by Adesina Ajala
With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
—Samson, Judges 15:16
She leaned her back on the bathroom wall. The scent of the soap she had used to bathe hours ago still lingered in the air. She drew the fragrant air into her nose, parted her thighs and pulled a fully soaked pad from her pant. She felt the weight of the pad and examined the clotted blood on it. She sighed and whispered, I failed again, God. She held her tummy to help relieve the cramps in her womb, dragged herself slowly from the bathroom and slouch on the sofa with a wince. A Bible verse stayed on her mind and she flipped her phone open to search her Bible App.
And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.
She wiped tears with the back of her hands, returned to the kitchen and picked the matchbox to light the gas cooker.
She heard a car honked at the gate. It was exactly like her husband’s, Manoah. Then a soft knock made the door creaked.
She wiped wet palms off her apron and responded, Yes, dear.
A shimmering light, the shape of a man, levitated at the door. She drifted backward and crumbled on the rug. He spoke softly to her, Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son.
The angel allowed her to gather herself a bit before he continued, therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. The angel’s voice began to wane. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth.
Another knock landed on the partly opened door. She lifted her head and saw her husband pulled the curtains behind him. He asked with awe in his eyes, Dear, why are you on the floor?
Has he gone? She replied Manoah.
The angel. Has he left?
He turned and searched curiously. He looked confused. Angel? No angel here.
She pointed to the door and argued, There was an angel there. He just spoke to me. He said we’ll have a son.
Manoah folded his arms on his chest and sighed. He reached for her, pulled her to his chest and said, Haven’t I told you before? Don’t allow this issue gets to you again.
She began to stammer, I-I hear-heard him clearly. And he wa-was full of li-light.
She kept turning in the bed that night, eventually picked her phone and typed into Google: Pregnancy and Alcohol. The result came as: Did you mean Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? She clicked and read till her eyes became numbed.
At the night devotion earlier, she had reminded her husband before he prayed the final prayer, Dear, don’t forget that that you said you’ll pray about the experience I had earlier.
He hesitated, but had to pray to satisfy her. Lord, he said, let the man you sent come again to us, and teach us what we’re to do with the boy that will be born.
She went out to gather the cloths she had washed and spread on the line in the morning. She bent to pick a blouse that had fallen on the ground when the man appeared again. Her voice shook and she shivered. She finally found her voice and screamed, My dear! Come and see! He’s here again!
Manoah ran to the backyard, but couldn’t move closer to her because of the dazzling light of the angel. Manoah looked with fear and contemplation before he asked, Are you the man who spoke to my wife?
The angel answered softly,Yes.
Now when your words come true, what is to be the boy’s manner of life?
Of all that I said to the woman, let her beware.
He flapped his wings and vanished.
Manoah jerked out of sleep, panting. He shook his wife and repeated breathlessly, The angel. The angel.
She waited for three weeks to pass to be sure she had missed her period. She let her urine damp the pregnancy strip. Two thick bands appeared at the control and test points. She exhaled and exclaimed, I’m pregnant!
Her husband leaped from the dining table when he heard her screamed for joy. He dragged the strip with her and begged, Let me see, please. Let me see it.
She jumped on his back after leaving the strip for him.
She spent the rest of the day day-dreaming of the local maternity in the town, chanting folklore songs with other pregnant women, the doctors examining her tommy and the ultrasound confirming that she would have a boy.
The pregnancy went well, until one morning when she broke down into deep moans. Her husband helped her to the hospital. His heart skipped with every wince she made as he drove. He had thought of calling the ambulance, but later changed his mind. The smell of antiseptics and drugs nauseated her as they held her into the labour ward.
They had a boy and called his name Samson. He grew into a young man gifted for martial arts. When the inspiration to fight stirs within him, he would become wild. His biceps would bulge into a contour and his locks would curve at the tails.
The Israelite ladies were fond of Samson. They fluttered around him like flies around a bad wound. He once changed his profile picture on Facebook and had to laugh himself to tears at their comments.
Samson strolled to the city of Timnah one weekend and one of his friends introduced him to a girl in the city. Meet my friend, Samson, he said with a smile.
Samson threw his hand out to her. They shook and giggled. He felt the softness of her palm. She smiled gleefully.
Samson looked her in the face and said, You’re beautiful.
She blushed. Thank you. I’m glad to meet you, Sam.
They exchanged phone numbers, and he promised to keep in touch.
Samson’s friends teased him after he has seen her off to the other side of the road, Nice catch, bro.
He winked and laughed.
Samson returned home on a train. He picked his phone, put the data on to access the internet and allowed the new notifications die down. He clicked his WhatsApp and messaged his Philistine girlfriend, Hey! Just checking on you, and added a blushing smiley.
He clicked her profile photo and examined it. Then he checked her status update and ran through it. Although he disliked filtered photos, he had to comment, Looking gorgeous.
Time passed, and they became lovebirds.
Samson’s mother began to yell one Saturday evening after Samson told her about the girl he met in Timnah, You can’t marry that girl, Samson!
Why, mother? Why?
Hmmm, she heaved, and then made a long sigh. My son will not marry the enemy of my people.
