Tell Me a Story

Nowhere to Rest (A Nigerian Tale)

Once upon a time, a man named Akunna lived in a village named after his family. They had been the richest family in the whole land, and Akunna inherited all the wealth.

Akunna was hard-working, but he was selfish and unkind. He lived alone because no one loved him or wanted to be with someone so greedy.

One day, after he had eaten breakfast, Akunna was sitting on his front porch when he saw a man dressed in rags walking by. He looked so strange that Akunna decided he must be mad. He tried hard to ignore him, but the man stopped right in front of Akunna and looked him directly in the eye.

"Please, give me some food," he begged in the saddest voice Akunna had ever heard.

But Akunna never gave anything away, and rather than feeling generous, he was angry that someone would be so bold. He grabbed a handful of rice from his plate and threw it at the beggar, who picked it up and ate it fast. He sighed with pleasure and licked his fingers.

And then, before Akunna's eyes, the man transformed from a poor beggar into a beautiful angel of heaven.

Akunna fell to his knees to beg for mercy, but the angel only smiled and said, "Do not be afraid. You were kind enough to share your rice, so I will grant you three wishes."

As the angel's words sank in, Akunna grew excited at the prospect of three wishes. With barely a moment's hesitation, he pointed at his big armchair. "That is the only chair I own," Akunna told the angel. "I bought it so I could sit comfortably after a hard day's work. But sometimes people come to visit me, and they take my chair. I wish that if anyone but me sits in that chair, it shall toss the occupant high into the air and let him fall to the ground."

The angel found this request odd, but he said, "So it will be."

Akunna was filled with joy, so then he pointed to a tree outside his door. "I planted that tree many years ago to make my house look nice, but my neighbors steal the leaves and say it cures children of every illness. I do not like people stealing my leaves. Please put a spell on the tree, and if anyone plucks a leaf, he will get stuck to the tree."

"So it will be," the angel said. "And your third request?"

Akunna led the angel to his shed, and he pointed at his shovels, hoes and rakes. "See these tools? I bought these for a great deal of money, but my neighbors are forever borrowing them, taking advantage of my good nature. Please make these tools so heavy that no one but me can lift them, and if they do, the tools will drop at once on their toes."

"So it will be," the angel sighed, and he disappeared.

A few days later, as Akunna was preparing supper, Satan appeared at his door. Naturally, Akunna didn't recognize him, so when Satan asked to sit in his chair, Akunna smiled and said, "Of course."

Satan sat, and the chair tossed him up in the air. He fell to the ground and hurt his leg. He began to swear and limped away while Akunna laughed.

The next day, as Akunna was preparing to go to work, he heard a commotion in his yard. When he looked outside, he saw his neighbors limping away from his shovels, hoes and rakes. "That will teach you to borrow my tools!" he laughed. He laughed so hard that he could barely catch his breath.

Later that very afternoon, as he was walking back from work, he saw a woman carrying a child on her back. She walked up to his tree and reached up to pluck a leaf. As she did, the tree pulled her close. She was stuck to the trunk. Akunna burst out laughing.

That evening, as Akunna was eating supper, still laughing at the plight of his visitors, he suddenly collapsed from a heart attack. As he fell to the floor, the woman was released from the tree, and all the other curses Akunna had wished for vanished.

A few days later, Akunna's workers wondered why he had not come to work. They went to his house and found him dead.

When Akunna reached the gates of heaven, the angel who had visited his home and granted his wishes greeted him. Akunna didn't recognize the angel, who now had heaven's glow in his eyes and was bathed in light.

"Hello," the angel said as he produced a large book and invited Akunna to read what had been written about him.

As Akunna read, he realized that the only good he had ever done in life was offering a little rice to the angel of heaven. Everything else he had done was greedy, selfish or cruel.

"I'm sorry," the angel said, "but I cannot invite you into heaven. You will have to go to hell."

When Akunna reached the gates of hell, Satan was waiting. But when Satan recognized the man who had cruelly launched him out of the chair, he refused to let him enter hell.

Because of his lifetime of bad behavior, Akunna had nowhere to go. And forever after, he was left to wander eternity alone, with nowhere to rest.

"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.

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