The woman laid in her bed and breathed softly. She was comforted by the warmth of her down covers and the various grunting sounds slipping out of a baby monitor stationed on the nightstand next to her bed. A petite white dog lay sleeping on the pillow next to hers, breathing deeply. The room was filled with boxes waiting to be unpacked from her recent move into the home she always dreamt would be hers.
Sleep eluded the woman. She kept looking to the baby monitor, as if it would show her the sleeping infant in the room down the hall. How she worried about the child. She had never been a mother before, and this was only her second night with her new little one. She was immensely proud of her baby. They had told her she couldn't have children. They had told her she was too old. They had told her she wasn't healthy enough. They had been proven wrong, and she has a sweet baby girl to show for it.
Beside her bed was a small red alarm clock with a shiny bell on either side of a tiny metal handle. The clock read 3:22. She should probably sleep, but she felt the urge to check on her sweet angel one more time.
The walk to the infant's room wasn't quite as quiet as she wanted it to be. She stepped lightly and regretted her decision to buy a house with hardwood floors. She wondered how much it would cost and how long it would take to install carpet. After all, soon there would be a small person learning to walk on these floors. The little dog followed her, making clicking sounds with it's nails on the wood. The heart-shaped tag on it's collar read "Cookie" and jingled with the bounce in the dog's step. A shell shaped nightlight illuminated the hallway.
The baby's room was quiet. Cookie beat her to the crib and, on it's hind legs, sniffed hard to smell the new resident. Another nightlight shined it's four-watt glow from behind a rocking chair. The woman loved this room. For years she had imagined it's decor. She leaned over the crib and watched to see the rise and fall of the tiny chest dressed in pink. A smile crossed the woman's face as she resisted the urge to touch the child in slumber. She lightly patted her thigh to signal her dog to follow as she headed back toward her bedroom.
She pulled the covers back over herself when something caught her eye. Through her sheer curtains she saw light. She got out of bed and moved closer to her window. Trying not to be obvious, she stayed beside the window and moved the drapery over slightly to see. There was a light near the road. Headlights? A car had pulled into her driveway and stopped near the road. It's 3:30 in the morning, why would anybody be out. She thought, maybe they're turning around, but then the lights turned off. She watched from her upstairs room as the driver and passenger doors both swung open. The woman's heart sank. Two dark figures became apparent. The woman stood, frozen in disbelief. It looked as if the strangers were talking to each other. She could not see them well; the nearest light was two houses away. They moved toward her home.
The woman found her breath and her heart beat harder than ever before. She did not try to be quiet this time as she hastily crossed the hallway to the nursery. Cookie became excited and wagged it's tail in a circular motion, expecting to play. Cookie was a stupid dog. The lady made shushing sounds as she gently picked up the baby, trying to comfort it as it woke. The infant grunted softly as it tried to go back to sleep in her arms.
She had thought many times before of what she would do in this situation, but she never expected her fantasies to come true. She thought to herself that she was by no means ready to fight for her life, if it even came to that, but she now had her little one to worry about as well.
The phone. She, with baby in tote, hurried to her room. She thrust her hand into her purse that lay by the door and frantically searched in the dark for her cell. It wasn't there. She remembered that it laid on the counter next to the microwave while she heated formula. That was the only phone in the house, the woman thought it would be smart to save money by opting out of the landline option. She cursed her stupidity. How was she supposed to know? This kind of thing doesn't happen to real people, especially to her.
She went back toward her window, maybe the people got back into their car. She didn't try to be discrete this time as she moved the curtain aside. The car was still there and the trespassers were not. The baby fidgeted in her arms as her stomach and heart seemed to switch places. Maybe they'll see her car. They would see that somebody was home and decide not to break in. They would leave.
Cookie's ears perked up. It's tail stopped wagging. A slight creaking sound met her ears. It was the back door. Tears appeared in the woman's eyes. The little dog ran to the head of the stairs and listened. It growled and bolted out of sight. The woman, with her infant, weighed her options. She needed to hide.
She quickly found her way to the bathroom in the hallway. If these people were here to steal her valuables, they wouldn't look in the bathroom. She crawled into the thin linen closet, crouched under the first shelf and pulled the bifold door shut. The baby whimpered. She rocked it, trying to stay calm herself. Through the slats in the door the woman could only see the dim light from the hallway nightlight.
