Mama Osas came out of her front door yawning. It was a Saturday and not a market day so she had the whole day to do whatever needed to be done around the house; clean the aged louvers, mop the verandah, cook breakfast for her husband and three children and somewhere in between have the torn clothes mended with a sewing machine passed down to her from her mother. She took a step down from the verandah and looked up at the mango tree in front of her unfenced house that was slowly taking over the main street road. She could not cut it down since it brought her money during the mango season. She hoped no one would talk about the way the branches were leaning over on the road. It would only take a huge truck to pass by for anyone to really notice.
She spat out and noticed the dry leaves on the ground. She hissed and proceeded to the side of her house to get a broom. Just then she saw her neighbor, Mama Hosanna coming out of her front door.
“Good morning oh,” she greeted. The other woman pretended not to see her by busying herself with the bucket of clothes by her side, attempting to squeeze water out of them when there was none.
“Mama Hosanna no be you I dey see for there?” Mama Osas asked. The woman mumbled a greeting and took her bucket to the clothes line.
What is going on Mama Osas wondered but she could not be bothered by the woman’s antics, or jealousy as she thought. Her daughter Osas snagged the first position in her class and Hosanna came in 15th place.
“The thing just dey pain am,” Mama Osas said to herself and laughed. She hummed a tune as she swept off the dead leaves. The sun was still yet to come up but it was bright enough to see who was who. So Mama Osas was sure she saw the most popular engineer at the end of her street pout and hiss as he walked past her to work without offering a greeting. Mama Osas stopped sweeping. Something was wrong. She had to observe what was going on. Anyone she knew that passed gave her side glances, and did not offer any greeting like they usually did. Children who walked at first ran past her house then slowed down to a walk after they were at a safe distance. This was too much for Mama Osas. She had to tell her husband.
Papa Osas was in the sitting room reading his Bible when she got there. The room was hot and stuffy and despite just wearing only a wrapper around his waist, Papa Osas sweated profusely. Her children were still asleep and she did not want to wake them up.
“Galatians 5 verse two,” he read aloud.
“Papa Osas wetin dey happen? Everybody just dey avoid this house like say we bury juju for here. Nobody dey greet me.”
“You don greet me this morning?”
Mama Osas ignored his request. “Papa Osas, I no understand wetin dey happen and I no like am.”
The man closed his Bible and sighed. He looked up at his wife, then beckoned her to sit on the chair closest to him. She sat down.
“Yesterday when you go Agbor, one small girl for this street confess say she be winch. She call people for this street wey join her coven. And your name be one of them.”
“Blood of Jesus!” Mama Osas exclaimed making the sign of the cross.
“I don tell the people wey dey there say you no be winch but now I know say none of them believe me.”
“Jesus. Jesus,” Mama Osas repeated, her hand on her chest.
Outside they heard voices. Papa Osas was the first to stand up. He marched outside, his wife behind him. There was a small group of people standing next to the mango tree, residents of the street and they did not look happy. Some of them younger men held cutlasses. The oldest man on the street everyone called Epa spoke.
“We hear say you be winch Mama Osas. We no want winch for our street.”
“Epa,” Papa Osas called. “You know say my wife no be winch. She’s one of the strongest Christians for this street. Don’t let the devil use you people.” He said that last part toward the crowd.
“Winch fit hide behind Christianity,” someone in the crowd said and the others agreed.
Epa continued, glancing at the mango tree. “We know say this na your coven. All of una dey do meeting for here. So we go cut am.”
Mama Osas ran toward the mango tree and the crowd gave way, avoiding her like a plague
“Taaaaaaa! No one go cut this tree.” Her heart beat fast as she threw her trembling arms around the tree. She knew she was not a witch. Maybe she occasionally gossiped about people and made bad comments about her neighbors but she was not a witch. Why couldn’t these people see that?
“Leave there or we go cut you along with the tree,” a woman said.
Still Mama Osas protected that tree. But which sane Nigerian she thought, would buy mangoes from a witch?