‘That boy is nuts!’ Sammy said.
‘Which boy?’ Amaka asked her.
‘Ejike or whatever they call him.’
‘You met with him, didn’t you?’
‘He is stupid. Actually very silly!’
Amaka staggered with a laugh. She fell toward Sammy so that soap foam from her washing bucket spattered.
Sammy pushed her away. ‘What’s that?’ she said. ‘Why are you laughing?’
‘Nothing,’ Amaka said.
The frown on Sammy’s face deepened.
‘But I told you na,’ Amaka said.
‘He is very crazy.’
‘What exactly did he do to you?’
‘He insulted me.’
‘In the most undignified manner imaginable!’
‘You should have insulted him back na!’
‘How could I have? He is a man.’
‘You are afraid he might beat you?’
‘He can actually—he has everything to suggest that—but that’s not it.’
‘What is it then?’
‘The context of his logic did not offer me much choice.’
Amaka did not entirely comprehend this. She did not let Sammy know though. Instead she went on to say what she’d earlier wanted to say before: ‘Insult him back and run, that’s how we do it.’
‘What?’ Sammy said.
‘They can easily beat you if you are close, but if you run, shame won’t allow them to come after you!’
Amaka paused, wrung a blouse and then threw into the other bucket. ‘Yes na. They have the strength but we have the mouth, and in most cases the support of the society.’
‘Yes, my sister.’
‘Well, I can’t run from a man. Ever. I will stay and we fight it out!’
‘An attitude that has gotten most women killed,’ Amaka said, returning to her washing.
The gate creaked open then, interrupting the two women.
Chinelo and James came through. As Chinelo turned to close back the gate, James took off, running toward Sammy.
A mildly surprised Sammy picked the little boy up.
‘Good afternoon, aunty,’ James said to her.
‘How are you, my boy?’ Sammy replied him.
‘Fine.’ He extended the small crackly package in his hand.
Sammy took the box of biscuits and looked at it. ‘You mean I should take?’
Sammy smiled. ‘Beautiful. You are just the right man I need in my life.’
Amaka smiled too, and then with Sammy said, ‘Good afternoon’ and ‘welcome’ to Chinelo who was close to them now.
Chinelo returned their greetings with a smile.
‘How was the market?’ Amaka asked her.
Chinelo hummed. ‘At least I sold all the nuts.’ She pulled off her scarf as she walked past.
Sammy bent towards Amaka and whispered: ‘Mama has short hair. They forced her to shave when her husband died, right?’
‘Nobody forced her,’ Amaka said. ‘She agreed to do it herself.’
‘I saw in a movie once how women were forced to have their hair scraped after their husbands died.’
Amaka smiled. ‘There used to be a time that was done, and I’m sure there are still many places it is still done, but Mama was not forced to shave her hair in order to mourn her husband. She did it on her own.’
Sammy still stared, a little incredibly.
‘As a sign of respect,’ Amaka went on. She touched her own hair. ‘See, I shaved mine too.’
‘You did too, why you too?’
‘Mama’s husband was such a nice man. I wish I could have done more to mourn him.’
Sammy’s look of mild disbelief still remained. ‘I always found such practices disgusting. In my place, the grieving woman is made to stay indoors for months and is forced to wail loudly for several days before and after the burial of her husband. This wailing is supervised by female members of her husband’s family, can you imagine that?’
‘What have you seen?’ Amaka echoed. ‘Here too, there are places the widow is asked to sleep with her husband’s corpse, even given water used in bathing the corpse to drink!’
Sammy spat. ‘Tell me more about him, your father-in-law I mean.’
‘He fell sick near the time James was born. He was the one that named James Nnanna.’ Amaka turned her face up, a melancholic look creeping into her eyes. ‘If I ever have a wish after my death, it would be to have so many people cry for me.’
‘Hmm,’ Sammy said, staring at Amaka.
‘Why did you transfer my clothes into another bucket?’ Ejike asked Jideobi. ‘And it is not like you were meaning to wash them for me, why?’
Onyemaechi heard his loud voice from inside and came out immediately.
‘Run!’ Onyemaechi said to Jideobi. ‘Run away from him fast!’
‘He will kill you, run!’
Both the two brothers shared nearly the same look, as if wondering if their father was entirely alright.
‘Why are you telling him to run away?’ Ejike asked his father. He was coming close to Onyemaechi, but not threateningly.
Onyemaechi took off all the same, fear all over his eyes.
Ejike looked surprised. Jideobi too.
Ejike turned to Jideobi. ‘What is wrong with him?’
Jideobi shrugged, to mean he did not know.
Onyemaechi ran some more and then tripped, over the large stone which Uzoma normally used to break ogbono.
He fell heavily on his front.
The boys ran to him to help him.
‘He will kill you,’ Onyemaechi cried as the two brothers picked him up, carrying him into the house. ‘I thought he wanted to kill you.’
Ejike looked at his father and shook his head.
Quarter of a Blue Moon by Daniel Nkado
© Daniel Nkado 2015
Felix dropped Fiona’s bag on the floor, as the same time the girl was looking round the room and calling out, ‘Mum?’
‘Mummy! I’m home!’
Rita came out driving Samson.
The excitement on Fiona’s face began to fade.
‘Welcome, my dear,’ Rita said, smiling. As with her smile, her whole appearance was different—Fiona could tell.
‘What happened?’ Fiona asked.
‘Nothing, we are fine.’
‘Why is Daddy on a wheelchair?’
‘Oh,’ Rita said. She gave that strange smile again. ‘Don’t worry about your father, my dear, he is fine.’
‘He is not walking?’
‘Yes, and he cannot talk too, but he is fine. Very fine.’ She glanced down at Samson. ‘He is very excited to see you.’
Fiona started towards them. ‘What happened to him? Will he be fine?’
‘He is fine, dear, come and give mummy a hug.’
Fiona hesitantly embraced her mother and then crouched in front of Samson whose head was askew as he smiled—clumsily— and rolled his eyes in greeting.
He kept moving his head as if meaning to nod.
Rita set her brown scarf firm and proceeded to the bar. She poured herself some wine and took a sip.
Turning back to her daughter and husband, she made a gesture with her fingers and said, ‘You can wheel him outside for some fresh air, dear, while I set the table!’
When Uzoma came back and they told her what had happened, she put both hands on her waist, heaved a deep sigh and murmured in a croaky voice:
‘My cocoyams are dying. My husband is dying. What am I still living for?’
When the news got to them, Amaka and her mother-in-law set off immediately to pay Onyemaechi a visit.
Uzoma was rubbing okwuma, a kind of local balm, on Onyemaechi’s sore joints when they walked in.
When Chinelo asked her what exactly happened, Uzoma grunted and said: ‘My sister, they said it is a disease from the north that is killing all the cocoyams.’
‘I meant your husband not the cocoyams,’ Chinelo said.
‘Oh.’ Uzoma grunted again. ‘My sister, leave a matter that is beyond you.’
Chinelo stared at the woman.
‘They said cassava pomace helps to fight the cocoyam disease, did you hear too?’
Chinelo left her and bent towards Onyemaechi. She asked the injured man how he was feeling.
Onyemaechi only nodded, saying nothing.
‘Sorry,’ Chinelo said.
Onyemaechi hummed and nodded again.
That same evening, when Amaka and her mother-in-law returned home from Onyemaechi’s house, they saw neither Sammy nor James whom they’d left in her care before leaving.
Sammy’s bags were gone.