The coronavirus pandemic continued to sweep through the world bringing humanity to its knees. Whole cities on lockdown, the death toll rising, divorce rates going up, Prime minsters in isolation, sporting events getting canceled, Christiano Ronaldo buying an Island on the Pacific to separate himself and his family from the rest of the world and even Mexico considering closing its borders to the United States in the most ironic happenstance in the history of modern humanity. The council of elders of number 225 Katakata Street celebrated the misadventure of the coronavirus in Nigeria after the only two confirmed cases including the Italian index case became negative and the country once again proclaimed coronavirus free. Some said it was the mad heat. Others said it was our incessant fasting and prayers. Many chose to believe it was just a case of the virus arriving in the shores of a country notorious for killing everything including dreams. Either way, Nigerians still kept their joy, and Chisco who was at the meeting of the returning compound members as a guest still had his worries.
He had believed the boys as soon as they said it that Mama Akunna’s ghost was in the compound. While on vigilante duties at night back in Arochukwu he had had numerous encounters with people who died and refused to go away. Most of those people he always saw at night going to their farms, which was why Cosmas’ explanation made a lot of sense to him. They were the ones that lived mainly for their farms and would not stop going there even at death, which was why the bushes were the scariest places in the villages.
Chisco’s main worry, however, was that Achike had taken his mother-in-law away just at the time the jungle had matured for harvesting. He had carefully worked on the woman all those months and then at the first sign of success his brother did what he always did. The worst part of his behavior this time was that Achike appeared to be interested in the woman. Achike had because of ukwu forgotten the weight of abomination he would be committing should he sleep with his wife’s mother. He had come to Lagos and eaten so much tomatoes that he had forgotten their tradition and taboos. So while everything was going on in the compound, Chisco’s chief preoccupation was how to continue his quest for Eyonyam in the face of the big spatial constraint he now faced. He had to get her and take her back to his new abode and save Achike’s neck.
Chisco had also sighted his erstwhile lover Josephine. He was careful not to stray in her path. She was not in his league, could never be faithful and treated him like a pet. He was the Ogbu Agu of Arochukwu! He killed tigers! He should not submit to a woman!
Just as he managed to tuck the nurse into the back of his mind to try to gain clarity on how to get to his brother’s mother-in-law, he saw a familiar figure swing into the compound and made her way to the top floor.
Ndifreke rushed into the room and tapped Mkpoikanna.
“Bro. lock the door. I no dey sleep here.”
Mkpoikanna had seen Ndifreke with the nurse on the balcony and knew at once where his cousin was going to spend the night. He chuckled and said, “Eyen eka abeg carry condom if na dat one mbok.”
Ndifreke wheeled back and rummaged through his travel bag and produced a pack of the prophylactic and touched knuckles with Mkpoikanna.
As he reached the door and opened it, he saw Elizabeth standing there.
She nudged him aside and entered the room.
“Erm, damn Lizzy! What are you doing here?”
“Well, if the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.”
“It’s been two weeks. By my calculation, you should want me again by now.”
“Your sex cycle. Two weeks is your longest possible period of abstinence. I know that.”
Ndifreke scratched his head and opened his mouth but nothing came out.
“Pretend you don’t understand you hear? Again, word spreads fast. The whole street now knows that ghosts are in this compound. Then I remembered I have a frightened boy living here. More than one reason to come take you home.”
“Good Lord Lizzy!”
“You’re coming with me.”
“I am not frightened. And like I told you before, it isn’t healthy coming there and doing you know what in the presence of your impressionable kids.”
“We don’t make love in their presence. And it is important that they grow up seeing me with the opposite sex.”
“What does that mean now?”
“It means that seeing us together, they will understand that a man belongs with a woman and vice-versa.”
Ndifreke shook his head.
“Come,” Lizzy said, and led him out of the compound.
“So that was why you were so much in a hurry to return to Lagos? That was the thing that was chasing you from the peaceful place that God delivered us and moved us to?”
“What is it woman?”
“You have no regard or respect whatsoever for me!”
“What are you talking about?”
“You humiliated me like that in front of the whole street because of that prostitute!”
“Yen yen yen the lovely nurse is going to tell us about her three months outside of number 225. Lovely nurse! Lovely nurse Azubuike! Right in my presence!”
“Come on woman! That means nothing. It is just a polite way to reference a lady.”
“So what happened to her name? Or Nurse as we call her?”
“What is this woman?”
“Why was she the first person you called? You think I did not see the way you looked at her? Those children were telling you something important and all you were thinking about was your lovely nurse. You humiliated your son and then me just because you wanted to hear your lovely nurse!”
“Stop it, woman!”
“Stop what? Stop what? A loose woman that has slept with every riff-raff in the compound and on the street!”
“Don’t say that. You don’t know that.”
“You see. You are even defending her!”
“I am not.”
“You are! You are! For a rotten vagina that they use alum to wash for goats like you! God will punish you!
Mr. Zubi gathered his slippers in his hand and stormed out of the self-contain.
Mama Willy-willy paced the room. Then an idea struck her. She summoned her eldest son.
“Castro my boy.”
“You see that thing you said out there, I believe you.”
“Of course. You are my blood. I know when you are telling the truth and when you are lying.”
“Mama the woman was there.”
“What do we do?’
“I have experience of something like this. I know what to do.”
“Mr. Cosmas said the ghost cannot harm us.”
“You want to follow Cosmas?”
“Please help me mama. That witch came back for Irikefe and me.”
“Don’t worry she will not touch you. I am your mother I will make sure. I am not like your father.”
