The tale continues…
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“Yes Mummy!” the little girl replied, she was standing right behind her mother. Apparently, the banging at the gate had drawn her away from her doodling and her creative expressions.
“You are here? Then what?” Amara was quite confused. She could not understand why they were banging on the gate and raising a ruckus; Daddy was not home yet, he was not expected back any time soon and Nkechi was right behind her. If not these two…
“So what’s going on then?”
“Errm…” Felix began, “The danfo that police was pursuing jam that Iya-were and she enter gutter…” The little kid sputtered to a stop, turning to the other kids for support.
“It’s the police people that did it o!” cried Ada to help Felix’s inadequacies.
“Yes!” chorused the rest of the kids, “The police people!”
“What are they talking about?” Amara turned to Mummy Gbenga, the only adult at her gate, for a proper explanation.
“What really happened is…” started Mummy Gbenga.
“Mummy…” Nkechi interrupted the woman, tugging Amara’s skirt to get her attention,
“Where is Winnie?” the little girl seemed to have fully understood the broken explanation her playmates offered.
“The police were chasing after this danfo”, continued Mummy Gbenga
“Winnie!!!” Amara called out to her Alsatian-Ekuke mix that was the only thing left of her childhood.
“The danfo hit that Iya-were into the gutter as they were turning into our street from Ogunsanya Crescent, and the police hit your… Wait! Mama Nkechi!!!”
Amara blitzed past her overweight neighbour, running towards the point of intersection where Coker Street met Ogunsanya Crescent, she ignored the hot tears that poured out of her eyes as fear and anxiety pushed her to run as fast as her legs could carry her. As she ran, she was able to register Nkechi calling to her from a point not too far behind her; obviously the little girl was following her to the place where Winnie was hit. She knew she should stop and sent Nkechi back, but she could not get herself to stop running.
Half an hour later, Amara knelt alone in her backyard washing Winnie’s wounds. A large portion of those wounds were internal; though she was no expert – what with her O-level certificate – she could, however, see the swell on its head and the protruding bones that pushed up against the tightly swollen flesh around Winnie’s hips. If that was not enough, the bloody pattern that spread in the whites of its eyes and its continuous whining was more than enough to tell all who listened how much pain the dog was going through.
“Oh God please!!! Don’t take her from me as well… Please!!!” Amara prayed through her tears.
It is necessary to point out that while many Nigerians would feel saddened at the loss of a pet, not many would go as far as to mourn or shed tears; some have been known to sell an ailing dog to restaurants and hotels that make wonderful cuisine of dog flesh. Her neighbours already knew how much Amara cared for her dog, and while her tears were not too surprising to them, they could not understand her grief.
But how could they understand?
They knew Amara, at twenty-three years, was still young enough to hold on to some childish tendencies and they simply blamed her youth for her grief.
“Don’t worry”, they consoled nonchalantly, “You will soon get over it”.
Amara ignored them. They did not know her story or how much pain she had been through. They did not know how much she suffered after the untimely death of her parents; they were not there when her uncles kicked her out of her father’s house with only the clothes on her back and one thousand naira (₦1,000.00), setting her loose in some state far away from home to fend for herself or die. If not for the help of some Missionary Reverend Sisters who took her in and offered her some shelter, she might have had to sell her body to survive.
In those hard years before she met her husband and got married at eighteen years, the one figure who never left her side was the Alsatian-Ekuke that was gifted to her by her father on her fifteenth birthday, a few months before he died. When she wept, she wept into its fur; when she was hungry and had nothing to eat, Winnie was there with her, whining and suffering the hunger pangs with her.
Now it laid gasping for breath and dying in torment and there was nothing Amara could do to save her oldest friend.
“God please!!!” Amara knelt by Winnie’s side until the sun went down, crying and praying to God for a miracle.
“What do you mean you haven’t made night food?” Daddy was livid.
He had returned a few minutes past seven to find his gate wide open and Nkechi sitting alone by the door, waiting for her mother to attend to her.
“I was… Winnie got hit by a car… I am…”
“I don’t care!!!” He swiped an angry arm at the centre table in the middle of their modest living room, sending a glass tumbler, half filled with water, flying at high speed to the wall where it shattered in a heart stopping crash. He worked hard to make ends meet for his young wife and their daughter, while he was pleased with his lot in life; he had expectations that had to be met.
“Since when is that dog more important than Nkechi? More important than your duties as a mother… as a wife?!” Daddy rose to his feet in anger and as he did, his voice thundered in rising decibels. “You left the gate wide open and left Nkechi alone in the compound because your dog got hit by a car… and you are proud to say it?!”
Amara shed even more tears in shame. She instantly saw that she had neglected her daughter in her grief.
“I’m sorry…” She muttered in a small voice.
“Go and do the needful”, Daddy instructed after a deep breath to rein in his temper.
Without an extra word, he walked to the shattered glass cup to clean up the mess he made.
