I am trying to save the life of a mango tree, not very successfully. My carpenter cannot come today, maybe tomorrow, he says. I ask him why, and he explains that he has to go cut down a mango tree.
‘Are they building on the land?’
‘No, witches are meeting in its branches every blessed night.’
So I sat down and pulled up a chair for him. ‘How is your client sure that his mango tree is actually a witches’ conference tree?’ I asked.
‘He hears them every blessed night.’
‘What do they sound like, these witches?’
‘Birds. Strange birds.’
‘What if they are just strange night birds?’
‘My own is to cut the tree. This is twenty-something-December and I have children to do Christmas for.’
‘I know, but maybe if you just trim it down, the tree will live, you will do your Christmas well, and the witches will have to look for a bigger venue?’
‘The man of god said they should cut it down patapata. Into firewood.’
‘Man of god?’
‘My customer brought a man of god to pray and he said we should cut down the whole tree.’
The word of the man of god has plainly sealed the tree’s fate. Still, I think of the mango harvest of 2016, depleted by the yellow offerings of the doomed tree, and I try again. ‘Are you not afraid to cut down the convention centre of a witches’ coven? What if they come for you?’
‘They will just go to another tree,’ he said nervously, ‘Look, are you supporting me or an ordinary mango tree?’
‘I’m supporting you,’ I protest, ‘don’t you eat mangoes? Don’t you enjoy the shade of mango trees? Haven’t you seen those beautiful old mango trees on Okpanam Road?’
‘I like mangoes very, very much,’ he confesses, ‘but my customer is not sleeping well. He’s just lying there and listening to the witches in his mango tree and binding and casting out demons throughout the night.’
‘So what if you cut down the tree and they move into his roof? How will he sleep then?’
The carpenter thinks about that for a moment. ‘I specialize in roofs,’ he says.