Cookie was barking. The woman held her breath, still cradling the baby. A high-pitched whimper sounded, followed by a door slamming shut and then muffled barking. She felt the slightest tingle of relief to know they didn't attack her dog, only shut it out. The relief was fleeting and in vain as she could hear the footsteps of the intruders nearing the stairs.
Her breathing was shallow. Each wooden step seemed to scream under the weight of the two strangers. She heard them enter the baby's room. A man's voice cursed. The woman sobbed silently as she cradled the stirring infant. She squinted as her eyes strained to see out of the closet. The boards in the wooden floor protested as they were tread upon.
It was suddenly pitch black as a body came between the nightlight and the bathroom. Somebody was looking in. The woman covered her mouth; she couldn't seem to be quiet enough. The person moved on. She inhaled and rocked the baby. The light disappeared momentarily as the second person passed the nightlight. They were in her room now.
"What now?" The voice was that of a female.
The baby whimpered and began to cry. No, the woman thought, not now! She held the baby close to her chest as the two intruders ran towards the wailing. The bifold door was pulled open violently and the sobbing woman and child were exposed.
"You bitch!" The male intruder yelled.
The woman screamed. The baby screamed. She couldn't get up and run. The small bathroom was blocked by the two unwelcome bodies. She kicked at the man who was closer. He grabbed her leg and aggressively dragged her out of the closet. The female intruder reached around the man and ripped the infant out of the horrified woman's arms.
"How could you?" the female shouted.
"Go get in the car." the man said in a way that sounded strangely calm.
"How could you have taken our baby?"
"You're sick! My own sister!"
The terrified woman saw the bottom of the male intruder's boot.
(and the stiffs that ride them)
The fantastic animal was dying. Wedged between two colossal beasts, it heaved and sighed, lamenting its deplorable condition with noxious fumes that dissipated into the air. Fiery tongues had eaten away most of its molten flesh and were in the last stages of devouring its insides, licking greedily at the soft cushions of fat and smothering the heart until it burst. The combustion sent fluid pouring out of its body, oozing into small streams that were eventually soaked up by the ground.
Jake stood about 300 feet away, watching it perish in the night. Consumption was a tragic ending for such a fierce and fast machine as the Dodge Charger. It deserved a more noble death than arbitrary incineration between two tractor trailers.
When the flames had abated and the puffs of smoke dissipated, Jake approached the vehicle and immediately noticed two things. First, he had been wrong in thinking the Charger had been burned to death. It had been burned, yes, even roasted, but not to death. The skeletal frame had been overlooked or spared by the fire. The second thing he noticed was the corpse in the driver’s seat. Its flesh appeared char grilled. The back of the its desiccated neck relaxed against the headrest as it directed its bulging gaze towards the heavens. Jake wondered what it had glimpsed before it had gone permanently blind.
Stepping back, Jake surveyed the scene around him. The accident had occurred on the North side of a four lane highway; he knew this because a sign said “northbound entrance.” He also knew there were no other cars in sight on the freeway, and this was strange because there was always a lot of traffic on highways.
Bisecting both lanes were black tracks left by the Charger’s tires. They made a semi-circle from the southbound lane through the grassy median and into the North lane where they resumed a southbound course. The tracks seemed to suggest the Dodge had made it safely across the median before the semi had leaped upon it, driving it backwards into the back of the other truck, which in turn ate the Charger’s rear. Both trucks had devoured their portion, leaving the cabin untouched.
The accident eerily reminded him of his best friend’s death several months ago. Mikey had died in a similar wreck when he had crossed the median while fleeing from the police. His car had smashed headlong into a semi going in the opposite direction, shoving him fifty-some feet down the road before ramming him into the back of a tractor trailer. Jake had not been present at the scene of the collision. While his best friend was being decapitated by a flying steel fragment, he had been having sex for the first time with his lover.
