I thought I still had fish in this house o!
As I bent down to rack my wooden
cupboard for more pieces of dry fish to
complete my Egusi soup, I felt a very
sharp pain in my tummy.
“Jesus!” I exclaimed suddenly as I
quickly drew a stool nearer and sat
What pain was that now, ehn?
I had read in one ancient book that had
survived the test of time with me since
secondary school- “Where there is no
doctor” that whenever a pregnant
woman feels any sharp pain in her
tummy, she should see her doctor as it
could mean a lot of things.
My eyes were so swollen as if they
would jump out of their sockets!
My headache was very great!
What could be wrong with me?
Or was it the stress of the day?
The stress of knowing that I was
pregnant after three sets of twins with
my fate unknown as regards what my
husband’s reaction to the news would
Or was it the embarrassment of seeing
my baby boys on the Almajiri mat,
singing beggars’ songs?
Or was it the stress I had undergone in
transferring my anger on Taiwo?
I shook my head in sadness.
After I had seen what I saw at the
market, not knowing what to do, I acted
a very wise woman and smiled at my
neighbor who only got bothered.
She looked scared when I smiled and
even more scared when I patted her
shoulder and spoke patiently.
“Thank you. Let’s go home”
She looked into my eyes again to be
sure that I was very okay ‘upstairs’
“Did you know about the whole thing
before?” she had asked me and I could
only shake my head in the negative.
“Let’s go” I said calmly again, smiling
She turned the ignition key and there
was a very thick silence in the car as
“You sure you would be okay?” she
asked as I alighted from her car.
“Yes. Thanks, I am grateful” I said as I
walked towards the wooden door.
These children didn’t lock the padlock
“Mama, sanu da zoa” Taiwo, one of the
eldest twins said from behind me and I
turned to look back at her.
She was coming from the shop, a
wrapper tied round her slim waist.
Her eyes were very red
“Is it firewood you are using?” I asked
and she nodded
“The coal has finished, so I just broke
the faulty stool that was in the backyard
and used it to fry the chinchin” She
explained and I nodded.
She was the most industrious of my
“Where is Kehinde?” I asked and she hit
the back of her right palm in the hollow
of her left palm
“I don’t know o” she said and I turned
to move inside.
“What about Bola and Tola?” I asked
The second set of my twins could do
nothing better than read.
They could read just anything so they
must have gone to find something to
I could not afford to buy them books
“What about James and John?” I asked,
trying to see if she knew about my boys’
She turned back to look at the shop,
then she fumbled with her wrapper
“I don’t know o” she said again, hitting
the back of her right palm in the hollow
of her left palm again.
“You don’t know where they went to?” I
“I swear to God Almighty, I don’t know”
she said again, her index finger
travelling from her lips to pointing to
That gave me the sure answer.
She knew about it!
Whenever my Taiwo swore, it was
because she was trying to cover up
“Is my shop locked?” I asked again
“Yes ma” she replied, swinging her
She didn’t know what was awaiting her.
“Come inside” I said calmly again and
she followed me inside the house.
I locked the door from behind and
pulled her inside the room.
Despite how scanty my room was, it was
I never condoned any form of dirtiness.
“Mama, what did I do?” she asked as I
pulled her in
“Just kneel down there” I said as I
dropped my purse on the bed and
climbed a plastic chair to pick the
koboko I had hid on one of the planks
supporting the roof.
I had begged one of my customers who
was a teacher to get me one koboko and
she gave it to me as she passed in front
of my shop last week. I had hid it
carefully because if my children should
see it, they would have thrown it away.
“Mummy, truth to God, I don’t know
where they went to” she started crying
She just gave me more reasons to know
she was the one.
I jumped down from the plastic chair
and with no restriction, I started
“By the time I take breath from your
mouth, you would know that your mum
hates lies” I started as I readjusted the
mouth of the koboko
“Mummy, they told me they were going
to Kasuwa” she said
She had started confessing
Let me increase the tempo of the
beating…she has to confess
Taiwo of all people!
“I told them not to go o mummy” she
said again, tears cascading down her
I landed two clean slaps on her face.
As she increased the gear of her crying,
I pinched her tightly.
“If you don’t keep quiet!” I whispered
I don’t really beat my children that
hard but I was mad!
Mad that my children- the youngest of
them all could embarrass me
Mad that my most industrious daughter
could know about the dirty engagement
of her brothers in that dirty business
-And she could still lie that she didn’t
I threw the koboko away and pulled her
by the ears to myself as I sat on the bed.
