Here goes a young beautiful girl, financially indisposed and lacking permanent care from her slack of a father and her half unlived mother. She is of the Ibo tribe. She hustles in the city of Aba where hustlers make their home and get little or much income unlike those in cities such as Lagos where capable hands beg for bread on daily basis and sleep under the popular bridges. She defines her whack life in terms of frustrations and predicaments. Living amongst drug addicts and a neighborhood craving violence as a mother craves her child. She exists in a world full of benevolence and disasters of sorts. She sells oranges for her upkeep. She eats a few. She drains off the sweet juice from the tasty fruit. She sells more.
A neighborhood popularly known as ‘Ngwa Road’, she remains on her own, carelessly unwatched by a parent and no guardians surrounding her mundane struggle. The fight for freedom and peace, in the mornings, she strolls to the bush not too far from her father’s house and there she plucks a generous number of ripe oranges. She hauls them back home on a plastic basin and cleans them one after the other with a hard fabric and rinses them. She crafts on their yellow backs streaks of fine slim lines making their appearance shining and appetizing at first glance. She learnt this from her late mother. Her mother had died a few years back following a heart attack. An ailment that could have been curtailed if funds were not much of a hindrance but she passed to the great leaving behind a young promising daughter to be watched and tendered by an uncaring lazy father. A father who indulges in snuff and profuse alcohol, bottles and several crates of beer, packets of cigarettes, different sets and sizes of boxes full of fine grinded tobacco and worn out plain trousers with empty pockets of Naira.
The young girl bears Nkiru as her local name which when interpreted meant ‘first to come’. Indeed, she was the first and last. She preceded those unborn by her father, those that would have lived life as she did now, those that would have been subjected to a father’s policy of maltreatment and lack of care, those that were to lag behind if her mother hadn’t severed her life, cutting it short to save theirs. She had cut her life short to make this world of chaos unseen and bizarre to them so that they could remain unaware of the troubles, drought and acute famine gracing today’s generation.
The Ariaria market held promises. Fleets of lock-up shops lined up on both sides, they filed their way to the east and west wing of the popular market. One stare held revenue and income. Different commodities hung on the entrances of each store. Those that sold clothing put on display, mannequins, male and female, those sitting and a few standing erect with fine clothes covering their naked parts. She hauls on her unkempt hair the flat metallic tray, now old and peeled of time and it’s essence, balls of fine peeled oranges. She carries it from place to place in hope of a buyer.
“Give me fifty naira own,” a shop owner yells.
She pauses abruptly, places the tray carefully and steadily on the bare earth, unwraps the ties of polythene transparent nylons with her dirty disheveled palms and packages four balls.
“Three for the amount you asked for and one more for the usual ‘jara,’ she smacks her lips as she counts the money handed to her; two ugly looking twenty naira notes and a half torn ten naira note.
Contempt. With much effort, her little goods remain off her tray. She, still hungry and malnourished visits home once more as she sets to prepare dinner for herself and her father. She is indeed kind and self-outspoken. She fears no one as nature treats her with lengthy and stingy arms.
The day is a Saturday, her father launches the morning by grating his stock of tobaccos with a Coca-Cola bottle. The residues hang in the air as dusts which he inhales to avoid waste. He obviously detests wastefulness but acts unconcerned towards the heaps of time: grains of time wasted as the once bright future of his only family deteriorates into oblique choiceless conditions of pain and profound regret. He thence guides the ground particles into his little box disregarding those littered on the cemented balcony.
Nkiru brings forth his breakfast of local rice and palm oil stew, nothing to look up to, just bare and barren like the deserts in North Africa. He chews the hips of rice, smacking his nicotine stained lips then dragging in the mucus sipping down his nostrils as the peppery stew stings his tongue. His throat gradually gets sore. Sore like clockwork. The itches get utmost chronic as he massages his throat with his palms. He coughs and yells for water. Along in haste rushes in his daughter. She places the tip of cup half filled with water on his lips. He rushes the liquid as he chokes once more. His eyes bulged out slowly as he realizes he was choking to death. He was choking on the rat poison. He stares at Nkiru hard as he drags her towards his side spanking her on the back. She struggles to be set free, to be put off the tight grasp of her dying father. His last words resounding “gba-ha-ram n-wam” he says thus in the local dialect. She sits back afterwards as the tears crumbled like an avalanche down her face and that of her father’s. Had she been mistaken or was this an ordeal to be orchestrated by the bereaved and those fed by alcoholic thoughts of parents and guardians who act blindly and naive towards the wellbeing of there offspring.
Realizing her mistakes, she squeals out cries of pain as the neighbors scamper in through diverse directions as they witnessed the now lifeless body of Chief Odogwu Innocent. The once agile chief who had failed to care for his child following the death of his’ Lolo’.
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