Scripted potpourri

A blend of topnotch writing prowess, significant issues and scintillating stories!

The Legend of a Peace of Meat

turkey

Once upon a time, there was a handsome young widower called Phillip Ndubisi. Phillip had a daughter from his first marriage. Her name was Patience. When Patience was fourteen, Phillip fell in love again and married a lovely lady called Paulina. Six years after, when they were least expectant, Paulina conceived. She gave birth to strikingly identical twins and named them Patrick and Patricia. In another three years, they had a girl whom they called Phillipa. Everyone was happy.

As legend had it, Phillip’s mother, had come visiting on one of those days. During that visit, Paulina, who was a faithful and hardworking wife, had characteristically served herself with two pieces of meat and had given her husband one. Phillip’s mother was greatly appalled by this and made it a mighty issue. For her, what Paulina did was evidence that her son was not being well fed, and it was in fact improper to have more meat in one’s soup than her husband’s. Paulina was saddened by this, but she was also very angry at Phillip because as his mother rained accusations at her, he said nothing; even as she insisted to her mother-in-law that Phillip actually preferred it that way because he had told her so himself.

Since then, since that epoch-making episode in the Ndubisi family, whether Phillip liked it or not, and even after he belatedly apologized to her, Paulina never failed to serve him with two pieces of meat. Or fish. Or ponmo. Or crab—in fact, a double of any chunk of protein that came with a meal. “For the sake of peace,” Paulina told her husband. “It is purely for peace.”

As expected, Phillip rarely touched the extra piece of meat. So Paulina would divide it among the children. This went on for some years until one fateful day when Patrick had gone to clear his father’s table. Carrying the tray of unfinished food, he suddenly declared with a flash of eureka, “I have colonized Daddy’s meat!” And that was how it all started. The greedy scramble and claiming of their father’s left-over meat had come to stay. And all of them colonized, from Patience, the first-born, down to the three latest additions to the Ndubisi family—Pius, Peace and Percy.

                                                ∞                     ∞                     ∞

“I have colonized Daddy’s turkey!” Nine-year old Phillipa hollered, saturating the apartment with her siren-like voice. As she scurried to the kitchen with the tray, her eyes were fastened purposefully on the untouched turkey. Exultant, she couldn’t remember the last time she colonized meat. It was always Pius, or Patrick, who always shared with his twin sister. “This turkey is mine.” Phillipa sang as she passed by Pius. He was in the living room at the moment, glowering at her.

“This turkey is mine.” Pius mimicked derisively. “If Mummy had not asked me to help Peace with her stupid homework, that meat would have been mine, as it always is!”

“My homework is not stupid.” Peace protested. But nobody heard her babyish voice because their mother was at that moment, scolding Pius and Phillipa: “Pius, you problem child.” She yelled, “You should have just said I am a stupid woman. If you are looking for a cry this evening, I will give it to you. And as for you, Phillipa, don’t you know you are growing up? Continue to play childish games with Pius.”

As Phillipa sulked away quietly, Pius snickered loudly. Hearing this, their mother, still stewing, picked up one of her slipper and flung it angrily at Pius. But out of boyish instinct, he ducked, and the slipper landed on Peace instead.

From the kitchen, Phillipa saw Peace’s face pucker and quiver, before she let out a deafening wail that sounded like something in-between a wounded cow and a wounded ram. Their mother was by Peace in an instant, and as she picked up her four-year old her to console her, she commanded Pius to kneel down and raise his hands.

This time, it was Phillipa’s turn to snicker and she did so quietly, deftly brushing away rice from the turkey. But just as she was about to sink her teeth dreamily into it, the kitchen door opened and Patience trudged in looking like she had trekked to Egypt with the Israelites. “Phillipa, abeg,” Patience exhaled, “Two things: come teach me national anthem, biko. The second stanza. I don forget o. The stupid interview wey I go today, na so dem say make I sing o. My sister, if you hear the nonsence wey commot for my mouth eh, you go pity Nnamdi Azikiwe wey compose am.” At this, Phillipa laughed heartily, cradling her turkey and wondering how anybody in the world would not know the national anthem. “Secondly,” Patience continued, “I take God beg you, abeg, give me that thing wey you dey chop. Hunger don kill me finish”

Phillipa’s laughter dried up as fast as methylated spirit in harmattan. She looked at her eldest sister and then back at her prized possession. “I can’t.” she mumbled. “I just colonized it.” Taking a bite, Phillipa added, “but I can teach you the national anthem, and tell you that Nnamdi Azikiwe did not compose it.”

