Tamiya washed his hands meticulously in the round plastic pan that lay at at the right side of the table. At the end of his ritual, the clear water assumed an orange-brown colour. He pushed the pan further to the end of the coffee table and shook his hands, letting some drops of water fall on the brown sofa he sat on. He grabbed the bundle-like package that lay on the plate before him. It was fufu: ground corn, cooked like a porridge and wrapped in warmed banana leaves. It was the meal he ate almost everyday of his life and always wanted more.
To him, if a woman could not cook fufu, then she couldn’t cook. Simple. It had to be smooth with a soft and drawy texture when hot. It had to be void of lumps. That was how he loved it and Manka’a, his wife tried to make it just the way he liked it every single time. With an inevitable smile on his face, he unravelled his love from the banana leaf that had kept it warm. Then, he cut a portion from his corn lump and pressed it with his fingers to ensure that there was no lump in it. He always did this to ensure Manka’a had done executed her Job properly.
Manka’a looked at him stealthily from the dining table where she pressed the uniforms of their three boys for school the next day. Finding no lump, he placed his hands into the Njamanjama, the stir fry veggie that typically accompanied the fufu. Manka’a at the other end was arranging the last shirt to place the pressing iron on when she she heard her husband exclaim, “Aha!”
He jumped from the old-fashioned wooden sofa he sat on for his dinner and took a few steps towards her. He stomped his feet, shook his head and clapped his hands. He opened his hands as though he wanted to mimic the image of Jesus dying on the cross and asked,
“How do you cook Fufu and Njamanjama with no meat or fish in the Njamanjama? Not even simple dry fish! Not even cheap Bonga fish!”
Tamiya was dramatic like that and Manka’a had learnt to deal with it. He had burst into tears when they first dropped off their first son, Michael in a boarding school. He had stripped her naked simply because he saw her chattering and laughing with a young man in their neighbourhood. He had quarreled with a teacher at their youngest son, Jonas’ school because she requested that he buys a new school uniform to replace the torn one he had on. So he standing and quavering before her like a frustrated market woman was not enough to make her heart jump.
She looked at him with a calmness on her face that did not want to be interrupted and said,
“But Daddy, the money you gave was not enough to buy meat or fish or even Bonga fish. I only managed it to ensure that we eat today.”
“Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah!” he said in his amplified voice as he walked towards her.
“I gave you enough money. As usual, you saved some to send to your useless father in the village.”
His voice was loud, loud enough to wake up the dead.
The calmness Manka’a had maintained on her face for so long transitioned into callousness. It was night, a time of rest and she was not going to let her husband turn it into a night of settling scores that did not even exist. She tried to get stabler,ignore his rantings and face her work.
Tamiya ran towards her and seized the pressing iron from her hand and smouldered it on her back. The heat from the electrical appliance melted her satin blouse and touched the skin on her back. She let out a loud scream. Her scream could not only wake the dead. It could transform a whole grave yard into a land of the living.
Tossing the iron to the side, Tamiya dragged her towards the cemented wall and began hitting her head on the wall several times. He punched her face and kicked her in different places. Her screams ceased. Her body was lifeless. Her petite body dropped to the floor while Tamiya gave it a conclusive blow. It was after the blow that he realised that she had passed out.
Panicking, he grabbed his cell phone and called his cousin, who lived 5 miles away and worked as a nurse.
“Errrmmm Eunice, there is a situation here. Manka’a fell on the ground. She fainted… she needs medical attention. Can you come… right now?”
Eunice arrived in ten minutes and checked Manka’a all over her body. Seeing the burn on her back, she rushed to the kitchen and grabbed some eggs, which she poured on the pressing iron-shaped spot.
She reached for the breakfast stand where a large jar of sugar lay by the tins of hot chocolate mix and powdered milk. She parted Manka’a’s lips and put a cube of sugar into her mouth. It was the way she gave strength to an unconscious body. She grabbed an exercise book that lay by the stack of ironed uniforms on the dining table and started fanning Manka’a.
All along, she didn’t say a word. She wished she could use the dirty wooden spoon lying in the sink with streaks of fufu to hit Tamiya’s head severally until he passed out just like Manka’a. She wished she could light up the stove and put his index finger to burn in the fire so he could have a taste of what is reserved for people like him.
Eunice was a calm person with an air of compassion that followed her wherever she went. But whenever she saw Manka’a’s shattered and battered body, it stirred up the malefactor in her.
“Take her to the hospital, tomorrow” she uttered as she packed her old first aid box and reached for the door.
Read part two HERE.