It’s devil’s night.
Just after dust, exactly 8:00 pm, mom returned home. She looked exhausted. Straight away, Mary and I knew we’d be doing the cooking or go to bed on empty stomach. Mom asked us to boil four cups of rice and make a tomato sauce. It shouldn’t be too difficult after all. She’s waiting for the food; her protruding stomach had grown very big and had moved downwards. She had returned from school in white Ankara on blue jean skirt, but has changed into a pink maternity gown, her legs thrust into a flat slippers. She has stopped doing high heels, but we’re sure she’d go back to them immediately the baby was out of the womb. She returned to their bedroom, and lay in the bed facing the ceiling.
Soon the rice and sauce were ready. We dished some rice into a ceramic plate and spread a rich portion of the sauce on it, and took it to mom in their bedroom. Dad was not around, so we could jump-in and out without attracting any punishments. We woke her gently, and she sat up in bed, legs dropping to the floor.
She placed the tray on her laps and started eating. She ate our food. We were so happy and so proud of what we’ve achieved―achievement for kids of ten and twelve year old. We brought her drinking water in her favourite mug. She drank. She was grateful. She sat up for a while before returning to her previous position. We never knew she just ate her ‘last super’.
Back in the kitchen we dished our portions, and carried them to the dinner table and, with joy in our hearts, ate and enjoyed ourselves. We dished out dad’s portion into his own dishware. The man of the house normally had his own dishware; only for him. Returned to the dinner table and chatted.
We were trying to keep awake until dad returned. Knowing that mom was too tired and wouldn’t be available to serve him, we wanted to stand in the gap. But sleep came knocking. Soon Mary dozed off, head resting on folded arms―arms resting on the table. Seeing that Mary couldn’t keep awake, I determined to resist the sleep. I knew dad would be furious if he was not served by mom. That had happened too many times, and he could express his anger in whatever manner he’s pleased. If normal―not intoxicated, he could just bark at everybody. But when drunk, someone got hit. I didn’t know what state he’d be returning in today. I kept my eyes open.
Someone’s knocking at the door. I knew its dad. I looked at the clock handing on the wall opposite me: it was exactly 10:30 p.m. I got up to get the door. Then another―which continued indefinitely until I turned the key, and the door opened.
He shrugged. ‘Are you all asleep by this time?’
I said nothing.
He grabbed the door from my hand and slammed it close. It sent some shock waves through the walls. Our neighbours received the message: ‘Mr. Ogbe’s back’.
He tried with difficulty to lock the door. Finally with much concentration, he took hold of the key and turned it. ‘Nonsense,’ he grinned at the door.
Then he turned to face me. ‘You said you’re all asleep?’
I gazed at him and nodded. Realizing what I just did, I shook my head in disagreement. ‘No sir.’
‘Hmm,’ he muttered, ‘then where’s your mother?’
I was short of words. He grinned angrily, and bulged. By now, the atmosphere in the living-room was all alcohol. He ignored me and walked straight into their bedroom and forgot to close the door as usual. I followed behind―tiptoeing. I peeped.
He grinned out a wry smile. The smile started from his beard, and then climbed up to the lips. His cheek broadened. I was afraid: that meant evil. I recognized it. He yanked the folder in one of his hands into the bed. It narrowly missed mom’s belly. She was deep asleep. He bent over and slowly took off his shoes. He unbuttoned his big collar sky-blue long-sleeve shirt down to the belt buckle. Not realizing there were two more buttons below the belt buckle, he pulled the shirt apart with a unique force in an attempt to taking it off. The buttons snapped, jumping off angrily. I stared at him, but he never seemed to care, or rather, didn’t notice what he had done to one of his most cherished clothes.
I realized he hasn’t noticed someone’s watching. If he had, maybe I’d long been dead. But I had to risk it. My heart told me he’s going to attempt something stupid. He successfully took off his shirt. His white singlet clanged onto his chest and potbelly. Sucks covered his feet. Quietly, I stepped back into the living-room. I did not want my eyes to see him naked.
He followed me immediately. I turned―our eyes met―and a drought of anxiety blew coldly along my spine. I thought he caught me peeping, and had waited for me to drop my guards before turning me into a punching bag. But he staggered to the dinning table. He sat down.
By now, I was leaning with my arms against one of the sofas. He banged on the table with his right hand and Mary jumped up suddenly as though an electric current was passed through her spine, eyes wide open. She mumbled something.
‘What did you say?’ dad demanded.
‘I said good evening sir.’ She twitched her nose with her fingers. The alcohol smell had rushed into them, choking her.
‘Is this now your bedroom?’ dad grinned touching the table with his forefinger and raising his eyebrows. She shook her head and stepped backward. She was about leaving the dinning area when dad looked at her again: ‘Where’s my food?’
Mary threw her right hand into the air pointing the forefinger. I followed the direction of her finger: it was the kitchen. Dad stretched out his chin and closed his eyes for few seconds as though a sudden thought pricked him. Before he opened his eyes, Mary was back with his food. She served him. I rushed into the kitchen and to the fridge to fetch a bottle of water and a mug. I returned, opened the plastic bottle and emptied a quarter of its content into the mug. Then Mary and I took a few steps backward as though in a regimented service, and then waited for his compliments. Though, without doubt, I had this weird feeling he’d do something crazy.
….to be continued.
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