My parents were at it again that morning. As kids, we were never in happy moods whenever we saw them fighting and tearing at each other. It was a Monday morning and we were all set to go to school.
By seven o’clock, we were waiting in the sitting room. I was dressed already preparatory for school. My three younger ones, Samson, Victor and Rita sat across the armchair. They too were ready and set to leave.
My mother did not wake up to make breakfast. I sensed when it was past six that she and my father were probably at it again.
When it was a few minutes past six and I began to hear noises from their bedroom, I quickly went into the kitchen and began to prepare some noodles with fried eggs which we would all take to school that morning.
I put the food in different food flasks for all of them and arranged them in each person’s basket. Rita was the first to finish bathing. She came to join me in the kitchen as I was dishing the food. Little did I know that no one was going to eat anything that morning.
“These people have started again this morning,” Rita grumbled. Her eyes showed that she was not happy. “When will they ever stop quarrelling?”
“I don’t know,” I mumbled dryly. “Maybe when they begin to grow grey hairs that is when they will stop. Sometimes I feel very ashamed of myself. They are the only adults in this estate that are always fighting. This is not proper.”
Rita shook her head. “The fault is always from Mum. When I grow up, I will not quarrel with my husband.”
She looked at me in a manner that suggested how troubled she was. Parents should know that whenever they quarreled, their kids suffered the more. Rita looked at me tearfully and asked;
“Will you quarrel with your wife when you grow up?”
I told her I was never going to fight with my wife. Sometimes I felt like suggesting to my parents to annul the union if they both could not manage their differences. But who was I to complain?
I was only a child. I was ten years old. Rita was eight. Samson was seven and Victor was four. My parents stopped procreating after Victor was born. And since then, they had always been at loggerheads.
When we were all prepared and my father hadn’t yet to come out, I sent Samson to go and knock on their door.
“Daddy, we are ready.” We heard him say. The screams and chants of scorn increased. My mother’s voice was high-pitch. She raved and vituperated endlessly.
“I regret ever agreeing to marry you. You are a very stupid man. You think I am as stupid as you are? Look at you! A hopeless man!”
“You call me a hopeless man and yet you have gummed yourself to me like a leach. Leave, you will not leave. Get a divorce, you will not get. Who is now hopeless between you and me?”
The door creaked open and we all heaved sighs of relief. My father was wearing a pair of camouflage knickers. That was what he wore most of the time if he didn’t go to work. He was not a soldier. He had never been one. But he had a friend who was a lieutenant cornel and it was this friend of his that had given Daddy the knickers. I remember the day some soldiers were trying to harass him and he had promptly called his friend who spoke to the military men on the phone and brought the situation to normalcy.
“Are you all ready? Gideon, hope you have made breakfast for everyone already.”
“Yes Daddy,” I nodded.
“That was very thoughtful of you. May God continue to give you more wisdom as my first child to always do this in spite of the fact that your mother would not let us have breathing…”
The words were still on his lips when he grabbed my younger brother’s arm to lead him out of the house. I took the car keys from the TV stand and as I was about to stand up from the chair, I saw my mother storm out of the bedroom. Her eyes were red like embers. In her hand was a big bottle.
“Are you trying to turn my children against me? Useless man!” she barked like a rabid dog.
Like a hill melting down the valley in an earthquake, my mother jumped on my father with all her might. Samson was in front of them. When I turned back, all that I heard was a loud bang. My father came crashing on the ground. My mother still held a bottle in her hand.
She wanted to smash the bottle on my father’s head but she missed by whiskers. The bottle came heavily down my younger brother’s head.
The shattered pieces fell onto the floor like confetti. Presently, Samson fell flat on his stomach and lay there motionless. Blood immediately began to drip down his head like ink from a broken biro. The world stood still for all of us as we stared blankly at my brother not knowing what to do.
“Hey my God!” screamed my mother exasperatedly with her palms covering her mouth. “I have killed my son. I have killed my son. God, I have killed him.”
As she wailed, my father quickly gathered Samson from the floor and off he went with him into the car. My brother’s uniform was soaked with blood. He was motionless. Helplessly, we all watched as my father drove madly out of the estate.
We did not go to school that day and none of us had the appetite for food. We didn’t go the day after. The week went by with bitterness in our hearts.
My brother Samson was a very intelligent boy. He was always coming first in his class. Twice, he was given double promotion. And most of the things that I didn’t know in sciences, he already knew them. And he was only in primary four!
And of all the people in the world, it was my brother, Samson’s head that my mother’s bottle chose to smash that morning.
No one heard anything from my father until after two days. Even when my mother called him, he refused to disclose which hospital he’d taken my brother to. He said he was so angry that he could do something nasty if he set eyes on my mother.
When he returned three day later, he looked twenty years older.
“We are selling this house,” he declared rather coldly. “Samson needs six million naira to enable him do a brain surgery. I have two million. If we don’t sell this house, I can’t raise the balance.”
I felt as if a fire burned in my heart. A tear fell off my eye even though I tried hard to suppress the grief melting in my throat like a cube of ice.
We had only moved into the house about seven months before. Now, for one act of parental irresponsibility, we were just about losing it. This was not fair. It was not fair at all. But if it could save my brother, what was a property compared to life?
Three days later, some people came and bought our four-bedroom flat. The buyer gave us six months to move out. He was filled with compassion when my father told him what the money was going to be used for.
“I would have loved to take possession of the house immediately but with the issue on ground, let me give you more time.” The buyer told my father.
Samson was to be flown to India. My father couldn’t meet up with the travel documents. He quickly sold his car and my mother’s own. I was to find out later that what had caused the fight between my mother and father that Monday morning was that my mother had requested for a new car. My father wanted her to wait until the end of the year but she said the time was too far because she wanted to use the car on the anniversary of her club.
Just for a car! My mother had never worked all her life but she had everything she needed. She travelled everywhere she wanted because she belonged to many associations. Twice, my father had tried to set her up in business but she could not manage it well. It was for this reason that my father vowed never again to invest any money on her project again.
My aunt once told me that my father loved my mother to a fault. According to her, my father could do anything to make her happy. But in spite of all the things he did for my mother, they were never at peace. It made me realize that indeed money wasn’t really the solution to our problems. With all the money in the world, if happiness and peace are eroded, then the money meant nothing. Whichever way anyone looked at it, my mother was at fault.
My mother had always lamented to my hearing that she could have married a better and richer person than my father.
The day finally came when my father was to fly Samson to India. There had been argument between the two of them over who should accompany my brother but in the end, my father won. He said he could not leave my brother in the hands of my mother because it was she who had put him in that condition.
It’s been four months now since all these things happened. We lost Samson in spite of all the money that was sunk into trying to give him life. The pain was too much for my father and the rest of us. As I write this story, my parents have now separated. My mother has returned to her father’s house because my father vowed never to take her back again.
Although I miss her so much, I am very much in support of the decision my father has taken. Let her remain there for now.
When Rita asked my father when my mother would return, he simply replied; “Until she is cured of her madness.”
That was hopeful. It made us to understand that someday, the two might come back together again. But no one knows when it would be. I believe they have both learnt their lessons even though it is quite painful that it had to cost Samson his life.
“Will you ever fight with your wife when you grow up?” it was my sister; Rita. She asks this same question most of the time.
I shook my head and promptly responded; “God forbid! I will never do a thing like that.”
As a child of ten, I have learnt a very bitter lesson about life. In one day, my once happy family lost everything; so much money and a precious life. No! Never will I touch or quarrel with my wife when I grow up. Never