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    DIDI LA PEZ
    DIDI LA PEZ
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    In between rousing from a dream and
    drifting back into a serene sleep with a
    noisy yawn, Emeka muffles my mouth
    with his palm and shakes me into
    consciousness.
    “Quiet,” he whispers, “Get up and put
    on some clothes, something’s going on
    outside,”
    I suck in air through my teeth, hold my
    breath and listen. Outside, crickets chirp
    and frogs croak in the distance. Deep
    voices whisper in the room next door –
    Lydia’s room. From my room, I hear a
    baritone voice bark: “Where is Doc?”
    “Doc?” Lydia replies in her habitual
    Igbo-inflected accent, “I, I don’t know
    any Doc o.” She stutters.
    “Not playing. Where’s your landlord?”
    Another woman retorts in a thin voice.
    Speaking fast, with a tone of urgency,
    she says, “Where’s his flat?” A hard
    slap echoes. Lydia screams.
    “I will tell you. This duplex in front of
    my room. That’s the Landlord’s house.”
    As Lydia explains, the koi-koi-koi of
    heeled shoes fills the dark dawn, and
    then peters out.
    “Shhh Shuww-up. Who and who live
    here?” A raspy voice bumbles. And I am
    struck by the hyper-nasal resonance in
    his voice.
    “A cleft palate, perhaps,” Emeka says as
    though he can read my thoughts. I tell
    myself it’s just his speech pathologist’s
    brain working.
    “Bring out your money!” the baritone
    voice commands. My heart starts to
    pound gbim-gbim-gbim in my chest and
    I think, so this is how it feels to be a
    hair’s breadth from death.
    Emeka turns off the lights in the room –
    the only room. It’s a one-room, self-
    contained apartment. He drags me into
    the bathroom and hushes me.
    “Bring my clothes from the box,” I
    moan, even though I do not know if I
    have any decent clothes in the box
    suitable for an impending armed
    robbery attack. I berate myself for
    sleeping off in nothing, a habit I
    imbibed since I married Emeka, three
    months ago. While my mind works,
    Emeka bounds into the bathroom,
    thrusts a pair of jeans and a long blouse
    in my arms. Thank God, I think.
    Snuggling into the blouse, I hear a howl
    from Lydia’s room. It’s Lydia’s sister,
    Gina.
    “If we don’t ge’ money, we’ll wrape
    you! Shhh!” I hear the raspy voice say.
    And I am almost strangely amused by
    the nasal emissions, at the same time
    frightened by the meanness in his
    machismo tone. “Rape,” I mutter under
    my breath, “Not wrape!”
    Emeka enters the bathroom with our
    android phones, our work laptops. The
    android phones show the time to be
    3:55AM. “How many are there? Can
    hear two voices, not sure,” Emeka
    soliloquizes while we tuck the
    electronic gadgets under the laundry
    basket, I want to tell him I heard five
    different voices when a thought pops
    into my head and my heart skips two
    beats. I turn to him, and whisper, “The
    windows are open,”
    “What?” he asks, a hint of hopelessness
    in his voice.
    “The windows are open. Go shut them,”
    I say, as I slump on the toilet seat. My
    head sinks into my palms as I ease
    myself. Emeka goes back to the room
    and I hear him quietly sliding the
    glasses shut.
    The woman’s thin voice rings in the
    distance like a canary’s. And I can pick
    out my Landlord’s voice. But I’m not
    sure about the latter – the weepy voice
    which sounds like the Landlord when he
    laughs, like a drunk chimpanzee. Is it
    possible that my Landlord laughs and
    cries with the same voice? I ask myself,
    briefly.
    “Take me to the other rooms. You know
    what will happen if you make any
    unnecessary noise,” The baritone voice
    says, a loud slap accompanies his
    words. A piercing scream. The shuffling
    sound of feet reminds me that my room
    is next. Jumping up from toilet seat, I
    rummage through the laundry basket for
    some underwear. Finding a brown one, I
    ignore its irritating wetness and slip it
    on before I wear my jeans. My ears
