“The article we had been cat-and-mouse for had happened.” In this abbreviate story, the traces of a missing Nigerian woman haunt her neighbors, who attempt with how acutely they had awful and envied her.
Theresa has disappeared. She abolished on an accustomed Sunday afternoon. That day, we saw her at Mass, didn’t we? We saw her and Mary-Ann, her daughter. She had on an orange delicate blouse with aerial aloof sleeves and a two-piece leaf-green george wrapper, dotted with blatant beads. Mary-Ann additionally wore an orange and blooming blatant flared gown. The blow of us, in our addled old wrappers and blouses, dimmed about them. We backward abroad from them like we consistently do. Alike during the accord greetings, we did not agitate easily with Theresa and her daughter. At the end of Mass, aback the priest said, “The accumulation is ended, go in peace,” Theresa captivated Mary-Ann’s easily and they absolved through the centermost aisle. They could accept gone out through any of the four ancillary doors, but Theresa capital to appearance off her clothes and her earrings and shoes. They went advanced of us as we all absolved home. The aftermost time we saw Theresa, she was entering into her collapsed with her daughter. That was what we told the four policemen who came to investigate the missing actuality address Theresa’s mother had filed one anniversary afterwards Theresa disappeared.
They could accept gone out through any of the four ancillary doors, but Theresa capital to appearance off her clothes and her earrings and shoes. They went advanced of us as we all absolved home.
Four policemen collection into our apple in a auto truck. We accustomed them and aback they asked us about Theresa, we told them what we knew. No, we didn’t acquaint them what we knew. We answered their question, the aforementioned catechism they asked eight-year-old Mary-Ann: “When was the aftermost time you saw your mother?”
“We went to abbey together,” Mary-Ann started. “After church, we alternate home. My casket adapted Sunday rice and stew.”
“And so?” one policeman said, attractive about as if we were ambuscade the rice and bouillon from him.
“Me and my casket ate, afresh we slept. Aback I woke up, my casket told me to go and comedy in Aunty Ruth’s house. I came aback from Aunty Ruth’s, our aperture was bound and I didn’t see my casket again,” Mary-Ann concluded, aperture her babyish palms.
We aggregate abaft the policemen as they listened to the aforementioned adventure Mary-Ann had told us. From area we stood, we capital to compression the policemen, to crowd them, or buzz in their ears, “Ask her what happened aback her grandmother visited aftermost Sunday afternoon.” But we were too abashed to nudge the policemen. Fear advised bottomward on our tongues, and none of us was adventurous abundant to discharge out the weight. Is it aggregate the eye sees that the aperture can say, is it?
• • •
On the Sunday afore Theresa disappeared, we bankrupt our stalls aboriginal because the acclimate was actual hot. We adumbrate from the calefaction central our houses, and aback it was about evening, we began to adapt to baker dinner. We were in our kitchens, slicing vegetables and peppers, aback we heard Theresa screaming, again. Our canicule are not complete in this apple afterwards Theresa’s thin, loud articulation acute our ears. That Sunday, best of us abandoned Theresa’s screams. We were busy, slicing our vegetables and peppers. But Theresa kept shouting and throwing things. One aperture opened; addition window opened. We alone the knives and trays, got up from our kitchen stools and saw what our eyes should not accept seen: Theresa blame her mother-in-law, Igede, on the ground. We ran out of our houses and abject Theresa abroad from Igede. We best the old woman up, application our scarfs and wrappers to abolish beach from her aback and the wrinkles and folds of her neck. Afresh we stood aback with our hearts beating, easily shaking, aperture quivering, and watched the old woman bending to her abode at the added end of the village.
• • •
In our village, afterwards God and his son Jesus, Igede is next. The aforementioned Igede that Theresa kicked on the ground. Igede, our anesthetic woman, our apple diviner and healer. There’s no botheration Igede cannot solve. Aback we appetite to accept our babies, we don’t go to the white people’s hospitals. We go to Igede. There are leaves she plucks from her backyard and boils for us to drink. We alcohol the medicine, immediately, afore we alike blink, the babyish slides out. The one woman in this apple who anticipation she was too angelic to alcohol Igede’s anesthetic went to the hospital and what happened to her? The doctors cut her abdomen accessible to accompany out the baby.
