He……..The first swish of his father’s cane had rattled him back to the present reality, making him twist in pain as if trying to tie himself up into a knot.
“Ohhhh…….!” Nweke’s voice dropped low in pain, giving his expressionless face a funny look with the round ball of flesh swallowing up an eye.
“Who have you been fighting with?”
“Papa, it’s that old lizard who…..” he had been so carried away in an attempt to make a clean breast of everything that he’d said that.
“Old lizard? Who are you calling names? Haven’t I told you not to call people names?” Another swish of the cane.
The ethical nature of his father was just too complicated for him to comprehend. He had heard his father call some of his pupils ‘stupid fools’ when angry before. He had even heard him use the words ‘old lizard’ for the wizened old traditional priest once. And Ezekiel had always told him to take every step he took, and now here was the man killing him for calling a bully, ‘old lizard’.
“I’m sorry father, it won’t happen again,” begged the boy.
“Same old song.”
“I mean it this time, papa.”
“Now look at what you’ve done to your eye. What happened?,” he asked
“The bully – he said he liked the rebel activities in the jungle and he wanted to join them. So I contradicted him.”
“He called me chicken-livered for not wanting to enlist on the side of the Revolutionary Movement.”
Nweke began to sound edgy. “He said he’d attack our home and……and rape my sister with other rebels.”
The boy went on; “And he called you names, after I told him you said that child-soldiering is wrong. He said I’m just a weak-kneed gutless thing like my father. And then he also said you’re all skin and bones and couldn’t carry a rifle.” Nweke knew his father’s explosive temper, he had lived with it long enough. But he wanted Ezekiel to be mad – not at him- mad at the bully and probably follow him to school next morning to give the boy a good hiding too. He went on. “He said even his own grandmother can even defeat you in a wrestling match. And he said you’re hairless as a frog and quite sissy – ”
A sudden knock on Nweke’s head told him he’d said too much. “Shut up!”
“I didn’t say them,” the boy said rubbing his painful scalp.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon, Ezekiel thought about the steely core within him that was the driving force of his ambition; the courage which had made him pick at his life and work, even though the pay was miserable. And now some stupid kid had demeaned his ego. And even glorifying the guerillas and their attrocities living in the forest region of the nation, with their war campaign which had dragged for a decade.
The small family was having supper together when Ezekiel broke the news. “I’m going to join the Government army.”
—–>>>> To be continued.
Watch out for Episode 3