“A HOLY VISITATION”
A One Act Play
BROTHER TITUS (his assistant)
GRACE (his girlfriend)
THE SCENE OF THE PLAY; Ajayi’s one-room apartment in Orile.
TIME; The Present.
SCENE: A bedroom in AJAYI’S apartment. The room is in darkness but the dull moonlight streams in through the open window. The air is still. A knock is heard from the living room. (AJAYI, awake; turns his ears to the direction of the rapid knock, listens for a second.)
AJAYI (tapping GRACE, whispering; his voice filled with terror): Wake up! wake up!
GRACE ( she turns and she gives out a moan): Whaa-at?
AJAYI (still whispering): These people are here!
GRACE (still sleepy): Which people?
GRACE (Fully awake): Where!
AJAYI (covering her mouth with his right palm): Sh! They’re outside. . . Can you hear them? (She whimpers and nods behind his palm as the knocking continues.) Better be quiet! (He removes his palm from her mouth.)
GRACE: Blood of Jesus! Blood of Jesus!
AJAYI (smacks her in the mouth): Sh! I said be quiet!
GRACE (on the verge of tears): What are we going to do now?
AJAYI: I don’t know. . .
GRACE (alarmed): You don’t know? You’re the man here!
GRACE: So you should know what to do! This is not a situation for a man not to know what to do.
AJAYI: Why can’t it be a situation for a woman to know what to do? What distinguishes it as a man’s situation?
GRACE: It is just what it is! Are we going to sit here arguing gender roles, while these thieves break the door and come in to us? Or you’re going to go do something about it.
AJAYI: What do you want me to do? Am I a policeman?
GRACE: No, but you’re a man! So go there and ask them what they want! Man-to-man.
AJAYI: How are you so sure they’re men? They could be women; in that case, it would have to be you going there to talk woman-to-woman with them.
GRACE: They’re not women!
AJAYI: How do you know?
GRACE: Because they’re usually men. And those knocks sound like men knocking; aggressive, demanding, impatient. See? Men! So, go out there and ask them what they want!
AJAYI: I’m sure they’re reasonable enough to have a friendly chat with. And since you’re up for a warm conversation, why don’t you go and talk to them instead.
GRACE: Because it’s not my place to do so! Besides, this is your house.
AJAYI: Oh! suddenly the house is mine alone.
GRACE: I’m only a guest here.
AJAYI: You’ve been living here with me for the past one year! You’re no longer a ‘guest’!
GRACE: But I’m a woman.
AJAYI: Oh! please.
GRACE: Man, you better go and find out what’s happening out there, or else. . .
AJAYI (mumbling): If only you had let me take that rifle from my grandfather’s house. . .
GRACE: Yeah, so that you will blow my head off, whenever we have any small argument. No, thank you. . . Besides, I’m sure that old rusty gun can’t even kill a cockroach, not to talk of a whole human being. And I’m sure you don’t even know how to use it; so, get up and go and use what you know how to.
GRACE: Your mouth!
AJAYI (sighs): OK, you know what, let’s go together. That way we have a good number against them.
GRACE: Two is a good number?!
AJAYI: Better than one.
GRACE: Do you know how many they are?
AJAYI: No! Let’s just go.
GRACE: OK. Wait. (She goes to the wardrobe.)
AJAYI: What now?
GRACE (waving a bottle of olive oil): This, Better than any gun, stronger than any worldly weapon.
AJAYI: Really, oil?
GRACE: Anointing oil.
AJAYI: Oh! so what are you going to do with it? use it to fry eggs for the robbers? Or anoint their guns?
GRACE: Splash it in their eyes in the mighty and powerful name of Jesus!
AJAYI: I’m sure that would work!
GRACE: Even if it doesn’t do anything, at least it will blind them temporarily, and give us a chance to escape.
AJAYI: That is if they don’t shoot you first.
GRACE: Are we going or not?
AJAYI: Let’s go. . . Just be calm, and don’t make any sudden movements.
(They tiptoe to the living room. AJAYI takes the lead—into the living room and to the door, where the knock still sound. They stop at the door.)
AJAYI (talks in a deep voice): Who is there?
GRACE (whispering): You think that will scare them?
AJAYI: Sh! (In a deeper voice.) I said who is there?!