    stand, perked up.
    “Don’t panic,” Emeka says, “And don’t
    make any noise, okay?” I nod, exhale.
    The bang-bang-bang at my door hits my
    ears where I lean against the toilet
    walls. Emeka holds my shivering palm,
    gives it a reassuring squeeze. I exhale,
    close my eyes, grateful that he is around
    to play this role. What if he was
    working elsewhere and couldn’t travel?
    I ask myself, regretting our decision to
    be a weekend couple awaiting the
    confirmation of my transfer from the
    bank’s headquarters.
    Jerked into consciousness by vain
    attempts to kick the door open, I
    squeeze Emeka’s hand so tight that I’m
    afraid I’m hurting him. But he stands
    unperturbed listening as another shrill
    cry arises from the Landlord’s flat. I
    recognize the Landlady’s voice crying,
    pleading with the lady who is shouting,
    “Not playing. Not playing.”
    “Eresi! Eresi!” Lydia calls in anguish as
    she knocks furiously. “Eresi! Please
    open the door!” My heart skips a beat,
    continues to pound louder, faster: gbim-
    gbidim-gbim! Tears well up in my eyes
    as I stand in the bathroom, thinking, so
    this is what adrenalin smells like –
    antiseptic. The people up North must be
    accustomed to its choking smell by
    now. With all the suicide bomb attacks,
    we hear about in the news every other
    day. Danger and death must be their
    neighbours. Our neighbours. Terrible
    neighbours, I think. This is what it feels
    like to die in a robbery attack and be
    counted as statistics. Too exhausted to
    think about this, I sigh and shut my
    eyes.
    Lydia, the devil’s advocate continues to
    scream my name in her teary voice and
    I picture her in her pyjamas shivering,
    nervous of the gun pointing to her head.
    “Keep calling. I know they’re inside,
    We’ll shoot them.” The baritone voice
    mutters hopelessly. Time is hardly kind
    to a thief; especially when the first light
    of dawn lurks behind the clouds,
    threatening to appear without warning,
    threatening to reveal their identities.
    Their desperation reminds me of the
    other rooms there are to be raided – say,
    five of them – and little time to escape,
    if the police come. Of course, the
    Police. Ha! No one trusts them
    anymore. What do I have to lose? I
    think to myself as I dial 199. The call
    stops dead at the dial tone. I am not
    disappointed.
    Fingers snap. Feet shuffle away to the
    next room. Lydia explains that the
    occupants are a middle-aged couple
    whose children are away in boarding
    school.
    Phew! I sigh, thankful that they have
    moved on to the Okochas.
    I hear the Okocha’s bickering next door.
    Mr. Chuks Okocha’s voice startles me
    and I remember our first meeting about
    a year ago, when he met me at my door
    and said, “I beat up my sister-in-law.
    Nnenna, my wife, is very upset.” I
    looked at him with mouth agape. I
    remember this as I shiver, standing in
    the bathroom, listening as the couple
    scurry about, knocking over pots and
    pans and glasses. Lydia calls out as she
    knocks. In between the bickering, the
    knocking and the breaking of glasses, I
    hear the click-click of an opening door
    bolt; the hinges of the door whining as
    they open. Boots stomp on the ground.
    “Where is Doc?” The baritone voice
    barks.
    “Doc?” Chuks says.
    A slap reverberates. Chuks screams.
    Nnenna cries, “No Doc here.”
    “Lie down. Shh shuww-up. Lie!” the
    raspy voice says. And I imagine him
    caressing her ears with the cold, blunt
    edge of a pocket knife. “Where is the
    ego, the money?” He says in Igbo, then
    in English.
    Chuks says. “Just a few naira notes.
    Here:” he says.
    “Small money?” the man mimics
    Chuks. “Big man like you dey give me
    small money? Lie down!” A loud slap
    echoes. I whimper, squeeze Emeka’s
    wrist.
    Lydia resumes banging on my door:
    “Eresi! Eresi! Eresi!” her teary voice
    calls out, in angst. And I wish I can
    walk out into the moonless dawn and
    slap her mouth shut. But somewhere in
