The air is till dry. The land is likewise. The entire place has a brown theme, from dust. But it’s a new year.
Grandma has just sent her usual, lengthy New Year text message. It’s a prayer. She wants the New Year to bring me blessings. I want to reply: “You prayed the same thing last year and the year before it. Sorry to burst your bubble grandma but you don’t have a history of answered prayers.” Instead, I typed: “Amen. Thank you Ma.”
I wish everyone else would give up on New Year celebrations as I have. It is only wise, I think. Why let yourself believe miraculous things would happen just because it is January again? They should have happened in the last November or July or maybe April.
Today, I’ll drown myself, cleaning my room. I’ll refold all the clothes in the wardrobe, clean out the dusty shelf, venture underneath the bed and vanquish the illegal occupants there. I’ll sort every piece of paper. I should be done by early afternoon. Then I’d retire for lunch. Mother cooks a special on the first day of every year. Though we never invite people over, the food is fun. I used to attend Alfred’s family dinner every New Year’s Day but they’ve moved out of town. And I’m thankful they did because Alfred’s father always asked everyone at the dinner table to speak of one of their new year resolutions. This year I have just one: to see every New Year going forward, as merely a change of date. This would have been difficult to say to my friend’s father. An argument would have ensued. We would argue back and forth till I ran out of ideas. I fear the man would have talked me out of it. He is a professor who believes in God and does so with the keenness of an eagle.
Lunch would be jollof rice and salad and chicken. The chicken was alive yesterday, tied to a pole at the backyard. Mother had it slaughtered early this morning, right after our morning devotion. The poor thing screamed for its life as Father approached with the knife. I held down the bird. The body quaked. Father joked about something and I laughed till I let the bird slip away. It jumped and ran in an escape frenzy. I leaped after it but the chicken was all over the place. Then it ran into a dead end and I closed in. The petrified bird moved left to right, back and forth, looking for the loophole. It tried to go around me but I was quick. Just as I grabbed the feathers, I heard it say:
“I am dying for this shit. You had better believe.“
Terrified, I let it go.
“Oh no,” it said “this is how it has got to be. Eat me, but remember, Alfred’s family moved out of town because Alfred died and they could not cope with living in the place they had shared with him. He does not have the chance to contemplate the meaning of this New Year.”
As I eat lunch today, I’ll give the words of the chicken some thought and perhaps by nightfall I might be convinced that a new year is a gift of time, an opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing, another chance for Grandma to have her prayers answered.
For now, I’ll just clean my room and convince myself that I am not doing it because of the feeling of newness that is in the dusty air. Cleaning- it is a brilliant escape from the ‘Happy New Year’ greetings.
A ruffling sound by my curtains.
No way! It cannot be!
“Yes, it is. And you should be worried. You are one stubborn young man ain’t you?”
I stutter. The chicken is headless. But there is no blood. It’s just standing there, beside the dirty curtain.
I scream, but my voice is a whisper.
“A New Year is a gift of time. 365 days to do great things with”
The fright that seized me is losing its grip and I reply “366 in the case of a leap year.”
“Yes, 366” the chicken says.
We are silent.
“But last year was ordinary. I did no great thing. Why can’t great things be done in June, or March, or any other month?”
“The answer to that lies with you. A year is a gift of time. It is up to you to do something with it. ”
“I’ll think about that over lunch”
At lunch I thought about this and everyone was worried about my silence as I ate. Mother assumed it meant the food was not so tasty.
Yemi, a pioneer member of Grow360 Team, has a strong passion for communicating timeless lessons and principles using captivating stories.
He lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria
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