The inviting shout was expected and waited. Attentive ears picked up the sound with yearning.
Food was on the table when we arrived. A basket full of hot and steamy boiled sweet yam would satiate our famished stomachs.
Tired but in great spirits, the twenty of us finished the meal through the banter and lively discussion of the subject of the day: planting rice.
The scorching heat of the late morning sun waned somewhat after heavy clouds slowly moved to the blocking position. Favorable to manual laborers, the owner of the field exhorted us to take advantage of the shade.
Let loose once more, we waded in the mud and moved to where we left off. We were a great sight to watch: the almost rhythmic bobbing and weaving, stepping backwards when a particular row was finished, and the gaily atmosphere in the air.
There was only a matter that seemed to bother us after an hour. The festive mood was replaced by silence. No one provided a clue as to what was on one’s mind, as if any verbal reaction would shatter our concentration.
We toiled on as the mild wind caressed our perspiring bodies.
Suddenly, there was something in the air.
That’s not fresh air, I swore.
Out of politeness, I shut my mouth and move further away without saying anything.
Then, I felt my stomach churned somewhat. Whatever was inside being digested, the chemical reaction was unstoppable.
I stood up abruptly, feigning to stretch my aching back while looking behind me if those following me or beside me got a whiff of what I thought came out of me.
One by one, we separated, the distance between us was further. Almost everyone reasoned out that it was better so we could finish the job ahead of time.
After two more hours of backbreaking, feet-on-the-mud and manual planting, we converged on the owner’s hut for our pay. Grateful and much appreciative for our quick and efficient work, the owner took out another basket of boiled sweet yam for ours to take home.
One of the more vocal and funny man in our group quipped, “Next time, sir. No more sweet yam.”
“And why is that?” the owner asked. “You don’t like it.”
We had placed our take-home yam in our personal bags. We were ready to leave.
“You don’t want to walk behind me after eating those,” he wisecracked with a straight face.