DADDY JOEL (from the other side of the door): Ah-ah! Brother AJ, what is wrong with your voice? It is me o, your pastor.
AJAYI: Ah! Daddy! Sorry sir! (He fumbles with the lock. GRACE dashes back into the bedroom. He finally gets the door open.) Ah! sorry for taking so long, sir. Good evening, Daddy.
DADDY JOEL: Evening, my son. . .
(He comes in, followed by his assistant, BROTHER TITUS, a lanky melancholic man of about thirty, who always looks between just waking from a deep sleep and being perpetually bored.)
AJAYI: Thank you, sir, you’re most welcome, sir. . .
DADDY JOEL (standing in the middle of the room, looking around): I hope we didn’t disturb any important thing you were doing o.
AJAYI (puts on a fake smile): Ah! no o, Daddy. It’s always my pleasure to host the man of God in my house, at any hour of the day, sir. Thank you, sir. . . I was only just sleeping, sir.
DADDY JOEL: I see. But I thought I heard your voice; do you talk in your sleep? And I even heard more than one voice, yes, I heard voices; do they talk to you in your sleep?
AJAYI: Who, sir?
DADDY JOEL (drops his voice): You know, from the spirit world. . .
AJAYI: Ah! No o, Daddy. God forbid.
DADDY JOEL: Because, if you’re having that kind of problem, it is a very bad thing o. And if that is what it is, we can go into battle right now; you know I’m always ready.
AJAYI (gives a small laugh): Ah! Daddy, there’s no need for that, the Lord is in control. I’m very fine, sir.
DADDY JOEL: OK, if you say so.
AJAYI: Please sit down, sir. . . What can I offer you, sir?
DADDY JOEL (sits): Nothing, nothing. At least, not now. . . Sit down, sit down. (AJAYI takes the seat opposite him.) I just came to see how you’re doing. I’ve been checking up on the members of my congregation whom I haven’t heard from in a long time. You know, since the pandemic has made them close churches, some of you have just forgotten us, totally forgotten that you have a father-in-the-Lord somewhere, and he too needs to be checked up on once in a while. . .
AJAYI: Ah! We’re sorry, Daddy, you know how everything is, with everybody staying at home, no work, no business, everybody just managing. . .
DADDY JOEL: Ehn! That doesn’t stop you from picking your phone at least once in a while and asking, “Ah! Daddy, how are you o? How is Mummy o? How is everything?”
AJAYI: True, sir, true. I’m sorry, sir.
DADDY JOEL: And I do send all of you WhatsApp messages every morning, praying for you. So, it should not be too much for you to call me and pray for me, too.
AJAYI: I’m sorry, sir.
DADDY JOEL: Do you even respond to the messages?
AJAYI: Ah, yes o, Daddy! Every day, I always type “Amen”, sir.
DADDY JOEL: See? So you activate my prayers with Amen every day, but you don’t pray for me in return.
AJAYI: Ah! Daddy, I do pray for you, sir, in my private prayers.
DADDY JOEL: That one is in private. So, I can’t tell whether it is true or not; but now, I have come today to collect my blessings myself.
AJAYI (gives a nervous laugh): Ha! Sir, I don’t know what you mean, sir.
DADDY JOEL (smiling): You will soon know. . . (Sniffs the air, in the direction of the bedroom, and then turns to BROTHER TITUS, who is standing behind him.) I smell a female presence, or is it my nose?
AJAYI (laughs): Female presence ke, Daddy, you know I live here alone. I’m sure it’s that my new perfume that is disturbing your nose.
DADDY JOEL: It is not only a smell; I sense a presence, the presence of a woman, in this house with us. . . Brother Ajayi, is there a woman somewhere in this house?
AJAYI (stammering, his voice low): Da. . . Daddy. . . it. . . it’s. . .
DADDY JOEL: Just call her out here. There is no need hiding a woman from me. We’re all men.
(GRACE, who has been lurking behind a door listening to everything, comes out, her head bent, eyes on the floor.)
DADDY JOEL (eyes wide with a smile of amusement): Ah-ah! is that not Sister Grace? Abi Titus, are my eyes wrong?
BROTHER TITUS (in a grave, plain voice): You are right, sir, she is the one.
