There are things I hate but I can’t escape. Eghosa Onosode thought as he pulled his tongue out of his mouth and swished his toothbrush over it back and forth. Things like brushing my teeth. Ever since the day his Dad discovered he had gone to school without brushing his teeth, Mr. Onosode had kept a close eye on his only son. Every morning before they left the house, he’d make Eghosa open his mouth wide for inspection and if they were not too late, Mr Onosode would launch into a lecture on the importance of oral hygiene.
“Eghosa, Edeki!” Mr. Onosode called from downstairs. “You have ten minutes to come down.”
There are things I hate but can’t escape, things like this house.
Eghosa heard footsteps on the staircase, and he knew his sister was already done. He quickly rinsed his mouth. Today I’ll be getting a lecture on oral hygiene and the importance of punctuality. Great start. He thought with sarcasm. He rushed through his usual clean up routine and got downstairs as fast as he could but that didn’t save him the lectures. Before they left the house, his Dad asked him if he did his devotion. Eghosa nodded. He had said a word of prayer and skimmed over his devotional just so that he’d say yes with good conscience if his Dad asked.
“You’re forgetting something.” Edeki called to Eghosa.
Eghosa turned to his sister and took his lunch box from her.
“And what do you say?” His Dad asked.
“Thanks.” Eghosa mumbled.
“You’re welcome. You should stop frowning all the time, you don’t want wrinkles on your ugly face.”
That made Eghosa smile.
“Have a great day.” Their Dad said as they walked out of the house.
Every day they took the school bus to and from school. The fact that the school bus had to circle round Ughelli to pick students from different stops made the journey a few minutes longer, but Eghosa didn’t mind. The time he spent on the bus was his alone time. It was the time he mentally prepared himself for Tegwolo and Mark. Tegwolo and Mark were in primary 6C, the section of primary six packed with the most notorious students. The duo were always making trouble, but they seemed to have a special interest in Eghosa. Maybe it was because Eghosa sat by himself when the other kids were playing, maybe it was because he didn’t have jabs to return when they mocked him, but for whatever reason, Tegwolo and Mark made it a point of duty to collect Eghosa’s lunch and make jokes about his shrek ears and sandals that looked like canoes, while eating his meat. Eghosa never reported them because that would make him a snitch and, in his school, students had more respect for the latrine behind the janitor’s shed than a snitch.
Every time Eghosa thought about those boys, he’d wish he had superpowers like his cartoon characters so he could pounce on them and beat their smiles off their faces. There were other times when he wished he was Barry Allen, so could travel at the speed of light in search of his mom. Eghosa stopped his thoughts. He decided to stop thinking about his mom. Every time he thought about her, a headache that started from the back of his head took hold of him. But he knew that trying to take his mind off thinking of her never worked. He had to find something to do. Usually, he would take the previous day’s newspaper and work the sudoku game with his pencil, but today he decided to do something more interesting.
He opened his lunch box and picked his meat. Just then, the bus stopped and to Eghosa’s surprise, he saw Tegwolo enter the bus. Tegwolo and Mark were big boys. They never took the bus; they were the kind of kids who had their own drivers. Tegwolo’s eyes met with Eghosa’s and Eghosa quickly looked away. On a second thought, he decided to stand up to Tegwolo. He looked back at him and slowly put his meat in his mouth. He smiled. The look on Tegwolo’s face was even more delicious than the meat in his mouth and his Dad cooked really savory meat.
Eghosa couldn’t concentrate in class. Being a Tuesday, the day started with a double period of Mathematics, then a period of social studies before break time. Eghosa feared that Tegwolo and Mark would find him during break and beat him because he ate the meat. When the bell for break rang, Eghosa’s heart did a flip. He left his classroom hoping to hide somewhere. He thought of going to the secondary school arm of the premise where his sister would be hanging out with her friends, but he knew his sister would shoo him off. She didn’t really like the idea of being seen with him in public, especially when she was with the clique she was still trying to wriggle into. He walked the corridor, considering the janitor’s shed. The Janitor, Oga Abass was a lanky man who welcomed students in his shed.
Eghosa stopped. He knew that voice. That was Mark’s voice. He turned around. Mark was strolling towards him, with Tegwolo in tow.
