The Wounded Soldier

wounded soldier02

Paul felt an arm lift his shoulder, and another beneath his feet. He knew he was slipping in and out of consciousness; as a med student, he knew the theory but had never experienced it. Until now.

He tried to move, to stand up, to ask what was happening to him, but all his efforts were in vain.

Oh God what is happening to me, Paul tried to say. Blood sputtered from his mouth, his lips moved but no sound came out. All around him everything was getting dark and darker still. He tried to raise his left arm, but the pain was unbearable. Must be broken.

He tried to recall. There had been an explosion, a deafening one. That’s exactly when everything became dark. He tried to remember where he was and what must have caused the explosion but his memory was hazy.

People were talking all around him, “buddy … hold on …”, “hey … pull through …”, “hang on … c’mon bro …”

What is happening? Who are you? Where am I? He tried to ask all at the same time. Instead, he spit more blood.

Paul forced his eyes open; the surrounding light dazzled his eyes. He shut it immediately, and tried again after a few moments. With little effort, he began to recognize his surroundings. It was a village. And a war was on.

Oh God, please help, he prayed. Just like his Sunday school teacher had taught him all those years ago. At first his mum forced him to go but as time passed, he had started enjoying it. He still remembered the look on his mom’s face the evening he sauntered in grinning from ear to ear. The puzzled look on her face transformed to a radiating smile when he announced, “I just gave my life to Christ”. That was years ago, and remembering it now made him smile.

A sudden calm settled over him. He had given his life to a loving saviour, so even though he was in pain, Paul knew that he was in good hands. That assurance lulled him into a deep sleep.

The ‘deep’ sleep lasted all of two minutes before a jolt woke him again. Groggy with pain, Paul tilted leftward where a face hovered over him.

He recognized the face – Jack Rover. They were roommates and best friends right from their first year in the med school. In fact, Jack was the reason Paul chose to join the medical department of the defence academy. And together, they had opted for advanced military training so they could provide medical care on the war front.

Paul tried to speak, to ask Jack what happened. But his head protested. Jack smiled and extended a hand to soothe his chest. Paul couldn’t hear his words over all the noise but he saw the promise in his pal’s eyes: you will be fine.

Paul turned to his other side and saw more faces he recognized. He was on a stretcher being carried towards a chopper with whizzing blades. They walked fast, in spurts; severally, they stopped in a crouch behind a shrub or a shed, and crawled out again moments later. They were trying to avoid being detected. At the same time, they frequently glanced down at him with faces full of concern. They wanted to ensure their movement wasn’t causing him much pain.

A sludge of memories hit Paul, and he quickly shut his eyes as it all came back to him. The men – Jim, Cross, Jitsu and Dele; all of them infantry assigned to that regiment for a peace-keeping mission in Iraq.

They had been in Baghdad for three months, maintaining the order. That morning they had received report of an attack on a squadron in the neighbouring town of Karbala, and had set out immediately in a convoy of tanks, gun trucks and a medical Landrover van. But just as they were entering Karbala, an enemy jet fighter leaving Baghdad spotted them and dropped a ballistic missile. It missed them by a few feet, hitting a transmission pole instead. The pole fell on the medical van sending it somersaulting into a sandy ditch by the roadside. Paul was in the passenger seat.

Pain jolted him back to reality. Just then, Paul saw a figure that looked like … no, it was him. Col. Sanders. Driven by habit, Paul tried to lift his arm in a salute but pain crippled him and he yelped. The colonel touched his shoulder very lightly – at ease, soldier – the unmistakable glint of kindness in his eyes. The colonel was carrying him too? Paul looked around again, slowly.

Though his face stayed as stern as it did when he was supervising a parade, Col. Sanders indeed held on tight to one end of the stretcher Paul was on. How on earth could Col. Sanders suspend a mission to care for a wounded soldier?

Paul was puzzled.

Then he remembered. It was the colonel who taught them never to leave a wounded soldier behind. “No matter what, never leave a wounded soldier behind” Col. Sanders had made them yell it over and over again on their last day of training in Denver.