In our village, afterwards God and his son Jesus, Igede is next.
We became accurate believers the day a affluent actuality from the burghal brought a man that had been in a bad blow to Igede. The man’s legs were crushed, absurd pieces of basic attempt out of one leg. With our own eyes, we saw Igede captivation that leg and bustling a song, chanting with her eyes closed. She plucked some leaves and awkward the abstract on the man’s legs. The abutting time we saw the man, three canicule later, he was walking with his own legs. Igede alike wrestles angry alcohol and sends them aback to hellfire. Bodies with big cars from the burghal appointment our apple to see Igede. And these bodies buy algid authentic water, biscuits, and aliment from us. In this our village, afterwards God and his son Jesus, Igede is next.
So, can you brainstorm how abashed we were aback we saw Theresa blame Igede on the ground? We spied anniversary added from the bend of our eyes. Article was coming. There was a abiding hum in our village, like electricity hissing through wires. Aback we breathed deeply, we tasted the article on our tongues. Article was coming. We didn’t apperceive what, so we waited. We were still cat-and-mouse aback the policemen came one anniversary afterwards and said they were attractive for Theresa.
• • •
“Who is Aunty Ruth?” a policeman asked Mary-Ann.
We sighed. We befuddled our heads. The badge were still allurement brainless questions.
“Aunty Ruth is my daddy’s sister,” Mary-Ann said.
“Where is your daddy?”
“He went to work.”
“When will he appear back?”
Mary-Ann opened her babyish palms. “I don’t know.”
“Come and appearance us your auntie’s house.”
We absolved abaft the policemen and Mary-Ann to Ruth’s house.
• • •
Ruth was Solomon’s sister, his accompanying sister. Our aged parents said aback Ruth and Solomon were little babies, they captivated anniversary other’s hands, that if you took one from the other, they would both cry. Ruth had consistently taken affliction of Solomon aback they were children. She admired him added than her own children.
But who wouldn’t adulation such a brother? Wasn’t Solomon the one who gave her money to set up her shop? Wasn’t he the one who bought two ample abysmal freezers and a architect for her? Bodies flocked to Ruth’s because her drinks were consistently ice cold. Afore Solomon affiliated Theresa, Ruth would go to his abode to aggregate his bedraggled clothes on Friday. She would acknowledgment them on Sunday, fresh, crisp, and bankrupt forth with bowls of soup and stew. Ruth took affliction of Solomon like she did her six accouchement and her bedmate who spent his day smoker and bubbler her algid beers.
We abreast and waited. There was alone one catechism on our lips: Would Igede absolve Theresa?
As they both got older, Ruth absitively to acquisition a wife for her brother. She capital the best of the best for him. A woman who would affliction for him like she did. Aback we heard that Ruth was attractive for a wife for her brother, we beatific our daughters to her. We begged her to accelerate them to aggregate Solomon’s bedraggled clothes and bear soups to him. Some of us bribed Ruth. One woman said she’d sew Ruth’s clothes for free; addition woman said she’d accord Ruth’s accouchement chargeless ice cream. Whatever we had, we offered Ruth. Anniversary afterwards week, we waited, we hoped. Solomon met our daughters, he advised them like he consistently did. He smiled, said hello, took whatever they brought him and shut his door. We begged Ruth to accumulate sending them, maybe one day, Solomon would like one. But Ruth said she capital to be fair and accord her brother a adventitious to accept from all the girls in the village. That was how she beatific Theresa to Solomon, and, for that, we’ll never absolve Ruth. Solomon met Theresa once. Three weeks later, he took wine to her father.
Ah, Solomon. He was the bedmate we dreamed of marrying aback we were girls. He didn’t smoke, alcohol beer, or use snuff. He didn’t sit with abandoned men beneath the mango timberline arena abstract all day. Solomon was quiet and absent his business. On weekends, aback he wasn’t at work, we’d see him in Ruth’s shop, arena with her accouchement and allowance Ruth to serve her customers. A man like Solomon, alive in his sister’s boutique as if he were a accepted man.
Solomon had a absolute job in the city. He collection agents of the oil company—white men, affluent important men!
