around it gently.
“Wow, so I see you and Joe have a little bun in the oven! Congratulations guys!” she excitedly exclaimed.
Perplexed, the couple looked at each other in silence, intentionally evading the question for unknown reasons. Denied a response, the mother continued.
“Don’t keep this wonderful secret away from me! I know what first term pregnancy looks like, after all, I birthed Joe didn’t I? But tell me Candice, is it a boy or a girl? Well wait, from the look of your stomach I bet it’s twins. Twins! Wow, how exciting guys. I am finally going to be a grandmother!” the lady enthusiastically said as she animatedly clapped her hands.
At this point, the countenance of both parties were flustered, reddened to discoloration like a sudden concussion that summons reinforcements of blood to a focal point, deepening its display as the advent of a secret pain soon to surface. Muted laborious tongues revealed inner discomfort. Finally, the young man spoke.
“Mom, Candice is not pregnant!” the man awkwardly said in slight irritation.
“Wow. Oh my, I, um, I am really sorry. I just…” the mother stammered contritely
Interrupting, the man said imperiously “Stop it mom, you shouldn’t say anything else and you really shouldn’t have assumed. You’ve already completely destroyed the mood and created problems I know I will hear about later at home. Good grief!”
Then ensued a period of floundering eeriness, a graceless disquietude and abdominal knotting of such excruciating silent awkwardness that it seemed to announce for the birds the appropriate time to begin their departure flight to their Southern abodes. Even earthworms sunk back to the soil, and squirrels hurried back up the trees to avoid witnessing this uncomfortable travesty. The words were like roaches whose initial distress the insecticide of apology might alleviate. However, the already laid eggs, psychically imprinted in the atmosphere of the mind, could any moment in future instantly hatch into a million critters in mental renewal of the emotional injury. Impeded by the unspoken matrimonial rule of publicly venting an internal fury at a spouse in front of family, the impediment caused the boiling blood to seethe and rise until the lady, utterly crossed and leaking rage, stormed into the house. The mixture of the vexation from cold disappointment with the warm but reckless mistake of his mom, formed into a cranial hurricane of category 5 pressure which threatened to rescind the whole trip. Scowling at his mom, the young man then chased after his wife to calm her down.
“The lesson?” August thought to himself. “Keep your comments to yourself and don’t assume anything.” A smile dancing across his face as he contemplated. With that, he took his leave with his head shaking in disbelief. Mounting his bicycle, he continued on.
Billows of smoke shimmered in the distance, spreading the aroma of food which they bestowed on the atmosphere. A bonfire of spices massaged the nostrils, deepening in its influential thrust as August moved further down the trail. The pathway of delicious scents altered the travelers compass so the reconfigured arm of north pointed toward its toothsome self. Following the alluring, August moved ahead with the increased speed of a focused destination in mind. Changing from a seating position to a rapid pedaling of upright jogging, he proceeded down the path to investigate the source of this smoked goodness. Quickly pressing the brakes, he turned the bike to pedal down a side street from where the smoke seemed to issue. Initially narrow, a few more pedals brought him to an open square where vendors selling a variety of delicacies and refreshments had setup shop. Looking around, he saw heavy smoke rising from a sizzling grill on which meats of succulent viscosity were being barbecued. Dripping in cooked perspiration, the beads of juice incited a fizzing as it dripped in patterned intervals on the hot coals, calling forth the smoke ambassador leaden with spices to recruit bystanders to its lair.
The dispersed crowd by the stand meant a lengthy line had diminished just as August arrived. A welcomed surprise, as he spurned the idea of standing idly in line, considering a whole feast awaited him at home. He thought of waiting until dinner, but realized the punishment he would unnecessarily inflict on himself considering his stomach was devoid of even a sip of water all day. Deciding to have a little food to assuage the hunger, his stomach violently growled like an untamed leviathan with watering mouth in readiness to gnash its helpless beast of prey to pieces. The heightened suspense emphasized the raging depths of hunger hitherto ignored that, now close to easing, consumed August in the weariness of starvation fatigue. Dotted colors of dizziness encouraged leaning against an object to avoid utter collapse. Trudging toward the vendor, his slouched back slowly erected in a sudden boost of energy. Stabilized, he made his request. “Hello sir, I would like a chili cheese hot dog with a strawberry lemonade.”