Impressive, Paul thought, that even the almighty Col. Sanders walked his talk. In fact, it was not just impressive, it was humiliating.

Guilt washed over Paul as he remembered his youth pastor referring to Christians as soldiers. While speaking to them from the second book of Timothy, the pastor had highlighted soldierly attributes that should be possessed by young Christians, like discipline, agility, sacrifice, etc. But he hadn’t said anything about wounded soldiers.

Paul remembered that time Sister Judy got pregnant, how he had quickly condemned her in his mind and never cared to visit her even after she delivered. He hadn’t seen her in church for months, but he never even asked about her. He also remembered when his fiancée told him of a church member that lived on her street who was dating two guys. They had laughed at her impending doom in his apartment that evening and written her off.

A warm tear escaped Paul’s shut eyelids. The more he remembered scores of other wounded soldiers he had left behind, the more freely the tears flowed.

Thoroughly ashamed, he cried out to God for mercy. With quivering soundless lips he prayed, “Lord Jesus, as long as I am a soldier in your army, I promise never to leave a wounded soldier behind again”.

And he drifted off to a deeper sleep.


By Toby Nwazor

Toby Nwazor

Toby Nwazor is a freelance writer, public speaker and personal development blogger. He is the co-founder of www.tobyandkc.com where he shares tips for living a more productive life. And he thoroughly believes in networking.

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Winie says … ‘Hook ups’ and their ‘mess ups’

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Babe dat your friend na correct catch oh, abeg na, hook me up’

I absolutely love Mercy, but in the middle of stirring a happy pot of Nsala soup on a beautiful Saturday afternoon like this one, her constant whining about my other friend, Daniel was irritating me to tatters.

Painstakingly, I gathered the last shreds of my patience. “I take God beg you,” I pleaded, “leave me alone!”

Her face changed and she stormed out of the kitchen, stomping my fragile wooden floor like a pissed off hippopotamus. This routine had been going on for the past three months, and I have absolutely no objection to her either dating or getting to know Daniel better. But as their mutual friend, I choose not to get involved; in fact, I shall not be found a thousand kilometers near the reason they choose to be together.

Who does that?! Right? Who in their right mind would pass up on the opportunity to ‘hook up’ two good people who might be meant for each other? I mean there are all sorts of perks to it: the sparkly toast they’ll make to you at the wedding reception; you get first shot at godmother to future offsprings, and don’t forget bragging rights – “I hooked them up ;)” It’s a juicy package, so why not? Well, don’t search too far; the answer is ‘Winifred’. Yes, me. E duro! Sit back and let me tell you a story.

It was a couple of years ago, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, much like this Saturday only without Nsala soup; I dey my side jeje when my good friend knocked on my door and would not stop ranting about my other friend and colleague. “Winie abeg, put in a good word for me,” were his words, “I really like her”. I interrogated him, and part-time psychoanalyst that I am, I determined that he was serious and had good intentions. So I obliged him and two months later, they were in a relationship.

Let’s just say that a few weeks down the line, some major kata kata burst and it was the messiest pre-marital divorce I had ever witnessed. Since I was the relationship initiator, I was the grass when the two elephants fought. Comments like, ‘how could you let them date?’, ‘Winie, you are wicked shaa’, ‘what made you think those two would ever work out?’, ‘how dare you let this happen?’ etc. were thrown at me. By-standers, other friends, acquaintances and gossips all had words of rebuke and advice for me. Everybody became self-acclaimed relationship experts.

All the while this nightmare was going on, my greatest fear was losing either of my friends to it. But I seemed to be the only thing they unwillingly had in common and even though I felt intense pressure to pick a side, I couldn’t. My friends’ pain tore me apart and no one was having a swell time. These two people couldn’t have been more wrong for each other, but somehow it hadn’t been as glaring initially. I struggled to find meaning, peace or even a way to move forward. What’s the right thing to say? Or do? I blamed myself for ever getting involved in the first place and would have done anything to undo it. But as it turned out, the only (sane) way to ride out the storm was to wait and see.

