“Hardy!” Mom yelled.
From the look of things, she had just found another fresh reason to kill me and from the volume of her yelling, she must be on the top floor and must either be in my room or near it. ‘I’m finished,’ I encouraged myself.
Under the car where I was hiding, I heard an animal meowing. Not now Hardy, your mind is just trying to play a trick on you. I did my best to ignore the frightening and creepy sound but still it kept occurring and reoccurring like a nightmare you desperately want to forget but the more you try to purge yourself off the memory, the more you get immersed in it.
I rolled to my left to face the direction where the wind was blowing from, I was sweating like a petty thief who had just been given a life chase by an angry mob and needed some relief. The cat I saw opposite me scared me half to death and made me jump out from under the car at a go. It meowed again and it effectively chased me further away from the BMW.
There were spooky things about cats and many mystical myths written on them. First, their always shinning crystal-white eyes that could see well at night makes them naturally the witch best companions, those eyes always held a terrifying nonverbal message shrouded in foggy mysteries which some have misinterpreted for child-like innocence.
Also their fur, whiskers and their looks taught more about the art of witchcraft and offered a thrilling experience of what it was like to amateurs than lustrous books. They always looked so neat because the witches themselves cleaned them up.
There was something uncanny and dishevelling about this particular cat that scared the living hell out of me. Normally my mom has always historically kept cats as her pets even before I was born at a very tender age of five.
They scared me each time I saw them and I had through difficulties learnt to cohabitate with them amiably by keeping a safe distance away from them. The cats were always confined in the cat room on the second floor which was always locked by my mom because of her lingering fears that I would do something terrible to them. How this cat got out I would never know?
This particular cat was black with no single white dot as if it had come to planet earth on a solo mission to redefine the real meaning and colour of black. My mom had never brought a black cat home; she always brings white cats and not even the brown ones. How this cat got here I didn’t know but I would give it a wild chase to show it who was the undisputed boss over this space.
In Biology under Ecological Succession, I learnt how competition aids succession. I had to take out this cat or lose grounds to it which wouldn’t only be another infringement of my fundamental human rights but also destroy my biblical manly dominance over the earth.
I bent down and took a good look at the cat; the cat was relaxed with its sparkling white eyes fixed on mine as if to say ‘Bring it on.’ I grimaced at it but it didn’t even blink its eyes, I had to win this one and win big.
I fixed my eyes on it hoping it would blink and run away but it didn’t move one bit, it just kept staring back at me, it was ready for the mock challenge. Ten minutes passed and I finally blinked, the cat made a mocking noise as if to show it was laughing at my defeat.
I got up irked and threw the nearest object I could find which was a spanner that just missed the cat narrowly and hit a kit of tools that came crashing down. The resultant noise was enough to scare the cat and cause it to flee but it was also loud enough for my mom to come down and spot my location easily.
As I left the garage, the gardener and the driver were running towards my direction and asked if anything was wrong, I answered in the negative. They gave me sceptical glares, not convinced of the sincerity of my answer, well assured that I had just performed another of my infamous jobs on one of the cars. They still entered the garage just to be double sure.
I looked at those fools with a smug face, when I perforn my jobs there is never a trace leading to me and only your instinct would automatically update you it was me which would be after it had been completed, never detected. Not even the Sherlocks of this age could single me out with a single dot of evidence; I was that good and even better.
I walked back to the mansion ready to face whatever the witch had in store for me. My clothes now had a greasy feel caused by the mixture of dust and engine oil that even the detergents could not get off. My mom’s temper would surely exacerbate when she sees how filthy I had become.
Hilda came out of nowhere and nearly screamed my name when she saw me. I had to cover her mouth to muffle her screams so my mom would not come running down with the pestle in one hand and a horse whip in the other. She managed to shove me away; she wiped off the dust I had unintentionally but satisfactorily applied on her face with a pink handkerchief and kept a good distance away from me.
“Take a good look at yourself; you are one big filthy pig. You leftto play soccer again with those good for nothing street boys after dad and mom warned you to stop. Well for your information, today is the day all this defiant nonsense of yours will stop.” She obviously wasn’t smiling.
