Tales Corner-Caught in the Act
I turned back and met my mother’s piercing gaze. I was shocked. She was supposed to be in the kitchen while I carry out my business in her purse. How did she get here? Why did she leave the kitchen? She was supposed to stay there and wait for me to bring the Maggi.
I felt my world crumple but mother did not say a word. She looked at me and went back to the kitchen. At that moment I began to doubt that she saw me committing the act.
I shoved ‘my collections’ back into the purse. I went outside bought the Maggi I was sent to buy and went back to the kitchen. My mother did not mention the incident. We talked, chatted, she acted normal.
Everyone wants to belong. At some point in our lives, we all wanted to feel belonged to different things; to cliques in school, to a particular group of friends, to a set of people. Sometimes we do many things to join these set of people. We go an extra mile to feel wanted, belonged.
My primary school had many cliques; the popular chaps, the smart ones, ‘the Eaters’, the backbenchers amongst others. I was a regular student who did not belong to any clique specifically. I was just doing minding my business thing with school passing through me as I did same.
Soon enough I took to reading. I found my escape. I read everything I could lay my hands on; magazines, historical books, buy most of all novels. I read both African and non-African books. I borrowed from my classmates in school and my agemates in my street.
However, like a vampire searching for a blood, my appetite for books was insatiable. I just couldn’t get enough. Though my father bought books from time to time, there were not enough to quench my thirst.
I ran out of who to borrow so I started buying. Ooh please, my father did not give me money for novels. Nope, I bought with my money, my pocket money for the day. My father gave me a hundred naira every day. That was when things were not so costly in Nigeria. Sixty naira was meant to board bus to and fro from school, while forty naira was for me to buy snacks during break.
The foreign novels I bought were sold for fifty Naira per one and a boss like I, read one per day. Do the maths. The hundred naira was not enough. In order to buy novels, I started trekking home and cutting down on my break snacks. I boarded bus in the morning and trekked in the afternoon. I buy a novel and used twenty naira for snacks.
However, this did not work for me. To start with, the distance from home to school was quite a walk. It was a very tiring trekking. Also, I had to cut down on my snacks.
I tried to think of something, a way to alive my predicament. As I lay on my bed one night, thinking hard and long because I did not have any novel to read, inspiration came.
* * *
My mother is a trader. She sold provisions at the main market in my town. Every day she came back with lots of small denomination money, twenty, fifty, ten, and hundred naira notes. My mother is a creature of habit. She keeps her bag on top of the wardrobe in her room.
Soon enough I decided to give action to my thoughts. Every morning, I took fifty naira out of my mother’s purse to buy a novel. Then use my hundred naira the way I used to. I felt guilty but, the beast in me who is a novel freak did not allow me to dwell on the matter.
It thought my mother would not notice. How would she, the naira notes were many? From fifty naira, I started taking a hundred naira. I was feeding my mind with words and it yearned for more. I stole more and bought more.
I never knew that my mother was suspecting me. Until that day. I came back from school and met my mother at home. She closed her shop early because she wanted to cook soup for the family. I ate my lunch and went to the kitchen to help out in the cooking.
Mother discovered that she forgot to buy a packet of Maggi at the market. She called me and sent me to bring twenty nairas from her bag and buy Maggi. I went to bring the money and decided to take ‘my self-assigned hundred nairas’ . As I took the money and turned to leave the room, there was my mother standing right behind me.
* * *
During dinner that night, my mother tabled everything right before my father, turns out that she saw me after all. I could not say a word. I did not know what to say.
The food lost its taste and I struggled hard to swallow it. My brother kept laughing silently at me. I knew I was doomed and prepared my mind for the beating. I was also making calculations on which neighbor’s house to run to.
My father did not say a word about the incidence. We finished dinner and watched the Television. I was scared and prayed that the silence meant forgiveness. But… I was wrong.
I woke up to a fire burning on my back. Fire from my father’s cane. He waited till the middle of the night before unleashing his fury.
That way, I could not run to any of the neighbor’s house for safety. He sent me to bed after giving me the beating of my life. I could not sleep and cry for the rest of the night.
Due to the scares, I did not go to school for one week and most importantly I learned a lesson never to take anything that was not mine.