BOOK IV: DEAD FOR GOOD

Posted: October 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Mum and Jerry moved in with her younger brother who was a bachelor at the time and a driver for a courier company. So, he was always on the road. He lived at Kano Street at Ebute Metta where it was a norm to live with noise either from buses passing by or the vibratin trains from the station nearby or even from a neighbour in his room who felt like disturbing the short tranquillity left to be enjoyed in the night.

She quickly pieced fragments of her life and moved on. She got a job months after settling into her new environment, her good looks found her a widowed man though old enough to be her father, he was a proud owner of a bungalow apartment where he lived with his last child and several grandchildren. He made it clear from the beginning that he didn’t need any more kids but companionship which my mum gladly accepted. He gave her a spacious room and took Jerry in as well.

Jerry got admitted into the University of Lagos where he studied law and graduated as one of the best in his class. After graduation and law school, he got a job with a law firm and settled down at Surulere. It was after eight years of separation that jerry finally wrote me.

It was a terse one. I read the letter with less enthusiasm. In the first paragraph, he’d asked about my well being and how far I’d progressed but between those lines I could tell he had sweat running down his right palm holding the pen. He talked about mother and she crying sometimes at night saying she wanted to see me but was afraid of dad and most of all if I’d be glad to see her. Then the last paragraph, he talked about reasons why he had to leave with mum and why he never looked back all that while. He quickly added that he never regretted his decision though.
Of all the the content of the letter, ‘Never looked back ‘ kept playing in my head; i tried to reconcile what Dad said about Jerry back then when they left, to those three words and i sought of saw some resemblance.
“He probably was a bastard afterall” i thought.
At first, I felt reluctant replying his letters but finally did. We exchanged letters few more times but he never for once mentioned his change of surname to me in his letters. I didn’t ask either.
We gradually grew tired of the routine because we’d grown apart and there was actually nothing fun to talk about in our new found lives.
I still see my brother as a weakling who couldn’t stand the heat and so had to leave with my mother. Better still, mum had told him he didn’t belong in our family or something. Hell, I have always been a man right from the beginning!
He eventually settled down and married a fellow female lawyer. I was forced to attend the ceremony by his constant pleas through subsequent letters that were not replied to. I went just to see our mother who looked quite older now, Dad was of course absent. She hugged me and wept…tears of joy, I guess. My hands were at my side as she clung to me. I managed to ask how she was doing. She said she was fine and asked about my wellbeing, I lied to her that I worked for a construction company somewhere on the Island. She then told me to come around and see her sometime when I was off duty, I nodded. As we sat beside each other, watching Jerry and his newly wedded wife take the dance floor, I suddenly liked the feeling and thought
“may be soon, I’ll take Gina to the altar and then have a family of my own.”
After dancing for a while, Jerry came over with his new wife, Bisi and introduced her to me. Bisi took it up from there. She seemed to me like a nice lady brought up in a good home and a wealthy parents from the guests in attendance. In five minutes, Bisi had asked questions and made remarks like: how are you doing? Who’s bigger between the two of you? And comments like: How come you don’t come around? Your brother likes you so much, I like your mother; she’s very nice and caring…another Joy! May be all lawyers just love to hear the sound of their voices.
Before I left, I gave mum ten clean sheets of ten naira notes which immediately sent her into a dancing frenzy, I couldn’t help but laugh myself. Now, I wonder why I didn’t care much about her, she took care of me the best she could while she was with dad, showed me the same love she showed Jerry and wasn’t happy leaving me behind even though it was my decision to stay, maybe I just didn’t forgive her as well for leaving my useless dad who eventually turned out to be an ingrate or because she left and didn’t look back until when i saw her at the wedding.

Two years after Jerry’s wedding, I had just finished brushing my teeth that fateful morning and was about to take my bath when I heard the clicking sound of a female shoes walking towards my door.
“Do I have an appointment with any lady today? Could it be Gina?”
Gina was out of town, maybe Ellen decided to drop by to have one of those early morning ‘quickies’. Immediately, I began to feel the familiar warm sensation around my groin. The knock on the door made me have a rethink and all sensations receded, my girls never knocked on the door, they just barged in hoping they would burst me and another girl in the act. I quickly tied a towel and went to see who was at the door. It was Joy. The look on her face said it all, but I still went on to ask what brought her to my side of town at that time of the morning. She let the words out quickly:
“Am sorry, your father is dead”
She tried some consoling words to sooth me which didn’t work because my countenance didn’t change from what they were before she came in. after studying my face for a moment for traces of emotions but found none, she shrugged and sat down. She later told me that dad’s wife had deserted him a month earlier when she realized that he might not make it. Kind neighbours did their best for him by bringing him food as he was unable to cook for himself. He was said to have slumped days later while going to the bathroom with a bucket of water and later died at a nearby hospital where he had been taken to. Doctors diagnosed him to have suffered from chronic cholera.
I thanked her and offered to pay her fare back home but she declined. Rather, she asked when I would come over, I replied soon and led her to the door.