“Where’s our package?”
Eghosa gulped. Wait. Tegwolo has not yet told Mark? Eghosa thought as he looked at Tegwolo. Tegwolo looked away. That wicked smile was not on his face, instead, he looked a bit scared. Eghosa gulped again, trying to understand what was going on.
“Are you going to bring the package or what?”
Eghosa cleared his throat. “There’s no meat.”
“Huh?” Mark moved closer to him. “What do you mean by that? Which responsible mother sends her child to school without meat?”
“Mark, leave this boy abeg… We’ll get meat from someone else.” Tegwolo said, tugging at Mark’s uniform.
Mark stared Eghosa down. Eghosa held his breath, bracing himself for a punch. Tegwolo tugged at Mark’s shirt again. Mark turned around, pointing a finger at Eghosa.
Eghosa watched Mark and Eghosa walk away. It dawned on him that Tegwolo had defended him. Why did he seem scared? Eghosa wondered. Why didn’t he say something about the fact that I ate the meat? It didn’t take long for Eghosa to realize the reason. Tegwolo’s other big-boy-friends would mock him and probably even cut him off if they found out he took the bus. That was why he couldn’t say he saw Eghosa eat his meat; that was why he was afraid of Eghosa.
I have something on him. I can make him protect me to buy my silence. Eghosa smiled but that smile disappeared when he remembered Mark’s words.
Which responsible mother sends her child to school without meat?
Where is mummy? Why did she leave?
He had asked his Dad these questions many times when he was younger but soon he learned that his father had no fresh insight and so he just kept the questions buried in his mind. Buried with other thoughts…
Did she leave because of me?
Daddy said nobody knows why she left…
She left after giving birth to me…
If it was Daddy’s fault, she would have left after they got married. If it was Edeki’s fault, she would have left after giving birth to her…
Did she leave because of me?
The sound of the bell drew him out of his thoughts. The headache started. He wanted school to be over. He wanted to get back home, so he could sit alone in his room. He wanted nothing to do with all these other kids in his class. It didn’t help that the next class was Quantitative Reasoning, his worst subject and the teacher was Mr. Ajiri whose voice sounded like the whine of hungry horse. As he walked towards his class, Kamsiyochukwu brushed past him. He saw her wipe tears with the back of her hand as she sniffled, but even that could not bother Eghosa. He just wanted to be alone in his room with that picture of his mom he had taken from his parents’ wedding album.
Eghosa woke up to the sound of knocks on his door, panting. He’d just snapped out of a terrifying dream.
Am I late for school? What day is today? Thursday? Saturday?
Edeki walked in. “Your food is cold already… you’ll need to microwave it.”
Eghosa rubbed the back of his head. “What time is it?”
Eghosa jumped. “We are late for school.”
Edeki laughed. “Seven pm.”
Edeki shook her head and left the room. Eghosa looked at the picture on his bed. The picture
he had been studying before he slept off. It had become a habit for Eghosa to sit in his room
and stare at his mother’s picture while tracing her facial features with his thumb. He’d do this
for some time then close his eyes and try to picture his mother’s face with his mind’s eye.
Eghosa went downstairs to have his lunch that would now serve as dinner. While he waited
for the microwave’s ping, he worked the sudoku on the back page of a newspaper.
He took his meal out of the microwave, uncovered it and started eating from the kitchen to
The living room where his sister was watching a fashion show.
“This dress is dead… can one even call that a dress?”
“Maybe we should watch something that’s not dead.” Eghosa said in reply.
“Those your cartoons are deader than dead.”
Eghosa shook his head. He knew he couldn’t win an argument with his sister and she’d not
let him watch his show. He wasn’t even interested in whatever was playing on the
- He was thinking of the dream he had, trying hard to recall it. It came to him in scattered
He was running. There were lots of trees around him.
Was I pursuing someone or running from someone?
A tree branch slapped him hard on the face. A scream. A loud plea for help. More screams.
Voices rose from all around the woods, far and near but the only thing they had in common
was that they were the voices of children. Kamsiyochukwu.
What was she doing there? Was she also running?
