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Dad was 36 when he killed himself. My earliest memories of him was a guy that carried me on his shoulders whenever we went out. As I grew older, I noticed he was always happy. I also noticed, unlike the other fathers around, he was relatively younger and jobless. sometimes, he went around hustling to get something home, most times he just hung around the house, with his green Khaki shorts and a newspaper. Mum always complained that he was the laziest person she had ever seen. she said his mates were the breadwinners of their family but he instead spent his time gambling. They had a lot of fights as regards his gambling. I knew of the word even before I knew the meaning.
Another subject of their fights was infidelity. Mum believed that was screwing all the housewives in the estate. She knew because they don’t greet her well whenever she greets them. she hated the way he wore only his shorts to the balcony, with his well-sculptured body getting admiring glances from the married and unmarried. But as the years flew past, the table turned. The fights became about her infidelity, but unlike dad, she didn’t deny it, instead she reminded him that he was the one that forced her into whatever she was doing. I remember when dad had screamed during one of their fights, ” you can do whatever you want to far from here, but don’t sleep with people of this estate, the shame is killing me”.
It wasn’t like they didn’t have their good times. Dad was a jovial guy, he was always happy except when he was fighting with mum. After their fights, he would come to our room to tell us that everything was alright, that we shouldn’t be worried, ” Mummy and Daddy were just discussing passionately about something important.” Hanatu, my younger sister was too young to understand what he was saying, I was too young to tell him I was old enough to know they were fighting. I was also too young to tell him to reduce the grunts he and mummy make when having sex, I am not disturbed with the noise, I just didn’t want the neighbors hearing mummy say ” AH, OH, YES BABY!”
I never really liked mum, and she knew it. I felt she was always too violent. she smacked my dad and I at will. I was sure dad was strong enough to beat her mercilessly, but he wasn’t like that. Instead when she charges at him, he would run to my room and lock the door. Then we would laugh as mum ranted outside about how dad was straffing Ijeoma, or used the last money in the house to gamble. She complained that there was no money but she kept buying expensive clothes. She was a secretary at a Multi-National Pharmaceutical company, although her salary wouldn’t have been impressive, she always had expensive attires.
Another reason why I detested her was because of Hanatu. I was young, but I knew dad and Mum’s genotype had contributed to her SS. Mum blamed dad for the condition. Saying he had forced himself to marry her even though he was an AS. Dad explained that she was an AS too, but mum just raised her voice, saying he was a good for nothing playboy. So dad and I were the ones that took care of Hana, mum took care of herself.
Mum was very beautiful, same height as dad, very fine shape, light skinned. But dad was the star, no description would have been complete without saying, that man is fine oh! He was from Tunga, ruggedly handsome and always carrying a day old beard before it came into vogue. He was the most charming person around. Though he was jobless and a gambler, he was well-liked by people around. He always had a joke for anybody that was close enough to hear.
He impregnated mum when he was 20, she was 17. Through lotto, he had won a three bedroom flat in Iba housing Estate, mum must have been impressed that such a young guy could own a house. She quickly spread her legs and that produced me. It took a while for her to realize that a gambler never always won. Though they never got married, he knocked her up once more and Hanatu was the fruit.
While Hanatu was named after his mother in Tunga, I was named after his Ghanaian best friend, Fifi Owusu. Many drunken nights, he would tell me about their escapades in the Volta-region of Ghana, before he was deported at age 17 because he had no papers. Most of my friends made jest of my name, especially the Yoruba ones who called me “FuFu”.
With dad dead and Mum gone, things not only changed drastically, they also moved in a new direction.
Kidnapping a chicken was a stealth operation. You hoped the noise from the mission wasn’t much. You also hoped the nosy neighbors didn’t know about the operation.
Ugo, Tope and I had been stalking this particular chicken for a while. We would have gone for the kill last month but I decided it wasn’t big enough and Tope still believed that Mama Joshua, the owner of the chicken had spiritual powers. There was a red piece of cloth tied to the chicken’s leg, while I said it was merely for identification, Tope said it was jazz.
“We would use the three-pronged approach, while I attack from the middle, both of you will close on to it from the side,” I said to the guys.
I was the fastest of the three, Ugo was more muscular, Tope had issues.
“The chicken don big oh!” Tope said with adoration, as he stared at the bird from a distance.
Tope was from a poor family like I was. The only difference was that his folks were with him. His dad was a Laborer with more children than he can cater for. I liked his mum though, especially the amala she makes so beautifully well.
Ugo’s dad was a policeman, while his mum was a teacher. He also had a very cute younger sister called Ogechi. She was a year our junior.
“Let’s get going,” Ugo mumbled.
The chicken didn’t seem to notice that we were approaching it until when we got to about 5m from its position. It started moving away, but as it noticed that we were on its heels, it increased the speed, we did same.
It was a hot afternoon and most grown-ups were at work, Mama Joshua was in her shop and the rest of the kids our age were in their houses.
I was clamping down on the chicken and went for a dive, that was when the unexpected happened. With the size of the bird, I hadn’t expected it to have the ability to fly but it did. But the chicken being airborne wasn’t the main problem; it was the shrieking that came with it. Tope was alarmed but I ignored him. It soon perched at a distance and we followed. It started running in different directions and even attempted to fly but couldn’t, until we cornered it to a wall.
Tope took a go at it; his dive brought him crashing to the floor. His legs and shirt were covered with sand when he stood up. I motioned for the guys to stop moving, the chicken stopped moving after a while too, probably guessing we could retreat, then I dived. I was sure I had caught the bird unawares. I landed with three feathers between my right palm. Fortunately, the re-energized chicken ran into the waiting hands of Ugo.
I looked around to ensure that we were not being watched, Tope brought out a black polythene bag, soon the muffled cries of the bird was only heard by us.
Ugo’s house was usually the venue of our cooking. Sometimes my house was used, but that day, I had no kerosene. It was three months since dad died, and things were looking very bleak. Getting drugs for Hana was getting harder by the day, food was also a problem.
Ugo’s flat was a few blocks away from mine. It was also a three bedroom apartment. Tope was our top chef, so he went to the kitchen while Ugo and I stayed in the sitting room.
“E get this mojo wey I get, na black chocolate,” Ugo said, rummaging through a collection of hidden Video cassette players, until he brought out one with “Farming Club” written at the side.
The video soon played with a white man surrounded by two black busty girls. The video quality was terrible, but Mojo is Mojo. While the initial flirting was going on, Ugo asked me a question I was surprised to hear.
“What’s up with you and my sister,” he asked.
I was speechless for some seconds. It was weird that he chose to ask me while a man was having sex with two girls on the TV.
“I don’t understand,” I replied.
Although he didn’t sound pissed, I had instructed Ogechi to keep our relationship from everybody, especially her brother, the reason being that I could not allow any guy come close to my sister.
“You be my guy oh, if anything dey, just tell me.”
“Nothing my guy.”
I turned abruptly to see our chef behind us. He was transfixed by what was going on in the television.
“Tope, hope say wetin you dey boil no go burn,” I said.
“una dey crase!” he replied exposing his broken incisor.
The sound of the guy grinding the slimmer of the two girls coincided with knocks from the door, so we didn’t notice on time until it grew louder.
“But Ogechi suppose still dey her friend house na,” Ugo moaned, quickly ejecting the cassette, while I went to open the door.
Staring back at me with eyes that could kill the faint-hearted was Mama Joshua.
To Be Continued