My mum still didn’t say a word to me. She got out of the car, called for Ncheta, my cousin of some sorts, who ran out of the house, drying her hands on a discoloured apron.
“Auntie, welcome,” she genuflected, dipping her knees.
“Blessing, welcome,” Ncheta turned to take my school satchel when my mum asked her if that was what she called her out from the house to do? Carry school bags?
“But Auntie, òkwa I always carry Blé-Blé’s school bag into the house?”
I hated that Ncheta still called me Blé-Blé like she was prepping her oesophagus for a vomit.
My mum didn’t deign to reply.
She turned to our gateman, Hyginus, another distant relative, gestured to him, pointing to the boot of the car.
Meekly, Ncheta returned my satchel to me and walked over to the boot to help Hyginus take in whatever it was that my mum had purchased. There was no point going to help; with my mum in that mood, it was best I kept out of the way.
I went into the house, not bothering to hold the door open for them. Slamming it shut behind me, I stomped angrily to my bedroom, threw my satchel on my bed and slumped into my rattan chair, gnashing my teeth in deep frustration. Who did Nkechi Mgb’orie think she was anyway? She wasn’t even as clever as me! The conjugated antelope! Her writing looked like chicken scrawl and she couldn’t even recite her twelve times table! Semi-blockhead like her! I ground my teeth even deeper.
“Let Ncheta take him to the back and tie him up.” I heard my mum say to someone, presumably Hyginus, from my bedroom window that faced the side of the house that led to our backyard. It was probably the he-goat she’d been promising to buy that needed tying up. He-goats were notoriously stubborn creatures more so towards men. Traditionally, women took he-goats to the market for sale or brought them home from a sale, as they were more amenable to females; bovidae and human alike.
That was my job!
I knew what my mum was doing; taking away all my ‘privileges’ as she called them. She knew how much I loved anything to do with taking household purchases from the car boot to the kitchen or backyard, as the case may be, raking the backyard of leaves and feeding the chickens and goats, (We owned a small-sized poultry and bred goats for sale).
At this very moment, I hated her, hated Ncheta and Hyginus! I hated everyone! Stupid people with their stupid minds! I wished I could turn them into bush rats, like princes got turned into frogs in those stupid fairy tales Ncheta loved to read. Not only turn them but cage them as well!
I paced up and down my room, imagining all sorts of ways I could get back at all of them, including Nkechi, Limp Obed and that sanctimonious agama lizard, Simon-Peter.
Then, I looked around the room for something to do. I knew better than to throw anything in my anger. My mum, with her bat-like hearing, will appear in a flash and I didn’t care to think of what her reaction would be. I was already in too much trouble as it were.
Nothing to do; nothing to throw.
I gnashed my teeth further in frustration and flung myself on my bed.
There was that stupid book, the book that not-so-limp Obed gave me from her ‘beloved’ Head Teacher!
I pulled it from under me; that was part of what was annoying me!
First of all, I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why she had to put those old-fashioned adjectives before Head Teacher…and she called my mum, ‘virtuous’.
She obviously doesn’t know my mum very well!
Secondly, why didn’t the Head Teacher just reprimand me? It would have been over and done with by now. Well, almost. I would have had to write 500 lines, promising not to hit my classmate with a book, (that I could do in a matter of hours), and after that, apologise publicly to Nkechi. As if that was any skin off my nose!
I wasn’t reading that stupid book!
I flung it away, aiming for the door, but somehow, it landed at the foot of my bed.
It was probably full of some religious dos and don’ts – ‘love thy neighbour’, ‘turn the other cheek’, blah…blah…blah. Mrs Greenford, our Head, loved all that type of stuff… Moral Instruction, Religious Knowledge, and all what not. Meanwhile, for the rest of the contents of my satchel, those had spilled on my bed. I swept them to the floor with an angry hand, fell on the bed, staring at the ceiling, my top and bottom molars grinding in continued frustration.
The sun began to make its descent towards the horizon; the shadows in my room grew longer. Bored with all the anger and frustration, I reached for the book again.
I could barely make out the title –
49 WISE SAYINGS, 72 IDIOMS, 44 QUESTI…
the rest had faded with time or much use.
I switched on my bedside lamp and drew my curtains shut.
The foreword spoke about the importance of proverbs blah, blah, blah, something or the other about ‘your fellow man’. Well, I wasn’t a man, so it didn’t apply to me. I carried on reading regardless, after all, I had nothing to do.
It had sayings like –
- Idleness is the devil’s bolster.
- Diligence is the Mother of Good Luck.
- No sweat, no sweet.
- From bad to worse is poor improvement.
and so on and so forth.
I wasn’t even in the mood for this! What is the devil’s bolster anyway?
I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew was Ncheta shaking me awake, asking if I was hungry. I shook her off, dragged myself to my bathroom, brushed my teeth, changed out of my uniform into my hand-sown nightgown and went straight back to bed.
That weekend continued in an angry blur with only one clear incident; a phone call from Nkechi’s parents. My mum marched into my room, dragged me into the living room by my left ear, pushed me down into the single-seater sofa by the coffee table and held the receiver to my right ear.
“Apologise”, she hissed, her eyes ablaze. One of the few words she spoke to me that weekend.
“Hello, is this Nkechi?”
“Hello, my dear. No, this is Nkechi’s mother. Blessing, what happened? I thought you and Nkechi were friends?”
Truly, Nkechi and I used to be friends in primary school but when we got into secondary school and I was put in a higher class for all my subjects and she wasn’t except for English, our friendship suffered.
“I’m sorry, Auntie, I don’t know what came over me,” I said in the solemnest of tones that I could muster. “Is Nkechi there? I need to apologise to her.” I carried on, pre-empting any further telling off by my mother. She was still pulling my ear, albeit, not as viciously as when she pulled me from my room.
“Hello? Hello?” I looked up quizzically at my mum, indicating that there was silence at the other end. She didn’t budge, just fixed her blazing eyes on me and yanked on my ear a little bit more.
“Hello?” A voice came on at last but it wasn’t Nkechi’s or Mrs Mgb’orie’s, it was Mr Mgb’orie’s, Nkechi’s father. In exasperation, I rolled my eyes but not that my mum could see. Nkechi’s father spoke with a lisp and not just any old lisp; he spoke as if his tongue was too thick for his teeth. He sounded like a fat, flapping seal. I hate lisps. Once again, I wished I could shut him up or make him gasp like a dehydrated catfish.
“Blé-Blé,” another gag reflex in place of my name. “I thought you and Nké were friends, what happened?”
A second slow brain. Didn’t his wife just ask me the same thing? Did I give her an answer?
A mental eye-roll. I wasn’t taking any chances. My mum would twist my ear into a knot if she as much as glimpsed a hint of a contemptuous countenance.
“I’m so sorry sir,” I could put any penitent to shame. “I don’t know what came over me but I promise you it would never happen again.”
“That’s my girl,” he gurgled. At least that’s what he tried to say ‘cuz what I heard was ‘das mai gui.’
My mum let go of my ear.
It was finished.