“DEVIL, DIE ALREADY!” (SHORT STORY)
Nene was marching round like other congregants, screaming and shaking her head. Her three-year-old frame was mimicking the other worshippers. At some point, she stood with legs apart, both hands thrashing an imaginary being as she echoed, “Die, die, die!”
The devil was in deep trouble today. Any moment now, he’d be dead and they could go home. Flicking aside some beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead due to her exertions, she began the customary march to and fro, repeating as best as she could the prayer the leading pastor was reciting.
This was her first time being in the adult church. They do an awful lot of walking around here, she thought, as her small legs began to feel the strain of the long prayer session. She would have been home watching cartoons but her mum’s younger sister, who served as her nanny, had travelled, leaving her to continue in the adult service before going home with her mum. Her dad was a pastor and would stay for meetings later.
All the marching and shouting was making her thirsty. She weaved her way through the kicking legs, the flailing and punching arms of the petitioners and went to her mum about three metres away. She tugged at her arm and asked for a drink of water. Her mum took Nene by the arm and moved to her seat. She uncorked her water bottle and handed it to her. As Nene was guzzling the water, she snatched it back.
“Enough! Next thing you would be saying is, ‘I want to wee.'”
“Yes, I want to wee.”
“You’re not serious!”
“Sit down very quietly. Don’t disturb me when we’re praying.” She put her bag and the water bottle that were on her chair on the floor and lifted Nene onto it, placing her right forefinger on her lips to say, “Not a word from you!”
Nene sat for a minute, taking in the banging and shadow boxing of the people around.
“I can’t just sit doing nothing,” she thought. “Let’s see what treats can be found in Mum’s bag.”
Climbing down from the chair, she started poking around the knockoff Gucci handbag and presently found some toffee-coated peanuts.
“Yeah!” she screamed. Thankfully, the packet was already open. Clutching the half-full sachet in her left hand, she used her free hand to drag her mum’s bag on the terrazo floor and moved to the nearby wall. As she leaned against the wall and munched happily, an elderly woman scowled at her, so she half shut her eyes and mumbled as if in prayer, nodding her head rhythmically as some others were doing.
But as the popular saying goes, good things never last, and so the peanuts ran out. Another dutiful search of her mum’s bag yielded nothing to eat. So she went for the water bottle and drank every drop. Returning to her former spot, she lay on the floor with her mum’s bag as pillow.
However, restless, she sat back up after several minutes and picked a book from her mum’s bag. It was big, black and full of print. Her mum had told her to not write on a book that wasn’t plain but there was nothing else to write on. Besides, there were some plain pages at the beginning, oh well, almost plain. She found a pen in the bag and began to scribble the English alphabets, the ones she’d learnt in nursery school. Actually, they were the only things she could write. A few minutes later, she lost interest in writing.
Oh, oh, she wanted to wee, as in, right then. She ran to her mum.
“Mummy, I want to wee-wee.” No response. “Mummy, please!”
Her mum reluctantly took her to the back of the church to ease herself close to the grass there.
When they got back to the church, everyone was still going, “Die, die, die!”
“Mummy, I want to go home.”
“We’ll soon go. Come on!” Nene had planted herself at a spot and refused to move.
“I want to go now, I want to go now!”
“Sweetie, we’ll soon go. Just as soon as we finish praying.”
Nene, who had begun to cry, looked around at the sweating church folks, shouting, “Die, die, die!” and she wailed in frustration, “Devil, die already now! I just want to go home!”
As her mum lifted her to take her further into the church, Nene bawled and made a scene, reiterating her vexation in these words, “Stubborn devil! Everybody says you should die. Die already, I want to go home!”
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2019
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