A chilly wind ran its cold claws up Jake’s tee, causing him to shudder. Wrapping his overshirt tighter around him, he searched his jeans for his phone. It occurred to him that he should call the police or the hospital to tell them there had been a horrible crash and the truck drivers had left the scene, although where that “scene” was, he could not say. Other than the “Northbound entrance” sign the highway was unmarked, and Jake could not remember exactly how he had stumbled upon the place.
Pulling his cell out of his back pocket, Jake dialed 911, but the only response he received was the monotonous “ong” of the dial tone. In frustration, he threw the contraption on the ground, smashing it into a million pieces.
“Well that hurt!” a voice said. It seemed to come from the front car seat, but Jake knew this was impossible.
Jake scanned the area but saw no one. “Where are you?” he asked, stepping tentatively forward. It occurred to him he might prepare himself to run in case something strange happened.
“I’m right here, dufus! Beside you!”
Jake turned to find the dead man staring at him. The corpse had raised his head off the seat to speak, but in doing so, had ripped a deep gash in his neck. The skull separated from the spine, and would have tumbled carelessly to the ground except for a single piece of jerky skin that ran up the right side. Despite this mutilation, however, Jake recognized the face as belonging to his friend Mikey.
“What’s wrong with you? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” it said.
Jake gawked at him. There was something eerie about Mikey’s smile – maybe because he had no teeth. “Mikey?! You’re supposed to be dead!”
“Dead?! Do I look dead to you?” the corpse asked, attempting to raise its droopy head. It flapped like a flag in the breeze.
“Um, yeah,” Jake answered, grabbing his friend’s cranium. “Stop Mikey. You might lose your head, and then what will you do?”
“For Christ’s sake, my head is not going to fall off,” he responded, attempting to rise from his seat. “For my head to fall off I would have to be really dead, and I was just pretending to be dead, okay? Busting out of the morgue is easy, but breaking out of prison-every time you piss they take notes.”
“But I was at your funeral,” Jake protested as he observed Mikey struggling to separate himself from the cushion below him. The heat of the fire had melded his skin to the seat. “I saw them bury you. I’m so sorry, Mikey, I should have invited you to the bar with us; and then you wouldn’t be in this mess. I try not to think about it, but I can’t sleep and when I do I have horrible nightmares. I remember how miserable I was when they told me you died and when they made me go identify your body. I was so sad, Mikey, I was so sad, but in secret…in secret I was happy. I was happy because of Andrew, because he was there for me. The worst night of my life was the best night of my life, and I can’t stand it…”
“Jake!” Mikey interrupted, ceasing his movements.
“Are you gonna stand there and yap all night or are you going to help a brother out of his car?”
“I’m sorry Mikey. Of course I’ll help you. Give me your hand,” Jake said, grabbing Mikey’s withered palm in his and pulling hard. At first neither of them moved, and then something gave way, and Jake fell backwards onto the pavement.
When he looked up he saw Mikey standing over him, pointing at something. “You think that’s funny, don’t you?”
Looking down, Jake saw that he still held the withered palm. The strain had broken it at the wrist. “I’m sorry Mikey,” he apologized, holding it up to his friend. “I didn’t mean for you to really give me your hand. Wow, you’re just really fragile now.”
“I’m not fragile!”
“Well, your hand feels kinda cold anyway,” Jake commented, shuffling to his feet.
“Duh! I’m a dead corpse, remember? I can’t be all warm and white when the cops look at me. I can’t say, ‘Oh hello Mr. Police Officer. See all these bones sticking out of my skin? That means I’m dead.’ Nobody’s gonna believe I’m dead just cos my skin is toast. I have to be cold and stiff – very death-like, you see?” Mikey’s severed hand pointed to his neck. Jake saw the lacerated edge begin to move, and then squiggly maggots poured out of the gash followed by black flies…and a small mouse.
“You did a good job. Nobody thinks you’re alive,” Jake muttered, feeling suddenly squeamish. “Ew, I don’t feel so good. I think I’m going to be sick…” Collapsing to the ground, Jake rolled over and vomited.
“Will you quit clowning around? We got to get outta here before someone sees us.”
Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, Jake sat up and looked at the barren lanes of the empty highway. “Who’s gonna see us? Nobody’s here.”
“Exactly, which is why we gotta make like tires and hit the road.” Mike waved his floppy, charbroiled head towards the shoulder of the freeway, where a black matte Mustang was parked. Jake recognized it as his own.
