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July 30, 2009

Okey’s heart beat like pistons crushing yam against the mortar. His eyes scurried here and there. His mind continued to gallingly churn through a go-slow of excuses he could give. It was futile; like a torchlight powered by weak batteries searching for a needle on a football field at night. Pretexts were proving hard to conjure.

His father’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “How many times have I warned you not to keep making friends with that boy?” The voice re-echoed in his head, causing him to tremble. He felt helpless, utterly. “I had been warned; I wish I’d listened” he cried to himself.

Okey had known no rest the moment Mama Kelechi stormed into the house haranguing about her mangled flowers, victims of the new football game Okey’s friend had invented. Okey’s mother patiently listened to Mama Kelechi’s narration. Her spleen vented with timely pinches at Okey’s ear. He could feel his skin fraying – child’s play to what his father would do. No amount of pleading could dissuade her.

“No, I think I’ve had it up to here” she scolded raising her right hand above her head. “What on earth prompted you to enter into Mama Kelechi’s compound; isn’t there enough space for you and your friend within the house?”

“Wait till your father gets back.” That was how she occasionally concluded each statement. Okey began to rapidly recite all the prayers he knew, particularly the one for hopeless situations, even though he couldn’t remember the Saint’s name. As he toyed with several resolutions in his mind – though playing football whenever his parents were not at home was the norm. He was willing to forfeit this past time for his entire life.

As he stood by the kitchen door his hands behind his back, his mother’s pace about the kitchen was dizzying. A sign of burning displeasure, combined effortlessly with questioning glances at Okey, in an attempt to fathom his thoughts. “This boy won’t be the end of my life” she thought.

Though fatigued from standing, he fastened a pleading glance on her. “Mummy please, I promise to stop being naughty, I won’t listen to what my friend tells me to do next time, I promise, please.”

“Next time?!” Okey’s mother exploded, her leather slippers took aim at Okey. A few inches more it would have clobbered his head. A close shave that drove home the message: there was never going to be a next time. His friend was now persona-non-grata, better still, he didn’t exist.  “OK Mummy never again, forever and ever.”

His mother couldn’t restrain her tears any longer; they poured down her cheeks. Okey couldn’t bear the sight, he grabbed her hands, knelt before her sobbing “Mummy please, I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“I know” she replied “but, it just that we have to go through the same process ever so often and when I think of how your father, when gets a hold of you, will hurt you.” “I’ll try harder, just don’t tell daddy”, offered Okey. In a warm and softened voice, that eased his nerves, she replied. “Alright, I won’t, but you’re going to help Mama Kelechi with her garden, one hour everyday.”

They stood embraced in a fleeting silence that was interrupted by an all too familiar honk. Okey’s father had hardly parked the car when Mama Kelechi collared him at entrance to the house. 15 minutes later, he walked into the house, hurled his briefcase onto the settee and bellowed “Okey!”

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