We are standing here in silence as she barks at us: ‘Can’t you hear me? Who took the…?’
I wonder who will do such a thing, though I do it once in a while. But in this case I am not the one, and I sure can’t be the one. It’s impossible for me to steal a slice of meat from the pot when there are only three there, even an expert in the game will not dare such a thing.
‘Dayo come here, who took a slice of meat from the pot?’ she asks Dayo who stands, trembling like a demon before the Holy Son of the Most High.
‘Ma, I’m not the one. I don’t know anything about it,’ Dayo says, weeping.
He is the eldest among us, and was notorious for plantain stealing, especially hot slices of plantain that is on fire. Until one fateful day that he tried his hand at it again. He was in a hurry so as not to be caught by Mommy who had gone out to buy something and had also asked him to keep both eyes on the plantain, and while he was rushing the fry pan shook fell off the gas cooker, making a noise that got our feet racing to the kitchen. Too late. There was nothing we could do, the hot oil anointed his legs and since that day he has become the boy with ‘white legs’ as he is popularly called in school. Since that day he has learnt to put his soapy hands under his clothes. But today, tonight, no one can be trusted.
‘Sarah who took a slice of meat from this isasun?’ Mommy asks as she holds up the pot, so Sarah who is shaking with fear can see it.
‘Mommy, I did not know nothing about it. I did not go near pot tall-a-tall,’ Sarah says.
Sarah is our cousin who recently arrived from Ejigbo, a rural village in the interior of Osun state, and her spoken English can make one faint – thank God for the pillars that stand our house, if not for them the house would have collapsed by now. And the funniest thing is that she will not stop, or even reduce the time, she spends watching JENIFA’S DIARY which adds more vocabularies to her fallacious dictionary. Words like ‘how is you?’ and the well-known reply ‘I is fine-’ and so on, breaking the rules of concord. But tonight, English or no-English, the sky is falling and no one can be trusted.
Now it’s my turn. ‘Enoch did you take my meat?’- it is not who took?, it is Did you? – the question is as that but it runs a cold shiver down my spine.
‘Mom you know I can’t-‘
She cuts me short, pointing a finger at my shirt: ‘If you didn’t touch the pot, how did this get here?’
I am stuck. There is the truth that is within and the fact of this stain on my shirt which would soon make them say: ‘You are a thief – a criminal.’ I wonder how the stain of palm oil managed to crawl up my shirt, but I know how it got here. I’ll be a better lar than the devil to deny it.
Mommy always tells me to wash my cloths clean, but I will only cast them in the soapy water, shake them with my fingers, rinse, squeeze and dry them. (This means the stain on my shirt is not as a result of stealing, but mere disobedience – even when I eat, beads of stew still fall on my shirt.) However, I know Mommy will not listen. She has gone inside and she is now returning with koboko.
I can smell trouble. I want to run. Dayo holds me down.
‘Come here you little crook,’ Mommy screams as she draws me with her left hand, the cane in her right hand.
My pant is getting wet from fear. I can hear Daddy. ‘Stop. What is it with this boy, again, Madam?’
‘Daddy, Enoch stole my meat. Before I left this morning I left three slices of meat in the pot, after I had served you, but now they are only two there,’ she says, showing him the the pot with the two slices left in it, ‘and we both know that meats don’t have legs.’
‘You see this is what I always tell you: patience. I am the one who took a slice of meat this morning after you served me and left for work,’ Daddy says.
Joy fills my heart. Dayo releases his grip on me.
Mommy sighs and leaves.
Somebody taps me.
It is Dayo.
I open my eyes.
I have been dreaming. But the deed has been done. The wet pant is not a dream. I have bed-wetted and that means death.