By Udousung Blessed Abraham
The day seemed to go on forever, task after task kept coming. The sun was at its peak, its heat drenched her in sweat. The house was suffocating hot. The heat was unbearable. The noise from the moving vehicles and blasting speakers outside were driving her crazy too.
The near-absence of electric power supply which they were accustomed to, had become a burden. Power was being rationed and they got their daily share from 8pm of each night till 7am of the following day. The only consolation was that they at least got to watch Jenifa’s Diary every night.
Playful noise and rattles of kids filled the air. The boys were wrestling outside. She detested wrestling shows. She could never understand why grown men would sign up to get their asses whooped by other men; but her husband loved the idea. He even had a pile of wrestling DVDs neatly stocked under the sound cabinet, like trophies.
“From London, weighing five hundred pounds, the dead mann…. The… Undertaker!”
“From New York, weighing a hundred and fifty pounds, the you-can’t-see-me… Johnn… Cena!!”
She shook her head at the sheer folly, ‘they are at it again.’
She wished the children were at school. She loved it when they were in school, but today was a public holiday. She wondered how their teachers coped. Twenty-four hours with her children was enough to give an acute case of migraine to anybody. Her eyes drifted to Chioma who was standing on a stool, helping her with the dishes. A smile of relief crept to her face. She silently hoped that her wrestlemania boys would learn a bit of responsibility from their sister. With her subtle eyes still on her dish-savior, she mumbled that prayer in her heart.
Crash! The sound penetrated her thoughts.
A louder crash followed.
The shattering sound of metals and ceramics ended her prayers. Her stomach tightened. Instinctively, she ran towards the noise with Chioma trailing behind her.
She yelped, shocked. Lying on the floor was her husband’s favorite cutlery collection: ceramics and porcelain alike, the best of Chinese products. The ones they had intentionally never used since the dedication of Samuel. She felt a sudden surge of rage and pain rise in her head, as a throbbing headache beckoned. Yet she was unexpectedly calm. What ‘better way’ was she supposed to react?
The boys were safe. That was more important than the Chinese porcelain. But then the doctor-do-good was only a few steps away, and they needed to learn their lesson. She dashed for it. As expected, the boys took to their heels. Scattered like defeated soldiers retreating for safety, but years of chasing them had made her faster. She got to pelt them with few heavy strokes on their backs before letting out a confused shriek. She shut her eyes for a few seconds and rubbed her throbbing forehead.
“Children,” Her thoughts took flight. The memories of yells from her mum suffixed by “If your pikin do you like this, you go like am?” hit her like a thunderbolt.
Were those indirect curses?
Children! You make soup with the hope that it would last the week because recession had ceased from being just a dictionary word, but you end up finding the pieces of meat and fish reducing at an alarming rate. They leave debris in their wake. The marred sofa and missing decor pieces in the sitting room were testaments to their presence.
The psychological torture and frustration weighed her down, so much that her knees quivered. She reached out to the calling bed. It had never felt this comfortable.
“Mummy, mummy, the rice have boil o. Come and check it,” her daughter’s cute voice sang in her ears, followed by a gentle tap from her. She shrugged and stretched. Just when the sleep was getting better, she thought. Her eyes opened, unveiling blood-runt pupils. She wished she could split herself in two and slump back into sleep even if it was just for a minute. Picking herself up, she dragged her legs languidly and made for the kitchen to attend to the boiling rice. She had become a superwoman.
“Mummy, I want to drink water.” Little Ike was up. Lines from sleeping on a rubber mat were imprinted all over his face. He would soon start crying for food. She scanned the house for the other boys; they were not in sight.
“Wait, I am coming.” She hissed, shutting her eyes to push back the calling sleep. She entered the kitchen and made for the bubbly pot of rice. Turning to Chioma, she barked, “Go and bring the boys here! Tell them, if I open my eyes and they are not here, they will see what I will do to them!”
And then her head ached again, more severely this time. She shut her eyes tighter and rubbed the throbbing forehead. How could something be capable of causing overwhelming joy and overwhelming migraine at the same time?
She took down the pot, dished the rice into four plates, then placed the pot of soup on the burning gas. She wanted sleep badly. Finally done, she went to the sitting room in search of little Ike.
“Maybe he has gone back to bed,” she mumbled to herself. Her eyes fell on the Ragolis bottle that should contain methylated spirit. It was open and unexpectedly empty. A sudden wind of unease brushed her skin, cold went up her spine and goose bumps coated her flesh. Her head raced as her thoughts slowly became reality.
“No! No no no no no…”
Her pace increased.
“Ikem! Ikem!!” She froze, as color left her face. Sprawled on the ground like a rag was Ikem, the baby of the house, foaming in the mouth.
Her Ike was fighting against death.
“Ikemefuna!” She grabbed the boy and sprinted out of the house, into the open air, shouting at the top of her voice. “Ikem o! Ikem o!!”
The neighbors rallied round her. The younger ones watched in confusion. The older ones grabbed the baby from her and ran inside.
“Red oil! Bring red oil fast,” someone shouted.
“Yes! Red oil go make am vomit wetin him swallow.”
Her mind went blank. Her brain logged off like a shut book. She rushed to the kitchen, grabbed the red oil and shoved it into the hands of the panicking life-savers.
She watched on in tears, with prayers in her heart. She could see them hold her boy and force the red fluid down his throat. She didn’t trust the old wrinkled women with her baby boy, but they were her last hope. She couldn’t wait to grab him and clutch him to her bosom; she would gladly give him water whenever he asked for it and feed him too.
She stared at him. He was barely conscious. Clenched teeth. Frail muscles. His pupils sunk into his skull as he vomited. Sighs of relief and smiles radiated the faces of the neighbors.
Then the air changed. The smiles faded to a frown as lines of confusion crept to their foreheads. He was convulsing again.
Large masculine hands grabbed him and turned him to the side. She reached out to touch her baby. “What is happening?” she mumbled.
“Wasn’t red oil supposed to help? What is happening?” She recoiled her hand, scared to touch him.
“Hold am, hold am. Rub the boy back.” “Bend the boy head.” “Find cold water.” “Raise the boy yansh up.” Different advice and instructions from different people. Despair beat their expertise and confidence.
“What is happening?” she screamed. Madness slowly descended on her as life ebbed out of him. She shuddered. Raising her head up a bit, she noticed her daughter running towards her, the wind slapping her tears to the back. Her entrails clenched, as she shook her head vigorously to knock out the dream playing before her eyes.
“Mummy, Mummy come o. Motor have jam Joseph.” The words rammed into her. For a millisecond blood seemed to leave her brains. Her feet rose in action, with nothing but bewilderment trailing her thoughts. She fell to the ground and allowed the darkness in her soul take her away.
“Cut!” the director’s resonant voice boomed. Roars of excitement choked the air. The director was super impressed.
Udousung Blessed Abraham is from Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. Budding Engineering student of Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri. Writer and a lover of books.
His story has been featured on Tush Stories. He recently published his compilation of Short stories, “Spilled Hues”