Mark stared at the ripples on the water caused by the rowboat without any expression. It's been months since he went to school and today, he would be going back to his home town, for vacation.
A small smile graced his lips as he thought about how surprised his mother would be upon his arrival. He didn't tell her he would be coming home, because he had planned to make it a surprise.
"You seem very happy to be going back home. One glance and I can tell it's been months since you have been to your hometown", a young lady seated beside him said. She had a typical African style to her appearance, owing to her beautifully braided hair, beaded necklaces and bracelets.
"You're right" he replied with the persisting small smile.
"and at one glance I can also tell you are a scholar. Right?" Another lady butted in with a beam. Mark nodded with a frown thinking of how nosy the woman was.
"Ah. That's good. With more scholars like you in our town, development is certain very soon.". The woman added while throwing an arm over the shoulders of her little daughter.
" You don't seem like much of a talker. By the way, I'm Susan, nice to meet you". The young lady from before said to him.
"Mark, nice to meet you too."
"It's good to be back home after months of staying in the city, isn't it?" Susan continued with a grin
"It is." He replied not wanting to nod again, so as not to seem cold towards the lady. It was really good to be back to his hometown. He couldn't wait to eat the food from his mother's pot. He couldn't wait to eat the specially garnished seafoods either, he couldn't wait to savour their fresh taste.
A comfortable silence took over the boat for a moment, with Mark basking in the serenity of the calm sea. He watched its gentle movements and waves which were aiding the paddler in the steady rowing of the boat. He sighed, commending the paddler in his heart. He was doing a good job, handling the oars while being shielded from the sun by an hat on his head. He wasn't too old but Mark had felt that the nature of the job would make him age quickly.
"How much longer are you going to row?!" The older woman suddenly said to the paddler, almost shouting.
"Calm down, will you?!" He replied her in an even harsher tone. " It has only been five minutes towards the journey"
"Don't tell me to calm down please".
"Then get off".
The lady immediately frowned at how the paddler would expect her to get off in the middle of the sea. She sneered before replying him. " I'm a trader. I sell fishes and I have customers waiting on my arrival. So hurry up."
"Other passengers have places to be and things to do too, but they aren't complaining. I'm sure this isn't your first time traveling, so you should know how long this would take. Stop being so hypocritical."
"You are so rude."
The paddler only snorted, ignoring her.
"We would surely reach the town soon. It's just a matter of time." Susan said to the woman.
"Thank you, my dear".
Susan nodded at her before glancing at Mark again, "are you really from our town?, I would definitely not forget someone as charming as you. How is it that I don't remember you?" She asked taking in his exquisite features.
Mark was momentarily stunned at the woman, brazenly complementing him. If she was flirting with him, he couldn't tell. "Ah... It isn't possible for you to know everyone in the town, is it?. Besides I school in the city and I don't really stay for too long.
Mark nodded before asking "what about you?, did you move there or you were born and brought up there?"
"I was born and raised in the town"
"Nice and what are you up to now?"
"Some people don't have the privilege to further their education. I am one of them, so now I sell fruits.I sell mangoes oranges tangerines and the likes. I move them from here to the city. It's...."
"Silence!!". Someone suddenly shouted, cutting her short and startling the passengers. The paddler almost lost his grip on the oars.
They all turned their gazes to the source of the shout, and at mere glance, anyone could tell he's a shaman. He was adorned with feathers, beads, shells and all. The fish seller scowled at him while protectively bringing her daughter into her embrace. She was clearly weary of him, she grabbed her baskets closer too. Susan and Mark had a frown on their own faces.
"Is there a problem?" The paddler asked in annoyance
"Silence......" The shaman repeated once more. His eyes were shut, as though he was meditating or conjuring some spirit in his head.
"Do you have something to say shaman?"
Susan asked. Though she's startled at first, it didn't deny the fact that she could be a believer in shamans and their words. Hence, she feared if the shaman had seen something bad. She watched as he slowly open his eyes.
"Ah...... peace...." He finally replied which earned him disgruntled looks and disapproved reactions from the other passengers. They turned their gazes away from him, ignoring him.
"Give me money. Any amount." He said, as he abruptly stretched his hand out to the mother and daughter, "and I will tell you what the fate has in store for you" he continued, extending his hand towards Mark and Susan all the while, mistakenly brushing his hand on the paddler's arm.
"Sit properly and stop moving around!!" The paddler spat out, clearly not in the mood to entertain the shaman and his antics.
Seeing Mark and Susan were not ready to give him money, the shaman turned to the mother and daughter again. The little girl naively reached out her small arm towards him, the mother was quick in slapping off her arm before it could touch him.
"What is wrong with you?!, how many times do I have to tell you not to go close to strangers?!" The woman reprimanded her daughter with a frown.
"He won't eat your daughter. My own concern is that you shouldn't give out your transport fare in exchange for your fortune telling" The paddler said.
" I hope you would conentrate more on the rowing". The mother retorted.
The shaman shifted his gaze towards Mark again " young man......"
"I'm good" Mark cut in, earning a low chortle from Susan.
By now the shaman sat quietly, resigning to his fate of not being able to get a dime from the passengers. Mark shifted his gaze towards the water again as he could see fingerlings swimming beneath the water surface. A small fish suddenly shot out of the water, twisting in the air, before diving back into the sea. That made the little girl let out an excited 'Ah!', and a smile from Mark.
"Where do you stay?" He turned to Susan, asking out of the blue.
"Third house behind the town's market" she replied with a beam "are you planning to pay a visit?"
The paddler rowed for a bit before announcing " Get your fare ready, we would be pulling up at the shore very soon"
"We know." The woman replied him rather scornfully.
The paddler ignored her this time, swearing in his heart at how he doesn't wish to run into her again. He rowed for a while before finally saying "we are here".
© 2022 Esther Taiwo