DADDY JOEL: Eh-hen! I know my eyes cannot fail me, especially when it comes to women. I know that face anywhere, even when it is hiding. . . Welldone, my daughter. Grace-Grace, Amazing Grace. So it is Brother AJ here that has kept you in quarantine and has been locking you down since. . . Ah! you these children, you know how to enjoy o, even in these hard times. I hope you’ve been enjoying your special isolation with the good brother. Ehn? You cannot talk?
GRACE (mumbles): Good evening, Daddy sir.
DADDY JOEL (turns to AJAYI): So, my Brother AJ, it is because of this enjoyment that you have forgotten your dear old papa-in-the-Lord, ah. And you too, Sister Grace. Because there is no more praise and worship to lead, you’ve been singing special numbers for Brother AJ every night; singing into his mic. Ah-ah. (Switching to a stern tone) Know one thing, children: if you call yourselves children of the Lord, and you forget your father-in-the-Lord, remember that your Father in heaven will not forget you, neither will He forget your iniquities, and verily I say unto you, my children, He will surely count this quarantine of sins against you!
AJAYI and GRACE: We’re sorry, sir.
DADDY JOEL: I’m not the one to say your sorrys to, I’m not God, I’m only a man of God; a man like you, of flesh and of blood.
AJAYI and GRACE (mumbling to the ground): We’re sorry, Lord.
DADDY JOEL (his voice hardens): Anyway, this is not the time for that. We’re not here for prayer sessions, we’re here on another business. (AJAYI and GRACE look up at him, a mixture of confusion and apprehension in their eyes. He clears his throat.) Now, as you all know, business has been very slow, with churches closed and Sunday services have been suspended for a while now; so, I have sent out the church’s account number for members to keep paying their offerings and their tithes every Sunday; I attach it to the prayers I send to everybody on WhatsApp every morning, but I noticed that people have not been paying; they only respond with Amen sir to the prayers and pretend to not see the account number. Everybody claiming that things are tight, times are hard. . .
AJAYI: But, Daddy, things are really hard.
DADDY JOEL: Are they? That is not what I heard about you? Yes, you in particular, Ajayi.
AJAYI: Sir? Me?
DADDY JOEL: Yes. If things are hard, haven’t you been eating every day? Don’t you want God to eat, too? Don’t you want the man of God to eat? Or how do you expect him to eat if you, the children of God, don’t put food in his plate?
AJAYI: We’re sorry, sir.
DADDY JOEL: It’s a little too late to be sorry now; yes, the time to be sorry has passed. But I’ve made it easy for you; since you won’t pay the tithe and offerings you’re owing God into His account, I have taken it upon myself to come and collect it for Him.
AJAYI: I don’t understand, sir.
DADDY JOEL (turns to BROTHER TITUS): Have I been speaking in tongues, Titus? Maybe the spirit has sneaked up on me and I had gone off in tongues without knowing.
BROTHER TITUS: No, my Daddy, you have been speaking English, sir. Clean and clear English, sir.
DADDY JOEL: Then why doesn’t our friend understand?
BROTHER TITUS (reaching inside his jacket): Maybe I should help him, make him understand. . .
DADDY JOEL (raises his hand to stop BROTHER TITUS): Wait, not yet. Let me try harder. Maybe I should try another language . . . Brother Ajayi, during this lockdown, I heard there has been a lifting-up of your finances, while other men, especially men of God, are experiencing a casting-down in theirs. I hear you got a big boom. Is this true?
AJAYI: I . . . I don’t know where you heard this rumour from, sir, but I think they have given you the wrong information.
DADDY JOEL (turns to BROTHER TITUS, laughing): Titus, he says it’s a rumour.
BROTHER TITUS: That’s what he said, my Daddy.
DADDY JOEL: What do you think?
BROTHER TITUS: I think he’s mad, sir.
DADDY JOEL: I don’t think so. I think he’s just lying, trying to hide things from the man of God. But nothing is hidden in the sight of God. My son, you’ve already lied once this evening to the man of God; lying to the man of God is like lying to God, it is the gravest sin you can commit. I let you get away with that first lie, because it is not the shepherd’s business who his sheep sleep with, if they choose to sleep with goats, that is their business, his only duty is to always lead them back into the fold when they go astray. But when you lie, to God about money that you owe Him, that is a grievous offence. One whose punishment is severe. . . So, Brother Ajayi, I will ask you once again, only one more time: have you recently come upon a huge fortune?