“Thank you ma.”
“You know I am going out of my way to help you.”
“You haven’t said what you will do.”
“I will meet some of my town’s people. There are things they can do. But the spirits know that someone is fighting them and they could as a result target the person. That is why I said I am going out of my way.”
“Yes. But not to worry. I am not a coward like your father.”
“Thank you ma.”
“But you know I am not the one the ghost is really after.”
Castro scratched his head and continued to agree with his mother.
“I can keep quiet and watch and the ghost will come and strangle you and nothing will happen.”
“God forbid mama.”
“Don’t say God forbid. After all, your father is already doing it. He has left you alone in a life and death situation. But I am not like him.”
Castro hoped that he would not turn into a lizard from excessive nodding before his mother said what was in her mind.
“The question is do you want to be helped?”
“You are my mother na. Is it not your duty to help me?”
“Is it not the duty of your father to help you? Has he done anything?”
“Mama please what is it?”
“I will help you but you must pay.”
“All I want is information. I know that together with that Irikefe boy you see everything that goes on in this compound. I’m sure you have seen your father following that nurse. Tell me everything you know.”
Castro scratched his head and avoided his mother’s eyes.
“Okay. Bye-bye. I wish you good luck with Mama Akunna’s ghost.” Mama Willy turned as if to go into their inner room.
“Wait wait wait Mama.”
Mama Willy-willy smiled to herself before she turned back and faced her son. What did he stand to lose if he told her? His parents would always fight whatever he did or said. And he needed the ghost off his back!
“I erm…I have actually seen papa going to the nurse’s room.”
“Haii!” Mama Willy-willy exclaimed and threw her hands in the air. “He went where?”
“One day, I saw him wearing new jeans and t-shirt, he sprayed perfume, combed his hair and drew fresh pathing on the side like Mr. T, and he then walked like he was going to go and steal somebody’s okada and arrived at her door and knocked. As soon as she opened the door he started pretending to be sick and in need of treatment.”
“Hey! My life! I knew it! I knew it!”
“I was following him the whole time. I told him I was going to tell you and he recovered immediately and left.”
“And you did not tell me!”
“No mama. I already took care of it.”
Mama Willy-willy shook her head and said, “Alright.”
“But mama I did not say anything happened o! Or that they did anything. After that day I haven’t seen anything again.”
“You don’t need to see anything. The intention was there. He wanted to sleep with that prostitute. He probably has because she never says no to anybody. And I am going to teach him a lesson.”
“Okay mama you can do whatever you want to do to him but please help me get rid of Mama Akunna for good. I want to marry next year.”
“Just shut up there! Why will your father not call you Ewu Gambia. You have not finished cleaning your nyash properly it is marry that you want to marry.”
“Mama I just mean that I don’t want to die now.”
“Nothing will happen to you. I will do what I have to do.”
“Leave him to me.”
Nurse Jo squirmed on the bed. She was already rubbing her clitoris in readiness for him. She had always wanted Ndifreke. The way she wanted him the first time was for him to walk in on her naked and penetrate her wildly. She wanted him to fuck her to completion before they would go back to the beginning and do the foreplay for relaxation. In the past ten minutes as she touched herself, she imagined his tongue on her nipple, his lips on her neck and his hands all over her body discovering her erogenous zones. It was when her pleasure was reaching a crescendo that she stopped and wondered what was keeping him. He was supposed to be there with her already. She did not think he needed more than five minutes in his room before he came over to hers. She had seen his eyes and they both understood that the whole talk of non-seduction was bunkum. The desire was evident in his eyes. What the fuck was keeping him then? She stood up, threw a t-shirt on, and headed for the door. She opened it and saw another man standing there.
Sister Esther rubbed her belly and wondered why it was not growing. This was not how she wanted to be pregnant. She did not want that kind of pregnancy where the tummy would be little and the woman would be complimented on how much of a good body she had. She did not want any good body. She wanted to be completely pregnant, with a large visible protrusion that would require her to wear large ugly gowns so that when she went to the market or the bank or wanted to cross the road people would stop and clear everywhere for her. Yes. She wanted that so that shame would come upon the devil and all his cohorts who thought that her time had passed because she was forty.
But her tummy was not growing.
She then thought that it was only three months at any rate. But that did not stop her from practicing how to get up from the bed when the time came. She placed one hand on the frame of the bed and the other on her waist and elevated herself slowly like a hydraulic controlled tank. But as the door burst open and Kingsley walked in and she saw his face, the whole drama left her.
Evae had no such issues. She was as pregnant as Sister Esther wanted to be only that she knew already that her time had come but there were no signs that she would be going into labour any soon. She checked with her mother and her mother told her not to worry. It sometimes happened with the first pregnancy. But as the days progressed she knew that she had a good cause to worry. Then one evening, as she waited for her mother to bring her dinner she dozed off and saw him flash across her face. “I warned you but you will not listen. Oya born the pikin make I see.”
“Papa,” She said and started awake.
Two new people signified interest in moving into the compound – a policeman and a lawyer.
Someone else wanted Agbonyibo’s shop.
Josiah was still asking for a refund of his rent.
Irikefe was still a problem.
Papa Efe sat up in bed in contemplation. Number 225 Katakata Street. The unending drama. He sometimes wondered why he spared himself. He would have gone with the others and would have been free of all of his current worries. But would he have been free? Especially as it did not seem like the others were resting in peace. Then he remembered why he spared himself in the first place.
Now the time had come for him to do what he knew only he could do for her.
TO BE CONTINUED.