It was not long after the arrest of Nnanna, Papa stopped going to church. Nnanna’s crime was losing his cool and shouting at the troublesome private school owner that he worked for because he was owing him and treating him like trash.
When the news came, I was with Papa as he shaped one hard ball of garri to dip into the watery egusi soup before him. He received the news like he had been expecting it, swallowed the ball of garri without dipping it into the soup and stared up at our leaky ceiling. He knew he couldn’t do a thing. I knew I couldn’t either, even though I was his first son and had somehow managed to finish secondary school. I knew I couldn’t because my job paid peanuts. I jumped up and ran off to start the necessary borrowing to get my brother out of police custody. Throughout the time I ran around, Mama later told me, Papa simply sat there and finished his meal. Then he rested a while before he put on his discoloured trousers and baggy shirt and set off to where she did not know without saying a word. She told me that the look in his eyes scared her more than Nnanna’s arrest.
Looking back now, I remember thinking that Papa looked different as he walked into the house that evening, while I sat and rued my unsuccessful endeavour. He had a certain coldness to his demeanor.
“Kedu ebe igara?” Where did you go, Mama asked. Papa didn’t respond. He sat on one of our ancient cushion chairs, the springs crying out in agony under his weight.
“Emeka, where are Edu and Rita?” Papa asked. I stared at him, his eyes told stories of where he had been. Defiance and resignation formed hard lines on his forehead. I went to call them.
When they came, Papa looked Edu over like a loved lamb going for slaughter. He couldn’t hide the glimmering liquid in his eyes as he smiled and hugged both of them.
In my subconscious, I knew what Papa had done but it was too scary to be believed, too weird to be true. Weirder things happened though; Papa, the prayer warrior stopped going to church and started detasting prayers. He got Nnanna out of police custody without qualms. Everyone of us, except Papa, started having nightmares, the same nightmares. One day we all dreamed that Edu died. The next morning, he choked to death on a bone.
To be continued…