Frederick was shocked, but didn’t show it. He went to his bed, and sat down. He looked at the time, the tales by moonlight would start soon, and Nwakaego hadn’t arrived yet. Frederick looked at Ify, and said, ‘America is an awfully far place from Nigeria, and it’s expensive to travel. Mama cannot just go back to Nigeria after saying for such a short time.’
Ify shook her head. ‘Don’t you get it?’ she asked, climbing his bed. ‘Your father does not want you to know anything about your culture.
‘That’s what I’m trying to make you see. I’m trying to make you give up your yearning for the Ibo tradition. Your father is tied to a horrible past, which he fears will engulf you if you get too involved.’
‘Then why did he bring grandma in the first place?’
‘At times parents do things they don’t want to just to make their children happy,’ Ify replied brusquely. ‘Think about it.’
And at that, she faded away into the light.
Mama served Nwakaego, Frederick and Jasper her Ofe Egusi and boiled cassava under the moon that night. Though Mr. and Mrs. Peterson would not have approved their eating outside, Mama didn’t bother because they were not around. They had gone to a premiere of an adult movie, and reluctantly, Mr. Peterson decided to let Nanny Morgan take the time off.
Mama told them a very scary story that night that Frederick could not sleep peacefully.
It was on the eve of Christmas when three men, Arochukwu, Olisa and Obiora went out for a drink at the bar. These three men played the drum, the guitar and the flute respectively. They had played for the bar that night and everyone danced. It was around twelve when an old woman walked into the bar, and warned them not to play music at night, especially slow songs.
The three men did not listen, and went home that night drunk.
As they arrived their house, they put on all the lights, and locked their doors and windows, and began to play a very sorrowful song. The tune was so sorrowful that they themselves began to cry. They kept playing and playing till, the door and windows began to unbolt themselves.
Too drunk, they did not realize what was happening, until many men, women and children flew into the house singing songs. The men all tied wrappers on their wastes, and were painted all white, with black eye-pencil on their eyes. The children tied long wrappers down their necks and tied them into pants at the bottoms, while the women had a strap to cover their bosom, and a short wrapper tied to their waste; all these spirits were wearing beads and carrying calabashes, and were dancing to the beat.
Olisa, realizing what was happening, begged all of them to continue playing for he knew that if anyone stopped playing, surely they would die. And so they played and played and played till dawn, and the spirits began to leave through the same way they had come in.
Immediately the spirits had left, the doors closed, and so did the windows accompanied by the snapping of the guitar strings, crumpling of the drum, and the bursting of the flute.
Frederick woke up instantly, realizing that he was dreaming Mama’s story all over again. He pulled the sheets closer to him, and flicked his torch light on.
Suddenly, realization dawned on him, Mama was really scary. Why would she tell him such a scary story? He was sure that Nwakaego was having a hard time sleeping too. He couldn’t bear it any longer. Where was Ify when he needed her.
Anywhere he looked, he saw those white people singing. He wished Ify would come, but she hadn’t told him how to summon her, she almost always appeared anytime.
He put on the light of his room, and opened his door to the widest so that the light could shine through the corridor that led to his parent’s room.
He walked out of his room, and tiptoed to the corridor switch. He flicked it on, and tiptoed to his parents’ door.
He wasn’t sure of what he was doing anymore, he hesitated to knock, and just sat there, wondering what he was doing.
Then he saw something zoom past him, black and dense. He heard it whistle as it flew past him. He screamed and knocked on the door hastily.
Mr. Peterson woke up with a start. Who was knocking at his room door by this hour? He looked at his alarm clock, and found that he only had two more hours to sleep. He thought of ignoring the knock, but it continued. He hissed, and rolled out of bed. Making sure that Mrs. Peterson was sleeping soundly, he went to the door and opened it.
Frederick was rubbing his eyelids when Mr. Peterson came out. It took him a while to realize that his father was standing there, and when he did, he hugged him tightly.
A little confused, Mr. Peterson bent and hugged him too. It took a moment before he finally said, and quite sternly, ‘What’s the problem?’
Frederick sniffed, and rubbed his nose. ‘Daddy I’m scared,’ he said, looking around, wondering what the dense black thing was. ‘Mama told me a very scary story about three Ibo musicians, and I’ve been having horrible dreams.’ He continued.
‘How long have you been having horrible dreams?’ Mr. Peterson asked, with a look of utter concern.
Frederick shrugged, and before he could think of what to say, his mouth moved, ‘Ever since she came.’ He shook his head as if confused, but continued. ‘I’m so scared, her goatskin bag, she killed and skinned the goat herself. She is trying to make me remember the Ibo ways so well, Papa I’m scared.’
Of all the things that Frederick said, the only word that struck Mr. Peterson was ‘Papa.’ He thought for a while, and squatted so that his head could be level with Frederick’s. ‘Do you want her to go?’
Frederick turned away at that question. How could he want Mama to go?
Mr. Peterson turned him around. ‘To tell you the truth,’ he said calmly. ‘I never really wanted Mama here. But you seemed to want her so much, though you didn’t know her. I guess it was the African blood in you, the blood that flows in my veins, the blood of my son that wanted it.’
Frederick felt loathing and hatred for himself when Mr. Peterson called him his son. He felt like he was being cheated, and he did not know why. It was all very confusing; he seemed to be having double feelings. ‘I think Mama should go,’ he said reluctantly.
Mr. Peterson felt elated at those words. ‘She’ll pack her things tomorrow, she’ll board the afternoon flight, now go back to bed.’
‘Okay, but can you leave the light on?’ Frederick asked.
‘Are you sure you don’t want to sleep in our room,’ he asked him.
Frederick shook his head.
‘Okay then,’ he took Frederick to his room, and tucked him in. ‘Good night kid.’
Immediately the door closed, Frederick felt something move under his bed, and then Ify appeared, looking disappointed.
‘What did you just tell your father, Frederick?’