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The man who fell under anointing

 Femi had one occasion found himself in queue for laying of hands one Saturday breakfast meeting. It just on that day occurred to him that it was the only thing that he had not yet tried in the two years he had attended the events, simply because he hadn’t believed in the ritual.

            The teaching on the morning had been about the prophet Elisha who advised the big shot to go bath in a particular river but the man had been pissed off. How could he, an important man, go for a swim in dirty water? But okay, since he was a leper, a social pariah and desperate enough, he thought to give the instruction a shot and surprise, he came out free of his leprosy. The moral appeared to be like: the most stupid instruction from a man of God could end up becoming your salvation; so better for you to obey.

            And so Femi wondered, how much similar his situation was to a leper. Nobody wanted to be around a poor man except a person like him looking also for a miserable companion. Nobody wanted poverty to rub off on their own bodies. So, why not observe that stupid instruction, Femi thought, you never know, it may be your day to be healed, you know. And so he joined the queue, for laying of hands and anointing with oil. Some of the regular fall down and twitch types, mostly ladies, were already doing their things on the floor. One of them was indeed violently trashing about on the floor and screaming incomprehensible words. Definitely needs deliverance, this one, Femi wisely thought. Ahead of him was a new participant in the breakfast meetings who had been sitting right next to Femi. The minister made a cross on the gentleman’s forehead with an oily finger and then grabbing him by the head with both hands muttered a string of prayers and then let him go quite suddenly. The fellow took a tottering step backward and slowly fell like a tree into the hands of the catchers behind him, who slowly lowered him on the floor, where he laid for a few minutes before he calmly rose and returned to his seat.

            The minister repeated the same on Femi, but Femi was quite disappointed to have felt nothing, other than a small stream of  oil running down his forehead and over his nose onto his lips. Maybe the miracle would begin to happen much later, he consoled himself as he returned to his seat. Nduka Ndubuisi, the man who sat with him returned also to his seat with a satisfied smirk on his face. Femi thought this didn’t seem fair. Here he was, having attended the prayer meetings for two years and nothing has happened to him, and look at this new fellow already looking like the Holy Ghost done catch him and taken charge of whatever problem that brought him. Femi had been justifiably curious therefore, to find out what sort of feelings to expect when this thing came upon you.

            ‘Why did you fall down?’ Femi asked.

            Nduka Ndubuisi was about thirty years old and looked quite like a motor spare parts trader – lifeless eyes and lips made for lying. He did appear surprised though at Femi’s question, and didn’t seem quite sure what sort of response was expected of him. In his occupation, the only primary qualification expected was the capacity to stick to your lie even with a gun pointed in your face . But this was a holy place, he finally seemed to decide, a place to tell the truth.

            ‘I thought that was the system,’ Nduka blurted out. ‘I thought you were supposed to fall down when they lay hands on you or else you go away with your problems.’

From the novel Somber City by Rotimi Ogunjobi