5 to 11

Every morning by 5am, we are roused by Mama's rough palm on our cheeks. It's time for our morning prayers. Drowsily, we would walk to the palor with papa already there on his favorite recliner. A big King James open in front. Once we were seated, he would take off his well worn glasses and signal Mama for praise and worship. This will be accompanied with loud claps of our palms and some sudden jerking spirit motions from papa. This dance was for him alone as we weren't strong enough to have the Holy ghost. With the way Papa jerks and moans, I'm not sure I want it.

After the praises, it would be time for bible reading. We took turns reading it. It was always clumsy and longer whenever it was mama's turn. We have to help her with half the words in the passage. It was time for the prayers after the gruelling praise sessions. It was during these sessions that Papa spoke in different tongues. Buru says it's languages for the spirits. During our prayer sessions, our next wall neighbors would slap the thin walls in frustration. Papa would say our prayers were making our enemies uncomfortable and then we would scream prayers at full volume. We occasionally fell asleep but Papa would chase the sleep demons out with stinging slaps across our innocent cheeks. When it was mama sleeping with exhaustion, he would stare at her in contempt and dismay before undertaking the task of violently shaking her up. Mama cries in some prayer sessions. Papa says it's a sign she's letting the holy spirit in.

In the morning our landlady would come with eviction threats if we don't stop disturbing the compound. Papa's defiance always got the better of him.

Mama sold beans, rice, fried yam, potatoes, akpu (fufu) and soup at a kiosk not far from a kiosk that wasn't too far from our day school. After our morning prayers, we would march to the backyard with her to heat up or complete the cooking that started the previous night.

By 7:30, with my hand firmly placed in Buru's firm grip by mama and warnings of "hold your brother well o", we would march off to school. Ama our small sister was violently killed by a rich car on our way to school. We weren't in it's way. It came to us and carried Ama off violently and dropped her in the gutter. Papa said we couldn't arrest him because he was a top man at the echelon of power. His people came to our house with consolatory items and fats bundles of money. They said mistakes happen all the time and that they were sorry and that they would take care of the burial costs.

Mama went livid. She tore at, scratched at them. She was carried away by Uchenna, our nosy neighbor. Papa accepted the money. It was from it that Mama's shop was built.

After our prayer sessions we never saw Papa until nighttime. From school, we would go to Mama's shop where she was either dosing off or washing things and  talking to herself. The free-medical-check-up-Doctor says it's 'trauma'. I asked Buru what it meant. He had no idea. I'm not sure I understand what Papa's longman dictionary explained.

 At the shop, we would wait till 6pm when mama would have sold all or almost the foods. By 8pm, she will start cooking again.

By 10pm, papa would walk reeking of something Buru says I'm not supposed to know what it is. At 11pm, we would start our nighttime prayer sessions after mama must have paused her cooking. These sessions weren't as long as the ones in the morning.  In school today, our teacher asked me what my father did for a living. I told her he was our church treasurer. She roared in laughter and asked me to go and sit down. Buru said she was just being silly.

Papa collects the money from mama's sales. He says it's for a project he is working on. Mama never protests when he gives her just enough to buy more foodstuff and ingredient. She says they are both in the project. Something about Italy I heard them saying in my sleep.


It's been a month now. We've stopped going to school, moved to the village and started waiting. Buru has started his apprenticeship with Akpati at his casket shop. Next week I'm going to Jonah's shop to have my measurement taken for my overall. I don't like the greasy stuff around the cars in Saturday's mechanic shop. Mama says it's just for the time being. Papa would soon call. We've been waiting for his call.

Yesterday, John, Papa's only close friend called with Buru's small phone. He said the church headed by the pastor came to our old house with machetes and clubs. They told anybody who cared to listen that papa eloped with the church bus money in excess of N450,000.

Mama says Papa borrowed the money to travel with to Italy via Libya. He went there to make money so we can all join him later. Traveling by flight was too expensive so he had to go through the desert and Libya and then to Italy. "He will soon call", she promised.

This morning, Buru rushed to the verandah where mama was shelling melon seeds to announce that he just heard over the radio that a ship carrying illegal immigrants en route Italy via Libya capsized and that none survived. He was saying that majority of these immigrants were Nigerians.

He stopped talking when he saw mama walking towards the junction.


Powered by Blogger.