Mr. Tuck, Koye Oyediji
1. I was still shaking when I came down for dinner that evening. My uncle from
2. Rochester was there. We called him that because that’s where he first landed
3. when he came from Nigeria after winning the visa lottery. Now he was in Bowie,
4. with his wife and young family, and was always around our house on the
5. weekend for fellowship prayers and to eat and drink Star beer with my dad, as
6. though his wife’s helpings were not enough.
7. That evening he was at the dining table lapping up egusi soup with a ball of
8. ground rice in his hand. He smacked his lips on his fingers and my dad
9. complained about me not having the manners to “properly greet” my uncle. I
10. quietly objected to the emphasis on “uncle”: He was only my uncle insofar as
11. every Yoruba man who walked through those doors was my uncle. I said hello,
12. prostrated in the usual custom, and my uncle from Rochester grunted a response.
13. “What is wrong with him?” my dad asked, as though I were not in the room.
14. “Is he sick?”
15. “Don’t mind him,” my mother said as she emerged from the kitchen. “He is in
17. “Mourning?” my father asked.
18. “Yes. His friend the witch, his babalawo, has died.”
19. “Ey!” said my uncle with a phony sense of alarm. Babalawo was a dirty word
20. in our good Pentecostal Christian home.
21. “And so your friend is gone, eh?” my father said. I shrugged my shoulders and
22. collected my plate of food. I made to head back upstairs, but my mother gestured
23. for me to sit at the table beside her. “We shall pray for him,” she said, speaking in
24. English on my behalf. “He was a very troubled man.”
25. My father kissed his teeth. “He was a crazy man.”
26. “What town is this man from?” my uncle asked, since it was now a topic
27. of conversation.
28. My mother had this way of pouting, of turning her mouth upside down in
29. disgust or disagreement, and the thought of Mr. Tuck being Nigerian
30. promptly brought both feelings out of her. “He is African-American.”
31. I said nothing as I ate, my hands near trembling, the food turning in an already
32. unhinged stomach. I left them to it after I felt I’d eaten what I could. I cleared the
33. table and brought them a bowl of soapy water in which to wash their hands. As I
34. went up the stairs I could hear them as they moved around and rustled the pages
35. in their Bibles. Not long after I was in my bedroom listening to the murmurs of
36. their collective prayers. I was riled up, disgusted with the way they had
37. spoken about Mr. Tuck, as though they’d had known him, as though they had
38. met him. But above all, I was disgusted with myself and with the way in which
39. I had fed them the stories he fed me, with humor and, if I was honest, trace
40. amounts of ridicule.
The detail that the uncle “drink’s Star beer with my dad, as though his wife’s helpings were not enough” (lines 5-6)