AJAYI: Da. . . Daddy, it. . . it’s. . . it’s not that huge. . .
DADDY JOEL: Then what is it?
AJAYI: Just a few hundred thousand.
DADDY JOEL: How few?
AJAYI: Very few. . . Just about eight.
DADDY JOEL: Just a few inches shy of a million. Ah. Glory to the Lord, my prayers worked! Those prayers I sent to you every morning, that you said Amen to every morning, they worked!
AJAYI: Y. . . Yes, sir.
DADDY JOEL: So, this is how we’re going to do it. God wants only ten percent, that is the tithe; then you will pay the accumulated offerings you’re owing; then you will pay for my services, for the effective prayers I’ve been offering on your behalf. Is that fair?
AJAYI: Daddy, the only problem is that I have spent the money.
DADDY JOEL: On what? I don’t see a car out there; you still live in this hole; you haven’t taken a wife or borne children. . . So what have you spent all the money on? (Sighs.) Brother Ajayi, I’m disappointed in you. Why? Why all these lies, Brother, why? All because you’re trying to rob God. Is it not enough that you sin the sin of the flesh with a fellow child of God? Is it not enough that you lie to the face of the man of God, you lie in God’s face, white lies? Do you have to rob Him of His entitlements too? Ehn, Brother Ajayi? Do you know what happens to liars and thieves?
AJAYI: They. . . They burn in the lake of fire. . .
DADDY JOEL: Yes, but that is on the Big Judgement Day. The instant judgement for liars and thieves is that the mighty wrath of God falls on their head. . . (Motions to BROTHER TITUS with a wave of the hand.) Show him what the wrath of the Lord looks like, Titus.
(BROTHER TITUS reaches into his jacket, a wicked light entering his eyes, as a smirk plays around the corner of his mouth.)
BROTHER TITUS: And the wrath of the Lord came down upon the heads of the Israelites in the form of fire, a consuming fire. . . (He pulls out a pistol. GRACE lets out a shrill scream and falls to her knees.)
GRACE (hands up, shaking): He has not spent the money o! He has not spent it oooo! Ah! Jesu! Ajayi give them the money o! Give them everything.
DADDY JOEL (smiling): Will Ajayi listen to the voice of reason? Or would he rather be visited by the consuming wrath of the Most High.
AJAYI (quietly): I will give you.
DADDY JOEL: Ah, hallelujah! Blessed is the man that giveth unto the bosom of the Lord! Praise be to the Most High. The hosts of heaven rejoice; they rejoice at the repentance of one sinner. . . (Brings out his phone.) Now I will send you the Lord’s account number. . . I have sent it.
AJAYI: My phone is in the bedroom.
DADDY JOEL: Let the girl go and bring it; I don’t trust you not to try any funny business; you’ve lied, you’ve cheated, you’ve disrespected the man of God, I can’t trust you. . . My sweet amazing Grace of God, please go in and bring your lover’s phone so that he can give unto God what is God’s, and give unto Caeser what is Caeser’s.
GRACE (rising): Yes, sir. (She goes into the bedroom, and returns with the phone, presents it to DADDY JOEL.) Here, sir.
DADDY JOEL: Give it to the giver. I am not the one doing the giving.
GRACE: Yes, sir. (Hands the phone to AJAYI.)
DADDY JOEL: Now, give unto the Lord what is His. . . But, wait, the Lord only appreciates a cheerful giver. That is not a cheerful demeanour I’m seeing on you, Brother, or is it, Titus?
BROTHER TITUS: No, my Daddy, it is not.
DADDY JOEL: So, you better wear a cheerful look if you’re going to give to the Lord, my son; or else, the Lord will reject your offering like He did with Cain. Do you want to be the Cain of your generation? I’m sure you don’t. We all remember how Cain ended. So you had better wear a more cheerful look when giving to the Lord, for your own sake. Unless of course you’re not giving it from your heart. . . Or is it not from your heart, Brother Ajayi?
AJAYI (mumbling): It is.
DADDY JOEL: Good! The Lord is pleased to hear that! And He shall be pleased with you, and cause His face to shine upon you. So, wear that smile and give unto the Lord. Unless of course you want our good brother Titus here to help you. . .
