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NIGHTS OF THE CREAKING BED…part 1

In ANYTHING on October 26, 2011 at 7:08 am

By Toni Kan Onwordi

My mother was a kept woman.

It was something we knew. We – my cousin Meze and I. It was something we knew without being told, the sort of knowledge that creeps up on you and without announcing itself makes your acquaintance.

We knew and even though we didn’t deny it it wasn’t something we went screaming from the roof-tops.

And we preferred that those who had gained this knowledge kept it to themselves .

I got my first black eye the day Damian bared the naked rump of my secret before the whole school.

“Your mother is fucking somebody’s husband!”

It was enough to bring the bile to my tongue, the rage to the fore of my being and my fist slamming into his mouth.

When Damian saw a pre-molar fall out with the blood he spat out he’d screamed and turned my left eye into a camera flash bulb. I saw stars.

It was all my fault: the secret that had bared its rump; the premolar in the sand, the new milky way.

It was my fault. I’d just seen The Omen and for days I’d been needling Damian and calling him the anti-Christ.

How he tried to fend me off, to make me stop. But I was like an airplane drunk on Jet A-1. I wouldn’t stop.

And fed up, he had dredged up from the pit of his rage a sentence that ensured that I never looked my mates’ in the eye again.

“Your mother is fucking somebody’s husband!”

And it was all my fault!

 

* * * *

 

Somebody’s husband” was Uncle John to Meze and I. Tall, dark, pot bellied and heavily bearded he cut the picture of a burglar.

But Uncle John was a gentle giant. Mild mannered and ever polite he gave the impression that he was somehow sorry for being so big. He never screamed and he never sent you on an errand without saying please.

He came to see my Mom twice a week. On Wednesdays and Fridays. He would come in at about 6.30pm. He would park his car in the garage we had and never used because my mother didn’t have a car. Then he would lift his bulk out of the car and walk into the house refusing to let me carry his bulging briefcase.

I would serve him water and he would ask about school if schools were in session or about the holiday if I was home.

“Evening Captain!” He would hail Meze.

He called my cousin captain because according to him he had served under a captain called Meze during the war.

“Good evening, Uncle John,” Meze would greet.

“I remain loyal,” Uncle John would say then rise to join my mother in the kitchen where she would be busy preparing a delicacy for his pleasure.

With Uncle John around my mother was a woman transformed. Flush with excitement she would sing old songs made new by the passion with which she sang them. Her laughter rang loud and was like music even to ears for which it was not meant and there was a bounce to her gait that slashed off years from her age.

There was magic in those heady, fun-filled moments they spent those two nights of the week.

And you could smell her despair even before you saw her the next day when Uncle John would leave. She would be grouchy and tetchy, snapping at nothing and speaking to herself even as she stared out into space.

And then I would sit and watch her and marvel at how something that brought her so much joy could sire such misery and dejection in its wake.

When they had played all the LPs and danced to all the songs, they’d rise and retire to my mother’s room. And once the key turned in the lock the bed would begin to creak.

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