I lie shivering on the hard concrete. The towel has fallen off. I grab it and wrap it around my body again. I am afraid to go back to sleep because I don’t want that dream again. Is it nearly morning? It is dark. I listen carefully. There are no bird sounds, only the chirrrp chirrping of a noisy cricket. I slowly allow another memory to come to me, chasing away the impact of the dream.
I was now the man of the house. That’s what the Pastor said when he came to visit Mama about a month after the funeral. Mama was lying down because she was sick. She had been coughing for the last week.
I was cooking pap like I had seen Mama always do. I was very careful with the hot plate and I had to stand on a chair because I was too short to stir the pot. Pastor Matthew came into the kitchen.
“Are you cooking now, Edwin? Quite the little man of the house I see. I thought the ladies of the church were bringing food every day.”
“They did in the beginning.” I rested the big wooden spoon on the saucer. “They haven’t come for the last three days and Mama is sick.” I climbed off the chair and took him to Mama’s room.
“I am so glad you have come, Pastor,” Mama said. “I am very troubled in spirit.”
Pastor Matthew put his bible down and fetched a chair from the kitchen. I went back to check on the pap but I made sure I could hear what they were saying.
“David was a good man wasn’t he?” asked Mama.
“O yes, very good. He looked after you and Edwin so well. He was so proud of that boy. I didn’t see him in church often though so I didn’t know him personally that well.”
“Did he do the right thing by going to the police? If he had just turned a blind eye and pretended he hadn’t noticed anything he would still be alive.”
“Martha, God always wants us to do the right thing even when there are bad consequences. Your husband acted like a strong, brave man. If good people don’t stand up against evil then evil takes over.” I could hear Mama crying now which started up a coughing spell again.
“Why didn’t God protect him?” Mama asked the question but I also wanted to know. I had begun to think this God thing was just a bunch of stories for weak women and children.
“You know this life is not all there is. David is in heaven with the Lord.”
I had heard enough. He was probably going to read the bible to Mama. That was not going to bring Baba back. That was not going to change anything. I switched off the stove, got off the chair and stomped outside.
Mama always said, “If you have problems, you can go to the church for help.” Well, the church wasn’t helping. The police had towed away the old Pontiac and put tape around the workshop area of the house. Mama asked me to put a ‘closed’ sign at the outside bell. The mechanics, Jabu and Phineas, had come to the funeral and had not been seen since. The church people had been the first to take their cars away once the tape had been taken down last week. The yard was empty except for Baba’s truck and some broken parts.
By the time the new school term started in January, Mama’s cough was a bit better but she was not the same. She seemed to be tired all the time and she cried almost every day. I tried to help as much as I could with the cooking and cleaning. Christmas had come and gone unnoticed.
“Mama, you’ve worn that dress for three days now and it is dirty. Can you show me how to wash and iron clothes?”
“Sorry, Baby, I didn’t notice. Do you have any clean clothes to wear?” I shook my head.
“And I’m not a baby anymore. I am eight already. I am a big boy now. I am the man of the house.” Mama smiled weakly and gave me a hug.
So l learned to wash and iron our clothes and when the new school term started, I was ready in a clean shirt and ironed trousers. I was looking forward to learning again and getting away from such a sad house. I hoped Mama would be all right without me. I was worried about...