Forlorn Gaze (Sample)

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As a young boy, I was quite stubborn. After my mother died while birthing my brother Okorie, the only way I knew how to grieve her loss was to be stubborn. My uncle’s wife (Ahudiya) who took custody of my brother and I tried her best to cope ...

Imo, Okorie and Nmecha

As a young boy, I was quite stubborn. After my mother died while birthing my brother Okorie, the only way I knew how to grieve her loss was to be stubborn. My uncle’s wife (Ahudiya) who took custody of my brother and I tried her best to cope with my stubborn ways yet I couldn’t make it any easy for her; exposing myself and others to danger in the process. I remember when my little brother was learning how to walk, Ahudiya stopped taking him to the farm as she usually did, making me take care of the boy all day instead. I would take him along to school every day and upon our return I had to stay with him and Nmecha (Ahudiya’s daughter), babysitting. I hated that task and the fact that it denied me the opportunity to play with my mates who ran around the place unknowingly taunting me made it most difficult for me. I knew I had to solve the problem, so one afternoon I resorted to tying a rope around my brother’s little neck and dragging him outside, joining the others to play hide and seek while dragging him through the neighbourhood. He crawled on all fours, following me like a dog on a leash. It must have been a funny sight, but what was most seriously wrong with the sight was that Okorie ended up with severe wounds to his knee caps and other parts of his body. And for that I received the beating of my life.

The next day Ahudiya took Okorie and Nmecha to the farm and I had the afternoon to myself. I spent it at my friend’s house just to observe their glowing electric bulb. Theirs was about the only house in the entire community that could afford electricity at the time and the phenomenon was simply mind-boggling for a ten year old boy like me. As I stood there in the middle my friend's sitting room gazing at the yellow light, I soon let my curiosity take the better part of my judgment as I found myself dragging a table to be able to climb and touch the bulb. My friend Ndukwe was busy in the kitchen dragging food with his sisters and had no idea what was happening. Before long, I had climbed on top of the table and was finally able to touch it, first cautiously and then firmly. I had feared the bulb might burn my hand just like the charcoal did severally. But surprisingly it did not even though it felt hot, but not burning hot. So I cupped it in my palm and was truly fascinated, using a whole minute to really observe it. But merely feeling the bulb and staring at it closely it wasn’t enough for me as I soon removed the bulb and without caution had inserted my finger in the whole from which I just removed the bulb. What happened afterwards was beyond shocking- the current jolted me before I found myself flung against the wall. As I hit the wall, I landed on a makeshift shelve (where some ceramic wares were packed) and it tumbled over as we both went kissing the floor. By the time I realized what was happening, I was lying in the shards of the broken ceramics, my head throbbing and several cuts on my body. My finger felt numb, and for some seconds it felt as though my world was still. And then I saw Ndukwe and his sisters standing by the door and peering at me in utter bewilderment; I realized what trouble we were in…

Despite the near-death experience, I was on to my next adventure barely a week afterwards. Having always been interested in knowing the neighbouring towns and villages around us, I decided it was high time I explored! Ahudiya always told stories about those from Abiriba and Ohafia, how they were all kidnappers and wouldn’t hesitate to snatch a child off a lonely road and use or her as pepper soup. She told those stories to scare me from wandering off alone because she knew I was capable of it. But that afternoon as I sneaked out from school and headed towards Umunnato, I could care less. I told myself that if I followed the untarred road that led to my town, it would lead me outside of it; and Umunnato was the very next town. According to stories, the place was closer home, and had a clinic, a morgue and a police station where all the bad guys from my town were taken to. So I trekked towards it, along the untarred road surrounded by the beautiful environments. The plains were luscious with green pastures and the cashew trees were sparsely scattered across it. Yet this environment was eerily desolate just and my little self was exposed to more dangers than I could imagine…

-Emmanuel Benson

*Forlorn Gaze is a draft manuscript in the works. Opinions and constructive criticisms are welcome. Thank you for reading.

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