by Macmillan Anikulapo
In the eve of the New Year, we heard the serial gunshot in our neighbourhood. In fact, the gunshot sounded as if there was a war. It was echoing without any trepidation. I began to feel worried and even naive. I looked at myself and began to recite Psalms 23 in silence. Kunle, who came to our house for the holiday was sleeping when this bizarre happened. I was perplexed; until, I peeped through the window of the kitchen to see what had happened clearer, stretching my neck as an ostrich. Indeed, I was scared. What I saw was different from what had happened. I kept staring profoundly; somehow, a man who was at the event noticed someone was looking at him from afar. And after his suspicion, I drew the curtain closer gently.
Later that evening, it was a throbbing sound coming to our residence. Indeed, I was in panic and my fear made me to become hallucinatory. My friend had slept too. He was even snoring like a nocturnal toad. I became uncomfortable. Even disillusioned with such an event, and suddenly, I heard people wailing, while some where even sobering and whimpering. I tried to feel what had happened but, my aunt who came from London to our house for the Yuletide refused me to peep any longer. My curiosity didn’t allow me to sleep. I stayed woke till the dew. And the cock began to make the early morning alarm.
That morning, I read the news from the newspaper, and I also saw the news from the BBC. It was a mischief to have seen such an incident. It was flaccid. Sometimes, what I felt was anything that happened to news event is always incestuous. My friend and I began to talk politics; and, Debola and Kunle were playing with the toys mother bought for me when I was a toddler.
‘’ Do you know what happened?’’
He looked at me as if I was talking nonsense. My heart broke and I stared at him with a pernicious eyes. He didn’t even look at me – all he was doing was to clean his body with his putrefied towel. I hissed. He definitely hissed too. And he behaved as if I was disgusting.
‘’ Please, I don’t have time to talk to you’’
I was annoyed. My anger rose to the level, that I felt I should injure me. I looked at him with the frustration on my eyes. I was sweating ferociously. My veins were numbed. I couldn’t control that anymore than to hit him with the stick closer to where I stood.
‘’ You don’t have to do that to your friend’’
I heard that cautious words behind me. Well, I never knew aunt was looking at us. I was terrified when I heard the voice that came like a gleam of warning. I began to bit my finger carefully like as if I had not done anything wrong. I felt guilty.
‘’ He was abusing me’’
‘’Shut up! You this blatant liar’’
‘’ He kept insulting me’’ ‘’ Both of you are not serious— and meanwhile, have you done your house chores before this querulous misunderstanding between the both of you? ‘’
We both looked at each other with a stealthy face. She noticed our countenance and strangled our ears. I was crying. But I squinted; and later, she left me alone. And continue strangling his ear. I was sombre.
‘’ Next time, both of you won’t fight despite any ordeal’’
Immediately she warned us, we heard thunderous gunshot outside the house. She waved her hand so that we could lie on the floor. We all lied on the cooled tiles. The gunshot became sporadic. I was frightened. She too was praying. But my friend was neither praying nor sacred. The gunshot was unstoppable.
‘’ Both of you close your eyes’’
I closed my eyes firmly. But my friend refused to close his eye, and she slapped him. Her annoyance made the slap to sound like a broken glass. I smeared with his taut face since he refused to adhere to my aunt’s instructions; and I mocked him, to the extent that he began to cry. His eyeballs were as crimson. Still, nobody stood up when the telephone on the table was ringing. It was a lethal as the telephone kept ringing, my aunt looked at me, but I dodged my face because; I knew she would instruct me to switch off the telephone.
‘’ Hey, you, go and bring the phone’’
My friend and I didn’t answer her. I pretended like I was sleeping while my friend totally ignored her because she slapped him.
‘’ You better stand before both of you have pneumonia’’
I yawned and stretched my hands. I heard a screeching sound from the backyard as if something terrible had happened. I was skeptical about that, and immediately informed my aunt about it.
“Aunt I heard something from the backyard’’
‘’ I don’t know. I just heard the sound. And I was worried about what could have happened’’
‘’ Don’t worry, your father will arrive soon’’
I never quibbled to what she had told me in response. I signaled my friend for us to check but Debola wanted to follow us because she had woken from her siesta. I waited, and pretended to Debola because I didn’t want her to follow us. Not until we smelled the aroma of the plantain aunt was frying at the kitchen. I was excited and sat down on the cushion chair, covering my body with the blanket beside the stool father always put his diaries.
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‘’ Are we not going again?’’ my friend asked with a whispering tone
I waved at him. And we changed our decision since aunt had begun to dish our breakfast. Even Debola was jumping from one cushion chair to the other sofa as if she had been gifted a new toy. We all loved toys as a kid. When I was a toddler, I usually cried for mother to buy me toys because those toys were my companion.
‘’ Debola, stop jumping’’
She refused to reply me, and all she did was to bring the television remote closer to me.
‘’ What do you want to do with the remote?’’
