Bringing home Dee Lamba’s two sons recently found laying about in a nearby town, abandoned by their runaway mother and reuniting them with their father appeared to be the surest and most practical step towards achieving a lasting reconciliation within the Emenike’s family. It was a way of saving the family from continuous embarrassments and restoring their distraught brother’s sanity. It was a difficult task indeed because Dee Lamba was resentful to any one of them in the family and unyielding to any reconciliation or peace. Their gnawing fear was the unsettling notoriety he had earned for himself and the family at large by his unstable dispositions. In Umuga, he was a metaphor for self-orchestrated and supervised failure.
Dee Lamba’s disheveled, decrepit looks evoked a feeling of pity. His small bony face and jaded moustache, thin collar bones that jutted out menacingly and glistened in pauperism together with a shrunken, skinny body all smacking of malnutrition and impoverishment. Unmitigated poverty and lack twinged with the hopelessness of any redemption had completely stifled his joy and sapped his youth.The ominous loneliness and the labyrinths of deprivation he was left to suffer had hands in his quick but unfortunate aging leaving him by his beggarly looks to assume the craggy elder in the ranks of his mates. Notwithstanding, he was egoistic and walked shoulders high, ready to throw tantrums and truculent invectives at anybody. For one who opposed everybody and everything out of vexation, exhaustion was inescapable. He hasn’t been in the eyes of the storm, he has been the storm raging and scaring everyone.
He had led a tempestuous life indeed from series of job losses, to a failed electrician career, to haunting memories of a runaway wife now remarried, sagging, empty pockets, to estranged children, meddlesome brothers, and prying kinsmen _a typical rolling stone that gathers no moss. If there was anything he was very deeply convinced about, it was the fact that his travails were not ordinary. Someone had tied up his destiny and he lived every moment bemoaning. He became this brutally overwhelmed by these turbulence that the belligerent anger became a part of him and an indiscriminate transfer of aggression seemed his only way of escape from inner emotional turmoil. His soliloquies and haughty disposition stemmed from frustration and disillusion and nothing no matter how insignificant escaped his tirade, not even a horde of buzzing flies he peevishly swatted along his corridors at intervals.
The fear of Dee Lamba the land monger had forced all families in Umuga to put up notices like “THIS LAND IS NOT FOR SALE. BUYER BEWARE” on their lands. They had learnt the hard way and uncovered all his antics and now, fortunes of land sales had dwindled and bet became the readily available option. The walls and corners of all online betting and gaming shops knew and called him by his name. They were his other home. He was often seen by the bet shops, booking games and when he inspected the bet slips he wore an awful, despondent look that The Emenikes’ were moved to pity because time and ugly turn of events had proven that leaving him to suffer his woes alone, only worsened the situation and they were eager now to lend helping hands, to give him some succor. At least mend his badly leaking roof, meet the parents of his former wife to bring home his children and carter for them among many others. Regrettably, he shut everyone out and continued to pin away. He continued to degenerate each passing day, frustration and regrets peeled him off such that he interpreted a word of greeting by anyone as mockery.
How it became only Nda Akuyoma that could freely engage him without him spewing vituperations was known to everyone. Nda Akuyoma was an old, mercurial and remarkably kind woman who deals on utaba and ude aki in the local market of Eke Umuga. She also brewed and sold local gins. At seventy five, she had the strength and vigour of a man of thirty and traversed the six clans of Umuga selling her wares with equanimity, beaming with charming smiles that drew more and more customers. She was also adept at orthodox and herbal medicine. She administered medicines and therapies and saved children battling with convulsion, enuresis, chronic cold and the likes and brought joy to their parents, most people said that it was the tenderness and sincerity of heart with which she administered her medicines that made them efficacious. Her husband was Dee Lambaa’s god father who gave him the name which people of Umuga mischievously taunted and ridiculed him ‘’Lamba Louka’’ Lamba the loafer, though they did not summon enough courage to call them in his face but in whispers and hushed tones. Nda Akuyoma in the local parlance was his Nne ukwu because she baby-sat him at infancy however he was too haughty to afford the luxury of niceties or decorum coupled with arrogance wouldn’t let him accord her the reverence. He avoided her because he didn’t want anyone to have an overbearing influence over him. She did not let the embarrassments he gives her in time past for asking after him and buying him slippers and shirts out of pity and concern deter her from buying him new pairs of slippers and trousers to change the old ones that had also gone threadbare with overuse. Sometimes he received them with thanks and other times he turned them down with foul remarks. ‘’I haven’t become so wretched that I can’t afford these. I don’t need them” he would say disdainfully and boastfully too. He had enormous respect for her but was not in any way, obeisant.
