Nothing in Caca’s seventy years of existence could have prepared her for this experience. Not even when she had given birth to her son fifty years ago in a midwife’s hut called MY CHILD far away from civilisation. The son she hadn’t spoken to in six months.
Her captors spoke in voices that betrayed youth; hesitancy flitting through their eyes every now and again. “The world had indeed gone mad, she thought, children who should still be suckling at their mother’s breast?”
The leader handed the phone to her, and in gruff tones he said, “tell him ten million naira by tomorrow or you’ll never be seen again”
She could hear wailings in the background. Her daughter-in-law’s voice stood out; filled with the terror of the unknown. It dawned on Caca that indeed absence made the heart grow fonder. She missed them; she had been so foolish. The phone slipped out of her hands. A slap blinded her momentarily.
This is what it had come to; the relentless lure for vengeance that came from idleness and a battered self esteem; a misplaced use of energy though, seeing as she was one of their own; a daughter of the land of oil. Her son was just a mere actor and she, a wheezing, cackling bag of bones. It was absurd but then this was real. Fear held her in its unyielding grip.
Sleep that night was tortuous. The cold cement floor and the fat noisy mosquitoes conspired to give a new meaning to fitful sleep, and even once she opened her eyes and saw the butt of a gun pressed to her feet.
She wanted to ease herself. The leader roused himself, obviously disgusted at the disturbance.
“May your mother’s bladder burst!” she swore under her breath.
Can I have some privacy? she asked as he hovered over her just near some tall elephant grass, the steel of the AK47 glinting in the early moonlight.
“Never mind”, she said.
Today was the day. She knew her son would try to get the money. Mother-son bond was a hard one to break. But she resented that.
She scanned the deserted area and knew screaming was not an option. One shot from that gun……!
On getting up, a land mark came in view. Her smile spoke a million words.
When the sun rose properly, he handed her the phone, “Tex Junction, 2.00pm”
She only nodded.
She said softly and clearly into the mouthpiece, “We expect you at 2.00pm, Tex junction, ayen mi.
He frowned and snatched the phone back.
“I didn’t ask you to say that one; he knows he’s your child!”.
The distant sound of a car was heard in the distance as it sliced through the air.
“No car passes here”, he said to his assistant, his brow furrowing.
But the sound soon faded away; hope knocking the wind out of Caca as it took its leave.
Fidgety, he redialled the number and said into the phone, “we are waiting or we kill her!”
“We are here, a voice said, put up your hands and drop your weapons!”.
Her son stared back at her from the door; a shadow of himself.
“Ayen-mi”, she said and collapsed in his arms.
Her captors were rounded up by the policemen; with heads hung loose, eyes filled with cold defiance.
Across the fields, a ramshackle hut stood forlorn and on it hung the fading wood board with the words: AYEN-MI
Mother and son looked at each other.
“Thank you for understanding and remembering”, Caca said to her son.