Eventually, waves of anger subsided and I picked up the bits and pieces of what was left of my friendship with both parties. Till date, these friendships still have some sore points; I still struggle with what to say or do whenever that experience comes up.

Back to my Saturday now, I watched Mercy as I set the table for lunch. She was sulking and staring at the TV. I reminded her again that she was too valuable for me to play ‘hook up’ games with. “If you like someone, go talk to him or wait and hope he notices you. But for the sake of our friendship which I hope to preserve, keep me out of it.” I gave her a big side hug and proceeded to tickle the frown off her. The explosive laughter that followed was a relief;  the only way to eat Nsala soup is in peace.

I know some very beautiful relationships have come out of ‘hook ups’, I also know about their ‘mess ups’ and how terrible they can be. I know that intense feeling of wanting to help a friend out and being unable to. If you ever find yourself being boxed into such a corner by a friend, here are a few things I have learned that just might help:

  1. Take a mirror, look in it and repeat these words ‘I AM NOT GOD’. It helps calm you down when you think you have the power to control or influence people’s lives and choices especially in relationship matters.
  2. The fact that someone is a good friend to you doesn’t mean that they’ll be a good romantic partner to you or someone else. As a matter of fact, the emotions that are specifically for romantic relationships, complicate things way more than you’ll ever anticipate. I say this to mean, your matchmaking MIGHT be a wrong fit. You never really know how a person will behave in a relationship regardless of how long you’ve known them as a friend.
  3. Let people choose for themselves. I mean the WHOLE process of making a choice. Let them convince the other person that they are good enough, without your own ‘few good words’. So that peradventure things don’t sail smoothly, no one will look at you and say ‘but you told me …’
  4. When your friends are dating, DRAW THE LINE. There should be that place where your friendship stops and their intimate private lives continue, especially when you know the two people involved. This is because, once you share that intimate space with them, it becomes CROWDED and heads start bumping. Take it from me; you’ll be the grass under two elephants.
  5. Finally, if and in the event kata kata burst, always remember your FRIENDSHIP is way more important than picking sides. So practice yoga if you have to, but you must straddle the thin line. After all is said and done, the people you meet and get to know are the summary of your existence. Every valuable friendship is worth keeping and maintaining.

That’s all I have to say. Your comments on COBIL were very enlightening, so let’s have more of that sunshine here. Have you had any experiences similar to mine? Do you have battle scars from meddling in ‘hook ups’ that we all can learn from? The Comments section is just a short scroll away, so hit it and share with us.

While you’re at that,

Winnie says … Have a Winning-Day.

For past editions of this column, click HERE

WAW

My Sketchbook…lost but found!

Yes…really.

In May’s edition of ‘The Lectern’, WAW featured a piece titled ‘My Sketchbook’ (read the whole piece here). In it, Hope told a heroine’s tale of pain suffered at the hands of love. The heroine gave her sketchbook to her lover; but every time she retrieved it from him, he had riddled it with horrid markings.

He returned repentant every time, and in spite of the pain she had suffered, the brave heroine gave this lover another chance with her sketchbook. And each time, he treated it even worse “…until there was one page left.”

And even as we watched in astounded rage, this heroine yet again forgave the prodigal lover and gave the last page to him. This time, he …

“…tore it into tiny bits and pieces…

…and the wind carried it away”

leaving the lady hurt and heartbroken. With no beautiful sketches and no sketchbook, our brave heroine finally broke down and cried.

Some of you thought it was beautiful, some thought it was sad, the rest of us were just angry – “how could she have been so trusting?!” And we kept a thunderbolt doing press-ups in the backyard waiting for the day the yeye lover-boy go try surface.

But this one WAW reader did more. He found the sketchbook!

You hear me, Hope?…he found ‘your’ sketchbook. And for icing, he drew your face on the very first page.