That Eke evening, Nda Akuyoma was humming away, riding happily on her old, unmistakable Raleigh bicycle –her wares meticulously strapped behind her bicycle –down Igbenda path. By the raffia-bamboo straw of his makeshift perimeter fence, she heard his unmistakable racous, baritone voice bellowing, threatening fire and brim stone.
“Get away from there you accursed children before Amadioha strikes and dismembers you! Take that bicycle and disappear before I meet you there, you little imp” he thundered, pointing menacingly. The children quickly ran off, their chests heaving and beating in fear. They had innocently strayed close to his compound in a happy frenzy of bicycle riding, laughing aloud, tugging at each other and playing away excitedly.
“I thought you’ll remain there. Good for nothing children. I would have used this to break your head. Idiots!” he bawled wielding a long stick, watching them scamper and vanish from sight. He stood there bristling with rage only to be jolted by Nda Akuyoma.
“Ndaa good evening” he muttered inaudibly and begrudgingly too.
“Eheeee, Chimeziri. What’s the matter this time? Who has provoked you?” she enquired peering closely and affectionately at his face –searching for the baby that cried in her arms behind the flaps of wrinkle on his forehead –she preferred to call him Chimeziri, hoping he would follow her voice, hoping that the Chimeziri locked inside this destructive mass of flesh would follow her voice and come to light.
“These children are looking for my trouble in this village and I will deal with them. Let nobody blame me for I’m saying it now. How could they? Of all places to ride bicycle it is near my compound. What insolence! They are very lucky today!” He roared ferociously.
“Is it all Nna m? But it’s not a big issue.”
“Don’t tell me that, Ndaa. So you are indirectly supporting these children to invade my space and cause nuisance eeeh? Will they ever try it near Okey Malaysia’s house eh? …answer me! They have seen a man they can play with and make jest of? What nonsense! Before God and man their blood will spill and their remains will scatter if I dare see anyone of them around here again.” He hit his hand on the ground took up dust and sand, put at the tip of his tongue and pointed heavenwards to underscore the earnestness and vehemence of his oath.
“Easy Nna m, Easy, they are children. You also played around like them when you were their age. Moreover I know you too well, even if they jump on water, you will accuse them of raising dust.” His face now creased and contorted.
“Ndaa, o zuola! Enough!”
“Lambaaa, its alright. wetuo obi Nna m. Its okay. Forgive them i nuna, it’s the nature of children everywhere. Eheee…! I have been meaning to ask you. How is the work at the new site, hope its going on well?”
“Nda, don’t remind me of those nonentities. Not after he had temerity to challenge my cost estimates. I have left. Let him do as he so wishes. To hell with him and his money! I don’t have all the riches, yes, but I know my right and you don’t dare undermine me.Never!”
“But this thing is about reaching compromise; now see all you’ve los…..”
“Lamba my son, this is not the way. Have you seen how bad temper has ruined you?”
“Ndaa, don’t use the pretext of old age to ridicule me, in fact good night!”
“Nnaa…. Please wait. chere, don’t walk out on me. I have yet another important thing to talk to you about Nna m”
“What? Ndaa, what? Igbokwe and his accursed brothers?”
