‘My son, please tell me a story.’
Isaiah smiles. ‘Mother sent me to call you. She wishes to begin preparing dinner and my children demand to know when their grandfather will arrive.’ His voice carries the same warmth as that of his father, redolent of nutmeg and coffee, with the deeper timbre of one accustomed to public speaking.
Joshua is sitting at the far end of the Ekpe House, his feet over the edge of the cliff, watching the setting sun facetted in red and gold reflected on the clear waters of the Akwayafe River murmuring below.
Even as the city has grown, stretching further towards the cliffs at the edges of the forests, this sacred space has maintained its presence. In the evenings, after his walk around the old city walls, Joshua likes to sit here, watching the waters and thinking on memory; of those who have passed, and those beyond reach.
Isaiah always knows to find him here.
He sits alongside him, their legs touching, enjoying the gentle presence, each of the other. Taking his father’s hands, he marvels once more at the stories written there in its subtle tracery of scars. Joshua’s skin is wrinkled and the flesh and bone within somehow lesser than he remembers, but still Isaiah can feel their strength and compassion.
‘I grow old,’ says Joshua, and chuckles.
‘Not so much,’ smiles Isaiah. ‘All that has changed is that now it is you who asks stories of me.’
A song like a caress rises in melody from the market where people have gathered to enjoy the deepening evening. Behind, the rumble and clatter of conversation, trade, and meals being shared. Before, the call of birds and hoot of monkeys crashing through the forest over the river and into the shadows beyond.
‘What story would you hear, my father?’ asks Isaiah.
‘My grandchildren tell me you have been working on a new one. Of Usan Abasi? You experiment with the old tales?’
Isaiah laughs. ‘There are no surprises in our family. I was saving that for your seventieth birthday. How did you get them to tell you?’
Joshua grins. ‘I bribed them with a plate of their aunt Asha’s samosas. And a good son would honour his father by ensuring he receives his present before everyone else.’
Isaiah shakes his head, smiling. ‘It is cruel that the storyteller did not get a taste of those samosas.’
He mock-sighs, nodding. ‘Very well, and I shall find another way to surprise you.’