‘’ I want nickelodeon’’
I switched on the television, and I saw the news that, a writer had just died. I was anxious about the news. I beckoned at my friend whose uncle was a writer to see the news. He saw the news and he began to cry. I felt feud because I had informed him about the news. He cried. And I was sympathetic. We looked at ourselves and I began to cry as well. Debola looked at me and she began to cry too. We all were crying, but I was trying to console Debola and my friend. Later, he began to nausea and ran to the toilet. Aunt heard our rhythmical cry and she came to the living room. She carried Debola on her shoulder and asked her a question; then Debola pointed her finger at me. I was scathing. My body was already shivering because I knew what she would do to me.
‘’ Why are you all crying?’’
‘’ Tobi started crying first’’
‘’Tobi, what was the cause of the cry?
‘’Abayomi told me my uncle who is a writer is dead’’
‘’Hey! How did you know?’’
‘’ I saw a certain news that a journalist who wrote for the POST was murdered in his own country consulate’’
‘’ So, who told you that it’s Tobi’s uncle?’’
‘’ I never said anything to that, I just felt nostalgic on the brutal killing of the journalist. And I called him to see the news, but I don’t know he will begin to cry’’
‘’ Next time you don’t play with people’s emotion because they are furious about issues that are not even proxy to their social belief. Death is not a phenomenon but, rather it is a cause that will happen sequential to all mankind. Sometime, you don’t need to fear of such, due to the fact that, the so called dead, would find it difficult to interpret the cause of his/her death.’’
I sighed and, Tobi continued to cry. He had concluded that his uncle was dead.
‘’ You don’t need to conclude because the funniest thing about life is to die as a virgin. Anybody that dies without an offspring is a failure to humanity’’
‘’ Meaning what? ‘’ I asked
‘’ It is not necessary to be a child but an offspring is an achievement that can be emulated by death itself because that archangel is always jealous of mankind. Nevertheless, don’t fear your emotion, but it is irrevocably an act of making your solitude to become wizened’’
Tobi sighed. He cleansed his face again and again. And Debola used her small palms on her head and I also kissed her on his right chick.
‘’ Tobi, if it was your uncle, don’t cry anymore because life is seamlessly a strange place that does not appreciate our effort. Everybody will die and by then, life will become lonely because it has done unjust to humanity. And lest I forget, your food is ready! ‘’
‘’ Thank you’’, we all echoed.
Afterwards, we ran to the kitchen to collect our food. She had cooked one of Debola’s sumptuous meals. I don’t like Spaghetti but I don’t have choice than to eat the food because I was already famished. But Tobi was still exasperated about the death of the writer I told him about. He wasn’t lively. I cheered him up but he was dull with all the kind of pranks I was having with him. He was even reluctant to collect the food from aunt. I helped him to collect the food and I brought it to the living room.
‘’ You need to eat the food because I added different ingredients’’
I murmured. But Debola was already done with her food. She was indeed a foodie. Even Tobi was glutton but he didn’t have appetite because he felt his uncle was dead. I still blamed myself for disseminating that terrific news to an innocent boy
‘’ Tobi, why is that you’re not eating your food?’’
‘’ I’m eating the food, and it is just that, I don’t have enough appetite to consume much’’
‘’ You need to eat my dear, because the dead is gone already. Nobody can sympathize with the dead for long. If you begin to cry henceforth nothing good can come out of it. If truly your uncle is dead, stay strong, and work against his sin so that your own life can be redeemed away from turbulence.’’
‘’ Thank you ma’’
‘’ Now, I insist you should finish your food’’
He began to eat the food with so much grief. I looked at him and I felt his pain. I came closer to him and I began to feed him with his spoon.
‘’ Aunt Iyabo, I can’t finish the food’’
‘’ I’m okay already. Thank you.’’
‘’ I don’t like leftover food’’
She then instructed Debola to eat the food. Immediately, Debola began to eat with immersed joy. I shook my head at her. She didn’t even look at me. Perhaps, Tobi was silent and crossed his leg on the chair, and also buried his palm on his right chick. His eyes were red like someone who had skewered meat all night.
‘’ Tobi, let play game’’ I asked astonishingly
‘’ No, I’m not in the mood to play game. I lost interest in everything.’’
It was even around 7pm and father wasn’t back. I saw expecting him to be back but I still leered at the door for his arrival. While Debola was disturbing to change the television channel to nickelodeon; aunt inherently told me to leave the channel at the news channel. And Debola began to cry
‘’ You better stop this nonsense’’
But she ignored her warning and embarked on a long time screaming. So aunt took her toward her legs and instructed her to be mindful of her attitude because she wanted to see the news. The news channel was BBC. It was late night BBC news. We saw the news headline before the newscaster began the news in detail. And what fascinated us, was the death of the journalist who was murdered by some top level culprit in person of Muhammad Ibn Salman
‘’Who is Muhammad Ibn Salman?’’
Aunt looked at me and she began to think in a capricious way. Her reaction to my question was indeed mistaken. She felt I asked about Prophet Muhammad because her husband is a Muslim.
