A story that starts with “when Aunty Bisi came to live with us in the house.”
Title: Aunty Bisi
When Aunty Bisi came to live with us in the house, it was sometime in September, 2019—two days before I left for boarding school. She arrived with four gigantic Ghana-must-go bags, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether she was some sort of model or fashion designer. Her forget-me-not blue lace gown was oversized. And when she stepped into the sitting room with a large book clasped on her chest and a pair of glasses sitting atop her nose, she wore that drab countenance that my principal usually wore whenever he inspected a student.
I had been ambling behind aunty Bisi curiously that it didn’t occur to me to greet her.
“Good day, ma,” I said.
“Oh, good day, young woman,” she replied. There was something about her—something dramatically formal.
“Bisi, you are here.” My daddy suddenly emerged.
“Good day, sir.” Aunty Bisi Nodded.
“Enitan”—my daddy turned to me—”where’s your brother?”
No sooner had he asked that than my brother dashed out with earphones tucked into his ears.
“Olasunkanmi, come.” My daddy beckoned to my brother and then signaled aunty Bisi to sit. “This is our new cook, Adebisi Abeo, but you can call her aunty Bisi. She is from our hometown; her grandmother used to be a family friend.”
I nodded slowly but Olasunkanmi’s expression was blank.
“Bisi, meet my kids, Ola and Eni.”
“Oh such gorgeous kids. The girl, pulchritudinous. The boy, junoesque.” Aunty Bisi’s mouth curved into a smile.
I smiled back; my daddy grinned. But Ola shot her a you-don’t-mean-it kind of look.
“So Bisi, how was the trip?” my daddy asked.
“Oh sir, it was bunyanesque. Elephantine. Gigantesque.”
“Hmmm.” My daddy curled his lips.
“Oh, yes sir.”
“Are those your bags?” My daddy furrowed his forehead at the very sight of the Ghana-must-go bags.
I was already wondering whether no one was going to ask her that.
“Oh, yes sir,” she replied.
“Too many clothes.” My daddy raised an eyebrow at aunty Bisi.
“Those are actually not clothes, sir.”
“They aren’t clothes? What are they then?” my daddy quizzed.
Aunty Bisi giggled before pointing to the bags. “Those are my babies, my besottedness, my dilection, my amorevolous Druery. Oh they are life. I gefreogan them because…” She paused and tilted her head to the ceiling, still smiling. “I gefreogan them because I get wordgasms whenever I devour them. Moreishly exotic wordgasms.”
I first stared at an irritated Ola before glancing at my daddy who seemed quite confused.
“Bisi, what do you have in those bags?” my daddy asked again; this time with a pretty deep tone.
“My library, sir—my dear splendacious library.”
“You mean you’ve got books in all of them?” My daddy clasped his hands.
“Yes, sir,” aunty Bisi replied, raising her chest as though she were some noble lady.
“Where are your clothes then?” my daddy inquired.
Aunty Bisi revealed a polythene bag she had tucked under her right arm. “Here, sir.”
“Look, Bisi. I hope you know you are not here for books. You’ve been employed to cook for me and my kids—my kids especially; so, I hope this won’t be a distraction.”
“Absolutely not, sir. I am up for the task. I am inordinately set for the task.”
“Oversabi no good oh.” Ola scoffed.
“I hope so, Bisi,” my daddy said. “Well then, let me show you where you’ll be staying.”
“Magnificent, sir.” Aunty Bisi rose as my daddy did.
When they left the sitting room, I grabbed my jotter and began scribbling. I glanced at Ola who rolled his eyes at me in return. He knew what I was up to: I was trying to pen down some of the strange words that aunty Bisi had said.
When I sauntered into the kitchen the next day for coffee, I met aunty Bisi cooking with three large dictionaries atop the kitchen counter and one Shakespearean book nestled in her arm.
“Aunty Bisi, you cook while you read?” I asked, as I helped myself to a cup of coffee.
“Well, it’s safe to call me a sesquipedalian librocubicularist, but yes I read literally all the time, jeune femme.”
I first scratched my head before saying, “My name is Eni — Enitan — not John Femi.”
“Hahaha, you’re so hilarious.” She chortled. “Of course your name is Eni. I said ‘Jeune Femme’ not ‘John Femi’; it’s French and it means young woman.”
My eyes widened and I grinned. “I thought I heard something else. You speak French?”
“As well as Spanish and Chinese.”
“Whoa aunty Bisi, that’s so cool!”
Aunty Bisi half-smiled as she stirred the food.
“That’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Williams Shakespeare, right?” I finally asked, sipping my coffee stylishly.
“I wrote something similar to that,” I revealed. “Poetry though.”
“Yes, I do,” I replied.
“How old are you, again?”
“Ain’t that just magnolious. Keep it up, Eni.”
“Thank you,” I said, hoping that I’d remember to look up ‘magnolious’ later in the dictionary. “So do you write too?” I topped up my coffee.
“Need you ask?” Aunty Bisi turned completely towards me. “Of course, I do. I am even a virtuoso Ghostwriter; I have written a couple of exquisite books for some of the world’s famous authors.”
“What!” I gasped.
“Oh yes. The likes of Stephen King, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Yaa Gyasi, Agatha Christie and Zadie Smith have had the unwonted opportunity to work with me.