I thought about what she said for a while, I wished I had gone to play soccer or some other outdoor game with my poorer mates than waste my time hiding from the witch’s inevitable claws. She was sitting on the stairs leading to the front door, she stuffed her ears with a headset and had a flashy tablet on her hands. She was having fun and living her life.
“What’s the time?”
She heard me well but she didn’t budge an inch.
“What’s the time Hilda?” My voice remained calm although my body was agitated.
This time she looked in my directions for three transient seconds and turned away hissing. I walked past her angrily, nearly succeeding in stepping on her toes. I wish I had succeeded and caused her tab to fall on the ground, it would have made me the happiest human of the moment even if she would get a brand new one tomorrow.
I entered into the mansion, breezed through the small living room where unpopular guests were received and entered the living room proper where important guests were received. The living room was a little different from the small living room; it was where the only picture of the extended family including grand-mom and grand-dad was.
Another major difference was that the items and furniture in the living room were more expensive than the small living room. The paintings that filled the room includes striking replicas of great artists grand works like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and the Virgin of Rocks; Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Starry Night over the Rhone; Raphael’s The Cherubim Putti Angels of The Sistine Madonna and the School of Athens.
I made it to the living room safe and sound. There was another staircase at the east end just beside the bar where my dad spends most of the time with his friends drinking and playing chess. My dad was too busy working in France and going on very important business trips that we only see him during family vacations.
So far my mom hasn’t painted me as black as I had expected because dad has kept on buying me gifts and more gifts or has he chosen to deliberately ignore the bad reports?
I know he does this to justify his long absence from home but with all the disquieting stories mom tells him about me, if I was in his shoes and heard such stories from my wife concerning my son, I would punish.
My dad treats me like a prince, my mom treats me like I was some shoddy piece of rag, worthless except to clean up mess. I knew I would be the heir of a large business empire and have thousands of people working directly and indirectly under me, have all the money in the world, get the kind of cars I want, build crazily expensive mansions, buy expensive but bizzare items and marry whosoever I craved for. I would only enjoy all this fully when the witch was either out of my life or delivered from her ties to witchcraft by the pope himself.
I wanted to head for the stairs but that would not profit me at all, my mom would give me a scare and I would either end up either not moving from the spot due ti shock or running till I get to the middle of the highway in fright.
TI sat down to rest my head; I had today planned. Today I was supposed to take Zaynab out by 10 and by 6, I would drop her back at home and wait for her to change and then take her to FESTAC for a much-anticipated night party.
Already I had planned to lie that I went for a vigil in FESTAC organised by the Students’ Protestant Fellowship President, Chuka Nnadozie. I had pleaded with him already to cover up for me and it was a done deal but now the future of that deal was inauspicious because of the witch.
Hilda sat down beside me, she had come to watch my final humiliation.
“What are you doing here? You want to watch the witch kill me. Please I don’t want to see you; I can’t stomach two witches at once.”
“Relax young brute, you just called the two women in this house witches. If I should tell mom you just called her a witch, I would also be preparing to dig your grave.” She chuckled. “I just came to watch the action; it’s really difficult trying to get this quality of domestic violence in the movies.” She laughed so extensively I wished her ribs would crack.
I gave her a frosty stare, the kind of stare that said ‘get out or you are next.’ I had no doubt that after this adventure was over, I would give her my own wild perception of adventure. I would hit her so hard she wouldn’t be able to face me again. If the stare was frightening, she didn’t show it, she just continued laughing hysterically, provoking the prowling but chained beast in me.
“Hardy I haven’t had so much fun in a long while even though it’s a norm for me to watch episodes like this on a daily basis, there is something special about this episode, something about a rebellious teenager trying to triumph over authority.” She laughed.
She kept her eyes fixed on mine; if she was interested in a staring contest then she would be highly disappointed. I moved my eyes away each time there was a slim chance of an impending contact. She was really enjoying this, she kept on laughing and laughing, to her this was absolute hysteria. I didn’t know what was so funny but clearly I was the object of ridicule, the pivotal point.
I remember when both of us used to enjoy each other’s company, we played together and shared many things in common and even the same ideologies. We were best of friends and to all compatible siblings and mom’s best children which was way back in our primary years. Although we still remained friends from a distance, occasionally united by fights, it was crystal clear that we had lost our once indestructible ‘camaraderie’.
