“See… See… See… See the head of your family.” Chekwube said as she pointed her finger towards a man downing a glass full of beer. The man was seated in the company of other men laughing and drinking. Empty bottles of assorted beer brands were on their tables.
“He comes home late every night and returns very early in the morning before we wake up from sleep to Nwanyiawka’s store to drink beer. Look at him… Will he ever stop drinking?” Chekwube rhetorized as she and her brothers walked past the popular joint in the area.
“Father is so shameless. I hate him” She added.
“Father and his friends are suppose to know better.” Chibuike said as he followed his sister very closely. They were trekking home from St. Paul’s College, Eke where they schooled. It was a very long journey which they had gotten used to. When other students rode on bikes, they took succour on their legs. One of Chibuike’s friends told him after assembly one Monday morning that he would rather stay at home than to trek from Ekochin to school every day. Chibuike just looked at him, laughed and walked away. Chekwube and her brothers have heard millions of similar talks that they had ignored.
“My advice to you is simple. Make mother your role model if you truly want to be the head of your family when you are grown. She is hardworking, takes care of our needs and she is our backbone. She is a true definition of a head. She has shown so many qualities that we could learn from. Since I have known this man as my father, I haven’t learnt anything from him.”
“Are you saying father is not the head of our family?” Chika queried.
“In theory, he is but in practical, mother is the head of our family-” Chibuike cut his sister.
“Father failed both in theory and practical.” Chibuike stamped. Chekwube convulsed with laughter while Chika, their youngest, looked bewildered.
“Ain’t you suppose to be on father’s side?” Chika bloated.
“I am not on his side.” Chibuike answered.
“But you are going to be a man some day-“.
“A different man!” Chibuike snapped. Chika sighed. Looked at his brother pitiably.
“And you are a man”. Chika rued. Shook his head in disbelief.
“It is true that a man is strong in his composition.” Chibuike started. “But that alone shouldn’t be the sole reason why he must be the head of the family. A man could be strong and yet be stupid. For instance our father-” Chika cut his brother sharply.
He liked his father so much and wouldn’t want anybody, not even his siblings to associate him with impunities. He once beat up a classmate who called him the son of a drunkard and wouldn’t mind doing same to his elder brother Chibuike if he were as strong as him. To Chika, Okoro was the definition of a hero. Okoro was very strong and agile, and wouldn’t take nonsense from anyone. He looked up to him in everything.
Chika was the third but his domineering spirit sometimes made him to win over his sister Chekwube so easily in an argument whenever Chibuike was not around. Okoro saw himself in Chika. He would call Chibuike some derogatory names and praised Chika with all the beautiful words he had in his head. Okoro liked him so much that he would sometimes take him to Nwanyiawka’s place for him to go feel like a man as he used to say whenever he wanted to go drink at Nwanyiawka’s place.
“Let’s go feel like a man boy.” You would hear him say and Chika would leave whatever his mother told him to do and ran after his father. Both of them would go to Nwanyiawka’s place for bottles of drinks or to Obi’s hidden store for some weeds.
“You are saying daddy is stupid.” Chika cried. “Chibuike! Chibuike! Be careful! Be careful oo!” He barked.
Chibuike held his brother by the shoulder, and used his other hand to cover his mouth. He forcefully led him away from the front of Nwanyiawka’s store. He didn’t want Chika’s loud voice to attract the attention of the drinkers who might go ahead and tell their father. The sore on his shoulder still festered and wouldn’t want more of it from his beligerant father. It was the sore he got from the merciless beaten his father gave him three days ago for reminding him of his lesson fee which he had earlier warned him never to ask him again.
“Where is Emeka?” Chibuike asked his visibly agitated brother having forcefully led him some distance away from Nwanyiawka’s store. Chika refused to talk.
“Chika! Answer your brother.” Chekwube urged.
“Mother said her brother who lived in Onitsha came to take him.” Chika said reluctantly.
“Mother lied to you.” Chekwube said after her long laughter.
“Really.” Chika uttered.
“Yes.” Chibuike started. “Mother said that to you because she didn’t want you to cry. Emeka died at Mazi Ogbulafor’s shrine where mother took him for treatment.” He stopped for awhile, looked at the schooling face Chika wore as he listened to the secret his mother kept from him.
“Emeka died in the shrine.” Chekwube mumbled.
to be continued.