“Mikey, my car wasn’t here before. How did it get here?”
Mikey shrugged his bony shoulders. “The hell if I know, Nitro. It’s your car. You ought to know how it got here,” he commented, walking over to the Mustang and pressing his smashed face into the glass. “Nice,” he remarked, turning around towards Jake, who remained firmly planted on the ground. “I haven’t had a chance to ride in it yet.”
Jake smiled slightly, but did not move.
“What - are you afraid I’ll get blood in your ride? Wait a second,” Mikey said, darting to the other side of the vehicle, where he promptly crouched out of sight. When he popped back up Jake saw that his friend had undergone a radical transformation. Standing beside Jake’s car was the former blonde-haired, blue-eyed skinny mechanic. “How’s that? Pretty good, huh?”
Jake shot up from the ground. “How’d you do that?!”
A grin crossed Mikey’s face. “It’s Magic. Criss Angel can kiss my ass. Let’s roll.”
Jake nodded, hastening to the car where he slid into the driver’s seat and slammed the door. As he did, he noticed Mikey had already plopped into the passenger’s seat, and was now running his hand along the black dash. Jake reached up and grasped Mikey’s hand. It was as cold as a tombstone.
The smile fell from Mikey’s face. He looked at Jake for several seconds and then he said, “Damn, this is a fine piece of machinery. Have you modded it?”
Jake shook his head. “Had it tuned and the speed limiter removed. Oh, and I added some long tube headers and an exhaust system. It’s loud.” Jake remarked, hitting the clutch and the break, and then turned the key in the ignition. Burgle Gurgle Gurgle. The creature came alive.
“It’s a beautiful animal, isn’t it Mikey? I love the way it sounds. I could listen to that sound all night. It’s as sexy as Andrew’s voice.”
“Groosss,” Mikey responded. “Well, you and Andrew are gross, but this car is awesome! I’ve been waiting awhile to ride in this beast.”
Waiting awhile to ride in this beast. Jake turned to gaze out the window. The black canvas above them was dappled with stars, millions of spectacular pulsating points of light that coruscated their lash-like rays at him. It was so different than the night sky on the eve of Mikey’s death, when the pollution of the city had reached the atmosphere, reflecting back to them their own harsh phosphorescent glow. It was under that gloom that Mikey had faced death alone. Did he know he was going to die in the crash? When did he know it? How many moments passed between the realization and the reality? Did it feel like forever?
Mikey’s funeral had felt like forever. The workers had been lowering the wooden casket into the ground when he had lost track of where he was. Flooded with images of the accident and Mikey’s mangled remains, his mind had retreated back to that evening, when he was alone with Andrew in his apartment. Jake had been standing at the window and staring out at the night sky when he had felt warm arms wrap around him, and then Andrew’s nose pressed against his hair. Jake had leaned back against him, but Andrew had held his ground. The memory had made him smile a little, and then he was back in cemetery, watching the laborers heap dirt into Mikey’s grave.
That moment still haunted him like an evil spirit. More than once he had woken up sweating and screaming in the darkness. But he would make it all up to Mikey; he would make it up to him now.
Switching on the line locks, Jake threw the car into 2nd gear, let up on the clutch and hit the gas. The Mustang snorted as the back tires pawed the ground, churning out black smoke and scent of burning rubber. Jake looked over at Mikey. With every squeal of the wheel his face visibly brightened, the pink flowing back into his cheeks with the rush of life. Inspired by his friend’s animation, Jake revved the growling engine to 3000rpm, surrounding them with a billowing grey haze that enveloped the car, obscuring everything in sight.
Mikey laughed. “You’re going to ruin your slicks, Nitro, but she’s hot. “If this were a chick, I’d do her, though for you it’d have to be a dude.”
Mikey leaned away but Jake still managed to punch him in the shoulder. “But she wouldn’t do you,” he answered, pressing the break and disengaging the line locks, “she’d have taste.” Jake shifted to first gear, feathered the clutch and hit the gas. The animal paused, clawed the ground for traction, and then shot forward into space. Slipping the clutch, Jake jammed it into second, floored the throttle and dumped it. The engine began to shriek as a shot of NOS coursed through the creature’s veins. Outside, the once distinguishable umbrage started to blur into streaks, painting the landscape irregular strokes of green. Amazed, Jake power-shifted up to fifth.
