WHEN A CHILD COMMITS SUICIDE!
Hanks stopped whistling, frozen where he stood, his eyes popping out in surprise but still not comprehending what he saw in his bedroom.
Bilkis the maid was seating with her legs folded beneath her beside Junior who was lying face up on the floor. The sad look and streaks of dried tears on her face made alarm bells ring in his head. On seeing him, she crawled silently away from the boy like an old cat to the corner of the room. Hanks had never really understood his house maid, but if anything had happened to his boy on her watch he would kill the unmarried cat! he swore in his mind.
His heart racing, he hurried to where Junior lay by the ancient polished mahogany room shelf, flinging his brief case and keys on the bed. The boy was cold! It was only then he notice the parlor of Juniors skin; pale, his lips swollen and dark.
“Bilkis!” he screamed in fright.
“Jesus! Bilkis! What happened to Junior?!”
Bilkis let out a loud wail and began to cry, her gaze and thick finger pointing to something near the bed. Hanks looked and what he saw made his heart stop, goose bumps grew on his skin… White plastic bottle, no! he prayed, let it not be the fishing bottle. He stretched his hand and turned the liter bottle to read its label and indeed it was Gamalin 20, fish poison.
No Junior could not have touched that bottle, he thought, not only had he drummed into the head of the lad that if he as much as touched the bottle, he would die, but he also had kept it at the top of the shelf clearly out of the reach of a 5 year old …except he climbed. He was a banker not a fisherman, but living in his area of rivers state, he found it difficult to ignore the game of fishing.
Something snapped inside of Hanks and he snatched his keys from the bed, picked up his boy and dashed out of the house to his car. As he speed along the dark road to the hospital, something told him he was only going to confirm his fears. And yes, the doctor confirmed that Junior Hanks was dead and had been so for almost five hours.
Hanks found it difficult to control himself, it was true the boy bore a striking and irritating resemblance to Onimi, his runaway girlfriend, who had dumped the boy with him when he was only a baby, and his resentment towards her had made him a little distant from the boy, still Junior was his son and he loved him.
Tears flowed down his cheeks as he sat in the doctor’s office and his shoulders shook like those of a boy under a pouring rain.
“Did you say you suspect that your son was poisoned? Do you suggest an autopsy?”
The doctor’s voice sounded like a faint whisper from a faraway dream. Hanks just stood up and walked out of the doctor’s office, not minding to close the door behind him, leaving the doctor to stare at his beaten but resolved back.
He opened the door to find Bilkis seated on the sofa in the sitting room, clutching her green bag, one he had come to identify with her over the three years she had been employed as a help in his house. It was about 9pm and way past her closing time.
“Where do you think you are going?” Hanks hollered
“What happened to my son?”
She sniffed and fixed him with a hateful glare. Hanks never really made conversation with the woman, her fondness for mixing English and Pidgin English when she spoke had not helped either.
“Start talking before I call the police! What happened to…”
“sit down and shut up Mr. Hanks” The maid stood up.
Hanks shut up alright, he was too surprised at the authority in her voice not to, plus she always called him Oga, not Mr. Hanks.
“na you kill my Junior.”
“what do you mean?” he was still standing and his rage was returning to him.
“Junior commit suicide”
He opened his mouth to talk but shut it again, curiosity got the better of him, he rubbed his hand on his shinny 34 year old head and sat down wearily.
“At the graduation party today, all the children for Junior class were called out, the teacher gave them candles and call the parents to light am for their children’s success with 5000 naira for each pikin head, Oga why did you not come as you promised?”
Hanks had known even from when he promised that he was not going to be there, but he had forgotten about the note Bilkis had given him from Junior’s stockings informing him about the candle lighting.
“Oga true to God, I was with only 200 naira. and na Junior be first on the line, but I could not go out, so they continued with other children. Oga, believe me, I rushed out of the hall to the ATM, I go meet long queue, I wait wait wait, when my turn almost reach, machine went out of service.”
“Oga, I hurried back to the school to see that na only Junior was left on the stage with his candle, no light and the m.c was saying ‘since this one has nobody, please commot am out of the stage’”
“What has all that got to do with Junior being poisoned?” Hanks asked in a voice subdued by shame.
“Oga! Junior was humiliated! Immediately he left the stage we come house. I tried to make him spagetti and meatballs, but Junior no gree chop. Then him stand for kitchen door tell me say ‘my daddy does not want me’”
“And what did you tell him?” Hanks asked impatiently
“I no fit tell am anything, he ran to your room and locked the door. I left him, I been think say he would come out latter, but after I finished to cook and clean and him never commot, I come the hammer the door until I open am, only to see that poison for ground and Junior…” she broke off and began to wail, dropping her bag on the floor with a thud and bending over.
Hanks was shocked, guilt bore down on him like a metal cloak, he had truly not treated the boy with the most affection, but somewhere in his mind, he would no accept it. He would go to the police and tell them Bilkis had poisoned his son, that was an easier story to handle, someone had to bear the guilt, and it would not be him.