There was an incident way back in Primary 3, an incident that would set me apart from her and transform my life forever. A bully by name Jeff wanted Hilda to clean his desk for him with her tongue and be his desk partner (he liked her). Hilda then was positively as stubborn as a mule; she was irked by both requests and bathed him with a jug of chalk dust. It was so funny the whole class momentarily forgot about the threat of Jeff and laughed at his expense.
This made Jeff so angry he had to shout the class silent and of course my gutless classmates went quiet like dummies. He moved to get Hilda who at that point was either possessed by fear or paralysed by it. I watched all that was happening from the dangerous safety of my seat which was near Hilda’s, I knew I had to do something to save her or I would be next tomorrow.
I made a catapult quickly with my creative hands from two rubber bands and targeted a creamed vein on his neck with a huge chunk of paper serving as bullet. As the thick paper hit the veun, I felt his pain and the resultant loud sound was enough to make everyone reach for their own necks in fear of been hit next.
I was so afraid that he would ask the class who did it, that was if the sound of the rubber had not exposed me yet and he would come rushing on me with heavy blows like he did to my friend Vincent who dared touched his desk but his retaliation surprised the whole class.
As the pain settled in, he stopped threatening Hilda and turned to my direction in a quick reflex turn. I was so filled with fear I knew the moment he stepped closer I would pee on my uniform. He looked at me sternly, eyes glinting red with either anger or tears or both. Before I could guess which one, tears began to gush in torrents which was a massive surprise to us. If we were surprised by this, we were even more surprised by what next he did.
Booting like a 3rd generation computer, he slowly touched his nape and felt the burning sensational pain. He looked in my direction once again and I felt the pee perilously close to trickling out. He gaped, making me shiver with fear.
He touched the spot again and began to scream in agony you would think I was the bully. His screams were so unusual we couldn’t even laugh or make fun of him; the scene was just too strange for us to comprehend. What followed next was his running out of the class but before leaving he cried further, more like a whining baby.
He said amidst tears, “I will tell my daddy for you, he will come and beat you for me.”
I became an admired celebrity after that event and began to put my talents to practice more openly. For the next three weeks, bully Jeff gave me absolute free space and respect. That was his undoing as my confidence grew in leaps and bounds.
I placed chewing gums on his chair so that each time he sits he got chewing gums on his clothes. I placed cockroaches inside his desk and was surprised to see him screaming all the way to the Headmaster’s office to report. As if that was not enough, I sent him a letter dipped in rodent’s blood, warning him to transfer or face more miseries.
He knew I was the one doing it, he reported me to our Hibernian Headmaster who called my mom to warn me to stop or face expulsion and when confronted I denied vehemently even after my mom had beaten the living hell out of me on assembly ground I still didn’t budge, increasing my prolific celebrity status in school and my immediate community.
I changed tactics like a pro and formed a group with two other aspiring tricksters, Martins and Elochukwu. I sent them to do all the dirty work while I remained in the background as the terror mastermind. The term ended and bully Jeff was history, he transferred to another school probably to salvage what was left of his dented reputation. This should have made us stop but it didn’t, the gang grew more notorious and grew in popularity as earned the name ‘Famous 3.’
“Hilda do you still remember when we were in primary school, we used to be best of friends until year 3.” I said, trying to ignite old memories.
“I still remember vividly Hardy; we used to be good friends before you started your nasty tricks. I still remember how you got so popular it got into your head and transformed you, you became the opposite of the Hardy I knew. I have despised you ever since.” She frowned.
“I have three wishes I want done before I die here today.” I looked at her with a gloomy face.
“It’s an honour to be the custodian of your last wishes. You better be quick before mom finishes dressing and come after you.” She focused fulltime on her tab.
“Where is she going to?” I began to calculate how much more time I still had left to hid before she leaves the house for good. If I dodge her then I could still go for my party and postpone my death warrant till tomorrow.
