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BARK ACHE (A cassava story) - By Chisom Vincent

I feel a piercing pain through my bark as she strikes me with the tool in her hand; a knife. The tool I've never loved. The tool which is greatly feared in my clan, the tool which introduces one to an endless bout of pain.

She cuts off my ends with ease and proceeds to peel my bark with swift movement. I feel her frustration as my thick bark resists her tool even as my wax coating slowly melts away. Finally she changes the tool to a bigger one and in one swift movement, she got my bark off me, revealing my immaculate white skin to the eyes of all.

Her cynical motives get the best of her as she peels away my precious covering, denting my image forever. Since I'm fading away I choose to reminisence on my life not well spent.

I'm Yuca and this is my story.

~~~

I'm Yuca from the family of Manihot Esculenta, or better still the Cassava clan. My people can be found in the Sandy, Clay and Loamy regions of the soil. We live deep underneath because the humans above hunt us for our many abilities. We can be used for the production of paper, ethanol, pharmaceuticals, biofuels, starch, and flour.

Due to these reasons our fathers; the roots, dive deep to the ground to provide food, support and shelter for we the youngsters if we must live. Even this action doesn't guarantee safety as we're constantly attacked by pests, animals, a virus which attacks our mothers; the leaves and mealybugs which attacks us the stems.

Apart from the occasional attacks we experience, we sometimes enjoy the privilege of Mother Nature who blesses us with the brightest light and water to ensure our growth. She sometimes sends a human to fight these outsiders with a big box they call the pest control.

Our fathers say they interact with other fathers and parents from the leguminous clan due to intercropping. Our mothers say they play with other mothers and people of the vegetable clan due to pollination. While we the youngsters relate to one another due to the one meter row difference.

Mind you, they say our planting is done in three ways: the horizontal, vertical and inclined. This is to ensure survival and growth at the different planting seasons.

Even with all these safety measures put in place, we are powerless against the weed family. This clan is our arch enemy. They are the death of us. They compete with us for food, water and other basic necessities. They strangle our mothers and dig deep into the skin of our fathers. They even invite the pests to deal with us over again. It is at this  that most of us meet our deaths.

Most of my clan are killed within the first three months of their lives due to these wicked creatures. Those who survive continue the battle for the rest of their lives. Our only hope against these enemies are herbicides or bigger tools. Fortunately or not our cry for help can only be heard and hearkened to by the humans.

The humans who act as our saviours at first, begin to show us extra care. They study our soils, they inspect us for bruises or discoloration. Our starving stalks are fed with potassium rich fertilizers to enable the formation of starch, while the stunted ones are fed with nitrogen and phosphorus rich fertilizers. Soon enough we're all fed with organic manures to ensure growth and wellness.

We are mostly fed at the range of 4 - 8 weeks with drill holes 15 - 45cm from the base of our stems, and even though the process is excruciating, the gains soon outweighs the pain. A second dose of fertilization at 16 weeks  significantly increases the yield of our fathers; the roots.

This attention which is wanted at first turns to an obsession when we're 8 months. Depending on our varieties, roles and fertilization we're soon taken by the humans. They come at first with knives to inspect us, leaving some markings on our bark.

Mother Nature, an embodiment of kindness, chooses this moment to punish them with her blazing light. Sometimes she sends heavy downpours to distract them. This works, but only for a moment. Soon they arrive again with more humans, wearing big round headwear after making sheds to retire to after working.

We're then pulled by hand or cut with matchetes. A portion of us, the stems, are left at the base of the plant to serve as a handle to pull our fathers out. Our stems won't be damaged when cut. The farmers, so they call themselves, keep them for their next planting season.

We're stacked together in small portions till each row is done. We're soon bundled in baskets and carried away from our beloved home. Peeping through the holes, we see other mothers mourn our departure, knowing fully well that their youngsters would be next.

The journey away from home is heart wrenching but we're soon diverted from the thoughts as we see men and women hassle over prices to get us for themselves. The farmers readily sell as leftovers tend to deteriorate.

I bade my clan mates goodbye as one picks my bundle, paying and tossing us in her basket like we were worth nothing.

We're taken to her home and there she seperates us. Our mothers, the leaves, will be used as vegetables for her soup. The younger stems will be resold or fed to her livestock.

~~~~

Tossing me atop the heap, she fills the drum with water, muttering on the number of days for us to get saturated. She had earlier informed the miller to get ready, we will be grounded and used for food "fufu" she called it.

I have no idea of what became of my other clan members. Our life is a never ending pain; a vicious circle of agony. I await my fate in the hands of the miller with resigned melancholy.


ABOUT THE WRITER: 

I'm Miss Chisom Vincent, a biochemistry student of Olabisi ONABANJO University. I'm a writer, poet and blogger. Author of six books with high hopes to get published this year.  I love reading as much as I write for I get more knowledge to travel the world from them.

Help her win the SHORT STORY CHALLENGE by voting her in the comment section. 


Click HERE to join the Challenge and win N50,000

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