    my head, I rationalize her actions and
    acknowledge that she is acting under
    duress.
    Silence. Deafening silence. Then,
    quaking sounds from the window,
    perhaps, a knife under the sliding
    windows and bam! The windows open,
    white light beam into the room; slices
    stream in through the curtains into the
    bathroom. I sigh, knowing that my
    convictions were right. The windows are
    useless. The windows aren’t burglary
    proof, and any determined riffraff can
    hack it open and clamber in at any time.
    We often complained about the
    smallness and insecureness of this
    house, which I rented as an unmarried
    woman. But getting a decent house has
    been unbelievably difficult. My mind is
    being plagued by this thought when I
    hear the order:
    “Come out!” the baritone voice bellows.
    I catch Emeka’s moist eyes; hold them
    in my mind for two seconds: the face of
    the man whose babies I long to bear. I
    shut my eyes; open my ears. The sound
    of Lydia’s shuffling feet as she tries to
    clamber in through the window. “Open
    the door when you get in,” The man
    barks through rustling curtains.
    We hear the raspy bumble in Lydia’s
    room. “Shhh. Shuww-up! tw‘ake off
    your shorwts or I’ll shoowt!” he says.
    “Please, please. See my bulging tummy.
    For the sake of my unborn baby, show
    mercy,” Gina cries next door in between
    several hushes and coughs. Emeka’s
    eyes widen in surprise as though he has
    just realized that there might be more
    robbers than he envisaged.
    “Wait,” Emeka says, “I’ll unlock the
    door.” He goes out into the room and I
    mutter a short prayer and deep breathe. I
    gently shut the bathroom door just as
    the main lock clicks open. His heavy
    pants announce his entry, as do the
    insipid stench of sweat and slime.
    Crouching in the toilet, I expect an
    outburst. A slap, perhaps, for wasting
    his time, But he is unusually quiet for a
    while as though he is surprised and
    intimidated by the stature of his
    opponent, Emeka. Right there in the
    bathroom, I realize that he was
    expecting to see Eresi, a woman, and
    not a broad-chested man in a vest.
    “Where’s Eresi?” The man asks,
    suddenly finding his baritone voice. He
    sounds sure as a friend that I am home
    and he must see me. I bite my finger,
    and burn with so much hate for Lydia.
    “She’s er sick… allergic!” Emeka says.
    “But you can take our phones. Take
    whatever you want,” Emeka says in a
    tone one reasonable man would use to
    address another.
    “We don’t want phones,” his baritone
    voice barks. “Eresi! Come out here,
    Eresi!”
    I stand in the bathroom, pretend that my
    name is no longer Eresi, pretend that I
    no longer want the name that Lydia has
    made the robbers familiar with. In my
    face, the bathroom door suddenly flies
    open, a masked face appears and his
    large hand drags me out to the room.
    Gesturing with a shotgun to the cold,
    carpeted floor, he yells, “Lie down
    here!” I am knocked drowsy by the
    whiff of beer from his breath. My knees
    weaken; flop down like jelly, beside the
    plastic table, at the sight of the gun.
    Another man ambles in. he is short,
    stout – unlike the tall masked man
    whom I have matched the baritone voice
    with. Out of the corner of my eye, I can
    see his light-complexioned face because
    he is not wearing a mask. Whipping out
    a pocketknife, his raspy voice whispers
    into my ear “Lie down. Shhh Shuww-up.
    Lie down.” The stench of marijuana and
    sweat hit my nostrils. My chest hits the
    floor and his fat hands sneak into my
    blouse. Sharp pains shoot up in my
    brain, “Jesus! My lumpectomy suture,”
    I cry. Emeka charges at the short man.
    The masked man hits him on the head
    with the butt of the gun. Emeka yelps.
    “Lover Boy, don’t try nonsense o,” the
    masked man warns in his baritone
    voice. “Lover Boy, we will kill you and
    injure her.”
    Emeka lies down. His breath hits my
    legs and I know that he’s trying to stay
