Dad would make his mouth like a small o and blow a fine tune from it, like a musical instrument. I would make my mouth like that too and would only be blowing dry air allover the place like an idiot.
A lizard fell from the ceiling this morning while I was having my bath. FPLAT! I ran out into the street, and stood there screaming like a demon, until Mum came down and packed me up into the house.
Dad was on his hands and knees, in his tie and suit, looking for the lizard. He found him hiding behind a bucket. It was a gecko. Mum screamed that it was Taboo to kill a gecko. Dad smashed it flat with one foot of her black work Clark’s and flushed the dead bastard down to shit-hell.
Dad whistled away into the clouds. He was proud of himself. I was proud of him. Mum was mournful, as if the bloody gecko had been related to her.
She caught Dad at the breakfast table, in the middle of filling his mouth with bread and eggs and Satis and tea and water.
‘Did you wash those hands after your great Execution?’ she shot at him.
‘It was just a tiny little gecko, Magi,’ he said, through the load of mashed-up crap moving around in his mouth.
‘You were on your hands and knees, Kami, in the toilet!’
I hate hearing about toilets and shit like that when I’m eating; it makes me want to throw my food up from my stomach into the person’s face saying it! Dad didn’t mind; he just swallowed his food and response together with one fat smile. And he kissed Mum on the ear and whistled off to work like a happy farmer.
I think Mum was just a few inches sore about her Clark’s.
In school, I told everybody in my class how I had found a fat long green snake in my room that morning, and how my Dad had finished it with his bare hands.
‘How?’ That was Isla. He was not a tiny bit impressed. He was always looking for holes in tales people had worked so hard to weave and make tight. He was always jealous when people told sweeter lies than his.
‘How what?’ I did not look at him. I did not want to see those his small dirty eyes that pierced the holes in your story and stained you with a stinking look.
‘How did your father killed the snake?’
‘With his bare hands now!’
‘How?—Did he strangulate it or choked it or squeeze it or beat it or—’
‘He killed it!’
Everybody almost began to not believe me, until Glory spoke, ‘It is true! My mum said she saw him in the street this morning naked and screaming. There was soap all over his body and…’
Everybody shut up and believed. Glory’s mum was a prayer-warrior—those people that shout at God when praying as if they’re fighting Him—she wouldn’t lie. Them Glory are our next-door neighbours. I don’t talk to her because her teeth are pushing strong out of her mouth because they are too many, about 500, and they have green moulds and fungi things growing in between them.
I sent her a thnx during Maths class. She showed me her decomposing crowd of teeth and sent a u’r welcum J back on the same sheet. I chewed the note and swallowed it.
I was glad the whole episode was over easily…
But Isla wouldn’t let the snake story die gently like that.
‘My Dad already killed it!’ I cried when Isla asked me to bring the snake to school on Monday if it was truly true that I saw a snake and my Dad killed it.
I wanted to kill him.
But by the Monday, the snake story was dead—the pile of worse, terribler things that fell on me that day buried the snake story forever:
1. A squad of cockroaches marched out of my schoolbag and attacked the class.
2. I found the rotting corpse of an agama lizard in my desk.
3. My packed lunch turned out to be BEANS!!! (MUUUUUUUM!!!!!!!)
4. (a) Mr. Mensah, the Maths teacher, caught Glory passing me a note and made me read it in front of the whole class—
(b) By the end of the day I was Glory’s new BF.
I wished I had died with the snake story.
couldn’t sleep at night everynight. Them Maxwell’s mad dog would be wailing all through the night like an evil spirit. Sometimes it sounded like kettle-whistlings, or police sirens—high. Sometimes it fell like the small groanings of a man dying on the floor—low. I would be up listening to this bloody dog, and counting the moving faces in my ceiling, making movies in my head to put them in, just the faces, no limbs, no souls. I would hear old witches flying about outside, their dirty scraggy wings beating noisily, their evil gossipings hushed, usually in rapid native tongues like Yoruba or Ibo, and their laughters were hard, sharp around the edges, piercing the night harshly. Sometimes there would be a ghost outside my window staring at me; it was usually a child, like a street urchin, sometimes it was a far relative from the village that I didn’t recognize. The person would just be staring, into my room, as if waiting for me to sleep off so that he can enter the room, or enter me…
The night is bad. That is why God made sleep. Dad & Mum would be sleeping like a pair of cold corpses in coffins when I go to their room. And everything on TV was dead boring at this time of the night—except to old people, and blind people.
