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Papi « Fiction365

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Papi

‘Wake up. Mama is back,’ Papi said.

I grunted and rolled on the mat. I felt his hand steadily tap my back.

‘Wake up, boy! Mama is standing!’

This time, his voice was very loud. I rose from the torn mat and gawked at his weary face. I could see he was clutching something. I yawned.

‘Papi… welcome, Papi,’ I said. Instantly, I saw mama as she stood by the corner of the room, holding a wrapped bundle in her arms. Something shifted in the bundle and made a piercing sound. I sensed
she was holding a baby. My eyes cleared and the sleep was gone.

I stood up to make space for Mama. I noticed Papi was holding a baby too. Did mama give birth to twins? God, No! I didn’t want mama to give birth to twins because Papi didn’t want twins. When Mama was pregnant, Mama Ego, who always brought her drugs, told her she might be carrying
twins because Mama’s stomach was too large. Papi had prayed against it.

‘Who will give us money to take care of twins?’ he had asked Mama repeatedly. After Mama had attempted to convince him that God would provide, he threw the same question at me. I had kept quiet staring at him because I did not know what to answer.

Standing in the room, with Mama and Papi holding babies, I was sure Mama had delivered twins. Twins meant lots of trouble – I knew my food ration would be reduced and Papi would not afford my biscuits and sweets and chocolates and soya milk money again. I knew my dreams of starting primary two by dry season would die again. If I had started last dry season I would have been preparing for Primary three now.

‘Stretch out your arms,’ Papi commanded. I did so. He placed the bundle in my arms. I searched for the baby’s face.

‘Don’t throw the baby down!’ Papi shouted at me. Mama was still calm and standing. I was wondering if she was angry that God gave us twins, or if she was tired. I looked at her face. She smiled a bit. I was relieved. I looked at my arms, peering at the baby’s face again. I wanted to know if the baby was a boy or a girl. My mind began to sing;  Oh, baby, please be a girl. I want a girl. Everyone in the yard had girls except me. Okenna had a baby sister. He told me the other day that when she grows up, he will give her to a very rich man and collect big money. I wanted a baby girl so that I will have money too and be rich.

Papi had finished padding clothes on the left side of the mat.

‘Mama, is the baby a girl?’ I asked.

‘No. you are holding a baby boy. I am holding a baby boy, too.’ I saw something like light in Mama’s eyes as she was talking. I was disappointed.

‘Give me the baby.’

Papi took the baby and placed him on the mat. Mama came forward and he collected her baby and laid him on the mat too. Reluctantly, Mama sat on the mat beside the babies.

‘Come. Sit,’ she said and tapped the mat. I sat down. ‘They are handsome. Like you,’ she continued. I said nothing. There was no space for Papi to sit. He sat on the heap of clothes on the plastic chair by the corner of the room. The lamp burned faintly.

Our room was very small. The floor was bare and the wall painted with blood from mosquitoes that Mama killed on the walls. We had no bed but we had a large comfortable mat. The mat was torn in the middle, where I had used a razor to cut it the day mama went to a crusade at the church. Our cooking things and plates and spoons were by the side of the room, close to the door. Papi, Mama, and I used to sleep comfortably on the mat. Now Mama had twins, I knew the days of comfortable sleep were gone.

‘Papi, are you tired?’ Mama asked. She noticed Papi was dozing. Mama called him Papi too because that was what I called him. She said when I was a baby I used to call him Papi instead of Papa.

‘I’m fine,’ Papi said. ‘You need to rest.’

‘I am okay. I slept in the evening. Come down and sleep. You’ve been busy all day, running around for me,’ she said. I noticed the lamp was no longer bright. I could see our shadows on the wall. Mama’s head was oblong. I saw my own head; it looked like a ball, and my nose was large. Papi’s shadow cast on the wall was so large that it stretched to the tarpaulin ceiling.

Mama said; ‘Jamike, your father needs a rest, go and lie on the chair.  So that your father can sleep on the mat.’  I was angry. That was why I didn’t want a baby. I would lose everything. I would have been happy if the babies had been girls, so that after suffering, I would at least enjoy the money that will come from the rich men that will marry them. I stood as Papi came up. He stretched himself on the mat. I sat on the chair and the clothes on top of the chair made me feel as if I was lying on Yetunde’s soft large bed. I wanted Mama to know that I was angry with her. She seemed not to notice me. She had placed her hand on Papi’s head.

‘You tried for me today,’ she said. ‘If not for you I wouldn’t have been delivered of these babies.’ Papi turned and faced her. One of the babies cried and mama snatched him up and drew out her voluptuous breast. Now she was giving him my breast. The lamp was going off.

‘Congratulations, dear,’ Papi said. Mama looked at him and smiled. I could see that from the shadow on the wall.

‘It’s like there is no kerosene in this lamp again,’ Papi said, “this night of all nights.”

‘Don’t worry, Papi… I love you,’ she told him.

What is I love you? I asked myself. I could understand she wanted him not to be angry about the twins. But I am angry. Mama said;  ‘Jamike, from this night, that chair is now your bed.’

And the lamp went off.

***

Obinna Udenwe is a Nigerian writer from Abakaliki. His work has appeared in YimuCentral.com, Kalahari Review, Flair Magazine, Tribe Write, Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine and local Nigerian newspapers and magazines. His upcoming book ‘Satans & Shaitans’ highlight the increasing issues of terrorism in Nigeria, and the roles Christians play in it. He is a 2012 African International Achiever.

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