A green rope appeared at his feet, binding him quickly. A strong force pulled at the rope. He
was on the floor, being dragged at high speed. He tried to grab trees but nothing could anchor
him. He screamed. He woke up.
Eghosa considered telling Edeki the dream but before he could make up his mind, their Dad
That night, Eghosa asked his Dad to read him a Bible story, not because he wanted to hear a
story but because he wanted company. Any time he slept in the afternoon, he struggled to go
to bed early. His Dad read 2 Kings 6 to him; the story of Elijah and his servant on the
mountain. Elijah prayed and God opened his servant’s eyes to see horses and chariots of fire
all around them. Eghosa asked his Dad if the servant was blind before.
With a smile, Mr Onosode replied, “It was not his physical eyes that God opened, but his
“In Ephesians 1 verse 17 to 18, Paul prayed a similar prayer for the church at Ephesus…”
“Did they also see horses of fire?”
“No… it’s not always that dramatic. Paul prayed that the eyes of their heart will be
enlightened through the revelation knowledge of God.”
“Yes, Eghosa, the knowledge of God in your heart. It’s different from ordinary information
because it transforms you from inside.”
“Hmmm… if my spiritual eyes are opened, will I be able to understand my dreams?”
“Sure. You had a dream?”
Eghosa was quiet.
“Come on, son, tell me.”
Eghosa told him what he could remember from the dream. Mr Onosode sighed.
“Do you know the meaning?” Eghosa asked.
“No, but we’ll pray and God will give us light, okay?”
Eghosa nodded. His Dad prayed with him and made to tuck him in. Eghosa moved away.
“I’m not a baby.”
Mr. Onosode scoffed. His eyes came to rest on the picture of his wife on Eghosa’s bed. He
picked it up. Eghosa looked away.
“I could get you more pictures if you want… but I don’t think this is really healthy for you.”
“I need to know what she looks like in case I find her.”
Mr Onosode sighed. “We’ve been through this before… You can’t find her.”
Eghosa sat up. “Is she dead?”
“Because you failed to find her doesn’t mean I can’t find her.” He blinked after saying that.
“Daddy, I’m sorry…” Eghosa said slowly.
Mr Onosode took a moment before he dropped the picture on Eghosa’s bedside table and
walked out of the room.
Eghosa picked the picture and tore it in half. He carefully aligned the halves and tore them up
again. He repeated the methodical shredding till the picture was reduced to smithereens. He
threw the pieces under his bed.
Go to hell.
He lay down, closed his eyes and willed sleep to come. When he woke up the next morning,
the first thing he did was to check his bedside table for the picture. He remembered. He
reached for his devotional and did the perfunctory skimming to start his day.
His Dad didn’t inspect his mouth and he didn’t ask Eghosa if he did his devotion.
Eghosa suspected that his Dad was angry with him because of what he said the previous night
and that made him scared. Would his Dad leave too?
As they walked to the bus stop, he asked Edeki if she thought their father was angry. Edeki
shrugged and plugged her ears. Eghosa told himself his Dad was not angry and even if he
was, he’d forgive him soon.
After school, Eghosa waited for his Dad to return so he could apologize properly. Edeki was
watching a YouTuber’s commentary on Met Gala outfits and she gave Eghosa her own
thoughts on the looks but Eghosa’s eyes kept finding their way to the clock on the far left
corner of the room.
Daddy is usually back by 8. What if he doesn’t come back?
“Edeki, we should call the police.”
“Daddy is not yet back and that’s strange.”
“Eghosa, it’s just seven minutes past eight.”
“So, you think he’ll still come home tonight?”
“Of course, he’d come home.” She turned back to the TV. She gave her brother a glance.
“Why are you being weird?”
Eghosa chuckled. “Don’t mind me.” He looked up at the clock.
He will come back. He will come back.
The doorbell rang. Eghosa released a sigh. Edeki gave him that questioning side eye again
before she stood up to get the door.
“Aunty Jaita.” Eghosa heard the lilt of surprise in his sister’s voice. He jumped off the chair
and rushed to the doorway.
I knew it. Something has happened to Daddy. Wait… is Aunty Jaita going to take us to Sapele
Tears gathered in Eghosa’s eyes.
