“Jesus Christ,” his wife was shocked. She ceased feeding the little kid in her arms.
“Don’t fear, I’ll always come back.”
“You can’t be the judge of fate, Ezekiel.”
He nodded. “Destiny isn’t a matter of chance, but of choice.”
Nweke regarded his father from where he sat cross-legged before his meal. He recollected the picture the bully painted about his father and began to wonder if the man could really handle a weapon of war. Could this thin-faced, be-spectacled man with soft fleshy palms withstand the rigours of war? But he did not want to believe the bully; his father had been the man of their household and quite authoritative about things under his roof.
Much later, Nweke retired quietly to the safe confinement of his own room after an ointment had been rubbed on his damaged eye.
“Son, are you sleeping?”
It was his father. He sprang out of bed. “No, papa.”
“Let’s talk then, father to son.”
“Okay,” he replied, thinking it would be about his fight at school.
“You heard me say I’d be enlisting into the Army?”
“I did,” Nweke nodded. “But why? Or is it because of what that old……..the bully said about you?”
Ezekiel groaned, he hated remembering what the bully said about him. “Certainly not, I’d had it in mind all these months.”
It baffled Nweke beyond understanding that his tolerant and easy-going father was making up his mind to join the stale war. And it was the same man who had thrashed him some hours ago for fighting. Where had the man’s ethics about shunning violence gone to?
“Why do adults live in a funny world?” Nweke asked suddenly.
“They usually think kids are stupid.”
“Son, why don’t you come clean?”
“Even my teacher who also ran off to the jungle is a rotten cow!”
“Watch your language, you bloody……….”
“Bloody? Watch my language?”
Something inside Ezekiel snapped and wanted to slap the boy but he checked his rage. The boy had a point, he also had to watch his language.
His son went on. “The adult world makes us see violence as evil, but the same adults perpetrate war, even glorifying it, just like you are doing.”
“Dare you talk to me like that?” Ezekiel was still mad.
“But it’s the truth. And you always told me to be truthful. Papa, why can’t adults seek dialogue and non-violent ways? Why wars and killings?”
The father breathed deeply. “At times, violence is inevitable.”
“Such as defending my honor at school today was inevitable?”
“Oh dear,” he said, frustrated.
Nweke watched the effect of his words on his father’s face. His head seemed to be framed by the small window of the room, illuminated by the full moon outside. The boy could see the man’s cheek-bone glistening in the shaft of moonlight. Ezekiel’s face was facing Nweke when the older of the two let out another deep breath. Nweke hated the odour that followed the gust of exhalation which smelled like cow’s anus, making the boy slightly dizzy. He’d always knew his father had an obnoxious mouth odour and was glad he didn’t inherit that from him. He wondered if his mother could perceive it or not, and imagined how she could have gone through with it. He wanted to start thinking if ever they could kiss under such circumstances, but then he reminded himself it wasn’t his business afterall.
Later after his father had left, confused and wordless. The boy laid back, thinking about the irony of life. He wondered what kind of legacy was it when the kids see their fathers, uncles and elders killing and maiming themselves in senseless coldbloodedness, and then have the guts to tell kids to go to church or mosque and express love and peace.
His parents’ voices began to get louder in argument, his mother was prepared to scream down the roof.
“You’re not joining the army!”
“Stop it woman,” he hissed. “There could be rebel informants listening.”
“I don’t care who’s listening. Don’t turn me into a widow.”
“Am I dead?”
“You’re as good as dead enlisting in the Army.”
Ezekiel had been tight-lipped about his communication with the Army section that enlisted men, and was very elated when he was summoned to the general headquarters in the capital city down south. He believed he should get involved in the ethnic war, so as to ensure his tribe clung to power rather than the rebelling minority. He wasn’t bothered by the raves and naggings of his wife.
Three weeks later, he left for the city to begin training as a cadet before he’d be detailed to the fronts.
——>>>> To be continued.
Watch out for Episode 4