‘’ This is blasphemy’’
‘’ auzu billahi minash shaitan rajeem bismillah rahman rahim’’ she said courtly
I retorted to what she had said; and actually, I felt I was maligned. And I felt worried and my body wasn’t capable to say anything again. Later, I began to recuperate to that, and suddenly, Tobi, stared at me, and we both laughed together. Our laughter got her angry. Her anger was palpable.
‘’ Are you both mad?’’
‘’ Not really—but we never reacted to whatever you had said. My emotion wasn’t to talk against your faith and religion; and actually, what I meant is not to blaspheme Islam or the Prophet’’
‘’ Mind the way you talk against my religion. And whenever you call the Prophet, make sure you say (Peace Be Upon Him- PBUH)’’
‘’ Okay ‘’
We sat down quietly to see the news, the newscaster began the news, and he read the news in a condolence way as if the death of the journalist is the death of all writer and critic. He even mentioned the nationality of the writer; but, I had forgotten, and he further said, the dead journalist critiqued the policy of Muhammad Ibn Salman.
‘’ Who is Muhammad Ibn Salman?’’ Debola asked
Aunt was even convoluted herself with such question Debola had asked her. She felt irritated toward the question and I jumped up to reply on her behalf
‘’ Muhammad Ibn Salman is the crown prince of a country that every Muslim goes for pilgrimage’’
‘’ Are Muslims criminal?’’
‘’ I don’t know or maybe you should ask aunt because her husband is a Muslim’’
‘’ You are stupid for referring to me in your idiocy conversation’’
‘’ I will report you to our father because you have been harsh towards us since you arrived from your London’’
‘’ Meaning what?’’
‘’ You bully us’’ Debola spoke in a low voice
She did as if she didn’t hear what she had said. Aunt kept mute. And we focused on the news and BBC gave an exclusive reportage on the dead journalist; but still, Tobi, was still feeling bad, that it could be his uncle. Because he had once told me his uncle travelled abroad to cover the war in the mid-Asia. I couldn’t specify on the name of the country he had told me because we had the conversation during the elementary days of our friendship.
‘’ Who killed this man? They need to prosecute those who perpetrated the evil. This is terribly bad to humanity. Nobody should forget that a gruesome death means a heroic misfortune to a society who doesn’t value its citizen’’ I said.
Soon after I said this, aunt jerked up, and moved to the visitors’ room to change to her pyjamas. And unknowingly, she looked outside, and saw a man lying down and his two hands had been chopped up. As soon as she saw this, she screamed, and we all ran from the living room to her room. When we got there, we saw her shivering, and her mouth was singing solemnly to the shock she encountered. We questioned her but what she could do was to point her mid finger towards the window. We followed the direction of her hands and we saw a man who resembled our father. The man on the floor wore a similar cloth father wore to the event he attended. Father was also a columnist. He wrote folksy column often and he was a polemicist.
‘’ What is father doing on the floor?’’ Debola asked me
So, Aunt Iyabo began to cry. Her eyes were swollen. I noticed her and I opened the door to confirm what my thought had told me. When I opened the door, I saw father’s brief case at one side of the compound, closer to dustbin; and I was worried. Later, I moved closer to the man on the floor, but, he stenches. I touched the man, thinking it was father, but, he didn’t move at all. I was sacred on what the police would say if we report the case to them.
‘’ Is that your father?’’ Tobi asked me
I ignored him. I kicked the man with my legs; to know if he was drunk. No, he wasn’t drunk. He didn’t react and I began to screaming like one bitten by a venomous snake. Debola ran outside and she joined me in the cry.
‘’ My uncle can’t die like this! He is just a columnist not a critic and who can do this evil to our family?’’ Aunt Iyabo said, asking rhetorically.
We had even forgotten to see the news on BBC anymore because we had lost our interest in the news. We cried. Debola cried unstopped like Tobi did earlier.
‘’Why will a journalist die like this and crown prince can’t face the court’’
‘’What do you mean?’’
‘’Abayomi, do you know Jamal Khashoggi?’’ Tobi asked
‘’I don’t know him’’
‘’He was a journalist’’
‘’He was murdered and nobody had been prosecuted’’
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‘’Nobody can defend justice in this era where the monarch doesn’t have value for humanity anymore. The biggest threat to humanity is those people who believe so much impunity. And there should be integrity to life but it is unfortunate that people don’t know how to condole this malicious event in this era. This is a culpable factor that controls people’s opinion without good choice of words. However, words have become killer of the mind due to the kind of derogatory news and discussion that our politicians speak to humanity’’, aunt Iyabo said.
‘’Father is dead and the government won’t do anything to know the perpetrators. They will just sit and deliberate on the economy rather than find those who killed a writer who was fearless.’’ I said.
‘’Yes, he died without justice. He had gone in vain. And nothing is being done since October 2 when he died in his country consulate in Istanbul’’ Tobi said.
‘’Love is a parallel and death is vertical into history as nobody can determine who will be the next victim of cruelty’’, I said.
Dedicated to late Jamal Khashoggi