“Eghosa! My pikin.” Aunty Jaita opened her arms to Eghosa.
“I’m not your child. I’m not your child. Go away!”
Edeki and Aunty Jaita looked at each other and looked back at Eghosa.
“Edeki, wetin dey worry your brother?”
“Where’s my Daddy?”
Just then, they heard the sound of Mr Onosode’s car as he pulled up. Eghosa quickly wiped
his tears. He wanted to shrink till he became as small as an ant, so that the embarrassment
could go over his head.
Apparently, Aunty Jaita and his Dad had a family function to attend in Agbor and they’d
leave the next day to return on Friday. Even though Eghosa was relieved to realize that his
Dad had not taken off like he feared, he still had to live that with that uncomfortable silence
from his Dad and now to make matters worse, he’d be gone for two days. Aunty Jaita was
chatty as she always was. She made comments on how much Eghosa had grown since she’d
last seen him, asked him about school and told him that his cousins, Efe and Duvie sent
their regards. Eghosa sat there in her damp embrace wishing she had stayed back in Sapele
with her daughters. That adamant smell of wood on Aunty Jaita made Eghosa remember the
time he and his sister spent their holiday in Sapele. He was a bit nostalgic thinking of all the
games they played in Aunty Jaita’s sawmill factory but still he wished she had stayed back at
home. Now his Dad had retired for the night and he didn’t even get the chance to deliver the
apology he’d prepared.
On Thursday evening, Eghosa asked Edeki to help him work his way out of the sudoku rut he
was in. They worked on it together and when they finished, Eghosa said, “it’s true what they
say, two heads are better than one.”
“We both know I solved that thing by myself but okay, two heads.”
Eghosa pushed the paper aside. “Do you ever think of mum?”
Eghosa lay on the parlor floor and propped his chin on the back of his palms. “And daddy…”
“He’s not like her. He won’t leave.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“He’s not a witch or the word with a b.”
They smiled. Neither talked for a while.
“Switch.” Edeki mouthed. Both of them started laughing.
“Twitch.” Eghosa kept it going.
“What? Is that even a word?”
“Duh. It means to steal.”
“Hmmm… you know the language of your craft.”
Edeki grabbed a pillow and hit Eghosa over the head with it. They guffawed as a pillow fight
ensued. The air was still light and cheery when Edeki started talking.
“I was in primary six when I first saw my period… you know what that is right?”
“The bleeding thing?”
Edeki rolled her eyes. “I was lucky that it happened at home.” Edeki sat down. “I stole
Daddy’s card to order pads online and I learned to wear a pad on YouTube.”
She fiddled with the throw pillow in her lap.
“My mates were taught by their moms. Their moms bought pads for them.”
“But you had to filch Daddy’s card.”
Edeki leveled Eghosa a hard stare.
Edeki burst into laughter. Eghosa hissed before he started laughing.
“Edeki, I think your phone is ringing.”
Edeki went to get her phone. “It’s Daddy.”
Their Dad talked with them over a video call. Eghosa was happy to see that his Dad wasn’t
mad at him. Even more excited to hear that his Dad would be taking him to the market on
Saturday. Going to Saniko market to get groceries with Mr Onosode market was a pain, but it
was extra time with him and that Eghosa loved.
What made accompanying his Dad to the market embarrassing for Eghosa was the man’s
miserly leanings. Mr Onosode was the kind who haggled like he wanted to rip off the seller
and complained about everything as they made their way between sheds and stalls. From
prices to the economy to how small the fish were. He just had to talk.
They were now in front of a mallam who sold onions, tomatoes, scotch bonnets and bell
peppers. Eghosa wanted to shrink down to the size of an ant again. His Dad had been going
back and forth with the mallam for about three minutes. It was one of the women waiting to
for the mallam to attend to her that piped up.
“Na wa oh. I no know say man dey price like this oh.”
Mr Onosode ignored her and grudgingly brought out a five hundred naira note from his
wallet. He handed it over to the mallam.
“Oga, add hundred naira mana.”
The waiting patron clapped. “After now dem go talk say na women dey stingy.”