    calm.
    “I’m not a thief,” the masked man starts
    to say, and I am piqued. What the hell is
    he?
    “We’re not interested in your phones or
    your property. I’m looking for Doc. My
    job is to shoot him and go my way.”
    The masked man concludes. I wonder if
    he knows that he sounds like a bad
    crossbreed between assassin and armed
    robber. Is he trying to decide –right
    there in my room – what name to give
    his profession?
    I don’t blame him. All thieves are liars.
    But are all liars thieves? I wonder.
    Engaging my mind with logical
    hypothesis has become my newly
    invented catharsis.
    “We don’t know any Doc,” Emeka
    replies in a haughty voice as though he
    is convinced that they are all clowns.
    The masked man sighs for a moment.
    “Bring all of your money, Lover boy!”
    says the masked man, banging his gun
    on the plastic table.
    “I am a married man; not a lover boy.
    Don’t harm my wife. We don’t keep
    money at home,” he cries and for a
    moment I think he sounds sweet and
    funny.
    “Married?”
    “Yes,” I say clutching at this
    unexpected ray of hope. I raise up my
    left hand, flash my wedding band
    hoping to hit the light-complexioned
    man in the face. I wonder if my marital
    status will persuade them to treat us
    with more respect.
    He sighs. “Leave her alone,” the masked
    man says. The stout man grumbles,
    moves out into the dark, cold dawn. A
    gust of cold air wafts into the room;
    whimpering and cries of agony
    accompany the wind.
    “Bring your money,” he says, “and no
    one gets shot.”
    My jaw quivers as my mouth open to
    talk about where my purse is. Stuttering,
    I prattle on about the little money my
    husband gave me the previous day. I
    stagger to my feet, fish out my brown
    leather purse among the odds and ends –
    notepads, biros, an external hard disk
    drive, make-up kits, checkbooks which I
    mustn’t let the thieves see – in my large
    hand bag. Unzipping my purse, I t----t
    its contents in his face; tell him to take
    what he finds. I do not care because the
    money in there cannot pay for half a bag
    of rice. The masked man chuckles;
    grabs the wads of notes in the purse.
    Lydia’s voice wafts into the room: she
    is comforting the weeping Gina.
    Outside the landlord coughs as though
    he’s about to spew his lungs, “I’m
    asthmatic,” he cries, “I’m a poor, old
    civil servant. My houses are old, No
    money.”
    “Landlorwd like you?” The stout man
    yells. “Aw the rent for these flats na big
    money!”
    “Ah! Just paid children’s school fees.
    Ask the tenants. This woman, Lydia,
    works at the crude oil depot. Emeka is a
    researcher in the Ministry of Health,
    Eresi works with Central Bank. And the
    Okochas are pharmaceuticals
    merchants. Ask them for money, Me,
    I’m just a miserable civil servant,” cries
    the landlord.
    Lydia runs into our room, throws herself
    on the floor. The masked man fumes,
    “Ngwa bring out the bank money.”
    “Not playing,” the lady says, the koi-
    koi-koi of her shoes announcing her
    arrival. “Banker! Emeka! Bring out all
    your money,” she says, picking out her
    words one after the other. Cold shivers
    run down my spine. “Or I’ll shoot your
    lady,” she concludes, her talon-like
    fingers holding up my chin. The whites
    of her eyes glare into my eyes. I squint
    and look down at her small, gold-coated
    lips stretching into a wicked grin. I
    make out the smells of chocolate-
    flavored lip-gloss, PK mint and palm
    wine. I’m startled by the sudden
    disappearance of her smile, like a ghost
    in the dark room. When she stands, I
    gasp at her unusual tallness, at her skirt
    short as sanitary pants. She stoops, slaps
    a million stars into my eyes. “Not
    playing. Get out your f-----g money.”
    She says in a huff.
    “We already gave you all our money,”
    Emeka says. He pauses, exhales.
    “Not playing. You? Oil worker,” she
    says, clicks her gun. Lydia howls. Gina
    wails from the room next door, “God