Hope sketch2

He also asked that I add this:

“Christ gave and gave everything to us, yet we crucified him. Even at the point of death he still gave – he prayed for us. You gave your sketchpad in love and forgiveness, like Christ, but it was misused and lost. Good news: you will get it back bigger and better, as long as God lives. Because He is the epitome of love and mercy”

Did he say “you will?”…because it looks like she got it back already, bigger and BETTER.

WAW!!!

I know what you’re thinking. What’s his name, abi? My dear, im no gree oh. The dude swore me to secrecy on his identity. So I’ll just leave now…before I start leaking truths and tears all over this e-floor. Do not pass by without saying one word or two (or singing a whole frigging chorus) in appreciation of this beautiful gesture.

Question: “Shall we let this correct guy remain anonymous???”

I mean, yes, he swore me to secrecy but swear sef dey fear im mama. If a good number of you, say 30, 40 or 50 came out here to say SHOW YOURSELF, I wouldn’t have a choice but to yell his name. You folks are king after all, and I can’t be sued for royal loyalty…right? 😉

#Nuffsaid.

Chisom

The Lectern: Illusions

For a change from all the adrenaline zipping all over the place recently, this month’s edition of ‘The Lectern’ is mellow. With a sober almost sorrowful tone, this new writer bares it all unrestrained, and in the same one stroke, takes it all. It is a WAW hope that this message reaching you from ‘The Lectern’ does for you, more than it did for us.

Nuff said, have a delightful rest-of-April.

The Lectern01

…that we might be read


 

ILLUSIONS

woman

 

You stand there crumbling everything around me

Weakening my defences as you saunter into the room

My heartbeat rapidly increases as I realize

You’re going to ask for something I’m not fully willing to give

But would give willingly because you asked for it

 

My shoulders shake as I weep uncontrollably

As you tell me you’re not going to do it again

You tell me you love me and nothing can ever change that

In my heart of hearts, I wonder if any of it is true

It was easier to believe it back then when the relationship had just begun

 

An uninvited question crosses my mind

‘How long can we continue in this illusion of a relationship?’

I shiver because I don’t know what tomorrow holds

Yet I hold onto you desperately praying it wouldn’t hold the pain of betrayal

And your eyes would never stray

 

You touch me and all my insides melt

You hold me in ways no one has ever held me before

I continue to cry, wishing I wasn’t so hopelessly in love with you

Wishing I could walk away from you without a sick feeling of emptiness and loneliness

 

My mind tells me this is all an illusion

“He can’t be with you forever, he’ll soon move onto the next girl

You can’t possibly hold on for much too long’

I know I should walk away but my legs can’t carry me

My heart can’t handle this onslaught on its emotions

 

I try to imagine life without you

Life without your smile to experience and your hands to hold me

And it seems so dull and dreary

I’ve been in this relationship for so long

I’m not sure I can find myself anymore

I’m not sure I can see me except through your eyes

But this illusion would end one day and I would be forced to walk away

 

Rather than wait for that day to come, I will now helplessly turn to the One

Who can give me the courage to walk away from you and find myself again

 
By Ifeanyi Omoike

TM Ifeanyi Omoike 20150407_200108

Ifeanyi is a focused project manager who believes in God, and the beauty of human relationships. She loves shoes…LOTS of shoes.

If you have written something which you would like our readers to enjoy from ‘The Lectern’, or you just wan show yourself for the helluvit, attach and send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you are unsure about a subject matter, still reach out and we can work up something appropriate for you. It doesn’t have to be right, left, right or wrong…just your opinion.

Chisom

…if we have a country

thinking man

Dear Suzzy,

Contrition overwhelms me as I pen these words. I am ashamed of myself because I lied to you and made a promise I knew would be hard to keep. On a second thought, I forgive myself because you pushed me. You pushed me when you kissed me the other night and made me promise to take you to Nigeria on Valentine’s Day.

I must have been hypnotized by that kiss or the food we ate afterwards.  I am certain that I wouldn’t have made such a weighty promise if I was in control of my senses.

I hate to disappoint you my dear but we have to cancel the arrangement. We cannot spend Valentine day in Nigeria because my country will be at war on that day.