“We are both going for Mrs Elliott’s 40th birthday party in FESTAC.” When I heard FESTAC, I immediately hoped it wouldn’t be near the party I wanted to attend. I heard witches have this magical crystal ball that could find the location of anyone from any location on the earth and they have this special feeling that tells them when the enemy draws near.
“What time is it?”
“You mean you don’t know what time it still is? Ask Google.” She scrolled furiously on the tab.
“I don’t know the time Hilda, just pause that addictive game you are playing and check the time for me.” I felt the need to give her a befitting violent slap.
She looked at me smugly. “When I say you are dumb you won’t believe me, you think you are smart enough to play planks on innocent people yet you can’t see a simple wall clock in front of you.”
I was a fool, I agreed readily and looked at the clock. The clock read 35 minutes past 1 0’clock. I still had six more hours before the party starts.
“Thank you.” I grouchily said.
“Don’t thank me; I didn’t do you a favour. You better say your wishes now because mom will soon be down here any minute from now.” She stared at me, more interested than ever in my plight.
I was prepared to run and fight another day. “I should go into hiding now that I know she is coming here soon, prevention is better than cure you know.” I headed gently towards the front door.
“Come back Hardy. Aren’t you a man?”
I nodded with great difficulty; a man was only a man when he had the upper hand.
“Then face your plight like a man, if you run you would only escalate the situation just like you have done all day. Maybe if you tell her all that promises you made to me earlier,” she gave a short derisive laugh and added, “she might be touched like I was and forgive you.”
I walked back to where Hilda was sitting and sat near her. She had that sheer magic of melting a depression into an impression, a sinner into a believer and a weakling into a bully.
“I will fight like a man.” But the words refused to go do well with my system which was trying to kick common sense into me.
“Now that’s my Hardy…..but when you mean fight like a man, do you mean hitting mom like a man?”
I didn’t want to reply but a quick glance at her facial expression, I knew I had to clarify things.
Firstly, I couldn’t fight and Hilda could testify to it. The first and last time I tried to fight was in Year 5, I was thoroughly beaten up by a diminutive street boy in Year 3 and the humiliation I faced taught me that violence wasn’t the answer to any conflict.
Secondly, if I tried to hit my mom and she told my dad, I would be heavily punished by him. He would stop buying expensive things for me and seize all the ones I already had and immediately transfer me to the Military School in Zaria (a school the witch has been undergoing intense fasting for me to go to) where I heard the conditions there were life threatening and equal to the experience at a boot camp. Even though I schooled in the ‘jungle’, I knew the difference between the two, one was manageable while the other was unbearable.
Lastly, since the man of the house (my forever meek dad) has refused to raise his hands on my mom even through she provokes him extremely beyond his restraint, I had no choice then but to be a mere onlooker, wishing secretly for mom to one of these days get a thorough thrashing from dad. It would go a long way in curing her semi-madness.
“I can’t hit mom even if I desperately wished I could but I can further escalate her anger by giving her a tough chase.” I grinned.
“Wicked boy, just tell me your useless three wishes before I go upstairs and call mom myself, I’m already tired of waiting for so long.” She scrolled impatiently.
I shrugged. “My first wish is for dad to come to my funeral, the second is for the two witches in this house not to pretend to mourn by coming to my funeral or face a mansion in hell adjacent to mine and lastly, for my casket to be all golden and my body dressed in the purest of gold and all my inheritance should be burnt.”
She laughed. “No problem with the first two, I and mom won’t come though we may mourn you and dad will come but the last one seems to be with so many problems.”
“You better ensure my last wish is complied with or else my soul will torment you forever!”
She smiled sardonically. “I don’t think I will have a problem with your soul, a mansion like no other in hell for you and your soul would keep you both occupied with burning issues.” She paused, stared at me as if she was expecting me to reply.
I scowled, sending an indirect harsh message to her that she would be hoping forever if she was expecting a reply.
“Back to the last wish, the problem is that you have been a lazy boy all your life and your only major achievement is terrorising innocent souls, I’m not sure you’ve made enough or even a dime to earn yourself a criminal burial not to talk of a luxurious one. Your ATM card would just keep rejecting till the machine gets angry and seizes the card.”