“No, Lamba. its about your two sons –your two sons touting at the motor park –I saw them today at Eke Umuga. Have you ever considered how lucky you are, inspite of everything. Look at you, a proud father of two grown boys and you think you’ve lost all? Its not yet a fatal end Nna m”
He stood transfixed obviously perturbed.
“You must accept your brothers’ hands of help and friendship now, obukwanu gidi gidi bu ugwu eze . A tree does not make a forest, our elders say! We must bring these children home to save them from becoming hooligans, traitors, so they can grow in their father’s stead, Nnaa. I have not said you should grovel at your brothers’ feet. I am just suggesting that you allow on them to sort out these nagging issues. You know I can’t advise you wrongly. This is the time! She said with finality. Dee Lamba remained as quiet as still water, poker-faced brooding.Nda Akuyoma knew the dialetics of conflict resolution little wonder she remained the unimpeachable leader of Umuga women.
Okechi could not believe the seeming reign of peace. For the first time in the turbulent years of malice and enmity with Dee Lamba, he came home and he did not open a verbal duel on him. He suspected that Nda Akuyoma’s entreatities had started paying off so quick. His suspicion was confirmed in the morning. A night in Umuga without Dee Lamba’s irritable missile prayers of “ Father, Kill them by fire! Massacre them by thunder, they that hold me down” The one he began as early as 5:00am and prayed till 7:00am reeling out names of his adversaries, beckoning on the God of his pastors and prophets to send thunder to them “God of Pastor Danga answer me now!” He would go on and on screaming, stamping his feet and hitting chairs and tables. The deafening noise of the prayer could shatter ones tympanum. To confirm that the Emenikes were his set targets he used his bell, especially when any one of them was home. It was a deliberate attempt to rub them of the luxury of decent night rest. For the first time in a long while, Okechi had an uninterrupted sleep in his father’s compound. He had come home for the burial of Nze Umeaka, their late father’s confidant and benefactor. And they had agreed to cease the opportunity of their mass return for the burial to meet as a family and visit the parents of Dee Lamba’s runaway wife and possibly bring home the children. Igbokwe came in from Onitsha Friday evening while Nwaejuafo arrived at Umuga from Lagos very early on Saturday morning before they left for the morgue. It was a reunion of some sorts. Nda Akuyoma was happy to receive them and thanked them for putting the ugly past behind.They made contributions and gave her from where some renovations were done on Dee Lamba’s house. He also had decent hair cut at the saloon as against the self-help barbing and shaving with razor blade that made him look more horrid like a vulture. His house had also been stocked up with food stuff in anticipation of his sons return.
When he emerged from his house that morning decked in new clothes and shoes, he looked delectable –a blurred image of what he would have looked like if only fortune had coughed his way. Jars of palm wine, cartons of drinks and many others accompanied them on the trip. It was a long journey indeed; it became tortuous because Dee Lamba couldn’t identify the route. They resorted to asking passers-by for direction and missed their track twice. Luckily they found themselves in the compound. They saw a middle aged man sitting at a corner washing.
“Good afternoon. Do you know if this people are around?” Dee Lamba asked pointing at their door.
“And who are you?” the man queried
“I am Lambert. Actually I…..”
“Oh! Lambert, the wife beater?”
Dee Lamba clenched his fists and dealt him a ferocious blow and felt blood drooled. He whined and writhed in pain and in a twinkle –just as instinctive and natural the transaction of face and fist was –a mob of angry boys brandishing crooked chest and weapons, stormed the compound in anger. How Igbokwe maneuvered and fled was surprising indeed. He found himself in a thicket metres away hiding under the leaves, his heart racing after him. He looked in every direction in fear and casting a furtive glance at his foot as he discovered he had lost a pair of his shoe in the flight.
About the Author
Abara Chukwuebuka Johnbosco is a teacher and author of many Children’s titles. He also writes short stories and Igbo poems. He is a member of the Mbari Literary Society (MLS) Owerri and currently the Secretary General of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Imo State Chapter