Turning back to Mikey, Jake noticed his friend held a black container in his hand. It looked like a tool box with a lock. “Where’d you get that?”
“You know where I got my Dodge from?”
“I got it from the field behind the store. Its buried under that big tree beside the dirt road. See, Nitro, when Cam and I were in Miami, we rigged cars for this dealer. Well, he tells us his dealer – some VIP Columbian – is lookin for a car connection. Naturally we’re interested, so we go with our guy to meet the Columbian at some rented house on the beach. So, we’re sitting on this nice white couch – I mean, it was nice – and next thing we know bullets are flyin everywhere and we’re crawling on hands and knees to the bedroom and into the closet. Come to find out our dealer owed this dude major cash – millions – and he couldn’t pay – or so he said. Well, the Columbians high-tail it outta there and we’re left with the dude’s dead body. So, Cam and I decide to shake down the place before the cops show up - we figured we were owed for being scared to death and nearly killed. This was under the bed.”
“Wow. That seems weird. Why was a tool box under the bed?”
Mikey glared at him. “That’s not the point, dude. The point is we made out, okay? Now Nitro,” he said, patting the box, “this was my nest egg for a long time, but I don’t need it any longer, so I’m giving it to you.”
Mikey held the box up to Jake, who pushed it away. “I don’t want it,” he said as his eyes began to water.
“What the fuck, Jake? You don’t want Andrew for his cash and now you won’t take my dough. What - is it not good enough for you? Let me tell ask you something,” he said, unlocking the box and holding up a hundred dollar bill. “Does that look like me?”
Jake shook his head. “No,” he sobbed.
“You know why? Cos it isn’t me. It’s some old dude named Benjamin Franklin. Now what does the writing say?”
Jake looked away. “I can’t read it; it’s too dark.”
“It says ‘In God we Trust.’ My name isn’t on it, got it?”
Jake began to cry. “I’m sorry, Mikey.”
“Sorry for what?”
“For not giving you a ride. For not…I should’ve invited you to open mic,” Jake blubbered, “if I had invited you, you’d still be here.”
“Yeah, but then you wouldn’t have gotten to play bumper cars with Andrew.”
Jake grinned and pushed Mikey playfully. “How do you know what happened?!”
“Rumors, man,” Mike answered, shrugging. “Everybody knows you got laid.”
“I could’ve waited,” Jake said quickly. “It didn’t have to happen then.”
“Yes it did, or it wouldn’t have happened at all Nitro - that’s the way it rolls. Every turn puts you on a different street. Now, I hate to say this, but it’s time. I’ve gotta run.”
“No!” Jake yelled, grabbing his arm. “I’m not letting you go.”
Mikey shook his head. “You think you can stop it? It’s over, Jake. I ran a good race – made it in under 10 in a stolen car... It’s all you from here on out.”
Jake started to bawl. “Mikey, please don’t leave me here. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“Dude, we’re cool, okay? I forgive you. Now stop crying – it’s like you’re my baby brother or something,” Mikey said with a shudder, pushing Jake’s hand away.
Jake watched as his friend’s features disappeared and his body slowly faded from view, streaming away like the passing trees until he was gone. For a moment Jake gazed absently at the empty spot where his friend had been, and then turned back towards the black highway. He was all alone in the oppressive gloom now - but something bizarre was happening. The world around him began to evanesce, and then Jake realized he was beginning to evanesce - all of space, in fact, was ripping away before his very eyes. He struggled to free himself, but could not move. Then everything went black…
…Jake felt himself shaking and opened his eyes. It was dark. Something warm was wrapped around him, jostling his body and making noise. It was Andrew. He was jerking Jake’s shoulders and muttering something inaudible. Near him someone was screaming; and Jake realized it was himself.
“You okay?” Andrew uttered softly. “I take it you were having another nightmare?”