I broke the news to Sparko, who broke into laughter, for a moment, I hated him but soon joined him in the somewhat senseless laugh. He then said
“You are now a full member of the fatherless club.” he himself had lost his father as far back as when he was only thirteen. His poor mother who at the time was nursing a baby, her third child, was on the verge of causing God for allowing her husband, the sole bread winner to die. Goodwill donations gotten from friends of the family during the funeral of her husband enabled her start a petty trading business. This sustained her and her children for some time before dwindling air began to blow over the business. Soon she found herself totally broke. Sparko, whose real name was Simeon, had clocked nineteen by then. After school, he’d be out of the house and won’t be back until a little after dark, most of the times, carrying a nylon bag containing raw food and other minor groceries. At first, his mother would rain questions on him. What he usually told her was that his friend’s mother gave them to him. When his mother wouldn’t relent in her usual offensive manner, he decided to keep his money and would come home empty handed. After a brief hiatus, he resumed bringing home food. His mother never complained afterwards. They later discovered he was a gambler.
His first act of robbery was a minor, reluctant role. He simply was on the lookout for any signs of movement around the house while two others were in the house. It was a video cassette recorder stolen from a bachelor’s home. His share was a generous one. He gave it all to his mother. She was so proud of him.
They were caught during Sparko’s fourth outing with them and were kept in jail for six months before being released.  When he returned from prison he was all too surprised to find out that his mother was heavy with pregnancy. He turned and looked his sisters who had been coming to see him at the prison all along but made no mention of such to him. They couldn’t bring their eyes to meet his. He simply went inside the room and took some clothes and walked away and had not set his eyes on his mother since then.  He had only two contacts with his sisters before finally breaking off. That had been over ten years.

Sparko asked for my plans and I told him I intended to go down and see things for myself. He offered to accompany me to my old neighbourhood which I accepted.

As we approached Shogunle, waves of nostalgia came rushing back, Ikeja Grammar School hadn’t changed much from the outside.  The broken fence at the far end of the wall that enabled us to leave the school premises whenever we wanted had yet to be mended.
Shogunle seemed deserted as few people were seen walking on the road. As I approached the familiar building where I had grown up, people who recognized me thronged forward to welcome me and to say their needless condolences.

He was laid on his bed perfectly still, his brown set of teeth grinning at the ceiling. He looked totally drained as I could count the number of ribs on his chest from a distance without missing one.

We went in search of a cemetery and eventually settled for Atan cemetery at Yaba on the mainland. I paid for the space and immediately we ordered the digging. Sparko was superstitious about cemeteries – it reminded him of death.  He left me to bury my dead and returned to Idumota. After digging a little over four feet deep, the diggers began to complain about the scorch sun.
“He doesn’t deserve this effort and energy I am dissipating. Only doing him a last favour.” I thought and called off the digging.
I returned to the house but decided not to enter, rather, I went down to the beer joint my dad used to patronize. As I settled at a table facing the door, the owner who was also a friend of my father came to me and sat on the chair opposite and said his condolences which I took with a slight nod like I knew what was coming. He talked about what a nice and kind man my father had been. He said he always had a listening ear and he could confide in my father. I kept nodding, and then he said he never knew my dad wouldn’t get over the disease because he still owed him some money for bottles of beer he drank on credit but he said he wasn’t asking me to pay but just thought to mention it in my ears.
“Thank you for forgiving his debt” I said as I stood up to leave.

Time was approaching 6.30pm now and I thought it was time to get to action. I had arranged with a pick up vehicle owner after I left the nagging owner of that beer joint. I had instructed him to put off the engine and just wheel down the sloppy road of the street of our rented house to minimize suspicion. He did as I had said. I carried the lifeless body into the waiting pickup parked closely to the entrance of our room. I gently set it down inside the pickup, closed the door to the room and climbed into the front seat with the driver who demanded cash first. I paid and we set out for the cemetery.
On getting to the cemetery, the gates had been shut but i had made arrangements with the management earlier in the day. I alighted from the pickup and asked the driver to assist with bringing the lifeless body down. He declined to assist and stayed in his vehicle. I despicably eyed him but he ignored my face and simply looked ahead, both hands on the steering wheel and engine running. I retreated to the back of the vehicle and lifted the corpse out from the vehicle and immediately, the driver sped off.
“Idiot” I muttered
They let me in.
I heaped the last mound of sand on dad’s grave and had to sit nearby in the cemetery to catch my breath, I suddenly needed a cigarette badly, but first, I had to find transport back to the house.
It was another long wait before a taxi finally rolled along the deserted road. The taxi driver looked at me quizzically and asked which direction I was headed, I told him and we negotiated the fare. I slipped into the back seat.
All through the short journey, he kept glancing at his rear view mirror to make sure I was still there. I even smiled in the dark, “I don’t blame you” I said inaudibly.

I slept on the chair which was the only useful item in the room to me that night and when it was morning, I went out in search of another pick up to help me take the chairs to my place. I helped the driver with carrying the chairs to make the job faster.
When we were done I threw the door open for anybody who cared for the other items inside the room.
I was about to climb in beside the driver when Joy called me from across the street, she came to meet me and told me she knew about last night.  I grinned. She told me to take care of myself. I climbed in beside the driver and we set off.

I wrote Jerry to inform him of the death of his mother’s ex husband. Few weeks later, a letter from jerry arrived. He sent his condolences and said mother had gone down to the cemetery to pay her last respect and got back that same day but he hadn’t been opportuned to go and pay his respect.
“You don’t have to” I muttered as I crumpled the letter and tossed it into the waste basket close by.

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