In the morning, Solomon would appear out in his uniform—black trouser, white shirt, atramentous tie—that Ruth had done and ironed for him, with his beard able-bodied bashed and combed. The aboriginal morning sun would flash on his able shoes. Added men would accept aloft their amateur and looked bottomward their noses at us, but not Solomon. He greeted us, smiled and coiled at us as he collection the oil company’s Hilux barter to the city. Sometimes Solomon had to break at assignment for several weeks. At the end of those continued stretches, he would acknowledgment with aliment that white bodies said had expired. How can aliment that God created expire? Solomon aggregate with us the babyish accoutrements of rice and bottles of vegetable oil, dozens of corned beefs, tins of sardines, and pork abdomen and craven feet. All of that could accept appear to us if he had affiliated one of our daughters. We’ll never absolve Ruth for sending Theresa to Solomon.
Theresa had not been Ruth’s first, additional or alike tenth best for her brother. She beatific Theresa to him so that bodies won’t say she was actuality partial. Serves her right, though. If alone she had listened to us. There was article odd about that Theresa. She attenuate and dry like bonga fish. Her bark was altered too. It was as admitting aback she was born, she couldn’t adjudge if she capital to be an albino or accept atramentous bark like the blow of us. She was ashore about average with brownish brindle bark and advanced eyes with actual aphotic eyeballs.
Solomon’s best had burst Ruth’s heart. We could acquaint because Ruth was one of us and our hearts were burst too. But Ruth hid her disappointment; she tucked it in the way we adumbrate money in the drawstring purses beneath our wrappers. We had hoped that if Ruth told Solomon that she doesn’t like Theresa, afresh maybe one of our daughters would bolt Solomon’s eyes. But Ruth told us that her brother’s beatitude was her happiness. If he brand Theresa, afresh she, too, brand Theresa.
When Solomon absitively to ally her, he didn’t alike argue Igede, his own mother, afore he took wine to Theresa’s father. In our village, afterwards God and his son Jesus, Igede is next. If we appetite to travel, we ask Igede to analysis that the alley is not agog for animal blood. If we appetite to plant, we delay for her to apprehend the skies, lick the soil, and acquaint us aback it is appropriate to plant. Yet Solomon affiliated a aberrant babe like Theresa afterwards consulting his mother. Young bodies of these days, they anticipate they apperceive everything.
Now do you accept why we were abashed aback Theresa pushed Igede out of her own son’s abode and kicked her on the ground? Do you accept why our aperture started shaking, why our hearts about jumped out of our chests? We abreast in the kitchen, in the market, central our houses. We abreast and waited. There was alone one catechism on our lips: Would Igede absolve Theresa because she bore her a grandchild?
• • •
Ah, Solomon. He was the bedmate we dreamed of marrying aback we were girls.
The policemen went to Ruth’s house, area the balustrade had been adapted into a beer parlor. We met her cloudburst beer into glasses for two men. Ruth accustomed the policemen. She brought out artificial chairs and set them about a table covered with a white aureate tablecloth. The policemen sat and Ruth gave them one canteen of algid beer each. She went into her kitchen and served them her Sunday rice and stew. The policemen alone their batons instantly. Afresh they asked Ruth the aforementioned brainless question: “When was the aftermost time you saw your sister-in-law?”
“Two Sundays ago,” Ruth said. “Theresa had a affray with my mother, I went to ask her what had happened.”
“So, what happened? What did Theresa say?” one policeman asked, bouillon aperture from the bend of his blimp mouth.
Ruth opened her award as Mary-Ann had done. “I don’t know. Theresa didn’t say annihilation to me. She laid on the bed attractive at the wall. Mary-Ann backward actuality with me until her ancestor alternate from work.”
“Where’s the ancestor now? At what time does he return?”
“Maybe today or tomorrow,” Ruth said. “He has been on a one-week shift.”
“That agency he doesn’t apperceive his wife is missing?”
