By Veronica Nkwocha
Nneoma pinched her nose as she stepped in gingerly pushing the door. She stumbled over a sharp object, its blade tilted at such an angle she whispered ‘blood of Jesus’ in thanks for escaping a cut. She lifted the soft end and put it to the side. Strewn everywhere were clothes, belts, a half-eaten pizza from a late night dinner congealed and curling at the sides. She cleared a path and moved around toiletries upturned on the dresser. A pair of underpants with skid marks stared at her dangling from the handle of a drawer. She used an old comb to fling it to the side. A thick greyish novel titled ‘Hard as Steel’ partially covered a sheaf of stationery. She moved it to the side and found what she was looking for, a birthday card and some envelops, she heaved a sigh of relief.
“He really must take better care of his room”, she grumbled to herself.
What did they learn in university these days she thought shaking her head? He got worse every time he came back for the holidays. At nineteen, her first born Sam had been brought up to be tidy, at least when he lived at home. It appeared going off for his studies was the beginning of forgetting all he had been taught. He would do nothing but read novels, whisper surreptitiously constantly on the phone, go out at odd hours and lounge complaining bitterly that he worked so hard during term time, it was his time to rest. ‘Rest’! She spat out the word as she fumed looking around once more. He must clean this room she decided. She couldn’t wait for him to come home. She picked up his ice-skates that nearly cut her when she walked in, and marched back to pick up the novel. She would not return them until he cleaned up. He would grumble but he would do it, she was boss after all.
She hid the skates at the far back of her wardrobe and tossed the novel to the top shelf. It fell to the floor nearly bruising her nose taking her glasses with it. She was very annoyed now, her glasses had lost an arm!
“Oh Sam will pay for this” she said out loud.
A piece of paper fell out of the book. She thought for a moment it was being used as a bookmark but her heart froze in fear as she read its typed contents;
“You are to pay or else we will kill him. You have until xx date to do the following…”
So this was the reason for the furtive movements, the quiet whispers on the phone, the long nights away from home. Her son was part of a criminal undertaking. A ransom note. She sank to her feet all energy sapped out of her and began to weep, silently at first and then she began to wail.
“James, I think you see what you have done. Death, you’re cruel, I said I needed my husband and you took him away to raise these kids by myself, is this the shame Samson has decided to repay me with?”
She beat her chest and began to roll on the floor clutching the piece of paper. Every once in a while she would look at it and take in another detail; bank, Warri, slice off an ear, millions.
She started to pray and then picked up her phone to make a phone call but her tears wouldn’t let her see clearly. She saw Sam in her mind’s eye, tied to a stake facing a firing squad and began to ‘bind and loose’.
“Devil, you’re a liar. Fa fa foul! You will not take any that belongs to me, I bind you, I cast you. Into the endless lake of eternal damnation. Hands off my Samson! I say hands off my boy now! Samson! Sam!”
“What’s the racket about?” He asked sauntering in, a spring in his step.
He was Drake like. His good looks always had girls whispering when he walked into a room. They would stand straighter jutting out their chests and jiggling their behinds. Nneoma would glare at them, “young girls of nowadays, no shame” she would tell him. And he would walk, in what he called a swag, his bling tastefully worn and shopped from the trendiest of shops in London.
He clouded her vision now, flashing a huge smile.
“Mumsy the mumsy, what’s up?”
She jumped up from where she had been crouching.
“Samson Jonathan Akelowse, you want to add armed robber and kidnapper to lazy and dirty?”
“I am doomed, others have doctors and lawyers for children and mine, a kidnapper? Heavenly father, forgive my every sin and please take us out of the valley of this darkness, why me eh, why me?” She shouted.
“What are you on about mum?” he asked horrified.
She shoved the paper into his face.
“I know all about it. Here, see, can you deny it? Blood of Jesus!”
He starred at the paper his eyes widening and reached to grab it from her but she tucked it in her bra.
“No you listen. Whoever it is you have kidnapped must be returned, that evil gang you’ve joined, may God help us. I told you to be careful in this Lagos, of the kind of friends you keep, even your old childhood friends may have changed, hungry for more money. We can still sort this out please my son for the sake of your late father”, she said weeping profusely.
“Shut up you foolish boy, you won’t send me to my grave before my time.”
“Mum, it’s the beginning of a short story!”
“It’s the draft I started. I was hurrying home to let you know I won a creative writing contest with this piece ‘Dangerous Liaisons’. Check the rest of it online and the announcement on their webpage.”
“What?” she said, drying her tears. He hugged her wiping the rest of it tenderly.
They hunched over a computer in her room and she said happily,
“I knew you had it in you! That’s my boy. Eh heh, all that novel reading you spend hours on has paid off. You know you’re Nobel Prize material.”
“I know mum, but that’s not what you said a moment ago.”
She laughed, “Go and clean your room. I’ve kept your ice-skates till you clean it.”
“You can keep them mum, they were feeling a little too tight on the ski trip anyway. I’ll get new ones back in London when school starts.”
“I know you complain I party a lot with my friends but Oya where’s my special celebration party for winning the contest?” He asked, his a cheeky grin melting her heart.
“Silly boy”, she said affectionately. “Still, you have to clean that room. Where’s the phone let’s call your sister, this good news on her birthday is just too wonderful, Baba God you’re faithful.”