But I love her, mummy.
There are lots of beautiful Israelite ladies in town, can’t you find any?
Samson pressed himself to the chair and tapped his feet to ease his anger.
Samson’s mother pondered over the matter all the weekend. She decided to send for Samson. You’ll not kill me, you hear? Since that’s what you said you want, I would try to talk to your father. If he agrees, fine.
Samson gave a quick smile and cheered, My moma!
A young lion ran into Samson on his way to the introduction of his family to his in-law. An unusual rage lighted his spirit. He grabbed the lion by its jaws and tore them apart with bare hands, cold blood sputtering into his hands. He let the lion writhe till he couldn’t see its chest rise and fall again. He cleaned his hands and kicked the carcass into the bush.
He saw the worry in his mother’s eyes, but didn’t tell his parent why he joined them late.
The wedding date was picked after the introduction. Soon, Samson and his parent went to complete the marriage rites. Samson peeped to check the lion he had killed the last time. A swarm of bees has made a home of it. He dipped his hands to scoop honey and ate as it dripped from the sides of his palm. He gave his parent some, and they liked it, but didn’t tell them where he got the honey.
During the marriage ceremony, Samson posed a teaser to his thirty groomsmen. The teaser had a prize to it.
Tell us the teaser; tell us, they chorused with excitement.
Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet.
They became crestfallen and looked dejected after they had heard the teaser.
Three days went, and there was still no answer to Samson’s riddle. They thought of what to do to get the answer. An idea came to them; they began to threaten the bride.
Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is; else we’ll set you and your father’s house on fire.
The bride began to pressure Samson for an answer to his riddle. She cried and begged until Samson became overwhelmed. On the last day of the feast, the groomsmen came to Samson and bloated, We have the answer to your riddle now. They quickly added, What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?
Samson knew how they had cheated on the answer. His eyes became a whirlwind and gall. He went into a near-by town, killed thirty men and took their fabrics to redeem his pledge to his groomsmen.
He returned to his town in anger.
The bride broke into tears when she heard that Samson had abandoned her. She cried till her stomach began to ache.
Samson’s best man was from Timnah too. He was constrained to take the bride to blunt the shame.
I can’t believe I’m doing this to Samson, he had objected initially.
Don’t worry. If Samson should show up, I would give him the younger sister, the bride’s father convinced Samson’s best man finally.
When Samson fully healed from the trauma and came back to himself, he returned to Timnah to see his wife. He couldn’t believe what he saw.
His pain returned, like a freshened wound. He caught three hundred foxes, tied their tails in pairs and lighted them with fire. They ran into the standing grain of the Philistines and the olive orchards and made a wreckage of everything.
The townspeople became angry; they besieged the house of Samson’s in-law and burnt everyone inside with fire. Samson retaliated. He took a fresh bone of a donkey and used it to crush a thousand men of Philistine to cruel death, chanting: With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
Delilah was Samson’s latest heartthrob. He met her after his last escapade with a Gaza harlot. He had to pull the gate of the city up to a hill to beat the terror the people of Gaza had planned to unleash on him one time.
This is the third time you have deceived me, baby, Delilah said to Samson amidst tears, how do you say you love me? How?
Samson looked into her misty eyes. She avoided his face and continued to sob. He became soft with emotions. He mulled for minutes before he began, A razor has never come upon my head; for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. He weaved his seven locks into one, flunked it around his neck and said slowly, If I be shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
She cleaned her tears as Samson talked.
She drew him closer to her chest, kissed him and began to stroke his laps. Samson started to snore. She was certain he has told her all his heart. She got a man to shave Samson’s head.
Delilah called out to him when the lords of the Philistines came to hold him hostage as they had done three times previously without success.
He scrambled from her laps and shook himself. He was as lame as withered leaf. The strengthening Spirit had left him.
They pounced on Samson and beat him to a pulp.
One of the lords asked for Delilah’s account details and transferred the deal money to her immediately. She acknowledged the credit alert, hissed at Samson and quipped; the monkey doesn’t know that sweet things kill too.
She looked at Samson again and saw blood trailed a line over his swollen face.
The lords of the Philistines gouged out his eyeballs and kept him in prison. Samson’s hairs started to grow again.
A feast was arranged to appreciate Dagon, the god of the Philistines, for delivering Samson into their hands. The Philistines gathered in the hall for the feast. Middle into merriment, Samson was called to perform. They jeered at him.
Samson began to pray to God. He motioned for help. Samson grasped the two middle pillars which held the building and leaned on them. He then pleaded, Let me die with the Philistines. He bowed his head and the hall crumbled like a sandcastle on the lords, the Philistines, and himself.
Brown, thick dust wafted into the sky from the rubbles.
Adesina Ajala is a Nigerian writer-poet, medical doctor and intending surgeon. His works have appeared in Libretto, Parousia, The Wild Word, Ngiga Review, Red Letter Journal and elsewhere. He was 2nd runner-up and winner Shuzia Creative Writing Contest 3rd and 4th editions respectively, co-winner TSWF Writers Prize and two-time winner Fodio Data Stipend for Poetry.