Sunday flung the charred pot away and gripped his right wrist reflexively. The smoking pot slammed against the refrigerator, bounced about aimlessly, and then settled awkwardly at a corner on the checker board ceramic floor of the kitchen. Sunday fanned his face, in a bid to shoo away the ashy smell of the smoke.
Weee, Weee, Weee, the smoke alarm wailed, desperate for attention.
“Shut up! “ Sunday barked, more from the pain of being seared than from a want for quiet. He bumped into Kim as she positioned a ladder directly under the smoke alarm.
Ding, dong, ding, dong, sounded the door bell.
“Sunday! What’s going on?” Geneva asked through Sunday’s cell phone, which sat face down on the kitchen counter.
“Go on, honey. Climb,” Sunday urged his wife, flashing a giddiness that bordered on weird.
“You climb,” Kim ordered, a scolding look on her face. “Pervert.”
Sunday brushed aside her comment. He was sorry, but he couldn’t help it. He had two weaknesses. One was his wife’s cagey sensuality. He was as into her today as he was the first day he set eyes on her.
Despite Kim’s intoxicating beauty and stubborn curves, she did more to hide it than flaunt it. She always wore none to very little make up. What you saw was what you got. Her approach to make up, and in deed to life, was wrapped up in one word – natural. That and her aloof intelligence drew him to her like crazy.
Sunday loved looking up her wife’s dress. He loved gazing at the panty-ed mound that jutted out between her legs whenever she went up to cut off the alarm. It always gave him an instant bonner.
He’d procrastinated on repositioning the smoke alarm, which hung way up from the floor due to the fact that it was left up there after the house was remodeled. The first time the alarm went off and Kim had to climb up the ladder to shut off the darn thing, the Home Depot idea was brushed off his mind for good.
Truth be told, she loved it too. She always pretended not to be in on it, and then would go buck-wild whenever he pressed the issue. Like Fela said in one of his tunes: She wan do! Na shakara.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” Sunday said to Kim, gently shoving her aside. “Get the door, please.”
“Who is that?” Kim asked, leaning back and hugging herself.
“At the door? I don’t know.” Sunday lied. He depressed the smoke alarm’s button, reducing the alarm’s incessant wailing to a cowered beep, beep, beep.
“I know who’s at the door. Your mother is the only one who rings the door bell like that. I was talking about your cell phone.” She picked up Sunday’s cell phone and studied it. “Hello?”
“If you know who is at the door, answer it now?”
She hung up. “Who was the woman on the phone?”
“That was Geneva, aha!”
Kim swiped at the cell phone’s phone log with her slender finger and studied the number. “This is a U.S. number.”
“Your sister lives in London.”
“Sometimes she uses calling cards. It will show as if the caller is calling from America.”
Ding, dong, ding, dong.
“Answer the door now!”
Kim gently placed the phone on the kitchen counter, walked over to the edge of the floor cabinet and picked up the charred pot. “What were you trying to do here?”
“Cook!” Sunday gave her the evil eye as he descended from the ladder and approached the front door.
“Hopefully you’re learning.”
“Learning what, how to ignore your spouse’s request?”
“Not everyone can cook.”
“Mscheeeew.” Sunday stopped at the door and mentally searched for a line he could use to send his mother scurrying away from his house without him paying dearly for it later. He wished that he had a pit bull. She hated dogs. Especially pit bulls.
Mmayen, I’ve told you to always call me before coming up here. Now,go home!
Good line. He unbolted the door and got ready to deliver it but…suddenly got tongue-tied.
“N si do, what’s going on here?” Mmayen stood at the door, a picture of vexed regality wrapped up in a Nigerian traditional outfit. Her shimmering yellow gele sat atop a fleshy face that emitted doubt and severe scrutiny, all at once. The bejeweled lace buba and wrapper she wore matched the gele in elegance and color.
“Mma, nkpo I do ho, nothing is going on here.” Sunday stood in the middle of the doorway determined to deliver his unwelcoming line by posture, if not by words.
Mmayen shoved the Sansburys plastic bag at Sunday and waited like the skilled hunter she was. “It’s seven o’clock. Why are you still in your office clothes?”
It was the whiff from inside the bag that first reeled him in, and then when he opened the cover to the porcelain bowl, it was over.
Sunday’s second weakness was his mother’s cooking. That was why it pained him to no end when she had to leave his house to go stay with his uncle. When she was here, he lived like a king. Kim behaved more like a wife than a girlfriend. She cleaned better, she talked to him with more respect, and she kept the clutter away. But now…
When he looked up again, Mmayen was inside the house strutting around the living room like General McArthur or something.
