(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story opens with the funeral of Ikolo, a jovial, convivial man who had predicted that on the day of his funeral he would return “if only to have his last laugh.” In Lagos, Nigeria, the length of a funeral procession usually tells “the sort of man who had died.” However, although Ikolo was quite popular and was known and appreciated for delighting in making people laugh, his funeral procession is unusually short. Everything about the funeral and the day on which it occurs is strange and ominous: the dreary rain, the “disturbed” singing, the disorganized procession, the general lack of coordination, and the rather awkward, irreverent atmosphere, all of which are noted by the onlookers who line the procession route.

The hearse bearers lead the bare-bones procession, attended only by a small familial group of mourners consisting of Ikolo’s mother-in-law, aunts, uncles, sisters, and nephews. Over the combined din of the unsynchronized singing, the mourners’ weeping, and the grinding wheels of the hearse, a strange noise arises. At first the sound is barely audible to anyone except Ikolo’s mother-in-law but later is loud enough to be heard by others, particularly the hearse bearers, who soon determine that the now thunderous knocking sound is coming from inside the sealed coffin. The mourners are stopped cold in their tracks by a muffled voice, calling out the name of the dead man’s wife, Jokeh, asking her to open the casket. Shocked at the now distinctly violent knocking from within the coffin, the panic-stricken hearse bearers drop the casket and flee as if possessed, as do the rest of the mourners and onlookers. Even the...

(The entire section is 677 words.)