Hello guys, Thanks for following the story up to this point. And Thanks for all your supportive comments and feedback. This is the last chapter for The Summons, But I’d post the epilogue a little later. Hope you all enjoy it. Cheers!
Mama was about sixty five, daintily warm hearted and kind. Roots of grey stained her short black hair in unequal patches. She was a stout woman drained and shrivelled from the sombreness of cardiomegaly and diabetes. She had birthed eight kids, five girls and three boys. My mother was third, immediately after Uncle Arinze. The perfect family people in their days prayed for. And with Mama’s mother – My Great-grandmother – still alive, we all believed she would outlive the ailment.
“What do you mean by Dike is your son?” Mummy queried Daddy with a sting of betrayal in her eyes.
“I mean, I am not impotent, and Dike is a proof of it.” Daddy shot back, now on his feet facing her directly.
“After all I’ve done for you? After all my sacrifice, you choose to betray me this way.” Mummy said, crying and beating her chest rhythmically.
“Shut up, UK. Shut your dirty mouth.” Mama shouted, startling everyone. ‘UK’ was short for Mummy’s name, Eucharia. We had been silently processing the words coming out of Mummy, Daddy and Uncle Arinze that we totally forgot she was present.
“You might have had five children for your brother, my son, while you were married to your husband, and you have the mouth to say he did wrong by having one outside. You’re a big fool.” Mama said in Igbo, stressing “You’re a big fool” in English so as to convey the right amount of meaning intended.
“Please Mama, don’t even get into this. It is none of your business. No one invited you hear o. Just don’t start.” Uncle Arinze said, wagging his hand in her direction.
Obinna definitely had to be his son.
Daddy stared at Uncle Arinze for a while and then pounced on him. The first descent crushed his jaw, his left eye, and then his shoulder. He made to cover the next one by returning a punch to Daddy’s eye, but was shielded by Daddy’s glasses before it crashed to the floor.
Mummy stood for a while, watching them fool around, then tried to separate them. An attempt that landed her on the floor beside the toilet door. We all observed in silence and did nothing. Obinna was by her side the instant she touched ground, shouting and raining abuses on Daddy for pushing her.
“Stop fighting, both of you. Somebody separate them.” Mama shouted above her voice, waving her hands in the air. The diabetes had partially paralyzed her right leg so she couldn’t walk without her stick, and standing was a much difficult issue. She waved her stick aimlessly in the air when she felt her hands weren’t doing enough.
The stainless object made to hit Junior, and on swerving away from it, his slanted figure balanced on Ada. Her reflex action was to push him off and slap his face. This began another fight between the two. Junior slapped her back with a keen eagerness that intended to knock her out.
“Why did you lean on me?” She screamed, standing to her feet and slapping his skin-shaved head. Junior stood, towering over her, as the next slap landed, which led to the pulling of her hair, kneeing of his dick, and much more hands flying in the air.
Mama shouted until she couldn’t shout anymore, Obinna was curled up with Mummy who was sobbing helplessly in betrayal; Daddy and Uncle Arinze were taking turns being on top of each other while landing punches. Junior and Ada followed cue.
A sense of aloneness enveloped me; one I willingly accepted. I knew I didn’t belong in the same space with them. I felt a burning necessity to assume a state of sanity since it had certainly eluded them all. I watched them bite off each other like their redemption depended on it; each retrieving a piece of themselves taken by the other person.
I wondered how other families who had steadily envied us would feel after watching us disgrace ourselves like that. I thought about my friend, Conrad and his endless tackles about me having everything I ever wanted, and how he had to work for everything he had because his family wasn’t as rich as mine. But at least they were happy. Happiness wasn’t a word that we were familiar with in my family. We had all our material needs and most of our wants, but happiness eluded us. I suddenly craved the poverty stricken homes filled with love and happiness. Money definitely couldn’t buy happiness. Pleasure perhaps but certainly not happiness.
The dysfunctionality was unbearable. We had grown to see each other as strangers born of the same womb. We shared a blood link, and that was all that mattered to us. Family had become a title that required an obligatory presence to satisfy a certain necessity. Friends became more reliant than siblings. Secrets were acquired to shield oneself from the blights of others. There was much more hatred and selfishness than love. We gradually learnt to tolerate each other.
I hated them all at that instant. They all irritated me. If Daddy wasn’t impotent, then he had to have fathered one or two of us, and I hoped I wasn’t one of them. Actually, I prayed I wasn’t my mother’s child at all.
“Shame!” I shouted. “Shame on you all! I can’t believe this is even happening. Mummy, you sit there and talk about how much shame I have brought to this family, and yet here you are, uncertain who fathered your children; and the irreconcilable possibility that they might be your brother’s! Shame on you! At least we know where Ada got her acts from. Daddy’s hypocrisy has blinded his judgement so much that he now sees fathering a child out of wedlock as a thing of pride; a thing of redemption; a thing to prove his worth. Shame! Has anyone stopped to ponder upon the fact that if Daddy is not impotent, then there is a possibility that he fathered one or two of us, if not more?” I shouted. My voice rose with each acquired audience. Tears had begun to fall from my eyes uncontrollably.
“No!” I continued. “You all think by fighting each other, you would pour out your anger to a point where you stop hurting. Newsflash; you won’t! You never stop hurting. No matter how much your fists leave prints on the other person’s face or how much you throw yourselves shamelessly to the ground, you would still feel the pain after it all ends. We are broken. Life as we know it is over. We have nothing now, just ourselves. So suck it up and act like adults, and let’s find a solution to this.” My voice had taken a different strength that summoned everyone’s attention. Strength I willed relentlessly through clogged throat and teary eyes.
Daddy was the first to move, slowly rising from his tight grip on Uncle Arinze’s neck, then Junior gently let go of Ada’s hair, and Ada, Junior’s trouser. Obinna and Mummy untangled from their shameful grip, and Mummy watched me with a gleam of pride in her eyes. Had she suddenly seen worth in me, or was I still the useless child that brought shame upon the family name? Suddenly, they were doing a great job at it themselves without any help from me.
When everyone had seated, I continued. Gradually I had assumed the rational role. “Uncle Arinze, I think you should leave, and this is the biggest respect I can give you now. You are not a member of this family, and until we are certain you fathered any of us, you are not welcomed in this house.”
He looked at Mummy for backup, but she too was in accordance; so he stood from his flattened position and left the house angrily.
“I believe this is the point where we call Dike and have him join the meeting.” I said.
The door quietly crawled open before I could call him. He came in with Somadina, who had been forgotten completely since the drama started. They both sat on the floor near the door. Finally every occupant of the house was clustered in one big room, sharing one thing we had rarely ever shared — the same breath.
“First, we should talk about what to do about Ada’s pregnancy, then we discuss the issue of paternity tests and how…”
“Mama!” Somadina called, cutting in. He eyes were nailed to her with worry.
I immediately looked from him to her. She was seated head down like her neck failed to support her head.
“Mama!” Mummy screamed this time.
Since I was the closest to her, I slowly touched her arm and felt the stiffness. By the time I raised it and watched it drop down in a thump, Mummy was at her side, crying and shaking Mama’s pallid body rigorously, and screaming her name.
My knees gave way and I dropped to the ground with ease, silently blaming myself. This had all been my fault. If I hadn’t failed in school, none of these would have happened. If I had just finished that course before applying for another, Mama would still be alive. If I had just loved the right person. I let the tears run down my eyes. I deserved them. I deserved worse.
“Is Mama dead?” Somadina asked through his clogged throat, tears coating his eyes.
“Yes, Som, Mama is dead.” I managed to say.