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Henry came banging on the door- he was drunk. Patience was sleeping curled up in a tattered mat in the small room. The bang continued, deep asleep she had a long day; going to the farm in her condition after hours of weeding while returning she carried a tray food of firewood was nothing but torturous but Henry lackadaisical attitude left her with little or no choice but to fend for herself. And her family had turned their backs on her claiming she had brought shame to them. It was the good hearted Clement that supported in the little way he could.
Henry: “where is this crazy and prostitute of a woman?” her staggered and hit the door with the shoulders as if he was trying to break it. It was the bashing sound that woke her.
She swallowed her tasteless saliva-her body temperature was high. The bang came again. She managed to pick herself up from the ground,
Patience: “Ah!” she cried getting up as all the bones in her body twitched in pains-soreness had held her joints. Dragging her feet, she opened the door as Henry pushed her to the ground. The way she landed it was as if she had broken a spinal cord. She groaned.
Henry: “stupid woman! Next time you wouldn’t try to lock me out in my own house!” he kicked her on her knee as she cried out, hissed and staggered to a chair. He crossed his legs and yelled, “get me my food to eat!”
Still on the ground by the door crying she shook her head.
Henry: “what!?” he jerked up staggering; “You won’t gimme food in my own house?”
The shaking of her head wasn’t a deliberate refusal to serve him dinner but there was nothing at home- not even the common corn flour used for Ozhe,tuwo. She was hungry too but what could she do? Henry was too lazy to work and his father, the village head of Knayigbana had forbade anybody for giving them his food, he said, “a man who is capable of impregnating a woman should be able to fend for her!”
He was standing over her, “so you’ve grown wings that you’d not only lock me out in my house but starve me right?”
Patience: “Nooo…,’ before her quivering lips should say another word she was served with a clanging slap that sent her face-flat to the ground. Blood was trickling form her torn lips. He started kicking and punching her directly to the stomach. She used her hand to hold her stomach. Death was staring at her. She was already seeing the light.
Henry: “stupid girl! I’ll show you today!” he pinned her down with his knee and was punching her all over- he concentrated on the stomach.
Patience: “Please! Please!!!” she kept pleading with the last strength she had but he hit her harder. Seeing that he meant to kill her, she gathered her last energy and pushed him off as he landed on the ground hitting his head on a stool. He seemed lifeless. With the speed of light, she ran out into the dark and kept running not knowing the exact direction she was heading too. Her eyes were shut but even with exhaustion and pain she ran faster. Into a quiet compound, she ran into and went straight to the room by the left close to the kitchen as she was knocking on the door, dizziness clung to her and she passed out.
Clement rushed out having heard troubling bang on his door and was shocked to see a lifeless woman at his doorstep when he looked closer it was his love,patience.
Clement: “Pashe! Pashe!!!” he carried her into his room.
Bala sat in the truck quiet as they drove down to the district officer. It was late. None of the military officers who were in the truck smiled. They all wore stone faces. Shrugged and sat enjoying his thoughts alone. He was ready to die for his people. After all Mandela was at that time facing jail terms for crusading against Apartheid in South Africa.
That was his inspiration. No matter what happened, he was determined not to bow to the pressure of Maigari and that tyrant of a Captain, Nwanze.
The hatred between himself and the captain wasn’t brewed only by the fight for his people but something more personal; Kyauta. Nwanze wanted her by all means and Bala wasn’t ready to give even if it meant death. The truck parked in front of the office as its lights shone on the door that had on it the sticker of the Nigerian Army. Its sound died down as the driver put the engine off. Bala a sudden became nervous. The saliva in his mouth felt like he had eaten tablets of Chloroquine.
Bala: “Calm down, Bala!” he said to himself.
One of the brash looking soldiers yelled at him, “O boy, come down!”
He didn’t know when he jumped down and they bundled him to the office. That was it, he thought. There was nothing he could do, He was already in the den of lions. With a sigh, he vowed to himself never to be broken no matter what happened. Jacked by two men he was brought before Captain Nwanze, who had his legs sprawled on the table enjoying his long tobacco.
Captain Nwanze: “Easy boys! Easy! Let the young man be!”
His men let go of him, saluted and left. Ruffled Bala tried put himself together, “I sent for you,” Captain Nwanze said blowing the tobacco into the air as it formed circle of clouds in the room. It was choking Bala who hated any form of smoke. He coughed, “Oh, it looks like the village champion is allergic to my expensive cigar!” he smirked.
Bala looked away, “have a seat, my man!” he added.
Bala: “No! I’m okay, thank you!”
Captain Nwanze: “I insist!”
Bala sighed and dragged one of the chairs as he sat they were face to face with each other,
“Good! Good! I want to make a proposal to you!”
Captain Nwanze: “I want you to discourage your people about the crazy idea of protest you’ve put in their heads. Calm them down!” he walked towards Bala and tapped him, “I know the meeting between you and Maigari didn’t go well. You know how impulsive old men can be. We are almost peers. So I knew I could call you and we’d be able to create some level of understanding.”