I know how eager you are to visit Africa and Nigeria. I know how much you look forward to meeting the nice people and seeing the beautiful places you have read and heard about. But your curiosity can wait another year my dear.

If you don’t want to have Valentine memories tainted in tears and blood then we should remain here and cuddle on that day. With the super-fast internet at our disposal, we can watch the madness in my country from a distance. Our love is young and sweet but I fear it will never be the same if I take you home this Valentine.

Suzzy my dear, you are probably wondering why I am so scared when all that is happening is just an election to decide who will be president of my country. But you won’t understand. You have lived in these peaceful climes for too long and you think elections in other parts of the world are the same with what you have here.

But you are wrong my dear. In my own part of the world, elections are like war. We go to the polls afraid of what will happen when the results are announced. However it turns out, tears, blood and wanton destruction of property are normal features of elections in Nigeria.

You ask why it is like that?  It is because politics in my country smacks of desperation. Those who hold power sit tight even when they have performed below expectations and those who want it will throw everything including the kitchen sink to actualize their ambitions.

My dear Suzzy, we can’t make this visit to Nigeria because the forthcoming elections may be bloody. Everyone is afraid the country may go up in flames regardless of the outcome.

Have you forgotten what my friends in Berlin said when we visited for Christmas? I mean, you saw the trepidation in Timi’s eyes when he told us his parents were planning to relocate temporarily from their home in the Kaduna because they fear a riot might start when the results are announced.

Joe my friend in Lagos, said some people were already planning to go to Ghana, Republic of Benin and other neighboring countries during the election. That’s what happens every time we go to the polls in my country. Those who have the means run away until the madness abates. The poor and innocent ones are always at the short end of the stick. Some die. Others lose their homes and means of livelihood while another group of survivors will spend the rest of their lives nursing physical and emotional wounds that will never heal.

Suzzy, do you know what is really annoying this time?  We are to choose between two men who probably don’t deserve to be president of any country in the world.

Unlike your own country where you have to choose from a pool of brilliant minds, with enviable track records, election in my country is based strictly on ethnic and religious sentiments.

My dear, do you know how difficult it is to choose between an incumbent president who has failed in many areas and a 72-year old retired General with a questionable past?  Joe says it is like standing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

You know another annoying thing as we prepare for this election? It is the fact that no one is asking the fundamental questions. On Facebook, Twitter and other social media platform, the re-packaged General is portrayed as our knight in shining amour.  To his teeming supporters, it is a sacrilege to express contrary opinions about him.

They sound as if this man who overthrew a democratic president some 32 years ago has the magic pills to cure all that ails Nigeria the moment he becomes president. As though voting for him will instantly mark the end of the epileptic power supply, equip hospitals without drugs, revamp universities of shallow knowledge, fix blood sucking expressways and better the lives of millions of impoverished citizens in one day.

As for the incumbent President, the cookies are crumbling around him with every passing day. They say he is weak and inept to rule a complex country like Nigeria and he is not doing much to change that opinion.

You know what is most funny about his re-election campaign? His followers compare him to Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew and other famous leaders and then urge us to give him more time to transform our country.

So Suzzy, do you see why we can’t go to Nigeria for Valentine this year? Let’s just watch from here and pray God and the angels protect our loved ones who can’t get out of the country.

I know how disappointed you feel right now but I promise you in the name of our love that we will spend the next Valentine in Nigeria…if we have a country after 2015.

With love, now and forever

Veen

Vincent Nzemeke is a Nigerian currently studying in Germany

Roses and Angels

roses and angels

The room is chilly and quiet, so quiet that the tick-tock of the golden vintage clock resonates. Unlike the other times, you are not entranced by the tasteful furnishings this place. It is tagged first-class, this room in which you have lodged four or five times now. Johnny always tells you how lucky you are. He says suites of this sort are meant ‘for the rich, or the accessories of the rich’. The very first time he said it, you decoded what he meant, and into what category you belong – the accessories of the rich. But you did not mind.