Jake nodded and collapsed into Andrew’s lap, Sweat cascading down his face. His heart pounded out a baseline that seemed to accompany his rapid shallow breaths: pound, pound, pound, pound, in-out, in-out, in-out, in-out. He thought about the squeal of his engine, the skid of his slicks against the tracks – all of it formed a musical composition in his head, but he couldn’t contemplate that now. Rolling over on his back, he opened up his lungs and practiced deep slow breaths – inhale…exhale. One and Two. As he was calming himself, he felt Andrew’s fingers push his damp bangs away from his face.
“If this keeps up, I’m going to have to install a sink with an extra pair of linen beside your bed,” he said, stroking his hair. “Hunting wet washcloths and new sheets at 4AM is for the birds – for night owls anyway.”
Jake felt his body relax, and opened his eyes. “I saw Mikey. He was dead but alive too – like a zombie.”
“Oh yeah? What happened?”
“He gave me a toolbox full of money and forgave me.”
Andrew pursed his lips and nodded. “Sounds like a good dream to me.”
“It was,” Jake answered, sliding his arms around Andrew’s waist and resting his cheek on his boyfriend’s thigh, “until he left me, and everything started to tear away. That was horrible.”
“Mmm,” Andrew hummed in agreement. “You know Jake, if there is something beyond all this – and I seriously doubt there is, but if there is – then I think Mikey has already forgiven you. Question is, can you forgive yourself?”
Jake raised his head off Andrew’s cheek, sat up and looked at him. “Yeah, yeah, I think so now.”
Tanya Smith is an English Graduate Student at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida. Her interests run the gamut from Greek literature to the nineteenth century’s Decadent, Symbolist and Aesthetic movement, with a concentration on the philosophy of aesthetics, particularly that of Plato, Burke, Kant, Wilde, Pater, Gautier and Poe. She has been published in the Troubadour.
I was born in Port Harcourt, which happens to be the largest city in Rivers State of Nigeria. That is my hometown. My childhood recollection of life in Port Harcourt was that of a clean, well planned city that was punctuated with parks and open spaces where you found kids playing pickup football, a sport more commonly known here in the United States as soccer. Most of its parkways, boulevards, and major streets were lined with trees. These trees provided shade during the hot summer days for street musicians, pan handlers, street magicians, and even for me as I walked back from school in those days. Major intersections are of the roundabout design, where approach and departure lanes were negotiated in a merry-go-round fashion.
My dad was a registered nurse who worked for the government. His job classified him as a federal employee who would be transferred all over the country just the way the military does over here in the U.S. My dad, however, chose not to move around with his children with every transfer. I later found out why he made that decision. His first reason was that he did not want to disrupt his children's education, and his second reason stemmed from the fact that he rated the overall standard of education in the southeastern states of Nigeria as superior to that in the rest of the country.
The house I grew up in Port Harcourt was located at 30 Takoradi Street. It was a six-bedroom house that my dad bought in the early 1930s when he was a young civil servant. The family stayed in this house until my dad began his career advancement. Each promotion inevitably came with a transfer to a new station where he assumed more responsibility. I was the baby of the family, and my parents loved me very much, but my mom in particular had a soft spot for me. Being the baby of the family explained why my mom would not let me out of her sight until I was the ripe old age of eight. My brother-in-law Onye, who happened to be the head master of an elementary school in Benin City, was probably the only one with enough clout to break the very strong bond that had tied me to my parents. He was able to convince my parents that if they let go of me, that he would promise them two things. The first was that he would put me in school, and the second promise was that he would accommodate me in his household where my elder sister, his wife, would take good care of me, instead of my joining three other older siblings in our family homestead at 30 Takoradi Street. My mom was devastated about the possibility of separating from me. She eventually was convinced to let me go. My dad assured her that, in the long run, it would be to my advantage education wise. I remember my mom’s remarkable mood swing between the first day of Onye's arrival and the eve of his departure. Her mood the first day depicted some pleasurable excitement, while the following day was a different story. Her unhappiness was transparent as she went about her business. I remember asking her why she was that somber.
"Is anything was wrong?" I asked.
"Nothing, everything is okay" she replied.
Then the moment of truth came on day two just after dinner. My mom summoned me to her bedroom.
"You see I've always known that this day would come but I never thought that it would be this soon" she concluded.