(AJAYI looks up at BROTHER TITUS, who raises the pistol an inch, and quickly puts on a smile and begins to type on his phone to transfer the money. A ping sounds from DADDY JOEL’S phone; he peers at the screen, and looks at AJAYI, frowning.)
DADDY JOEL: What is this? This can’t be God’s money. Is this money to wipe the ass with or what?
AJAYI: You said ten percent, sir.
DADDY JOEL: And where’s the rest? I broke it all down for you. Where’s my prayer fee? Where is your accumulated offering? I think you think we’re playing here. . . Titus, I think he thinks you’re a joke. . .
(BROTHER TITUS advances menacingly towards AJAYI, pistol in front of him, and stops when the man begins to speak, his voice shaking.)
AJAYI: How. . . How much do you want me to send, sir?
DADDY JOEL: How much did Grace ask you to send? How much did you ask him to give us, Grace?
GRACE: Ev. . . Every. . . Everything.
DADDY JOEL: The Oracle has spoken.
AJAYI: But, but. . .
(BROTHER TITUS takes another step. AJAYI stops talking and starts pressing his phone again, his hands shaking, tears beginning to stream down his cheeks. The ping sounds again.)
AJAYI: I’ve. . . I’ve sent it, sir. . .
DADDY JOEL (checks his phone): Beautiful. . . Our business here is done. The peace of the Lord be with you. (Just as he rises, a knock sounds on the door. Everybody freezes. He turns to AJAYI.) Are you expecting a visitor?
AJAYI (shaking his head): No, sir.
DADDY JOEL: Then who is that?
AJAYI: I don’t know, sir.
DADDY JOEL: Go and check! It is your house.
GRACE (whispering): That’s what I told him.
DADDY JOEL: Sh!
(As AJAYI goes to the door, BROTHER TITUS tucks his gun back into his jacket; DADDY JOEL returns to his seat and settles in as if on a casual friendly visit. AJAYI opens the door to let in two policemen, SGT. KONGO and CORPORAL. SGT. KONGO is a hefty pot-bellied man with a thick moustache and thick eyebrows, and red eyes that dart all over the place. His eyes sweep the room, settle on DADDY JOEL for a few seconds, and return to AJAYI.)
SGT. KONGO: Whose house is this?
AJAYI: M. . . Me, sir.
SGT. KONGO: We got a distress call that said there was a robbery going on here. Were you the one that sent the message?
AJAYI: No sir, it wasn’t me.
SGT. KONGO: Then who sent it?! And where are the robbers? I don’t see any robbers here. . . Who are these two in suit?
AJAYI: My. . . My pastor, sir.
SGT. KONGO: Both of them are your pastor.
AJAYI: My pastor and his assistant.
SGT. KONGO: What are they doing here at this time of the night?
DADDY JOEL (clears his throat): Good evening, Sergeant. We’re just paying a courtesy call on our church members, sir.
SGT. KONGO (turns to face him): Did I ask you? I’m asking the owner of the house.
DADDY JOEL: Sorry sir, since we’re the subjects of the questioning, I just thought it would be proper if I offered an explanation.
SGT. KONGO: And what is your explanation for paying a courtesy call on your so called church member at such a late hour of the night?
DADDY JOEL: If I may ask, Officer, are we being interrogated here?
SGT. KONGO (eyes flaring): Are you questioning my authority to ask you questions?! In fact, you both are under arrest!
DADDY JOEL: For what?! For visiting a member of my congregation? When did that become a crime?
SGT. KONGO: Corporal! Arrest these men! Handcuff them and march them to the vehicle.
DADDY JOEL: On what charges?! Remember the word of the Lord that said, “Touch not my anointed, and do my prophet no harm” o.
CORPORAL: My friend, will you bring your hands here! (He slaps handcuffs on DADDY JOEL’S wrists.) Who anoint you? Fake prophet like you. Tah! Come on, move. (He shoves him forward, towards the door.)
DADDY JOEL: You still haven’t told us what our offence is?
SGT. KONGO: Convening a clandestine gathering, without the permission of the police. . .
DADDY JOEL: What?!
SGT. KONGO: Resisting arrest, and insubordination towards an officer of the law. . . Corporal, cuff his accomplice too.
(While the corporal is trying to handcuff BROTHER TITUS, who is putting up a bit of a struggle, he feels the pistol in the man’s jacket, and cries out in alarm.)