The clock keeps ticking. On the muted television screen is a thin woman in tight khaki shorts. She is making frantic gestures. The piece of terra-cotta art work which you learnt is over a hundred years old and have spent time admiring on your previous times here has been replaced with a blue abstract painting.  But you do not notice its absence. Your thoughts are rooted in the fields where anxiety reigns, but you do not know why. There is something amiss about today, and you know it. You cannot explain it, yet it feels strange. Stranger than the sudden stiffness you now feel on your neck.

You try to shake off the present feeling. You decide to take a warm shower; it has always had a magic effect on you. Standing from the bed, you take slow numbered steps towards the wide mirror. You hold up your naked ebony complexioned breasts, wondering if Chief your new client will, like the others, find them attractive. You have heard he has high taste for women, and you are certain that that is why Johnny chose you for him today. Unlike other times, Johnny did not even spend much time bargaining. He had just mentioned the prize – your prize, and chief had accepted without objection. Your heart bounced again when Johnny dropped the phone, with that boyish smile plastered on his bleached face.

The water is running gently over your velvety skin when you hear the entrance door open and shut with a small thud. You hasten up. Chief’s heavy voice comes from outside,

‘Baby, don’t tell me you’re not ready yet.’ Silence follows for brief seconds before he speaks again, ‘Baby, I hate to be kept waiting, so you just tell me if your ass ain’t ready, and I’ll give Johnny boy a quick call,’

Chief’s voice is laced with impatience, arrogant impatience. But wait. You have heard that voice from somewhere. There is something about its heavy baritone that makes it so familiar. You have no time to dwell on such thoughts, to compare the similarities, and reach a conclusion. So you hasten up, calling back with mild apologies.

You rinse the last trace of lather off your body and step out of the sky-blue Jacuzzi. Chief has switched off the light and the only source of illumination is the bathroom room light which is sneaking into the room. You see Chief’s silhouette on the bed. You are sure he is annoyed, but of course, you know what to do to bring him back in the mood. It is your vocation, your calling.

You immediately drop your towel, unveiling your naked form like it’s a precious offering to a god. You can see Chief’s full cheeks move and you assume it is smile. It is a boost to your morale, so you gently mount yourself on the bed and get down to business. You are about to think of how impressed Johnny will be with you, when you notice on the old man’s face, a tinge of familiarity. You wish the lights were switched on. Anxiety slowly spreads its tentacles on you and tightens its wicked grip when chief mounts on you. His breathing is labourious. His movements are deliberate. His thrusts are quick and forceful, belying the shriveled features of his elderly frame.  

Morning comes with a new awareness. The sun’s rays are creeping into the room when you awake. Chief is still asleep and all other sounds, kowtow to his heavy sporadic snores.

You open your eyes, the environment looks surreal at first, then everything takes shape, and the first thing that your eyes behold is…

‘O god!’

…to be continued next week

by Uche Anichebe

PQ

Hi hi hi 🙂 Yes I missed you more, thank you.

Flavour’s ‘Golibe’ and Solid Star’s ‘Oluchi’ were on repeat on both my phone and laptop through the entire holidays. If you know wassup that should hint you on the state of my heart affairs. And you – yes, you – are a major reason for that joy. For reading, liking, sharing, and commenting on my posts as epileptic as they were, I couldn’t possible thank you enough. An entire epistle could be written but it still wouldn’t adequately capture how thankful I am. So I’ll keep doing this – writing – and hope you outdo yourself in reading, liking, commenting on and sharing my posts going forward.  

This year, our WAW experience shoots off with this short piece which both is and is not a personal experience. There’s a lesson buried somewhere in it and I hope you find it. ‘The Lectern’ continues tomorrow for the fifth month running, and standing at the lectern will be Emma Akaeze, an especially gifted young man who I am honoured to say, is a good friend and brother. You want to read what Emma has to write, I assure you. 

In this week too, we’ll be starting off on a short series with Uche Anichebe, you know the sweet lawyer babe from here. What do you know, turns out she writes fiction too, very good fiction. I have struggled to find the words to qualify that story, but all I can come up with is this: it is a story that could only have been so told by a female, a deep feeling female.

