excerpts from A Fistful Of Sands (A Complete Manuscript)

They lived by a very troublesome neighbour, known by all as Sisi; tall, dark and fat like a few women of the riverine area. Sisi lived in her one room apartment with her two daughters and a son as trouble-seeking as his mother. Her husband had literally walked out and away from her troubles one afternoon and had never returned. Hers and Ndudi’s paths crossed many atimes, but for the respect she had for her husband, Ndudi never fought with nor bantered insults with the woman but walked into the house and shut the door. She would never return any of the insults even when Sisi ranted before her shut door, spoiling for a fight. Sis, the troublesome neighbour was avoided by every other woman in the yard and in the neighbourhood, they gave her a wide berth because she had no husband for all we knew, hence nothing to loose; it is held that a woman who fought in public was a disgrace to her husband. Her children knew Ndudi to be a wild boar in her unmarried days, her sisters bore testimony to that, even Anorue, her husband did, though he never relished making subtle allusions to those moments in their early marriage when they would fight behind closed doors careful not to give the other any bruises tat would warrant raised eyebrows from the neighbours. Anorue, Ndudi’s husband on his part was a man who believed less in the strength of the arm and more on courage and idealism. He had over time, tamed his wife into a woman that had mastered the art of keeping her violence-prone temperament on a tight leash, she had at least mastered the art a bit.
One evening, while every child was out playing with elastic bands in the sandy open yard, Ekpeyong, Sisi’s son, the young Rasta’s age got into an argument with Rasta over the ownership of a red elastic band. It turned into a scuffle and Rasta bruised his arm against the rough plaster of an unpainted wall. He cried home to his mother, and Ndudi, seeing her son crying felt concerned.
“What is the matter with you” she asked, stooping down to look him in his face. In reply, he showed him his bruised arm.
“How come you got injured?”
“Ekpeyong” he managed to say amidst sniffs
“Ekpeyong did this to you?” she queried coolly.
Rasta nodded in the affirmative, his young heart gladdened that his mother, his warrior would avenge him. She stood up to her full height, and even in his young heart, he could sense her boiling anger like an active volcano. He had never seen it coming; she slapped him very hard across the face that flew onto the sitting room sofa. He felt very numb all over, surprise and shock replaced the readiness to cry. He could sense the warmth trickling down his nostrils onto his dirty white singlet; he could taste the metallic taste of blood for he must have cut his lip too.
“Now listen carefully” Ndudi said sternly, her eyeballs bulging with anger as she spoke “you must never be like your father. You will go out there, and make sure you draw out blood from that boy or you never come into this house again. Ever!” she threatened. Rasta had never needed to look into those fiery eyes a second time, but he stormed out of the room, determined to do his mother’s bidding. He had rushed into the open yard like a little devil, the blood trickling down his nose in a little stream. He picked up a piece of stick lying about and without so much as a knock, barged into Sisi’s one-room apartment. The unsuspecting lad was seated on the floor of the enclosed verandah, his leg spread before a pile of water leaves he was helping his mother prune in preparation for evening soup. His fat mother was seated on a low stool in front of a soot-blackened pot placed over the fire of a smoking kerosene stove; she was cutting the ends off periwinkle shells with a blunt carving knife. It happened too quickly for them to register their surprise, for Rasta brought the stick squarely on Ekpeyong’s shaved, ringworm spotted head with all the brutality he could muster, causing the stick to break in half. Ekpeyong let out a sharp cry, and his mother fled out of the house into the open yard in panic. The blood gushed out of the split scalp in a trickle. The sight of blood struck the little Rasta with a bolt of fear that he fled the room into the yard, past the panicking victim’s mother and into his own house. He nearly bumped into his mother stationed like a miniature colossus just behind the door the closed door, legs spread apart and planted firmly on the ground, fists dug into her hips at akimbo and chest heaving like the rise and fall of a stormy sea. She had a wrapper girded firmly about her loins and secured in a tight knot below her navel; this was war. Rasta caught his mother’s eye, and she nodded at him, a signal for him to continue into the safety of the house. Proud that he had done her bidding satisfactorily, he dashed into the bedroom and under the bed, for he was still shocked out of his wits by the haunting sight of the blood trickling down Ekpeyong’s head.
Ekpeyong’s mother began raining abuses on Ndudi, only her voice assailed the silence of the yard. Every other women just stood by, arms folded across their breasts, watching the inevitable trouble unfolding. Some of them were very attentive to soak in all the details to be narrated during gossip sessions, still others wished silently that any one of their husband’s were around to quell the drama about to unfold. Ekpeyong’s mother had only stopped outside Ndudi’s door when the door flew open and like a leopard diving its prey, Ndudi sprang upon her as they both crashed to the ground. A prolonged session of furious clawing and punching ensued with nobody daring to tear apart the warring parties. They were all surprised at the ferocity with which this quiet Ndudi fought; they thought she must have been possessed by a demon. Ekpeyong’s sisters rallied to their mother’s aid and Ndudi diverted her attention to them leaving the other woman to scamper into her house for safety. The girls were no match for her and in a minute, they had scuttled away like their mother but outside the yard this time. it would be so much of a damage if their faces were scratched as this devil of a woman was bent upon. The girls out of the way, Ndudi had pounded on the plywood door of the other woman’s house. She pounded and pounded until the door gave way under the persistent hammering and then she brought the war into the troublesome Sisi’s house, using pieces of furniture, china and any other thing that came in handy as an arsenal. Other women shouted their pleas from the safety of the entrance of the house but to no avail. They could hear Sisi’s pleas for mercy from where they stood outside, but it appeared to be the devil taking his pound of flesh from her. It took one other neighbour to flag down a police patrol vehicle making a round at the neighbourhood to separate the fight. Both women were taken to the police station and after they had written their statements and signed an undertaking never to disturb the peace of the neighbourhood any longer, they were allowed to go home. After all, they hadn’t committed any civil offenses; it was only a case of ‘two fighting’.
Later that night, from where he feigned to be sleeping on the mat besides his snoring brother Iloka, Rasta could hear his mother’s quiet sobbing, begging Anorue. Anorue reiterated that he was sending her packing in the morning; that she had disgraced him, and that a man who lives with a tiger as wife is perceived to live under her dominance while maintaining a front in public. Rasta cried quietly where he laid on the mat, he couldn’t imagine a house without his mother, there and then, he made up his mind to leave with his mother by morning. The next morning came, and many more mornings afterwards, but things had remained as normal as they were; Ndudi hadn’t left her husband’s house.
From that experience Rasta had learned that the best tactic in winning a war is to launch a sudden grievous attack against the enemy, but then the best tactic to salvage a lost fight was to draw the opponents blood for he whose blood is drawn was the loser.


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