The sun was shining hard in the sky. It was not hot like sometimes; just shining hard and yellow. And it made everywhere mad bright and holy-looking as if it was heaven. And everywhere was quiet like that too. Because it was Sunday afternoon, and everybody was sleeping, or dying, or hiding behind newspapers—just doing something quietlike. We were outside in our backyard, me and Dare, throwing water bombs. We had been staring up at the sun, to see who would go blind first; but neither of us did so we stopped, and started playing water bombs. We would fill a bucket with water, carry it out to the concrete part of the backyard, because the other part was the garden and we didn’t want to be messing with Mum’s vegetables and stuff, even though we didn’t like them and we’d rather be messing with them, but we didn’t. So we would carry our full bucket out to the other side and fling the water in it up and in front of us and watch it explode all over the concrete floor—SPLAGHT!—like a bomb.
And all the lizards siestaing about would scatter everywhere, running for their dear lives. Dare said it was The Blitz of 1940 and we were The Nat-zis. I didn’t know what he was talking about but I knew that Hitler was a Nat-zi so I told him I wanted to be Hitler and he said okay that he would be my twin brother, Himmler, and I didn’t know who he was, this Himmler, so I argued with him that Hitler didn’t have no twin brother and he argued with me back that he did because he knew more History stuff than me, and the lizards came back and were watching us and nodding, until we got tired of arguing and went back to bombing the lizards.
We were doing it until Dare’s mum came out and pulled his ear off from his head. Then there was nothing else to do. So we just sat on the backsteps and listened to the big-people conversation inside. I liked listening to stuff and not seeing the people saying them. It was nice. Like the radio. The radio was on too, in the background, turned low, so we couldn’t hear what it was saying, only what the big people were saying. There was Mum and Dad and Dare’s mum (Dare’s dad wasn’t there because they were not married to each other) and Aunty Folake and Gramma One, that’s Dad’s mum. They were planning about Aunty Folake’s fourth wedding; she’s Dad’s sister. They were talking about yards and bundles and Ankara and lace and… I think they wanted everybody that would come to wear the same thing; like school uniforms! Why would anyone want that. I didn’t want to. But they sounded so excited about it, like schoolgirls.
The sky was blackening up in the middle and growling low—threatening the earth; threatening to fall. The earth shook under our bottoms and under our feet. We were waiting for the rain. It would be heavy. We were happy—we liked heavy rains, Dare and me, because they were loud, and we could yell as much as we wanted, like prayer-warriors; even though what we were usually yelling were mostly cursewords, at each other, like in the crazy action films. Nobody would hear them, because the heavy rain sounds would drown them out.
We waited. The heaven just kept growling up there, and the earth kept trembling under us. But nothing else happened.
Then Mum called us in because it was going to rain. It didn’t. But we didn’t go out again. Because Dare went home. And Aunty Folake and Gramm-1. And Mum & Dad smiled at each other like actors and went upstairs. I had faded into the carpet.
I turned on the TV. NEPA broke in and took the light. Everywhere went silent as death.
Then the rain came down, big, and hard on the roof, shouting and beating the windows and doors. I almost ran mad with joy, fat jolly joy! I opened my mouth wide and yelled out until I didn’t have any more voice left in my throat…
It was the happiest night of my life.
To be happy is a mighty big effort for me somedays. My face would just be stiff with sadness and I won’t be able to pull my lips into the smallest smile when Dad cracked madman jokes allover the floor or made fun of me or Mum or the President… Mum called this type of my sadness Melancholy and was worried crazy about it and gave me Vitamin B and C and E to help me; but they didn’t. And Dad would ask her to try J; and Mum wouldn’t laugh because she didn’t know that jay was a joint, and that was a joke.
I would be so unhappy I won’t be able to come out of bed; the weight of the accumulated sadness would be crushing my heart so and pinning me down. And Mum would let me lie in bed like that for years and she would bring my food up to me and take it back down, untouched and dead and cold. And Dad would stand in the doorway and ask if I was OK! And they would make Dare come and spend the weekend—to cheer me up. But Dare would end up becoming sadder than me; because I won’t talk to him and my armpits would be stinking like latrines and my farts like dead eggs and he had to sleep in the same bed with me. He would be mad glad when his mum showed to rescue him. I won’t be more sad, or less sad; my sad would just be in the same place, on the same level, and Mum would come and measure it every morning and would be disappointed that it was not reducing, or increasing even.