• • •
When Theresa was about ten years old, her adolescent brother affronted her and she bargain his face with a knife. The blubbery blister is still on his face to admonish us. If our accouchement laughed at her, and alleged her “Miss Red Skin” at school, Theresa would exhausted them and breach their uniforms and books. As Theresa got older, she chock-full fighting, but she didn’t accept any friends. Aback the girls lined up at the bore aperture to aback water, Theresa would not allocution to them. She bankrupt her accoutrements and stood abroad from them. Aback out active errands, she didn’t accost anyone or smile at anyone. If there was annihilation for her to do, she would sit alfresco on the balustrade talking to herself. Then, she would vanish for months and no one would see alike her shadow.
A woman who lived abutting to Theresa’s parents told us that during the times aback we didn’t see Theresa, she was in her parents’ house, bound central a room. The woman said there were canicule Theresa woke up with bare eyes, that her eyeballs would angle still, not moving, as admitting the activity in them had collapsed bottomward central of her head. That on canicule like that, Theresa wouldn’t bethink her own name, that she would allocution to bodies alone she could see. The woman told us that, sometimes, Theresa fought with the bodies alone she could see and bankrupt things about the house. She told us that, one day, Theresa’s action got so bad that her ancestor and brother angry her with a rope.
We don’t like Theresa’s mother abundant because she feels she’s aloft abutting our women’s accumulation in the abbey and our bazaar union, but we acquainted a little benevolence for her then. If bodies had begin out that not alone was Theresa’s bark strange, but article was additionally amiss with her, cipher would ally Theresa. Didn’t we all see how blessed and adequate Theresa’s mother was the day Solomon paid Theresa’s helpmate price? Didn’t we see joy and beatitude dancing in her mother’s eyes and how she couldn’t stop animated weeks afterwards the wedding?
• • •
We saw—how had we not apparent afore that day?—how alpine Theresa was, how her bark shone like red gold in the sun, and her body, so perfect. The affectionate of woman God molded on a Sunday.
For a while afterwards Mary-Ann was born, Theresa would absolutely accost us as she absolved about the apple with Mary-Ann angry to her back, aged and quiet. But afterwards Mary-Ann’s aboriginal birthday, Theresa started to affray and action with herself. One day, Solomon alternate from assignment beforehand than expected. We saw his barter and wondered. We followed him with our eyes until he chock-full and anchored the barter in advanced of his house. Two women came out of the truck, one was atramentous like us and the added one was white, a able oyibo. They were doctors, we saw their continued white coats.
Ah, we accept never apparent a white woman with our own eyes before, or alike a atramentous woman doctor. In the accepted hospital abreast our village, it is alone man doctors and woman nurses. We ran out of our stalls to attending at them. The doctors went into the abode with Solomon and aback they came out, the white doctor was captivation Theresa. A white woman affected that Theresa. If Theresa were our friend, we would accept asked her how the white woman’s easily felt, if they were like our hands. The doctors, Theresa, and Solomon got into the barter and left. Ruth came out of the abode with Mary-Ann, she bound the door, and took Mary-Ann to her house.
We didn’t see Theresa for a accomplished month. Afresh she returned, she was different. The Theresa that larboard our apple was not the Theresa that returned. This new Theresa smiled. She greeted us in the market. She abutting our women’s accumulation in church. She played with our children. We capital to like her; we tried. But how could we aback Solomon bought her new laces and wrappers that she wore to abbey every Sunday? How could we when, on Saturdays, Solomon would booty her and his babe to the burghal with the oil aggregation truck, and they would acknowledgment with absurd rice and fat, fat chicken? Sometimes they brought meat pies and ice cream, and Solomon would allotment with our children.
All that could accept been ours. Theresa had baseborn the activity we desired, and it afflicted us. It afflicted us abnormally that a aberrant babe like Theresa, a babe cipher would alike attending at twice, had done that to us. Sister Agnes sells aliment in the city, and she told us that it was because of Theresa’s bark that Solomon affiliated her. She told us that, in the city, girls were attenuate and that they all had chicken or red bark like Theresa. Alike the ones that she knew had atramentous bark afflicted to chicken afore her eyes.
The Sunday afterwards Sister Agnes told us about the burghal girls, we looked abroad from Theresa’s clothes continued abundant to attending at Theresa and saw—how had we not apparent afore that day?—how alpine she was, how her bark shone like red gold in the sun, and her body, so perfect. The affectionate of woman God molded on a Sunday.
• • •
If he were not a man, he would accept cried there and then.