Patience hissed, shaking her head. “Children of nowadays; no fear!” Marching out of the kitchen, she promised to pay Phillipa back in her own coin. “Wha-e-vah,” Phillipa muttered. Just then, she heard her mother calling for her. “I’m coming!” she yelled, as she put the meat down and ran.

“Go and tell Patrick and Patricia that if they don’t come back home immediately, I will stuff Cameroonian pepper in their bombom. Go now!” Her mother commanded. “Come and pass the front door o, because I know that if you go through the kitchen, you will go and first sleep there with that turkey. It is not running away, ngwa nu.”

Phillipa almost cried. As she ran to their neighbour’s house to fetch Patrick and Patricia, she did so with all sense of speed and urgency. Yet, she couldn’t help but mourn her colonized turkey. That piece of meat that was rightfully hers was now at the mercy of vengeful Patience and that kill-joy, Pius. Phillipa didn’t know when she started to pray, “In Jesus’ name; in the mighty name of Jesus! Father Lord, in the name of Jesus, I cover my meat by the blood of Jesus! Father Lord, let Sister Patience not come out of her room and let Mummy not tell Pius to stand up from his punishment. In Jesus’ name; in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

When she returned, the meat was well… gone. And true to her fears, Patience was in the living room, chattering away in Igbo with her mother. Pius was nowhere in sight. Full of hurt and resolve, Phillipa stomped to where Patience and her mother sat. “Sister Patience, I will not teach you the national anthem again. Ever! And Pius, wherever you are, you will pay!”

                                                ∞                     ∞                     ∞

“Phinipa, net me tell you something.” Peace was saying to Phillipa. “See, today, my cheacher said dogs eat bones.”

“Really?”

“Yes. If I have a dog, I will feed it because I have bones.”

Phillipa sighed, rolling her eyes at the four-year-old’s naïveté. “Peace, everyone has bones but they are not for dogs, you hear?”

“No. I have real bones. They are in Percy’s tiny bed.”

Bones in the baby’s cot? “Well, how did they get there?” Phillipa asked.

Peace shrugged. “I cononize the meat. Then I gave baby Percy the bone so that he can cononize it. But it is still there. Baby Percy don’t know how to cononize.”

Phillipa stopped short. Was she hearing correctly? “Peace, who gave you meat to colonize?”

“Nobody.” Peace replied with a shake of her head. “I cononize it by myself in the kitchen that time that you did not finish cononizing it; that time that Mummy’s slippers fell on my head.”

                                                ∞                     ∞                     ∞

… And according to the sacred, timeless Legend of the Colonization of Meat in the Ndubisi Family, the only reason why Phillipa forgave her naïve little sister on that fateful day was because of the legend itself. For indeed, the meat was for Peace’s sake. All meat meant for colonization was after all, purely for Peace.

forgiveness for peace

THE END.

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Something To Offer

Image

Today, I passed by Schizza’s Won and there was no awe and longing oozing out of my eyes as I did so; as it used to be all those years ago when the image of those neoned calligraphic letters on the front of the store clung to my brain like my two times-table. “Skeezas,” I preferred to call it, even though my brother who was twelve at the time, said it was “Sheetzas, not Skeezas.”  The flamboyant boutique opened on the main road, the same road where my mother perched under a large Mirinda umbrella at the hem of a mechanic’s workshop to sell fruits everyday. I was ten, and pretty quixotic for a child from an economically underprivileged family as mine. Truly, nothing was more fascinating than a store that was air-conditioned and had glass sliding doors through which women, who drove their own cars, pranced in and out of. There was something fittingly out of place about Schizza’s that got the whole neighbourhood agog—my mother said the only other boutique she knew was at the city capital, Ikeja, “And those ones don’t even have shine-shine name like this one”, she noted.