One time, they called the doctor to come and see me, because they couldn’t get me to go to the hospital. The doctor came, bringing a lot of smiles with him. He checked my temperature and gauged my sad too and measured my heartbeat and my pulsebeat and littered my bed with smiles and left tiny pieces of his happiness lying all over the room. But before he left he told Mum that I was just experiencing pre-pubescent blues, and gave her pink, yellow and green pills for me and said I would be fine.
Centuries later and I still wasn’t. Mum called the doctor again. This time he didn’t have any smiles. He looked at my sadness, sorrowfully, and said in an undertaker’s tone that he would have to refer me to a psychiatrist.
A madman doctor!!!
Before this doctor reached the door I was out of bed and sprinkling smiles all around the house and chatting endlessly with everyone like a psycho.
The doctor smiled and shook his head and left. Mum danced and sang and hugged me and gave a loud dramatic exaggerated testimony in church. Dad just looked at me as if I was somebody else’s mad son and didn’t say anything.
We all lived happily ever after. I haven’t been bed-ridden sad again after that.
When I grew old enough to be sent on errands, Gramm-2, that’s Mum’s mum, came to live with us, and had me running errands allover the place like a robot. There would be a cup right at her fingertips and she would ask me to bring it to her. She did not have arthritis or Cancer or nothing, she just liked to wield her Gramma powers about in your face like a bloody wand. And she kept a bitter cane handy, just in case you were suddenly struck by deafness, or madness. And she could beat the demons out of a body!
She wasn’t anything like Gramm-1; sweet, small, soft, silky. She was the village one; she wore only a wrapper all about the house, and chewed long pieces of wood which she spat everywhere, and she was always up and down cleaning the house all day even when it was already clean as heaven.
Dare said she looked like a chief witch. I asked him if he had seen a witch before; he said Yes, that they were all over the village when he went there for Christmas, and they were always eating children and drinking blood, and they looked dry like that—like my Gramm-2. I asked him why she had not eaten me and he said I was all bones, and not enough blood in me. Dare said I was lucky, and that for me to stay skinny like that I had to stop eating chocolates and sweets and cakes and ice creams and all those sweet shit that just make a fellow happy. So whenever we got any of those things, Dare took mine; and I was happy. He was happier.
And I began to notice that he always happened to be around whenever Gramm-2 was. To monitor my diet, and thus preserve my life, he would say.
Gramm-2 never bothered him; because he was three months older than me—so it was me who always got all the errands. The worst one was the one where she would ask me to go to the market to find out the price of something, say, okro. This was like going to Jerusalem or something! Then when I came back she would ask me to go back and price other ones from different women to the floor. Then when I came back from that trip she would give me the money to go and buy the cheapest. That’s three bloody trips to Jerusalem and back! Like a bloody pilgrim!
One time she sent me on this pilgrimage. The first trip, I just went and sat out on the fence with Sule and his other fools for about 13 minutes, then I went back home and gave her a price. The second trip, I did the same thing, this time for 8 minutes. The third time, when she gave me the money, Dare emerged from hell, and came with me—he convinced me to spend the money on a few rounds of Mortal Kombat in which he beat me in every round. When we got back home, Gramm-2 beat both of us to the ground and locked us up in the dark kitchen store. Like Paul and Silas. We didn’t sing or pray. We just wept and waited. No angel came. Mum & Dad had travelled.
On the 157th day, Gramm-2 came to check if we were still alive. She brought us out, washed us and stuffed our throats with eba. Mum & Dad came back that evening. Gramm-2 told them we had been angels while they were away. They brought a shipload of chocolates and candy. Dare dived in. I just watched from the shore.
We didn’t cry when Gramm-2 passed away, Dare and me. We ate and drank so much at the funeral party we thought we would die. Dare even went and vomited in the coffin in the middle of the night, after the wake, when everybody was sleeping. I thought Gramm-2 would wake up and kill both of us! I was scared to death!
At the funeral, while the preacher was saying all those lies about Gramm-2, Dare produced from the depth of his heart a most solemn fart whose smell could have killed everybody at the graveside.
I almost died laughing when he told me it was him afterwards. Dare was an evil genius!