    save us.”
    “No no!” Lydia cries. “You don carry
    all my money,” she says weeping at the
    masked man’s feet.
    Like a canary. the landlord sings “Ask
    these rich tenants for money o. My
    money don finish.”
    Emeka sighs, murmurs, “Spineless,
    double-headed snake!”
    “What are you saying? Oga! Banker,
    bring out all your money?” The gun
    clicks. My heart pounds noisily in my
    chest, tears stream down my face. And
    from where I lie, I inhale the insipid
    stench from the masked man’s muddy
    feet. I think of digging my teeth into his
    ankles but my teeth aren’t sharp enough
    to dig into his black leather shoes. So I
    lie there, say a silent prayer and stop
    when I hear Emeka saying, ‘We just
    paid our rent last night. Three hundred
    thousand naira, just last night. Ask that
    thieving Landlord.”
    My mouth hangs open, my head swings
    back at Emeka as he stands, charging
    out of the door; the masked man at his
    tail calling him back. The koi-koi-koi
    heels bound around the compound.
    Blows upon blows echo. And the
    landlord starts to cry and cough. Cry
    and cough. “I don die,”
    “When? Where? How? Me? Three
    hundred thousand?” The Landlord cries,
    and my heart sickens with grief. Emeka
    paid the rent ten weeks ago but I
    understand that he is trying to protect
    us. The air smells of sweat and an
    ineffable choking smell, a premonition
    that something sinister is imminent.
    The stout man enters the room, sniffs.
    He is a nauseating mixture of marijuana
    and sweat. Stooping, he lifts up my
    chin, grins, “Since we can’t fin’ Doc
    and good money,” he croaks, “How
    abou’ …?” he grins. A squeal escapes
    my lips. Bounding into the kitchen, I
    pull out a knife and hold it up to my
    face. Panting noisily, I wait, listen as
    the other tenants rain curses on the
    Landlord, urge him to bring out the
    money even though, I suspect that they
    know that Emeka is making up those
    claims. The stout man’s shuffling
    becomes clearer from the kitchen. His
    raspy voice and his nauseating stench
    cause me to choke and cough. My
    shoulders shiver, my mouth quivers, as I
    will myself to stifle the tears gurgling in
    my throat, convincing myself that mind
    is playing games on me.
    “Shhh,” The masked man warns. Voices
    fall silent. The wing-wong of a siren in
    the distance rents the air, inspires hope
    in our hearts. “S--t!” The masked man
    says.
    “Give us the money or we’ll deposit a
    bullet in your head.”
    I close my eyes.
    “Take money. In this bag,” Someone
    says
    The ruffle of a polyethylene bag. A
    thud. Then, a gun shot. A sharp cry. The
    thud-thud-thud of running feet.
    The gate bangs shut. The knife drops
    from my shivering hand. The compound
    falls silent, except for shuffling feet. I
    stagger out; find Emeka in the room,
    panting, fiddling with the door knobs,
    locking the bolts. Smoothing the bed, I
    lie down; curl up on the bed like a foe’s
    fist.
    Emeka lies down on his side, cuddles
    me, and strokes my shivering shoulder.
    As the tears soak the pillow, I say,
    “Who died?”
    “No one.”
    “But, gunshot-“
    “Parting gift. Up in the air.”

    THE END

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    #658733 Reply

    Coolval22.com
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    wow very cool

    #658762 Reply

    Hayzedefoe
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    wow…. dis is fantabulous

    #658765 Reply
    Etz Froshberry
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    Nice One!

    #658766 Reply
    Phae Roxie
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    Awesome

    #658770 Reply
    Victoriouschild
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    Nice

    #658782 Reply
    ebube
    ebube
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    Cool…

    #658791 Reply
    Stanlex
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    Passing By.. Leme Park

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