By Ngwa Eucharia, edited by Taleabong B Alemnge

Once upon a time in a mysterious village were streams ran dry in the rainy seasons and flowed in the dry seasons, were the gods were good to bad men and bad to good men lived a family who fed on palm kennels, struggled for ends meet through tapping which was just enough to keep their nostrils above the seas. They were ridiculed by the wealthier families and their macabre home was a harbor forbush rats, spider webs and breathing ground for parasites.

The dawn of March had alerted which was considered as the season of luck because the sky often poured down many blessings in the form of rain drops.  The rain had its own mind. It chose whose roof to pour on and wherever it poured, blessings showered that family. This particular march, Mr. Ijouma’s and his wife were the lucky ones. The rain drop of fertility had showered them and Mrs. Ijouma was pregnant after several years of childlessness. The news traveled as wind across the land and was received with so much disbelieve by the villagers because it was a strange norm on the land for the gods to bless the and wretched for their wretchedness was considered a sign of laziness. So, many suggested that the baby will be a curse. These negative flashlights didn’t radiate in Mr.ijouma’s home. They were glad, happy and ready to receive their first baby.

Months later, the baby was born. A fine bulky boy in a wrong home. Mrs. Ijouma could still manage to go to her market place with little Enjema tied firmly to her back while Mr. Ijouma was more enthusiastic and ambitious with his palm wine business.

One day Mr. Ijouma as usual stepped out to check his palm trees and perhaps collect some palm wine. The skies were growing darker and the fowls were all returning to their sleeping spots. Mrs. Ijouma was already getting disturbed when a young lad ran into the overgrown compound panting like a dog to announce that her husband had fallen off a palm tree and lost his breath. Mrs. Ijouma felt a lump in her throat, cold blood ran up her spine and a dry tear dropped off her aging cheeks.

In tears and songs of laments, she followed the boy to the spot where she found her husband lying lifelessly like a lock of wood. She threw herself on this body, letting her emotions take the better part of her.

Enjema grew up without a father and his mother spent the rest of her life feeling lonely and sorry for her boy. Enjema was as hard working like his father. He tried several trades and finally decided to move to a nearby land where he learned a new kind of trade, taxi driving. With the help of his beautiful lover whose eyes could be likened to an angel’s apparition and her smile was like a fountain of life so much so that each time Tiala smiled, Enjema could feel life rejunivating inside of him, Enjema finally got himself a personal taxi, brightly yellow.

Feelings of excitement swept over Enjema. He couldn’t wait to hit the dusty roads and start raising money for himself, his mother and Tiala.  Enjema had sworn that he will organize the biggest memorial celebration for his father when he had the money to do so. His dreams were fast sailing to him now.

The nights seemed longer. Enjema couldn’t wait for dawn. Before the curtains of the night could close, Tiala was on her way running speedily to meet Enjema. She had perceived a bad omen and she had to notify Enjema not to step out for work but before she could get to Enjema, his taxi was no longer packed outside. Enjema was out on the roads already.

Enjema excitedly picked up his first passenger and as a way of thanking the gods, he offered to carry the passenger for free. The passenger was a broad-chested man, a cut on his jaw with weird paintings around his left arm. He had a cigarette in his mouth with smoke puffing out his nostrils which he conducted with a lot of expertise. Enjema was too excited to have noticed all these details.

Enjema dropped off the passenger at his destination and speeded off not knowing that his passenger had forgotten a bag on one of the seats. Enjema met with some uniform men on patrol who searched his vehicle and before they could open the bag which Enjema knew not where it came from, guns were already falling off. Enjema was quickly encircled, arrested and taken off to the station where he was treated like an animal being taken to the slaughterhouse. A million was requested for his release and this left Tiala heartbroken and worried.

Tiala had no choice than to make sure the news reached mama Ijouma. The news reached her like a bad storm, breaking the roofs of her heart andshowering pain on the altar of her soul. She wept and wept and the only thing which could calm her was setting her eyes on Enjema. She sold all her crops, wrappers, pots just to raise some money which was just enough for her to take care of her trip to the strange town which kept her son hostage.

One cold evening as Enjemaslumbered; his mother appeared in his sleep. With a smile, she told him never to forget his father’s house. ‘I will miss you’, these are the words that slipped off her tongue as she waved him goodbye.

Enjema woke up startled, afraid and confused.

Many moons passed by and mama had not arrived town. Tiala tried severally to reach her but to no avail. She was so worried to the extent that she boycotted visiting Enjema for days for the fear of questions she didn’t have answers to. One afternoon when Enjema had made up her mind to visit Enjema, her phone rang and it was a strange caller. ‘Is this Enjema?’ a gentle feminine voice asked over the phone. ‘No, I’m his girlfriend’. A few seconds later, tears came running down her sweet dark face as she dropped the phone in a corner of her jacket and rushed out.

At the station, Enjema and Tiala stared at each other with suspicious glances. ‘Where is mama? I want to talk to her’Enjema requested. ‘Her phone is bad’ Tiala lied. Enjema stared into Tiala’s eyes to find traces of truth but to his greatest Shock, he saw his mother’s ghost in Tiala’s eyes waving him goodbye. Enjemascreamed in a loud voice, ‘Tiala, where is mama?’

Enjema collapsed.

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