"What is it? Tell me.”
"Your dad, I and Onye have decided that it's now time for you to join him in Benin City to continue and complete your elementary school education.”
"No way,” I retorted. “Are there no schools here for me to attend? Please tell him to go away" I sobbed.
My mom pulled me closer to her, hugged me, and sobbed in sympathy. Right then, as in a well directed drama, my dad and Onye joined us in the bedroom the sole purpose was to pacify my separation anxiety which I coincidentally shared with my mom at the moment.
"You are going to live with me, and I will make sure that you are comfortable" Onye reassured me.
"You know that I wouldn’t sign off on this deal if it did not benefit you" my dad added.
"Ok, fine" I grunted, as I made my way to my room where I hopped into bed and cried myself to sleep.
The next day was a Saturday, and I had intended to sleep in, but it was not meant to be. I heard a bang on my door, and when I responded, I found out that it was our chauffeur Isaac who knocked. He wanted to know if I would accompany him to the airport in the next hour.
"Nope" I replied.
"Leave me alone."
"Don’t you want to see Onye off?” Isaac asked.
"No, I don't want to see that traitor.”
Isaac would later learn the underlying reason why I declined a trip that I had cherished so much in the past. Well, that weekend was horrid, to say the least, and the following weeks were unexciting and drab, and the countdown was on. Christmas was upon us before I knew it. It was not a Merry Christmas for me, to say the least. I shipped out to Port Harcourt barely days after New Year's with my mom and Isaac.
When I arrived in Benin City, I enrolled in Township Elementary School. Isaac drove me to school during the one week that they spent with me before he and my mom returned home.
Growing up in Benin City was a sharp contrast with the life of over indulgence that I enjoyed in Port Harcourt. For instance, Isaac drove me to and from school in Port Harcourt, while I walked to and from school in Benin City. I attended a parochial school in Port Harcourt, but then I attended a government school in Benin City. Unfortunately the curriculum at Township Elementary School did not contain anything about religious studies, which, in turn, denied me of the interesting Bible stories that I had come to enjoy in my former parochial school. I was responsible for doing my laundry then, while the dry cleaner took care of the whole family's laundry back home. Low and behold, it was the dawn of a new day in my young life!
I came to realize that I used my time somewhat more wisely under the supervision of my elder sister, who I would qualify as a disciplinarian. Over time, she curtailed my playtime and insisted that I devote more time to my homework assignments. I was even assigned the chore of taking care of her favorite dog, Jimmy, a golden retriever. I did not take to Jimmy at first, but we became buddies a lot sooner than I ever imagined. I remember one hot day when I briefly unleashed Jimmy to give him a bath. Jimmy did the unthinkable by taking off. He ran through the gates and vanished out of sight. I was very perplexed as to whether Jimmy would ever come home by sundown. A greater concern, of course, was how to relate the whole incident to my elder sister. I remembered going from door to door in our neighborhood looking for Jimmy, without any luck. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the fact that my elder sister did not raise hell over the incident. Her reaction to the whole saga could be articulated as "well stuff happens.” Although I was heartened by her unexpected reaction, some part of me still missed Jimmy, and I wished he would just show up one day in the same way he had vanished. About a month later, I remembered looking out of my window one rainy day, only to see Jimmy heading straight to our front porch. I ran out and hugged him. He was lean, wet, and dirty. I took him straight to the back yard where I bathed and fed him. That was a very happy day. I couldn’t wait to tell my sister that her Jimmy was back. I told Jimmy never to run away again. He never did. On the whole, I would rank my first year as the most difficult. Things grew easier with the passage of time.
The periodic holidays that I spent at home with my parents were priceless. I very much looked forward to them. This enjoyment was in contrast to the anxiety that became my lot at the end of each holiday when I had to return to school. Though school was challenging, my transfer to Township Elementary School actually marked the first time I recognized and acknowledged formal education and its benefits. I came to this realization because of my brother-in-law Onye, who constantly impressed upon me the axiom that higher education was important in its own right, but that elementary education, which constituted the foundation, was more important. He was right, as I can now attest. With the educational foundation I gained under his tutelage, I zipped through three years in Township Elementary with ease.