One time, I was with my mother at the fruit stall when, along with an orange I was peeling, I sliced my palm without realizing it. “Oghene me!” my mother screamed for her God, before I saw the poor orange sheened with my blood. I was trying to understand how the blood got there when she landed an earsplitting smack on my back—what Yoruba people call abara. “You are looking at that shop again! You are looking at that shop again!” My mother rapped in Urhobo, almost wailing. “Let me tell you something: the people in that shop do not look at you, because you have nothing to offer. You only have something to offer by working hard at what God has given you to do. Alero, God has given us fruits. Concentrate!”

That was exactly what I did for the next four years—peeling and slicing fruits after school for my mother. She later got a small container and added soft drinks to her sales stock, but she didn’t get rid of the Mirinda umbrella that had seen better days. It was right in front of the container, and under it, she roasted ripe plantains, boli, every afternoon. By then, Schizza’s had become Schizza’s Won!, and they had opened a new nicer-looking store, Schizza’s Too, at the extreme end of the same long, now busy main road. Then Aunty Helen came to stay with us.

She was only four years older than I was and had just finished secondary school in Warri. My mother said she was very hardworking and wanted to pursue her university education in Lagos. A few weeks after she came, she told me she was tired of being sales girl at my mother’s fruit cum soft-drink cum boli store. “I get SSCE o.” She announced one day. “A-fit do sales geh for dat boutique wey dey there”. I didn’t bother reminding her that the only reason my mother allowed her to come was because she was perfect for selling fruits and soft drinks and boli. “Tell Mummy,” I said. Of course she didn’t, and the day she was going to apply at Schizza’s, she asked me to accompany her. It was a public holiday. My mother had gone to the market and expected us to open the shop. I was excited about breathing in the air of Schizza’s Too, and even though I was sure that Schizza’s, as sophisticated as it was, would never employ a Pidgin English-rapping person like Helen, I told her this might be her lucky day. Pleased, she bought orobo Coke for me before we went.

I wore my cutest top—my Betty Boop—and my faded but clean denim dungarees. Helen wore a form-fitting stretchy skirt with a scandalous side slit and topped it with an equally tight blouse that had a Rastafarian image on it. I believe it was for this reason that the security man, after questioning us senselessly, told us there was no vacancy. In other words, we were not allowed into Schizza’s. Helen thoroughly cussed the man in wafe. I was crest-fallen. It wasn’t until I watched Pretty Woman a year later that I realised that big boutiques had a policy for turning people back based on how they looked. But at least, Julia Roberts entered that store before they told her they had nothing to offer her.

Meanwhile, the worst thing was happening while we were begging to be let into Schiza’s. The Lagos State task force, who were really ruffians in tacky uniforms, was on their usual rampage looking for roadside traders to harangue and obtain bribes from. But because there was nobody at my mother’s container to give them what they wanted, they ransacked the stack of fruits my mother concealed with layers of sack cloth at the back of the container, made a dent in the container itself and in the process broke my mother’s beloved Mirinda umbrella, before they painted white X’s all around the container. I would never ever forget the spanking I received. Of course, Helen was sent back to Warri but I later learnt that she never went back and neither did she ever go to the university. After the whole episode faded away and my mother found a way to cart her container to the front of the face-me-I-face-you where we lived, I told all my friends at the public school I attended that I had gone shopping at Schizza’s on one public holiday. They believed me.

Today, my mother is not alive to know that I am a lawyer with the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning. Today, I did not just pass by Schizza’s Won!; my chauffeur drove me past it in my Toyota Camry 2013 model to Schizza’s Too where I have some important business to perform. I would be stepping inside that place for the first time. Today, I don’t have to look across the road from a fruits container or plead with a security man; neither do I have to fabricate my experience there as I did all those years ago. I could have, and should have delegated this assignment to a subordinate. But from the moment I started working on this case, I looked forward to today. Indeed, there was no way I would have passed up the offer to let the people at Schizza’s see me as someone with something very important to offer—court orders for demolition, and my money, with which I bought an Yves Saint Laurent scarf.

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