CORPORAL: Ah, Oga! This one get gun o!
SGT. KONGO: Ah, very good. Man of God wey dey carry gun around. This is very good. . . Add that to the charges we’re counting against you, pastor; possession of arms. You’re doing very fine. What a beautiful night. Corporal!
SGT. KONGO: Take them away! These are the robbers we were looking for. Aha.
DADDY JOEL: Wait, wait! Before you take us away, I have something to say. If I’m going down, I’m not going to go down alone. . . I know who sent you the message; it must be her, this Jezebel, Grace! Yes! Yes, you! When you went in to bring Ajayi’s phone. I shouldn’t have let you go in there alone. But I trusted you. I trusted you because you were the one who brought this deal to us.
AJAYI: What?! Which deal?
DADDY JOEL: Will you shut up there, you! It is because of your stinginess that she decided to rob you; you made so much money and you decided to just keep it in your account while both of you were here drinking garri together. . .
AJAYI: I’m saving for our future! Grace, how could you have done this to me!
DADDY JOEL: Will you shut that your dirty mouth! It is the future you’re saving for that also did not let you pay your tithes? Abi is it not God that will decide if you will see that future or not. And your offering too; abi you don’t want the man of God to eat too?
SGT. KONGO: So, because he didn’t pay your tithe and offering, the best option was to come and rob the poor man.
DADDY JOEL: She was the one who gave us the idea; she brought the information that he had just hammered, and she also drew up the plan for how it should go. . . And this wasn’t part of the plan, you thief! Witch!
SGT. KONGO: Well, she repented and decided to call the police. Lucky for her, she is no longer recognised by the law as an accomplice. . . As for you two, you will get your own punishment inside the cell from the mosquitoes and the hardened criminals and our boots. Corporal, move these idiots out of my sight! What are you waiting for? (As the corporal shoves the duo out through the door, SGT. KONGO turns to the visibly shaken AJAYI.) You too, you’ll have to follow us to the station too, to answer some questions about the events of this night, and then we’ll decide if we’re going to open an investigation into how you came about such a huge amount in these hard times that we’re in. . . So, please follow them.
AJAYI: Am I. . . Am I under arrest, sir?
SGT. KONGO: No o, like I said, just a few questions to help with the case.
AJAYI: OK. How about. . . her?
SGT. KONGO: Eh-hen? What about her?
AJAYI: She attempted to rob me. . .
SGT. KONGO: But she didn’t. Is she not the one that called the police. Mister man, please join the others outside and wait for us there. She’ll join you soon because she’s also following us to the station to answer questions too.
AJAYI: OK sir. (He exits the room.)
SGT. KONGO (turns to GRACE): So, how you talk say we go do am, fifty-fifty abi?
GRACE: Ah, Kongo, but na me bring the deal now.
SGT. KONGO: Eh-hen? No be us get the manpower? Na us dey do most of the work na.
GRACE: OK, OK, sixty-forty.
SGT. KONGO: You be thief? E be like you wan make I arrest you sef join. You know say I fit arrest you, charge you as accomplice, wey you no go see one naira out of the money. So, choose one: fifty-fifty or hundred-zero.
GRACE: You too like money, Kongo! OK, OK. I agree. Oya.
SGT. KONGO: Who no go like money, as everything hard like stone like this, man gat to work for himsef o. . . So when we reach station, the pastor go transfer the money to us and we go do am like that. Oya make we go.
(They both exit the room, mumbling things to each other and laughing.)
Olu Familoni writes plays (for stage and radio), screenplays, and short fiction. His debut collection of stories, Smithereens of Death, won the ANA Prize for Short Stories in 2015; his debut play, Every Single Day, was selected by the British Council as part of the Lagos Theatre Festival in 2016; he wrote the children’s book, I’ll Call My Brother For You, in 2019; his unpublished poetry chapbook, Love is a Profusion of Roses Growing from the Barrel of a Gun, was shortlisted for the Libretto Chapbook Series in 2020. He is working on a second collection of stories. His work has appeared in Panorama Journal, Ake Review, Agbowo, Bakwa Magazine, Jalada Africa, Kikwetu Literary Journal, Afridiaspora Anthology. He lives in Ibadan, Nigeria.