“Where did James and John go to?” I
She sniffed wetly
“Mummy, they said they were going to
Kasuwa” she said
“And you told them not to go?” I asked
“Yes ma” she said and I slapped her
She held her face as she wept out loudly
“What does your mother hate most?” I
“Lies” she replied amidst her tears
“What did they go and do in the
market?” I asked and as she wiped her
tears, sniffing and reluctant to talk, I
broke down into tears
“Why Taiwo? What have I done to
deserve this? What have I done to
deserve all these Taiwo?” I cried out the
more and though she still sniffed wetly,
she stopped crying
I had never cried before my children
She must have been shocked
I was shocked myself…I didn’t plan it.
I was just so overwhelmed by so many
thoughts that the best thing for me to do
was to cry.
“I try my best to give you everything
needed. You are growing now and little
proceeds from my business, I use to buy
you fine dresses. The wrappers I have
now are the ones I had been using over
five years ago but I have been giving
you almost all you need. You might not
be comparable to all kids, but am I not
trying?” I asked
It was meant to be a rhetorical question
but she answered
“You are trying ma” she said
“So, why Taiwo? Why would you send
your brothers to Kasuwa to beg for
alms? Why?” tears ran down my face
“I am sorry mum. WAEC registration
closes tomorrow and I was not able to
tell you since I know you had nothing. I
was crying today as you went out when
James and John asked me why. I told
them and the next moment they told me
they were going to the market for
Almajiri. I told them not to go but
eventually, I allowed them to go” she
confessed and my heart got swollen up.
“WAEC Registration closes tomorrow?”
I asked again.
“So, your brothers volunteered to beg
for alms to raise WAEC fee? How would
they raise enough for both of you?
How? #28,000 isn’t small o”
My head had started pounding
“Kehinde already has her own money.”
She said and my eyes opened in shock
“How? Who gave her?” I asked again
“Benjamin” she replied
“Who is Benjamin?” I asked again
“Her classmate’s brother” she said
again, fumbling with her wrapper.
“A boy or a girl?” I asked again,
My head couldn’t just compute all I was
“A boy ma” she replied
“Her boyfriend?” I asked again. Taiwo
avoided my face and my heart dropped.
I am in serious soup!
“Answer me nah” I almost screamed
“They are just friends ma. That was
what she told me” she said
I was tired of beating her
“What did she do that made him give
her that much? Tell me the truth ehn, I
won’t beat you” I promised as my
“Mummy,..” she was reluctant
“Just tell me” I said again.
“He met us on the way and we were
crying. He said we should come and I
said no. Kehinde went to meet him”
“Jesu!” I exclaimed, loudly, holding my
chest in anguish
“He said he was Benjamin’s brother
and Kehinde and him became friends.
He said we should not cry that he would
give us the money. I said no thank you
and he said what about you Kehinde
and she said she must go to the
university, so she agreed”
She swallowed as she looked at the
floor, ashamed to look into my face.
“So?” I wanted a complete story.
“Yesterday, we went to his shop”
“Where?” I cut in
“In Tammah. He sells motor parts” she
“Mo ti gbe” I pulled at my hair
“He said he would touch Kehinde’s
chest before he gives the money. The
two chests” she said and my eyes
“Chest? Two chests ke? You mean
breasts?” I asked and she looked down
“Answer me” I slapped her, my heart
“Yes” she answered
“Then, he gave her the money?” I asked
“Yes. He gave her #10,000 and said she
should come back for the remaining
“And she has gone?” I asked and she
“Then you said you didn’t know where
she went to. Ah, mo ti daran o Jesu!” I
scratched my head as I cried the more
She started crying too.
“Would you get out of this room this
instant?” I screamed hard and she ran
I fell to the ground and cried hard.
“Ah ah ah ah, ah! Jesu! Ah ah God of
mercy!” I cried so hard.
I never imagined bringing up my
children this way.
I knelt before my bed and cried so
heavily till my eyes could produce no
“Where are the mushrooms?” I called
“I am coming ma” Taiwo responded
and she brought in a bowlful of them.
There was no more fish in the cabinet
so, these ones would suffice …I
discovered them as I spread my clothes
As I dropped the last piece in the
already frying Egusi, someone pulled at
James the beggar!
“Take your dirty hands off my body
jhur” I shouted at him
He laughed, the wide gap in front of his
teeth showing glaringly.
“Mummy, many people gave us plenty
monies” he said, happily.
“Leave my side now!” I screamed and
the pain in my head tummy and eyes
What would I do from here?
Exactly where should I go?
Who should I tell?
“Taiwo, come and make the Eba o.” I
“Mummy, no garri o” she replied
“Go and buy one module from Matan
“Mummy, money nko?” she asked again
“Come and carry it from my head,
stupid girl” I was angry and if it was
not curbed, I would run mad
“Go and take money from the safe o. If
she says the garri is #110, tell her its
#100 your mother gave you o. if you
buy anything more than #100, I will
beat the hell out of you” I said as I
entered my room to sleep- if I could get
Image credit: internet
Author: Oyebola Lizzy Oyekunle
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