Mr Onosode looked at her, looked at his wallet, considered for a bit before he tutted and said,
“Aboki, manage am like that. You know say I be your customer.”
They left the shed and walked to where they’d grind the peppers they’d bought. It was then
Eghosa sighted Mark in a distance. He was walking behind his mother and Eghosa could tell
that she was scolding him. Mark was carrying bagco bags and he looked meek as he absorbed
all the fierce words Eghosa couldn’t hear. Eghosa tried to read the woman’s lips. He wished
the grinding machine didn’t cause such a racket. Mark tripped and spilled the content of one
of the bags. Eghosa tittered. Mark’s mum slapped him when he stood up. She stopped
walking and gave him all her attention, speaking with her hands. Seeing Mark
sweating under the sun with his eyes on his shoes, filled Eghosa with glee. He had to find a
way to make Mark saw him. He must make him know that he’d witnessed his humiliation.
Mark and his mother started walking again and they were moving in Eghosa’s direction.
Eghosa waved. “Senior Mark!”
Mark saw him. Eghosa smiled. Mark clenched his teeth and looked away. Eghosa couldn’t
wait to get home so that he’d tell Edeki all about how he’d caught both of his plagues with
After three grueling hours of market rounds, Eghosa and his dad walked to the place where
their car was parked with bags and bags of groceries. They stowed the bags in the boot and
entered the car.
“Did you enjoy our little field trip?”
“No.” Eghosa said after a long yawn. “Dad, you bargain too much. It’s not fair on the
Mr Onosode chuckled. “Trust me, those guys are making money.”
Eghosa’s Dad reached over to open the glove box compartment. He pulled out a sheaf of
Pictures. Eghosa glanced at them and up at his Dad.
Eghosa shook his head. “I don’t want them.” He looked through the window of the car. “I
don’t care about her any more.”
“Hmmm…. So if she shows up today, you won’t have anything to tell her?”
“Actually, I will.” Eghosa turned to his Dad. “I’ll let her know I hate her. And that
YouTube can fill in for absent parents.”
Eghosa shifted. “Is she coming back?”
His Dad shook his head and sighed. “Listen, I’ve done my homework on your mum for years.
She’s not even in the country any longer.”
Eghosa nodded over and again. “Great.”
“Have you been praying about the dream you had?”
Eghosa shook his head.
“I think I know what it’s about. You said you heard children crying for help, right?”
“And you wanted to help them?”
“I wanted to find them, yes.”
“But a rope held you back…”
“And threw me off my feet.”
Mr Onosode smiled. “You are angry at your mom.”
“Why does she hate me so much?”
“She did not.”
Eghosa shook his head violently. “Don’t lie to me. Don’t.”
“Well, I don’t think she left because of you.”
“Why then did she leave?”
“I don’t know… but you can’t blame yourself for her action. You have to let go. God wants to
use you to reach other children like you saw in that dream. But holding a grudge against
your mother or any other person is like the rope at your feet. Unforgiveness will make you
lose your ground and stop you from fulfilling God’s plan.”
Eghosa thought of Kamsi sniffling, of Tegwolo’s shame, of the troubled look he’d seen (and
enjoyed) on Mark’s face just moments ago. He thought of Edeki and how she constantly
struggled to find her place amongst her peers. How did he see these things?
Mr Onosode started the car.
“After your mum left, I was angry too. I still get angry sometimes.”
“Were you angry at me the other night?”
“Oh, yes. Yes, I was.”
Eghosa looked down.
“But you see, I realized that for as long as I let the bitterness take hold of my mind, I couldn’t
really function at my best. I couldn’t be the kind of father you and Edeki needed or the kind
God wants me to be if I held on to anger.”
“How did you forgive?”
“Honestly, I just turned my attention to the Lord. That’s what I did, and that’s what I do every
day. As I spend more time in his word and with him in communion, I become changed.
Changed every day to become more like Jesus and strengthened for each day. Looking at
Jesus day after day.”
“Just like brushing the teeth.”
Mr Onosode smiled. “Exactly. Just like brushing the teeth.”
Lord Jesus, heal my heart. He looked through the window as he prayed quietly in his heart.
Heal me, God, so that I can share your healing with others.