But it is not only them Maxwell’s dog; somenights it was Glory’s mum barking prayers up to the Heaven all through the night, raising hell all around the neighbourhood. And I would see the Devil scampering for cover, like a fat rat, in the moonlit street, his bottom pink and his long tail flying after him. I won’t see his face, because he is scampering away; so I can’t tell you if he has horns or not, or if he looks like that Mugabe or like Hitler. It is dark—I don’t know if he is White or Black.
I told Sule about my sleepless nights. He is a professional assassin. He kills time for a living; hanging off fences and smoking weeds and watching the sky pass and just generally being the neighbourhood’s chief fool. But he has also killed about 3 cats, 5 goats, plenty stray chickens, etc. He said he would take care of them Maxwell’s dog.
He didn’t kill it. He sold it, to Okon, the houseboy-man down the street. Okon killed it, and ate it.
I got my sleep back. I now sleep like a dead dog.
here was a snake curled up in my wardrobe, sleeping! In a warm corner, on my yellow Polo. Dare said it was a belt, and was going to wear it. He wore glasses; because he couldn’t see well. He still couldn’t see well. I screamed—DAAAAAAAAAHHHHHD!!!—and woke the belt up. It came out and took a bite out of Dare’s hand. It was angry!
Dare had gone to weeping like a widow allover the floor. I was still screaming. Dad was watching football downstairs. It was Saturday. I screamed—MUUUUUUUUHHHHHHM!!!—too. Dare was dying on the floor. Mum was not in the house; she was at the salon. I jumped downstairs, and danced in front of the match. The Manchester United had just scored a goal and Dad was smiling like a cow. Not for long.
We rushed Dare to the hospital. His dad and his mum came. They were not married to each other. So they did not come together, like real parents. And they did not talk to each other. Mum came too. She smelt of freshly-baked hair. Dare’s mum’s hair was pieces of rags sticking out of her scarf, and falling everywhere around her face. Mum hugged her, and Dad was watching what was left of the match with one-quarter of one of his eyes on the small hospital telly; and when the Manchester United scored again he chewed his lower lip and swallowed a smile, because Dare was dying. Dare’s dad smoked solemnly in a corner, beside a blue NO SMOKING. Nobody talked to him or hugged him.
I was waiting for Dare to die quickly so that we could all go home and rest. I hated hospitals. There was the stink of chloroquine everywhere and it stuck in your throat and killed you while you were waiting for somebody else to die, or be born.
The Doctor that came was a girl! Pink stethoscope and orange shoes! And a child’s face and voice. She said Dare was fine, and that he was sleeping, so we could all go home and come back in the night.
We all went home. Dare’s mum didn’t. She stayed behind. Because she was a mum. Mums do those sorts of things, annoying things…
We couldn’t find the snake. Dad said we would find it lying around somewhere soon; as if it was just a sock, or a belt.
I went back to the hospital with Mum only for the Doctor. She was gone! Dare was still there, awake now, smiling allover the pillow, and sipping Lucozade. There was all colours of drinks and tasty-looking shit all around his bed. You’d think he had bloody lung Cancer, instead of just a teeny-weeny snake bite!
The doctor around was an oldish one with a face like a clock’s—boring and serious. He didn’t smile like the girl or say soft things to people like she did. His wooden words stank of garlic as he laid them on you in a dead voice.
I looked around the hospital for the girl. Everywhere. I asked people. Nobody knew her. Maybe she was a ghost!
It killed me. I was so crushed. Heartbroken. I fell ill and had to sleep in the hospital for about a week. She never came.
Love is a Bitch. In bloody orange shoes.