Mr. Michael Fagan was going to the dining room to eat, and Mrs. Lucy Fagan was waiting around the corner. She had been thinking how to get him to call her “the soul of his heart.”
On reaching the dining room, Mr. Fagan sat on a low stool by the wooden table. “Wait for me,” said Mrs. Fagan, as she came around from the corner.
When both were seated, almost side by side, Lucy looked into the eyes of Michael and said “In preparing this meal, I washed my hands and stayed in the kitchen until it cooked. Truly, it is one of my best meals.”
After digesting the words that accompanied the meal, Michael opened his eyes wide, blinked and rolled them around, and quickly settled them down again as if nothing had happened. A deep breath went in and out of his lungs. If he weren’t hungry, he would have sat up and declared satiation. However, he was hungry, and he wanted to get through the soup in a hurry. So with his right hand, he spooned some soup into his mouth.
From close observation, Lucy noticed that Michael was enjoying the soup and hence it was the right time to tell him. She leaned close and whispered in his ear, “From now onward I want you to call me ‘the soul of your heart’.”
Nobody would expect him to reply while he had a mouth full of soup, Mike thought. He hoped to use the brief opportunity when his teeth were grinding the dry fish to figure out the next response.
To encourage him to stop thinking about it and pronounce her “the soul of his heart,” Mrs. Fagan snuck round to Mr. Fagan’s back and gave him a little bit on his right ear. “Stinging black ant (Agbusi)!,” cried Mr. Fagan and out from his mouth came a bubble of chewed stockfish, bitter leaf, and crayfish.
Ignoring the little bite on his right ear – after all, nothing had happened to the left ear, the one he listened with – Mike looked down to scoop up another spoonful of soup, but Lucy had removed the bowl of the good bitter leaf containing stockfish and crayfish.
Rubbing his aching right ear, Michael said, “Why did you remove the bowl of soup?”
“Call me the soul of your heart if you want the soup made with my pristine washed hands, which I prepared for you, my darling.”
Thinking over it, Michael said, “I give you all my love.”
“For whom are you saving your soul?” Lucy asked as she brought back the bowl of soup.
“For me,” replied Michael.
“Selfish,” said Lucy and she took back the bowl of soup from Michael.
Quiet again, Michael regretted he had opened his mouth. Thinking and having the conversation in silence was better for him.
“Well, it is not all bad,” he said to himself. His earache where Lucy had nibbled him was all but gone, and his mind was becoming reasonably settled. He began to see the advantage he would have over Lucy if he were to declare her soul of his heart. However, the title would have to come with a caveat. Everything in life comes with a condition. She would have to defend the title, every time, and if not he would withdraw it straight away. On that decision, Mr. Fagan’s heart began to warm up to the idea. If the title meant so much to Lucy, a threat of withdrawing it would make her behave the way he wanted.
A few seconds or so later Michael had another thought. Many men scratch the top of their head when thinking, but Mr. Fagan had a habit of rubbing his nostril instead. Looking at him, Mrs. Fagan knew that Mr. Fagan was thinking. She wished she could get into his head, not to read his thoughts but to twist them the right way. The idea that he was thinking about her proposal infuriated Mrs. Fagan, and she wanted to curse him but decided against doing so because it might get in the way of how Mr. Fagan viewed her. Both of them waited, and the soup grew cold.
Michael was taking too long, and Lucy felt that if she were to empty the entire bowl of soup on his head or at least a part of it, perhaps it would make him think faster. Her eyes fell on the long curved spoon, still in the pot, which she had used to stir the soup.
“Declare her the sole holder of your soul, and get on with the soup,” said Mr. Fagan to himself. What surprised Michael was how his brain functioned better now that the taste of the soup and hunger had faded. He suddenly felt like a man who could examine every decision he made, just like his father, and even Uncle Fabian, whom he loved and respected.
“What would they do?” Michael queried to himself. “How would they handle a situation where hunger and soul intersected?” Hunger for what, he derided himself? Hunger for a bowl of bitter leaf soup, mixed with dry fish, crayfish and Jamaican pepper? Self-deprecation seemed to have woken him from slumber. His mind began to come together like a pile of dirt gradually swept into a corner.
As Mrs. Fagan watched, she saw a stubborn hesitation in Mr. Fagan. “Why the delay?” she said to Mr. Fagan. “Did you not like the soup that I made with washed hands when I was fully awake?”
Since she did not get any response, Mrs. Fagan went around behind Mr. Fagan. While Michael expected another punishment, Lucy leaned close and gave him a tender kiss on the aching ear. As the kiss works it’s magic, Mr. Fagan relaxed and groped for parts of the same body that had delivered it.
“No,” said Mrs. Fagan, “call me the soul of his heart soul.” Mr. Fagan’s hands dropped to his sides as he expected another painful nibble. “Hope it won’t be on my listening ear,” he thought.