You dey feel my ginger this new year abi? 🙂 See ehn, even if this my IGG (initial gragra) will eventually fizzle out mid-year, make we start first. At all at all na im be winch.

And on that note, I present the first WAW post for 2015 – PQ.

Enjoy, like, share and don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments section. Fantastic new year ahead!


PQ

mad woman03

It’s weird how you always wake just before your alarm starts to beep. Every morning. This one is no different. As you disentangle your frame from the sheets, you wonder – like you do every morning – why you ever bought the damn thing. You’re done bathing in ten minutes, dressed in another ten and out the door in five; breakfast became history since NYSC days.

She is right there when you turn the corner. Today, her skirt is a ‘glowing’ white; its wooly shroud hangs on by a bare string woven through its waistline, and it billows around her, grabbing at her stockinged ankles again and again, like williwilli. Her blouse is a different shade of white – more cream than white really – and it hangs on her scrawny frame like every other piece of clothing you have seen her wear, loose and wrinkled.

PQ is what everyone calls her – Prophet Queen – and she is bellowing into the ‘microphone’ held in one hand.

“Sinners! Sinners all of you! Bad people. Maaad people.” She spits. “You better go home now. Go back home and pray for yourself. Pray for your mother too, she brought you into this evil place!”

You remember that you didn’t say your morning prayers. Well you heard PQ, go home and pray. You chuckle to yourself, but very carefully so that there is no sign of amusement on your face. Right after she lambasted a neighbor who had dared, by reeling out yards and yards of his private stories for everyone to hear, the whole estate had learnt never to laugh when PQ was ‘ministering’.

Meanwhile PQ continues: “Lamentations Chapter two to six, I am the Lord, your God…think not what I can do for you; think what you can do for me”

Then she made that whining sound that always preceded a pirouette, and that in turn always preceded a series of jerks which apparently was the Almighty leaving her body. But only for a while, she would quickly remind everybody.

“It is me Queen,” she announces her return to her body, “Queen of the ghost! And you have heard my words of extortion.”

Somebody really needed to tell her, you think, that it’s exhorta- not extor-, and coast not ghost, and that most importantly, it was bad for business to be queen of the coast in these environs. But who would tell? Certainly not you.

“Look at you people,” she is still yelling into the dead piece of wood that is her mouthpiece. “Where do you think you are going? Is it not the same work you went to yesterday? And day before yesterday? And day before day before yesterday?”

She lets out a raucous laughter. “Stop fooling yourself! Let me tell you, you are rushing to hell. Hell fayyaaaaaa! So better come here and confess your sins.”

She moves a few steps backwards, and perches her bum on the stump of what used to be a street lamp. Then she waits.

People are passing by, a lot of them still in a hurry, pretending she isn’t there. But PQ doesn’t mind; from her throne of mercy she has raised her staff in the air. Her lips are moving at rapid-fire speed, the words inaudible. Her staff repeatedly slashes the air, bestowing signs of the cross upon every passerby.

You stop and drop a crinkly hundred naira note into the bag that is open in front of her station. You have always wanted to do that but you never have change to spare in the mornings. You are glad you have spare change today because besides pebbles and some other oddities, yours is the bag’s only content. PQ acknowledges you with a sign of the cross and moves on to the next rushing passerby.

You are hurt. You alone after all stopped to give her money; surely she could have done more than one cross? An extra sign of the cross maybe, or a nod, or even a special word of benediction can’t be too much to ask?

You want to bend and retrieve your money, but you advice yourself appropriately on second thoughts. The vex never reach to enter craze. Onye ara, you curse under your breath as you shuffle away. Mad woman.

You are nearly past the estate gate when the words of her inaudible incantations flow, carried by the winds, into your ears. She says them over and over again;

There are two black birds

Sitting on the wall

One named Tunde, one named Paul

Fly away Tunde, fly away Paul

Come back Tunde, come back Paul

Oh come back birds and sit on the wall…

A smile splits your face in two as you step up to the road and hail a keke.

Your name is Tunde.

Chisom