Papa wrapped his belt around his hand. How many times had he told Ade that he should walk like a man anytime he called or honked? He had had to open the gate himself to drive in his rickety beetle car. The sound of the car could be heard a 100 metres away as it coughed out thick black smoke. Many of his neighbours had told him to get the car serviced but whose business was it, what he did to his car.
As he closed the gate with the weather-beaten padlock, he calculated in his mind how to deal with his son. Since his mother left them to become Chief’s third wife a month ago, Ade had been unnecessarily absent-minded. He had broken a plate, a flower vase and even forgotten a pot of soup on fire. He wondered what the boy’s problem was. He had had enough with his mother. He was not ready to deal with his forgetfulness.
He remembered how Ade’s mother had insulted him every day over his inability to provide her the nicer things of life. He worked hard to provide for his small family but it was never enough for her. He tilled his farm day and night to put food on the table. They never lacked food as he planted every food item they consumed. Cocoyam, maize, tomatoes, vegetables etc. He even had a small poultry he managed all alone but Chinenye was never happy.
She whined every day about how Mama Nkechi’s husband had bought his wife twelve yards of Hollandis. Mama Uchenna’s husband bought his wife a brand new car with which she went to shop in the Epe fish market. Mama Kunle travelled abroad like she was going to the salon. It did not matter if she went to Ghana or Benin Republic which was just a few hours away. As far as she was concerned, those countries were abroad as long as you had to fly there.
Each day, she reminded him of his inability to satisfy her materially. She refused to work because these other women just sat at home taking care of their kids. None of them got their hands soiled; she always crooned. Each day for the past ten years, his confidence dropped a notch lower. His confidence was eventually shattered when she left him and moved in with Chief. She left with nothing. She said everything she had or shared with him was wretched compared to what Chief would provide. She did not even remember to go with her son, Ade. He was probably one of the wretchedness she left for him.
Chief was one of his major clients. He bought all his food produce from him. He always sent his boys to his farm to pick up but on one occasion, Chief had told him to take the produce home. He said his boys would pick them up from his house. He had filled his rickety beetle car with Chief’s produce and sang with his croaky voice as he drove home. The only time he was happy was when he was outside his home.
Chinenye had hissed as he walked into the house that fateful day carrying Chief’s produce and heaving under the weight of the baskets. As usual, she had refused to make his dinner. He walked into the kitchen with Ade and they both prepared eba. He had just finished eating when he heard the honk of a car outside. He told Ade to go open the gate for Chief’s boys. He was however shocked when Chief sauntered into his house. He paid for his produce and asked his boys to carry the baskets into his station wagon parked outside. Chief also gifted Ade with a thousand naira to buy biscuits for himself. Papa had thanked Chief but Chinenye’s thanks had been profuse.
He breathed deeply as he thought about it. She had obviously been carried away by Chief’s generosity. The day she left him was the day he realized that she had been visiting Chief secretly. Chief continued to send his boys to buy produce from him but he was unable to turn them back. If he did, he and Ade would go hungry. He therefore swallowed his pride and continued to supply Chief’s household with food even after Chinenye’s betrayal.
Papa looked at Ade’s raised arms waiting for the onslaught of his belt. He saw something glistering in his palm as he gripped the shard of glass tightly. He was bleeding severely and did not even realize that his body was drenched in blood. As he tried to lift up his son from the floor, he struggled and whimpered. He pulled him up with force and he suddenly went limp in his hands. “Ade, Ade.” Papa shouted his son’s name. He took out the shard of glass out of his son’s palm and threw it into the bin. He carried him in his arms and ran out of the house. He struggled to open the stiff passenger door of his beetle with Ade in his arms. The door opened after much force and he placed his son gingerly on the back seat.
“Ade, Ade, Ade.” He called again but his son refused to answer. “Oh God, hear my prayer. Please save my son. I will never touch him again. I will never let the anger I feel for his mother get to me again. I will never transfer the aggression to him again. God, I need your help, please. He is my only son. He is all I have got.” Papa reeled out prayers as he struggled to start the car. It always took a while to start and it usually did not until it was pushed. But there was no one to help him push it now. Ade who always helped in pushing lay still in the back seat of his rickety beetle.
Tears streamed down Papa’s cheeks. He got out of the car and opened the gate in a hurry. He tried to single-handedly push the car. He grunted as he pushed and jumped into the moving vehicle. The rickety beetle coughed and started. As he raced to the hospital, he prayed in his heart that God will forgive him and save his only son.
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