I was about to say something harsh back at her but when I heard the sound of high heels on the stairs I mellowed and lost speech. I jumped up startled and wanted to hide myself immediately but in order not to give Hilda another reason to watch this, I stood still, peering at the stairs in fear.
“Hardy here comes mom.” She excitedly announced the arrival of the witch.
She hurriedly set her video camera. “It will be interesting watching this one over and over again; I will name it ‘Mom vs. Hardy: The Climax’.”
I wanted to snatch her tab and smash but that would only make my mom come down faster.
“Are you ready Hilda?” Mom called out from the second floor.
She must have seen Hilda which meant she must have seen me too or has the lamp I stood near blocked her from seeing me? If it did it was only a temporary relief.
“Yes mom and so is Hardy.”
That double crossing witch, I would deal with her later, that smile would be her last when I’m done with her.
“Is Hardy done there?”
Mom increased her pace; the sounds emitting from her high heels were getting louder and closer.
Hilda looked sympathetically at me and I begged her by nodding my head like an agama lizard and humbly prostrating on the bare floor. She nodded in agreement.
“Yes mom, he is waiting to ask for your forgiveness.”
As she said those words I felt them gnaw at me and I tried my best not to run or cry but to square up and face the worst like a brave man would naturally do. Hilda touched my shoulder assuring me I could do it, I felt like flinging her hand away and giving her a well-deserved slap but I was too depressed on the issue at hand to give it a second thought.
She was just a few steps away from reaching the ground floor where I was, I could see her furious face clearly. We interlocked eyeball to eyeball, fear eminent in my eyes while her eyes burned with anger. To make it worse my legs were boldly quivering.
I answered with a raucous voice. “Yes ma.”
She got down from the stairs and walked towards me, fear strangled me and I used both hands to cover my face just in case her itchy, powerful hands were looking for a face to use to perform a test run.
“Go and wash those your rags call clothes and clean your room properly before I get back.”
“Yes mom.” I bowed my head in respect, dropping my hands and risking the safety of my cheeks.
“Look at how dirty you are!” She got infuriated.
I faced the sparkling tiles in fear, patiently waiting for her magical hands to skilfully locate my face and raise the surface temperature. She raised her dangerous left hand that could deafen my ear at a single attempt. I looked up at the fully stretched hand hovering in the air and closed my eyes courageously to receive the thunderous slap and give out a raucous cry.
“Mom, please don’t slap him.”
I held my eyes shut hoping she would listen to Hilda and not slap me, Hilda had begged on my behalf a lot and they mostly ended up as failures. My mom’s anger wasn’t the type that a blizzard could quench, even an hurricane would face a tough time trying to quench it.
“You better take a proper bath before I come back and make sure you wash all your clothes. When I come back this evening we will discuss what to do about your growing laxity.” She exasperatedly gave further instructions and left.
I couldn’t believe my luck, had she just raised her hand without hitting me? I felt I was living a pipedream, what happened to her martial skills? Had she forgotten she was a black belt holder, what happened to her stinging slaps, what happened to her powerful knocks, what happened to her favourite quote ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ and what happened to her earlier resolve to deal with me? I had to thank Hilda affectionately and do something wonderful for her to thank her for saving me.
I followed mom at a distance, I saw her and Hilda entering the BMW. She drove off. Hilda gave me a warm smile and I returned it with a Thank You gesture. I watched them leave the compound and felt delighted. I laughed so raucously the armed guards at the gate must have thought I had lost it. I was so happy I couldn’t even walk back to the house without staggering. I tripped three times on the way to the porch and each time a guard tried to help me get up, I briskly refused and laughed the louder. The happiness boiling inside me was incomparable.
Today had really gone from bad to worse,then all of a sudden to superbly nice. Now I can go for my party and come back without my mom and sister even knowing where I went to. I would just leave a note according to the original plan and tell them I was attending a vigil in FESTAC.
My always suspicious mom would call the school immediately and they would give her the Fellowship Leader’s number who would cover up for me as planned and forward the call to me if she insists she wants to hear my voice.
“Well done Hardy, you are good to go.” I could hear my mind speaking these encouraging words to me as I headed back into the house to clean up and prepare for the day. This party would be the best I had ever attended; I could sense it even without Zaynab’s intoxicating presence.