“Coming right up!” the vendor said.
Reaching for a freshly cooked meat cylinder glazed with the serum of its own moisture, the vendor placed it on a lightly toasted bun and applied the condiments. Dipping his hand in a cooler, a red drink in a plastic container was extracted. Placing them side by side with a few napkins, he then stated “that will be $5 sir.” August gladly gave him $10 and was so blinded by the food that he turned to leave when the man interrupted his trance and stated, “Wait, you forgot your change.” Realizing the close call, he thanked the man and tipped him $2 for the gesture. Proceeding to a nearby table, he sat down, placed the food in front of him, said a prayer of thanks, and began eating.
The parched Saharan sands quenched by a torrential downpour, or the burdensome yoke of the globe lifted from the back of Atlas paled in comparison to the cosmic catharsis that pervaded August as he ate. While devouring the food, his eyes twinkled, nutrition reinstating his blurry vision from 10/20 to 20/20. His body quivered, struggling to assimilate the flurry of cuisine coursing through the system. He remembered a conversation years ago with a classmate in which he asked “Why are you a vegetarian?” The surprising answer came swiftly and decisively, “Because, I am not a graveyard!” The dialogue was thereby pressed to a hasty termination, for such a humorous yet gruesome reply necessitated no response. However, in view of this delicious meal, August could not fathom forsaking animal flesh, and on the contrary would even commission the construction of an expansive cemetery in his stomach where he would joyfully conduct the funeral proceedings of countless more! A quick smile danced across his face when he remembered the comment he made to the classmate days after, when questioned about his own career inclinations. Jesting, he replied, “An animal undertaker.”
During his feast, August was so entranced by this activity he lost sight of where he was and who was watching. Regaining equilibrium of body, he saw clearer. Pausing and looking up at his surroundings, he caught a few strangers gawking oddly at him with eyes squinted and head shaking while struggling to stifle an outburst of laughter. Turning left, a lady veiled her mouth with the right hand to abate the sound of laughter that forcibly erupted from her sporadically. Momentarily perplexed by the attention, August soon turned again to his food to launch the final blow, pitilessly squelching the hunger insurrection by jousting its diabolical army with the hot dog lance. With the battle over, August metaphorically sunk his sword in the sand victoriously by ingesting a colossal swig of the strawberry lemonade. Satisfied, and with hunger defeated, he thought “to the victor goes the spoils.”
“Hey kid, take it easy, I promise the food won’t grow legs and run away.” a bystander sarcastically vociferated, giving those nearby who had long suppressed their laughter an opportunity to uncontrollably explode in hilarity.
“If you are starved at home, I encourage you to call Child Protective Services. Remember, its never too late!” Another added in jest to intensify the merriment.
“We’re all just joking kid, don’t mind us. Just trying to have a good time. But you must have been really hungry though, good grief!” A third added to calm the storm in case August felt uncomfortable and besieged. The other two then confirmed the third person’s words to ensure August understood.
“I understand, that’s no problem. But I’ll tell you what, next time you want to watch, just make sure you at least buy tickets! August jabbed back playfully.
“Wise guy huh?” one the three said with a thumbs up, as they all laughed hysterically in a nod of approval. Continuing, he added, “Well it was nice talking to ya kid, but we’ve gotta go! Take care now!”
“You as well” August added in a farewell greeting.
With the gang departed, it grew quiet and solemn. Enclosed by trees and shrubs, the wind was gentle and the oxygen tasted fresh. A crisp billow of energy wafted about the scene, as if the lively interplay of Nature’s elements bred this elixir that soothed body and soul in calm repose. Imbibing the energy, August rested his head on the wide body of a tree anchored behind the table. Suddenly deprived of even the self-exertion of maintaining minimal uprightness of back, by transferring this effort to the tree, he entered into a state of relaxation. With the organs hard at work, the blood redistributed to support the body’s busy systems. Ergo with insufficient activity durably connecting him with his physical environment, the soul slowly loosened from the enervating body toward the abyss of siesta. Its gradual withdrawal expressed in the corresponding waning of the eyelids. As the final flickering of a candle flame announces it will soon extinguish, so did his eyes wink, flicker, quiver, and then finally close. Announcing the temporary loosening of the soul from the body in a food coma.
~Ikenna Q Ezealah