Maa held us tightly in the siting room. We sloped into her arms like chicks, sitting on the long wooden couch. Toma was frozen while I felt the nerve around my temple throbbing. The shock was passing gradually, but it was taken so much time, like it was never going to.
Maa tried to tells us it was normal for children to see things that are not there.
‘It’s your eyes that are deceiving you.’ she said. It was a form of placebo. The type you take through your ears, but it was ineffective.
‘Maa, he was throwing our plates away.’ I insisted.
Maa would tap Toma and look into his face now and again, because he never said words since that horrid scream.
The kerosene lamp sat right at the door. It illuminated the siting room and the veranda. Maa had kept it there so we could see who is passing and who coming in.
Then we heard a whistling. It grew louder and drew closer. It reminded us of the ghost. It was how it came- with a whistling. Then we heard the scratch of flip-flops along the ground. We reared in curiosity, looking sternly at the open door.
‘That should be your father.’ Maa said and moved towards the door.
Toma and I stood behind, waiting to see who surfaces. Then we saw the figure bend to pick up the lamp and gripped mother in the wrist. Paa raised the lamp to his face to take a proper look at our faces. He walked in with that strong galling smell.
‘You didn’t tell me you were going to drink.’ Maa challenged him, but with a remarkable level of caution. She kept her voice somewhere in between annoyance and delicacy. She spoke like she had earned the right to be told. She has not. She never will. But she wouldn’t stop asking. It was one of the few ways she could show love to a man who had made himself almost of no value.
‘Can you carry the head of a man without drinking?’ he questioned her in annoyance, looking at her face.
‘Can you pick a man’s shattered penis, shattered stomach, falling tongue, and put into the ground without drinking? Ehn? Answer me!’ He continued, raising his voice, so that the room got more concentrated.
Maa shook her head and kept quiet.
‘Motana get me a glass of water!’ He ordered, cracking his mildly plugged throat, before allowing his weight pull him unto the wooden couch.
I stood there and thought of how to snort and not let him notice, so that the thick smell of gin will not asphyxiate me. I also thought of what to tell him, why I was not going to get him the glass of water.
‘Motana!’ He called me softly, but with raised brows, sending me fear signals. I moved back and spied the sitting room, to see how far or near his cane was.
Maa quickly threw herself on the couch. I saw her hand gripping his thigh.
‘Something happened this night.’ She whispered, taking her mouth close to his ear.
‘What happened?’ He asked her, sounding unruffled.
‘The children saw a man this night,’ she said.
‘They saw a gh..’
‘That reminds me. Did anybody come to look for me? I saw a man walking away from this house from afar.’ He said, cutting Maa off.
‘No. The children saw a ghost.’ Maa finished her statement when he stopped talking.
‘Ghost!’ Paa exclaimed and delved into a sublimed laughter.
I watched him laugh so hard. Mother called Toma and held him to herself.
When he stopped laughing, he remembered his glass of water.
‘Motana, didn’t I asked you to get me a glass of water?’ Paa yelled. It was so loud that I took two steps back. I thought of running. I also thought of the dark and the tall white figure in the dark.
‘He is frightened!’ Maa yelled back so loud. He turned his face at her, looking stunned.
‘They have been frightened since seeing the ghost or whatever it is that they saw.’ She calmed herself down and tried to make him act like a father who cares, make him realize that he has children that needs his hug right away. Her voice trembled as she spoke.
She touched somewhere in his bones, maybe the marrows. He put his back on the couch and cracked his throat like there were words trapped in there.
‘Don’t worry, it will soon pass.’ He finally spoke. But he sounded like the man who does not have even a pinch of diplomacy, how the words dropped like stones- lifeless and unsheathed.
Maa gave him a perturbing look.
‘What will soon pass?’ she asked him. She wanted him to pat our backs and tell us there is no ghost, affirm our eyes had deceived us, and maybe tell us stories- animal stories. But he is not that kind of a father. He was the kind of father that believes bringing up children with hard hands was mandatory, so as children, we were already learning how to live like adults.
‘Take them inside.’ He told Maa after looking into our eyes. He saw something frightening beyond those dark pupils.
‘The room is dark.’ I protested. I wanted to stay with Maa, cling to her till it was day.
‘Put up the other lamp.’ He told Maa.
Maa lighted the other lamp and kept it in the center of our room. She then laid Toma on the bed and asked me to sleep close to him. The glass chimney was not washed so it was mildly soiled with soot and gave the room a dark yellow colour.
When she stepped out of the room, Toma stood up and tried to follow her. The veranda was dark so he stood there. I picked up the lamp and held his hand so that we moved back to the sitting room.
We got to the entrance of the sitting room, set down the lamp, folded our arms, and stood like little trees.
Paa was telling Maa what will soon pass- an eccentric story. Maa saw us and worked towards us. She allowed us hug her frenziedly and pulled us towards the couch.
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