“I even inspired that female character in Stephen King’s novel ‘Doctor Sleep’. I heard the movie adaptation will be out soon.”
I dropped the cup of coffee; I couldn’t believe my ears. “What! Aunty Bisi, these are even my idols. Omo!”
“I see. Well, I tell you what. I’ve got their phone numbers.”
“Ah! Aunty Bisi, let’s call them already.” I quivered comically.
“No, they get to call me; I don’t get to call them.” Aunty Bisi waved her left hand in disapproval as she returned to the cooking.
“Ah ah, aunty Bisi na. Jọwọ na.”
“No no, I don’t do that. That’s abysmal. Utterly abysmal.” Aunty Bisi turned off the gas, washed her hands and walked to the window to grab a paper towel. Then she walked to the fridge — dramatically — like a boss, sticking her buttocks out with her knees rubbing against each other in her faded Adire jumpsuit.
“That gargantuan picture in the sitting room,” aunty Bisi started, sliding the fridge open, “I mean the elegant woman with marshmallow colored skin—is that your mother?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“Where is she?” Aunty Bisi reached for a bottle of water. “You know, it’s been years your daddy visited.”
“Well, heaven couldn’t wait for her.” I smirked.
“Oh ma chérie, my profound condolences. Your daddy didn’t mention it to me yet.”
I smiled and nodded twice.
“So aunty Bisi, if you are all that you say you are, then why this job?”
She gulped down a glass of water and then came close to me. “Can I share a secret?”
“Definitely,” I assured her.
“You know, I am not your everyday writer. I am adventuresome. You know, writing is inhabiting bodies that aren’t yours. But what I do really think is, there’s more to that; I love it particularly heuristic.”
“Ah aunty Bisi, me I don’t really get oh.” I furrowed my eyebrows.
When she smiled and leaned closer, I caught a whiff of powder—baby powder.
“I like to feel what it actually feels like to be my characters. I am currently writing a story in which a cook is the protagonist, so I decided to take up this job to, you know, have a feel of the life of a cook.” Aunty Bisi’s tone was quite hushed.
I tried not to frown. Though something deep down in me wasn’t buying it all, my eyes widened and I said, “Wow aunty Bisi, that’s rare. So rare.”
“Oh incontrovertibly so. It meliorates your writing; makes it splendiferous.”
I dashed out of the kitchen when my daddy called me and later that day aunty Bisi fed me more of her literary talks. I finally left for boarding school the next day. And I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about our new cook and show them some of Robert Frost’s books and Chinua Achebe’s books she had given me.
It was December now and I had just returned from boarding school. I dashed into the kitchen, hoping to see books propped against the walls, here and there, but there was none. I strolled to aunty Bisi’s room but she wasn’t there—not even in her toilet where she often surrounded herself with books while she defecated. When Ola saw me coming out of her room, he broke the news to me that my daddy had fired her. He said she had almost burned down our house on several occasions because she couldn’t keep her hands off books while cooking.
I didn’t know what to feel at that moment; there were many things I wanted to discuss with aunty Bisi. Things like: Chinua ‘Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah’, Buchi Emecheta’s ‘The Joys of Motherhood’, Elizabeth Hoyt’s ‘Lord of darkness’, and even Robert Frost’s ‘collected poems’. I wanted to narrate how a teacher had caught me reading Elizabeth Hoyt’s ‘Notorious Pleasures’. And I also wanted to learn some French and Spanish.
I ambled back to the kitchen for a glass of water and then went to my room afterwards.
It was three days until Christmas day and we had just arrived at our hometown. As we drove down the bumpy road that led to my daddy’s family compound, we passed a young woman who bore a striking resemblance to aunty Bisi.
“Daddy, that is aunty Bisi.” I had intended it to come out as a question. The woman was selling Agbalumo and her head was tilted downwards. Besides, she wasn’t even holding any book so I didn’t want to conclude too early.
“Yes, my daughter—” my daddy glanced at her “—that’s her family compound.”
The woman suddenly raised her head and brought out a book, and right then I knew it had to be aunty Bisi. Even though we had gone a little far, I still looked back. Aunty Bisi grabbed one Agbalumo and threw into her mouth as she scratched her buttocks.
“Madam Enitan, won’t you sit properly? Ola rolled his eyes at me. “What are you even still staring at? Stephen King’s older sister, abi?”
I rolled my eyes back at him and sat properly.
“Abi na Chimamanda’s twin sister or Dan Brown’s wife,” he continued. “Or is it Nora Roberts’ mentor and J.K. Rowling’s editor?”
I drew in a long breath and spoke, “Olasunkanmi, she never said all these things oh. Ah, oga!”
My daddy was clearly amused.
“What difference does it make?” Ola asked. “So after seeing her selling Agbalumo, abi na roasted corn, you still believe all those signs and wonders she used to feed you?”
I didn’t reply to Ola; I just leaned on the window of the car. Perhaps aunty Bisi was writing another story and the protagonist was an agbalumo seller. I just wanted to meet with aunty Bisi, tell her that I had developed something for dark stories; that there was this glorious mystery to dark art. I needed to show her the story I had written recently, in which a young girl butchered her cook because she didn’t do what she had instructed her to do. I wanted to ask her if I could be this character in real life, just to meliorate the story as she would often say.
One thing was certain though; later I would find a way to have my daddy hire aunty Bisi back.
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