Shishir 2018, Short Stories -Abuchi. F. H. Nwachukwu

 

Firebrand

By Abuchi .F.H. Nwachukwu

 

My uncle Ekwunife is a bald, fair and tall man. People often compare him to Elisha, the bald prophet. They said he carries the same anointing as the prophet, that he's a firebrand; an epitome of righteousness, the type that never falters in the face of adversity. He prays down fire during those excruciating prayer sessions he leads among the congregation, in which my strength collapses like a melting pillar of wax and leaves my voice fighting for its sonority. His two bulging red eyes remind me everyday that, that fire can consume me any moment I dare to look too long into them.


He had exposed many a sinner at the pulpit. Godwin was the latest. I saw my uncle transfigured at the alter as he passed his judgement. He was enveloped by fire and fury; burning to make trouble for God against those that thought they can betray him in the secret and declare their allegiance in the open. He gripped the microphone and roared with rebuke like the voice of God. He called out Godwin, throwing his sins one after the other at him before the groaning congregation, describing in details how he’d lived in his apartment with his fiancée.


“How could you live in sin with a woman who’s not yet your wife and still come here to pollute the holy ground.” He thundered.


It was on that Sunday, the elders gave Godwin a back seat and stripped him of his position as the youth leader; then reduced him into a delicious topic fed upon by the holy members.

 

I live with him and his family in the big bungalow protected like an ancient city, with high walls and which stood in isolation, away from the sinful world, at the end of federal estate in the heart of Enugu. But for these fearful weeks, I’d been the only one staying with him, longing for the day his wife Evelyn, who had gone on a visit to her parents with their two children would return. Evelyn is a woman to be admired, especially for her loyalty to her husband. He’d made her keen to serve him in all things including laying her fat salary at his feet every month end. To her, my uncle is never wrong. It was the way she has also determined to see him; a perfect man, the mouthpiece of God even when his decisions aren’t what a successful medical doctor like her would ordinarily condescend to accept. Her virtue has made me think of Duna all the time.

 

My uncle told me never to look at these sinful girls of the world, that they, like Delilah would cut my hair with sharp blades and pay me as a vow to the devil. He engraved it on my forehead that he would see it every time I bring my face up to be imbibed with the same instruction every morning devotion. He infused a detector in my feet, that he would know when they stray in the path leading to the house of the strange woman and in my eyes a recorder that would televise the hidden guilt of my sins when he looks into them without minding that in the blood of an eighteen year old like me, is the surge of hormones I would sacrifice my blood to tame. So I learnt to heed; to drink from the grail, to fill my mouth and thought with holy things and to follow the trail of his steps without looking back. It was his duty as a prominent pastor to ensure that I do not defile his house with filthy thoughts and deeds; so that when Duna rings the phone to chat with me, I would hurriedly hang up the call before the devil entraps me and pricks my head with his hot trident. Duna had told me she loves how I beat the drum, that the rhythm plays into her heart and left me wondering if it was a compliment or an honest confession. I couldn’t withhold my feeling since then and was haunted by the guilt of stealing glances at her inside the church when all eyes were closed in prayer.

 

On a fateful Friday evening at 5:06 P.M, I ran to my uncle when I heard his call, to receive his instruction with unflinching fervency. My eyes refused to leave his burning lips. 'There, is your friend.' He pointed to the girl at the sofa. 'She is here to see you.'


It was Duna, sitting gracefully at the love seat. 'Hi. I called but you didn't pick.' She smiled. Her teeth glittered in the chocolate background of her smooth supple face like the moonlight in the dark sky. She was irresistibly beautiful; looking lush and full at seventeen. Her father, Reverend Desmond is an infallible man, a staunch friend of my uncle. I'd wanted to smile back and tell her that I would answer her call one day, as soon as I escape my uncle's ever watching eyes; from him that lurks around me like a monitoring spirit. But it stuck in my throat. It choke me that I began to cough. If you love someone, even an invisible smile is enough to pass the affection. It was the only thing I could give her in return. The last time I met her at the gate leaving our house, her face was suffused with mystery as though she had seen the fiery eyes of my uncle blazing with condemnation for daring to come to his house in search of me. But a niggling doubt about that sudden visit and departure overshadowed my thoughts. We only exchanged few words as she left.


'You'll be late to church in the next minute. Take the key to Reverend Desmond. Hurry up, Duna will join you in the church shortly. I want to have a word with her.' He said. I quickly grabbed the key and left with the speed of lightning to escape his wrath which may visit any moment his lips begin to burn and his eyes start to blaze.

 

My feet hastened as if they were in a dilemma to walk or run, till I divided the distance in half. There in the middle, I was struck. It damned on me that I was hurrying in vain. I imagined how it would be said of me, that I disdainfully threw my feet into the church without my bible. The bible my highly revered uncle warned me never to part with, even when I walk through the valley of shadow of death. I quickly ran back home, praying that God would send me angels to tame the holy madness of my uncle. I jerked the door open and broke into the sitting room like a bat out of hell. But I froze with a frightening suddenness and the ice kept me stuck to the spot. It was there, that my eyes took hold of two startled naked bodies separating from their union on the love seat, covering their shame with bare hands. Their shimmering bodies were blazing with fire. The fire, whose heat melted all the ice and set my feet trudging with daunting uneasiness that I couldn't recollect clearly the man I saw dinning on the forbidden fruit, with my Duna. I carried my shattered heart in my hands as I left the hot darkened compound to the woods nearby, where I could find the serenity to pacify my raging thoughts.

 

I arrived at the church thirty minutes late. The members stood impatiently outside staring at me as though they've conspired to condemn me at the pulpit.
'Emerie, this is 6:31 for God's sake.' Reverend Desmond said, in a deep voice pervaded by irritation and disappointment.


'Is there any problem?' He asked me, in his usual emollient tone, looking younger in his signature blue suit. I looked at his dark wrinkled face and into his eyes of fifty six years to garner courage but I began to imagine if they had seen as much as mine has beheld in few years of my life. I shook my head sluggishly and walked to a seat. The words within were too heavy for my lips. They cannot be said by a boy like me.

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Abuchi .F.H. Nwachukwu is a graduate from Nigeria. He writes poetry and short stories

 

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