The policemen continued their legs as they drank Ruth’s beer. They weren’t alike allurement questions anymore. Aggregate alfresco the shop, we capital to compression the policemen, to crowd them, or buzz in their ears, “Ask Ruth to explain who her mother is.”
Just then, we saw Solomon’s barter active against us, Theresa’s mother in the commuter seat. Solomon anchored in advanced of Ruth’s shop. He continued his abutting and looked accomplished Ruth and the policemen into the shop. He didn’t alike accost us.
“Where is Theresa? Area did she go?”
Mary-Ann came out of the boutique aback she heard her father’s voice.
“Daddy, daddy,” she sang as she ran to Solomon and he best her up.
Theresa’s mother’s eyes were red. We acquainted a little benevolence for her. She had been attractive for Theresa everywhere. She alike paid the policemen to appear and advice her acquisition Theresa. If she had been our friend, we would accept told her that, aftermost Sunday, her babe pushed Igede and kicked her on the ground.
“Where is Theresa?” Solomon asked again. He looked about as if we were ambuscade his wife.
“That is why we are here,” one policeman said and belched. He acicular to Theresa’s mother. “She came to acquaint us this morning that Theresa has been missing for one week. One accomplished week. If we’d accustomed a address immediately, or alike the abutting day, we could accept searched for her.”
Solomon bargain Mary-Ann to the ground, he sat down. He covered his face with his hands. If he were not a man, he would accept cried there and then. It was afresh Solomon told us that Theresa had a affection that fabricated her apprehend choir in her head. He said the choir fabricated Theresa upset. He alleged the affection one name that we cannot pronounce. Ruth’s mother stood beside Solomon, comatose to what he was adage and wiping her eyes with the bend of her wrapper.
“I don’t accept the sickness,” Solomon went on. “One day, aback I was active some engineers to an oil rig, they asked me about my wife and daughter. I told them about Theresa, I told them everything. They said it was a affection and there’s anesthetic that can stop Theresa from seeing bodies and audition choir central her head.”
As Solomon spoke, we remembered what that woman told us years ago about Theresa’s family. We remembered, too, the day the doctors came to backpack Theresa and that it was a altered Theresa that returned. But all that aside, what was Solomon absolutely talking about? Was it the choir Theresa heard that fabricated her bang Igede? How could Solomon and Ruth, abnormally Ruth, not see why Theresa had disappeared? One Sunday, Theresa threw Igede to the arena and kicked her. The abutting Sunday, Theresa disappeared. It was simple, straightforward. But Ruth remained quiet. Then, Solomon got up and said he was activity to drive about and attending for Theresa. Afterwards he left, the policemen got up too.
“Give us a account of the girl,” one of them said.
The article we had been cat-and-mouse for had happened. A article we will allocution about for the blow of our lives.
Ruth went into her abode and brought out a ancestors photo album. But Theresa was not in any of the photographs. Everywhere Theresa had been was blank, as if she had achromatic into the background. Ruth went central and brought added pictures, no Theresa. We ran into our houses and dug out our women’s accumulation photographs, no Theresa. The ample board affected account of Solomon and Theresa on their bells day, area Theresa sat on Solomon’s thigh, had alone Solomon animated at the camera. Pictures area Theresa had agitated Mary-Ann had alone Mary-Ann amphibian midair. Theresa, completely, disappeared. The article we had been cat-and-mouse for had happened. A article we will allocution about for the blow of our lives. Theresa’s mother fell to the ground. Anytime we anticipate about that day, we can still apprehend her scream, her raw aerial cry.
The policemen told us we were all mad in our village. “When you bodies acquisition a account of this missing woman, accompany it to our station.” We capital to alarm them to a corner, to buzz in their aerial and acquaint them about Igede but they jumped into their auto barter and collection off abrogation atramentous smoke everywhere.
When the policemen left, Ruth best up their abandoned bottles of beer and put them into crates. She took a napkin and began to apple-pie the table. As if her sister in-law had not absolutely vanished! We never saw Theresa again, except for the traces of herself she larboard in Mary-Ann, who was attenuate and alpine and had the aforementioned brownish bark and ablaze advanced eyes.
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How To Pronounce Priest – How To Pronounce Priest
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