Day Eighteen: Then Mama Laughed…

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

Ermmm, this is days late but I hope you enjoy it.

July 10th, 1998.  I celebrated my 12th birthday the day before. This morning mama had let me stay in bed a little longer.  She knew.  I was tired from the previous day’s activity. I eventually woke rejuvenated; the excitement from the day before was yet to dissipate.  I was restless.

Before I earned myself a merciless spanking for disturbing the peace of the house I went out to play. I was always content doing emababa. After what seemed like a minute although in real time I had spent over two hours, I decided to get back inside.

Taking a moment, I sat on the veranda. In my view, a modest looking house with a wash of paint. Its lone occupant was Iye. Her husband, Epa had died a few months ago. I intentionally forget sad stories but I remember this because people rumored that his death was orchestrated from the village because it was unbelievable; malaria was too minor an ailment to have died of.

When I visited Iye, which I rarely did, I could hear the grief in her voice when she spoke of her sons. Which was always. She would say "Osaro dey for Italy; Ekos ein dey Spain; Sunday, Osas and Felix (pronounced fair-lis) na America dem dey. Them just forget me". She scarcely spoke of her last. As if her passive acknowledgement of his existence would poof him away from existence, and along with him, the 'disgrace' he had brought on the family by marrying an older woman.

I was brought back to reality by the squeaky voice of an approaching male. Along with him were two police officers in their faded black uniforms. One of them had a well rounded pot belly and looked highly unfit to have been a genuine law enforcement officer. His nose was his most prominent facial feature. It jumped in my face from were I he stood. The trio were headed in the direction of Iye's house and in less than 5 strides were on the porch tapping on the door. The face of the male with the squeaky voice looked strangely familiar and his identity was shortly confirmed by mama Itohan who was passing by and had greeted in an exaggerated familiarity, "Welcome Oga Landlord".

Now I remember him. He was the owner of the house Iye lived. He had stopped by about a month or so ago. He made a dramatic exist and the neighbourhood tale tellers, amebos, believed that he had come to collect rent payment. They said that the rent had been due for over two months and Iye had pleaded with him for an extra month to get his money ready. Apparently Iye defaulted even after the extension hence the officers were here to forcefully evict her.

Beaming with childish excitement I ran into the house to tell mama. In a torrent of words I had convinced her to come take a look and had even pulled her by the hands to hasten her steps. I wasn’t going to miss the action! By the time mama and I were on the veranda we could see that we were not the only onlookers.

The tap on the door had transcended to a bang. After what seemed like an endless attempt to get the attention of Iye, they forcefully made their way into the house. Shortly, a mixture of muffled noises and shouts emanated from inside. We all awaited for the drama to unravel. Papa Ikenna who had been friends with Epa and lived a few blocks down the road had made his way into the house and in barely a moment he was back out. He seemed to be saying something and no one could hear him. At least so I thought because everyone except me had made their way to were he stood.

First a wail. Then shouts. The colour oozed out their faces and the structure of their faces, like professional mourners, changed to assume a crying position. Mama was the last to get there. After enquiring, she was told that Iye had passed on earlier that morning in her sleep. Mama laughed. A loud bubbly laugh. And the crowd was left to stare at her rare in bewilderment as she pranced towards me.

Almost 13 years now and anytime I remember the incident I wonder why she laughed. Back then I said to myself “there had to have been something funny to have made mama laugh the way she did”. So I joinned in.

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