Bala was trying to suppress his anger and acted like he was playing along,
Bala: “So,how do I convince the people to forget the idea of protest?”
Captain Nwanze smiled and puffed out smoke in grand style as he threw himself to the chair,
Captain Nwanze: “You are a smart man. Tell them anything! They are nothing but illiterates with dogmatic nature who follows the lead of men like you. If you can do that I promise to make you rich! And we could be actually be friends you know?” he giggled.
Bala: “Is that all, sir?”
Captain Nwanze: “for now,yes!” he shrugged, “Maku!”
Maku entered and saluted, “yes,sir!”
Captain Nwanze: “bring the parcel!”
Maku dropped a brown envelope in front of Bala, “this is all yours. And it’s the beginning of many good things to come!”
Maku excused himself. Bala sat with hands on the table; he was busy thinking of the best way to handle the situation. If he acted rude, it is possible that they could kill him and throw his body in the flowing stream and no one would ever ask what happened to him. It was the military regime and they had the power to do and undo. Bala decided to say his mind. Fear was casted aside,it was important to stand up for the powerless. Was that not the reason he was educated to defend them in such times?
Bala: “what if I can’t talk them out of the idea?”
Captain Nwanze: “What do you mean by that?” he removed the tobacco from his mouth.
Bala: “I mean what if I don’t want to discourage them from carrying out the peaceful protest as planned?”
Captain Nwanze, angry, giggled,
Captain Nwanze: “Really?” he stood up from his seat and stood behind Bala, who was scared that he might be strangulated.
Bala twisted the neck and replied,
Bala: “I can’t sell the right of the people! I must stand for what is right!”
Captain Nwanze burst into boisterous laughter, one that lasted for a minute- Bala regained his calmness, he felt victorious.
Captain Nwanze: “what about the gift?”
Bala: “I can’t eat the flesh of my people! I’m not a vulture!”
Captain Nwanze who had returned to his seat tightened his fist and knocked Bala off the chair, “Ooooh!” Bala was groaning on the ground, Nwanze came to where he was knocked down and placed his black shinning boots on him,
Captain Nwanze: “No one messes with me! I am not like Maigari that you can mess with! I am the man with the iron fist! Go on with the protest,please!”
Two of the men ran into the room waiting for the next command,
“Pick him up!”
They picked him upholding his arms as Captain Nwanze aimed his stomach and punched it. He screamed in pains as blood gushed out of his mouth,
“Take the bastard away!
As they were taking him out Captain Nwanze called on them like robots they stopped. He looked into Bala’s face,
Captain Nwanze: “And if I dare catch you close to Kyauta again! I’ll smash your balls,” he held Bala who was bleeding by the neck as he threatened him. Bala was groaning as blood ran down his cheek. There was a cut by the side of his eye.
And he was taken away.
As early as six in the morning there was a bang on Bala’s door. The noise woke everyone up in the compound. His father had to come out of the room,
Bala’s father: “Ah,ah,Mairo! Why are you disturbing my compound this early?” he said in his croaky voice.
Bala heard the noise but he felt too weak to stand up. The beaten had made his body sore. The bones and joints were in disorder.
Mairo who stood with her daughter respond rudely,
Mairo : “when your son who cannot control his libido was busy perusing my daughter’s buttocks did you complain that their moaning was disturbing your compound?”
Bala’s father was befuddled,
Bala’s father: “what are you talking about?”
Everyone knew Mairo to be very troublesome. No one wanted her trouble. She only had a daughter and no one knew exactly who the father was. She didn’t know herself for she had slept with as many as four different men when she got pregnant and they all denied her.
Mairo: “Heheehhe… Bala you hero of a son didn’t tell you that he had impregnated by daughter right?”
Bala’s father: “Bala impregnate Diana?” he looked more confused.
Diana was crying but it was all pretence-she was happy.
Mairo: “well, I didn’t come to banter words with anyone. I brought her as a gift to Bala. He must marry her!” she faced Diana, “and you since you can only open your legs for a man that means you’re ready to become a wife!”
Diana: “Mama, please!!!”
Mairo throwing insults in the air left the compound, Diana stood by Bala’s door crying as Bala’s father shook his head,
Bala’s father: “Children of this generation,” he sighed and made for his room.
Bala glued himself to the room; his father would be disappointed for sure, he knew. His disappointment wouldn’t be because he impregnated a lady but the fact that it was Diana, the rude girl,and broken the heart of the very behaved Kyauta.
Bala’s head was cloudy; he was threatened to stop the protest failure to do as commanded would cost him his life. What he experienced last night was a tip of the iceberg, he was told. And stopping the protest would mean the people would continue in suffering and they might turn against him. Diana was truly pregnant. Yes, Kyauta claimed to have no qualms but that was because she was sure Diana was lying about being pregnant. Now that it was true he was scared she might leave him.
He buried his head in the bed and screamed.
What do you think Bala should do? Should he run away to start a new life? If he agrees to go on with protest he would die and if he doesn’t the people might turn against him, what exactly should he do? Do you think Kyauta would leave him? Should Clement keep Patience in his house? Was Henry dead?
To be continued tomorrow
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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