The two little boys sitting on the pavement watched a kite complete another circle in the sky and shouted to the owner to gbaa ya uta, tug at the rope. The owner of the kite, a little boy with more stomach than body ignored them and continued rolling up his thread. The two boys looked on, piqued at being ignored.
‘Look at his big stomach, afo ukwu,’ the older of the two pointed forcing out a chuckle to massage his bruised ego.
‘Tiny legs, ukwu aziza,’ the younger one complemented.
‘Yes I have agreed, oo, mtchew,’ the tadpole-like kite owner hissed and moved away from them.
They watched him go and felt their ego healing.
‘Some people are just stupid, Igwe. We are telling him what to do so that his kite will not get stuck and he’s there doing bighead.’ As the older of the two addressed the one called Igwe, he gazed at the bits of ropes and waterproof clinging onto the wires which ran across the sky. There were four of them, these wires, not counting the three big ones on top, and they stretched out as far as he looked from pole to pole. He remembered the time sparks were coming off them at the same time their light was fluctuating. Papa cursed these silly boys and their kites they keep tugging at when they get stuck on the wires, and he said that the zone’s chairman was deaf and foolish and would not listen when he advised that they separate the four wires with sticks. He saw that each wire had bits of water proof hanging on it, evidence of the kite epidemic in the neighbourhood.
‘Bro, legodi, see,’ Igwe pointed at a girl who looked four years older than his brother’s nine years. She was shaking her buttocks provocatively the way the young ladies did. Tochi–the older one–turned and stared.
‘Tufiakwa, this world has spoiled. Look at that small girl trying to be aunty,’ He exclaimed.
‘It’s those evil aunties that teach them this thing,’ Igwe rejoined and their eyes followed the girl all the way to the crossroad where she disappeared from sight. Tochi’s hand went absent-mindedly to his wrist where rubber bands of different colours decorated his hands like bangles. His eyes lit up and he turned to look at Igwe the same time Igwe turned to him; they were thinking the same thing.
‘Let’s shoot them on their buttocks,’ Tochi suggested. The bright light in Igwe’s eyes meant agreement, it meant the love of the thrill, of doing forbidden things.
‘We’re only doing it so that they’ll stop shaking their buttocks like that and walk like normal people,’ Igwe said out loud to that annoying sensible part of him. Tochi nodded. They folded papers to be used as bullets and used the rubber bands as slings.
At first, they shot at the buttocks of girls who fell within their age bracket and ran away as fast as their seven and nine years old legs could carry them. The more they went around the neighbourhood, the bolder they became. After the sixth prank, they were gasping for breath with excitement and the thump thump thump of their hearts as they relished the euphoric feeling of adrenaline coursing through their body.
‘She didn’t know what hit her,’ Tochi panted.
‘She shouted “ahyii!” and grappled at her buttocks,’ Igwe demonstrated.
‘That was before you shot her hands!’
They both giggled and then laughed hard. This was letting off steam, Tochi thought and realised his brother was staring at something or someone. He wheeled around to see the lady that lived next door, the one that doesn’t respond when you greet her. He puckered his face, Igwe sneered. It was getting dark so she didn’t see them as she walked by or maybe she pretended not to. The trousers she wore was one with her legs so her behind stood out like an annoying finger pointing this way and that and at the boys. It happened rather quickly, the temptation was strong and the buttocks seemed to be inviting him, so Tochi let fly his paper bullet without a second thought. In a moment he found himself staring up with defiance at an angry painted face. He heard Igwe’s whimper as he rubbed the cheek where the lady’s hand had caused a thunder-like rumble on his skin. Tochi was annoyed, she had mistaken Igwe for the shooter and the whimper broke the camel’s back. He bent down with alarming speed and came up with handfuls of sand which he rained on the poor angry woman.
‘Run!’ He screamed and the two boys ran off at lightning speed, leaving the lady to spit and cough out sand. Luckily for her, none found her eyes.
The two boys made it to their house with frightened but victorious looks. Tochi made Igwe calm down before they tried to sneak in.
‘Where are you two from,’ their mother, Mrs. Emeka asked without looking up from her cooking.
‘We were sitting outside,’ Tochi tried in his best ‘nothing is wrong’ voice.
‘I’ve been out there, I didn’t see you,’ their mother insisted to the discomfort of her sons. She looked at them and sensed trouble right away. They looked harried and troubled and had dusty legs.
‘What have you two done?’
‘Nothing ma,’ Igwe answered sweetly.
She inspected them some more while their hearts raced. Did Aunty Nene, the one they had run from, recognize them? Will she come here and let Mama know? Inwardly, Igwe groaned. He knew what that meant. Mama would just tell Papa everything and he would go into his room and start fumbling for the cane. No matter how long he looked, he always found it. He had found it when he and Tochi hid it from. He always did.
‘Oya, go and bathe,’ Mrs. Emeka said, ‘I’ve boiled some hot water for you.’
Tochi and Igwe picked up new clothes and went to the bathroom which was in the yard away from the other rooms. Fear was in the hot water, fear was the lather they scrubbed out from the soap and fear was Aunty Nene who finally came to their house as they bathed. They didn’t say a word to each other when they heard her angry voice and Mama trying to calm her down. They just finished bathing and forced their legs to carry them to their room after hearing Mama’s ‘your father will hear this’ and ‘can’t you just stay out of trouble?’
When their father came back, Tochi was the only one awake. Igwe had drifted into sleep without eating his favourite ofe akwu for dinner out of fear. Mr. Emeka lectured Tochi on the responsibilities of being an elder brother, and because he feared that boys will be boys, he drove it home with six strokes on his buttocks.