“My wife. Wey you?” Mmayen asked.
No answer from Kim.
Sunday rushed into the kitchen and carefully placed the bowl of Afang soup on the counter, his demeanor like that of a child in a candy store. “My mother is here.”
“So?” Kim said as she sat another pot on the kitchen stove. The smoke alarm had stopped beeping altogether.
Sunday waved at her. “Go and greet her.” He returned to fawning over the bowl of soup, its peppery-leafy aroma washing over the unpleasant smell of the smoke in the house.
He forked a piece of goat meat and inserted it into his mouth. He leaned his back against the kitchen counter, hugged himself tightly, closed his eyes and munched on the piece of meat as if it was the best thing he’d ever tasted in his life. He sighed with content after the last chew, and then he parted the leafy broth of the soup to look for a piece of opkoroko.
He turned to Kim and asked, “You want some?”
“What is it?”
Kim made a face. “No, thanks.”
“Keep telling you. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
“Aha,” Mmayen scolded as she appeared at the entrance to the kitchen. “You no hear me call you?”
“Hello, Eka Ebe.”
Prostrate, prostrate, Sunday ordered silently. He sighed when Kim passed on the opportunity. He’d told her on many occasions that it’ll go a long way to warming his mother’s heart towards her if she did a few things an Efik wife would do in her matrimonial home.
“Aha. Wetin happen here?” Mmayen asked.
“You mean the smell of smoke? Your son almost burned down the house.”
“Burn down the house ke? Why?”
“He tried cooking.”
Mmayen frowned. “Why is he cooking? You no dey for house?”
“I’m asking you now. You’re his wife, abi?”
“I see you brought him some food. That solves that problem.”
“Suppose I no bring food? So you want am to starve?”
Kim turned around to face Mmayen, her signature pissed-off pose in full view. “Eka Ebe, listen. I don’t want to have an argument with you now, okay? I have to sort a few things out with Sunday, and it would really help if you left and came back some other time.”
“Na me you dey talk to like dat?”
Sunday peeled away from the plate of soup and walked up to his mother, who’d started approaching Kim menacingly. “Mma, di, Mother come.”
Mmayen turned to Sunday and asked, “Do you see how this girl talks to me?”
“I want you to apologize to me right now,” Mmayen said, slashing the air with a finger.
“The fuck I will!”
Sunday turned to face Kim. “Hey, don’t talk to my mom like that.”
“Fuck you too, Sunday!”
Sunday almost raised his hand to smack her but held back.
“Yeah, fuck you, Sunday. What the fuck is she doing here? How come our own house does not feel like it belongs to us anymore? We agreed that she’d not come here unless invited, didn’t we? Why is she here?”
“To visit her son, Kim.”
“She broke the agreement. Maybe if you can’t control your mother, maybe I should leave.”
Mmayen’s gele flew off her head as she charged after Kim, but a quick turn by Sunday prevented contact. “You don’t talk to me like that.”
Kim grabbed Mmayen’s hand and yanked it off her dress. Kim threw her hands up in the air and walked out of the kitchen, even as Mmayen struggled to escape Sunday’s grip so as to go after Kim.
“Kpon mien, get away from me!” Mmayen shoved Sunday away from her, and then said in Efik, “What type of a man are you? You do not allow your wife to talk to you like that.”
“Mma, it’s time for you to go.” Sunday walked up to the front door and opened it.
Kim came out of the guest room with a luggage and a determined look on her face, aiming for the opened front door.
“Today na today for me and you in this house,” Mmayen swore, and then went after Kim. Mmayen, however, screeched to a halt when Kim raised her right hand and pointed a gun at her head.
”She puts her hand on me again and I’ll blow her fucking head off, Sunny. I swear it!” Kim said.
Sunday slammed the door shut behind him, and, hands outstretched in front of him, began a slow and deliberate trudge towards the space between Kim and Mmayen. “Kim, honey. Give me the gun.”
“Ekamanayen!” Mmayen exclaimed in horror as she began a slow backtracking.
Just then Sunday’s cell phone rang. He took it out and saw that it was Geneva. “Gigi.”
“What is going on there, Sunny?”
“Kim has a gun in her hand and she’s threatening to shoot Mma.”
“I suggest that you call back.”
“Let me talk to Kim.”
“Give her the fucking phone, Sunny!”
Sunday made a full turn to shade his mother from Kim’s gun, and then pointed his phone at Kim. “Hey, honey. Geneva wants to talk to you.”
But a determined kim kept her slow, deliberate march towards a cowering Mmayen, who had her hands raised up high to show surrender.