They sat together around the family hearth under a multipurpose granary- the whole family; Ben’s father with his Bible, mother, siblings and his beloved grandma. That was the night before the day he embarked on his destined journey to campus.
“Am proud of you son. You are now living my expectation- completely completing my life. You are old enough, now to know the truth about life. God is just an aspect of the whole thing. The Bible says…” he flipped across the pages of his Bible, “listen!” he said. He breathed out and started reading: a man does not live on bread alone, “this was Jesus during his temptation, forty days and nights in the wilderness and somewhere else he said, I am the bread, so that means life is not all about Jesus. It is more than that, broad and wide. It is a boulder composed of many chips which have to be balanced in order for one to enjoy its real taste. Therefore when you arrive there, face it bravely and keenly the way it present itself. But there is only one thing to remember…” he paused.
“What is it dad?”
“Mmm… To be kind my son.”
“Ok. You have said to be kind!”
“Yes. And the…” he paused. He scanned their eyes. “The treasure, don’t forget.”
“How can I forget about that father?” Ben asked blearily.
“Thanks. Go and get some rest I can see you are tired and don’t forget to pray. There is much more that lay ahead of you,” his father said directly gluing his eyes on him.
“Yes, the journey?” Ben said.
“And much more,” his father said as he rose to go.
Ben was the second person after his father who knew about the treasure- precious stones. One day as I tilled our farm, I found unique stones, very bright I suppose are gold; his father had once told him. But he did not tell him at exactly which part of the farm. He advised him to first look for knowledge so that in future he can be able to find if it is true they are gold and thereafter if yes, their market so that afterward he can be able to spend the fortune wisely. And therefore here he is, tomorrow going to enroll for a university degree and lucky enough called to pursue a degree in Natural Resource Management.
The pastor had not told anybody else about the treasure. It was only him, God who is all- knowing, and his son. If it was for him he would not have even told God. May be God hearing about it when he mentions it while praying asking Him to preserve it safely. Even his wife Susana did not know. Therefore in that very night as they lied on their matrimonial bed:
“Which treasure were you talking about dear?” Susana inquisitively asked.
“Dear, I made a promise not to tell anyone else apart from the son, even him does not know exactly where it lays,” he answered.
“But am not just anybody, I am your wife!”
“Yes, I know and that’s why I have always given you my respect and love.”
“Love and respect alone does not complete a marriage, there must be trust, all three concocted together,” she said rising her voice to show her anger.
“Stop dear! You know very well I trust you, and that’s why we have come this far without squabbles. Don’t you see we are blessed; our son is going to university. It’s actually a blessing, isn’t it?” he asked nervously.
“Actually it is… ad that’s why for the sake of our son I want you to tell me. My husband, misfortunes do not report when coming!” she insisted.
“No. Not now sweetheart. Just know a treasure lays somewhere in our farm. And I thought it wise to preserve it for our son,” he said showing no sign to continue with the discussion.
“The treasure!” she asked unbelievably.
“Yes. But let’s talk about something else,” he said.
“Ok. That’s good news but remember, what is known to one person is almost like not known,” she said.
“A secret is only a secret if it is with one person.” The pastor retorted.
“Ok.” finally Susana surrendered and snuggled herself beneath the blanket. The pastor looked at her and thoughtfully said, “my beautiful other half, why does she want to know?” He started praying.
That night Ben hardly slept because of nightmares. He dreamed of a beast chasing after him along an alley lined with naked electric wires towards a point where a world seemed void. Danger! It was like running the gauntlet. But he kept running. On reaching the end point;
“Better I die than to be caught up by this beast,” he thought. He mastered all his strength to breathe and to make the last step- the last move on earth. He closed his eyes and threw himself. He fell on a spongy matter like a high-inched mattress. On opening is eyes, he did not see the beast again. He was free. He found many ‘nudie’ masked boys and girls dancing, drinking and flirting. He stood startled and at last chuckled. A flash in his conscience told him, this is all what you lacked all the way down the memory lane if you can remember.
“Come, let’s dance,” one plump girl approached him.
“No!” he said with finality. “I don’t…” before he could add something else the girl reached for his hands- both of them.
“Come please, don’t protest,” she pleaded with him. They shook hands. She then gestured to hug and kiss him but he withdrew.
“My name is Benjamin. You can just call me Ben,” he told her.
“OK, I am Sabrina. In short they call me Sabi,” she answered politely and lovingly.
“And why are you all like this?” he asked.
“Like what?” she asked perplexed.
“It is only that you have just come. You are new to this place. Tomorrow and the days to come, like in two fortnight time, you won’t be able see it. You will be like, ‘a feces does not feel its smell’,” she said.
“No, am lost! Am so sure of that! Where am I?” he asked.
“No. you are not lost. This State University, isn’t it where you was coming? Its vision is very clear, ‘The only University where humanity is nurtured’. Before one graduate, is bound to develop holistically in all aspects of life and now the starting point of your destined journey. Only those who are not very keen think we come here to waste time and money,” she explained.
“What! State University?” he asked stunned.
“Krrrrrrr krrrr krrrr…” the alarm cried. He had to wake up in order to catch up with either of the two buses available to Debea town or if very lucky, an express one to the capital city. His hut was not far from the rest. The other family members when heard him slamming the door also woke up to bide him goodbye.
“Am happy with you son. Remember you are the first and the only person to go to university from this village,” his mother told him.
“I know of that mother,” Ben answered.
“Therefore don’t fail this family and this society at large,” she added.
“The other thing grandson, go there and don’t forget the shape of you family. Just know human life is dynamic, it can change and you can make everything out of it- what matters is only your mindset of which is not fixed you can change. You cannot remain poor forever but only if you have courage and determination against poverty. Accept your status for the time being. For a patient to look for strength after a painstaking illness has first to accept the fact that he or she is weak. Never lose hope, just know when problems become too much, the gate of relief is near,” his grandmother advised.
“But grandma, I think to be poor is not ones mistake or will, but God’s. After all those who are poor on earth, will be rewarded in heaven- eternal life,” jovially Ben said.
“That’s where man, African man goes wrong. Sometimes religion is there to blindfold us not to see the reality. It forces us to accept what is not true by the phrase, ‘it is the will of God.’ Nonsense! You forget the verse, ‘if you don’t work you should not eat?’ And that’s what your father tried to tell you last night,” she said.
“Sure. We cannot explain everything in terms of religion or our faith son. Go in peace. And I promise you my prayers” his father said.
“I know you are all happy, overwhelmed and full of anxiety but on the contrary am apprehensive, I think instead you should indulge yourself into a relentless prayer so that God may see me through the life I am about to enter into. May it indeed be my destined journey. There, there is a lot of temptation, I can smell it. Goodbye I will miss you very much” Ben said.
“We will pray for you, goodbye too,” they said in unison.
They vanished into the darkness, Ben and two of his brothers who saw him off to the bus stop.