Amara hurriedly prepared a quick pot of boiled yam and vegetable sauce. Her grief shelved until she had fed, bathed and put her daughter to bed.
Daddy was a little more understanding after he had his dinner.
“Hush now… stop crying. I know what Winnie meant to you. It’s ok sė gbo?” He stroked her hair, cooing as she wept into his chest. He let her grieve, it was important that she let it all out. After a while, he took a shovel to an empty space in the compound and dug a two feet hole in the earth and Winnie was buried.
Even then, Amara knelt cold and alone by the burial mound, weeping till she was all cried out.
“Winnie…” She cried, “Please don’t leave me”. The dog had been buried; there was no coming back from death. Amara was sure of this, she just hoped and prayed there was a way Winnie could come back to her in one piece.
“Please God… Bring her back!”
“Please God… Bring her back!”
“Please God… Bring her back!”
She prayed till the clock struck twelve at which point, she passed out by the burial mound.
There are certain things cannot be explained by logic in this world. In fact, there are too many things the human mind cannot even begin to comprehend.
Midnight on Coker Street is a quiet wonder that was a stark contrast to the noisy hullabaloo of daytime, the quiet peace broken only by the constant call of generators from houses that lined the street. The roads, ever busy by day, would be void of a single vehicle or person.
In the shallow gutter adjacent to the Ogunsanya Crescent, the Iya-were¬ whom everyone assumed to be dead stirred from her stinky place of rest with a long, complainant whine – a testament of the pain that wracked her body. It was a long and arduous process to crawl out of the shallow gutter. She crawled on all fours for some distance before she managed to stand and wobble and then finally walk. Each stage was a significant hurdle crossed with the cracking of joints and high pitched whines that were as ear piercing as they were heart wrenching.
It was a slow process, but before long, she collapsed before a gate, scratching and whining as though she was asking to be let in. A few minutes later, she passed into sleep.
Night passed, morning came; Daddy opened his gate long before the sun was up to begin his day, only to be greeted with the figure of Iya-were curled in sleep at the threshold of the gate.
“Shoo!” he tapped her awake the sole of his shoes. Iya-were turned to him with a complainant whine and shooed just far enough to make room for him to pass.
“Shoo! I say” He insisted. Again she made just enough room for him to pass without worry.
“Ah-Ahn!!! Iru wahala wo l’eleyi?!” (What manner of trouble is this?)
‘Amara can handle Iya-were on her own’. Shrugging as he locked the gate behind him, Daddy continued on his way to work, putting the mad woman aside, he set his mind on the day ahead of him.
Amara woke up before the sun dominated the dark sky and began her daily routine of preparing her daughter for school. Nkechi was midway through her breakfast of bread and fried plantains and eggs with tea when the she heard the cries of her neighbours and the angry howls of a weird creature.
She could tell it was not a dog, but something about it reminded her of Winnie’s distress call.
“Winnie…” She fought the tears that pooled in her eyes, Daddy would not be very understanding if she let her grief rob her of her better senses again. Hardening her resolve to control her grief, she packed Nkechi’s lunch box into her bag along with the appropriate tools and led her out of the house to the gate where the cries were getting louder as time passed.
“Kilo se Iya-were yi?!” (What is wrong with this mad woman)
Curiosity hastened her steps to the gate with Nkechi in tow.
“Nkechi get back inside”, she ordered her daughter as she opened the gate to find the source of the ruckus. She was greeted with the sight if Iya-were attacking all and any who came anywhere near her perch by the gate.
The school-bus driver who had come to pick Nkechi had several scratches on his face, no doubt caused by Iya-were’s claws, his shirt was torn and he cradled one bleeding arm in the other, it was his most grievous wound.
He was not the only victim. Several street folks nursed various forms of scratches and bite wounds on their bodies.
Iya-were had her back to the gate almost like she was guarding the entrance, growling on all fours and her wild, dirty hair stood at its end. She was the picture of a ferocious wild beast defending its territory or a guard dog… or at least, that was the first impression Amara got.
“Mama Nkechi get back inside… we have already sent for the police!!!” cried a neighbour.
“Stay back!!! Iya-were has lost her mind!” Another screamed.
“Before nko! She’s a mad woman”, the first replied the first venomously.
“Yeeee!!! E gba mi o!!!” Mummy Gbenga wailed, cradling a bleeding cheek where she had obviously received some attention from Iya-were.
Amara was confused by what she saw, but she understood one thing; she was safer behind the gate. She beat a hasty retreat and was just about to shut the gate when she notice a little figure carrying a ‘Princess Sophia’ backpack approaching the wild lookin Iya-were.
“Winnie!” The little girl commanded in a cute and kind voice, “Sit!!!”
Amara was not totally sure what she heard, but she, and every other witness, could not believe the shocking result of the little girls command.
Iya-were, who had been the source of the early morning chaos on Coker Street, turned to face the little girl, bounded towards her and sat cross-legged before her.
“WHAAT!!!” It was a collective gasp of shock from all who saw.
“Mummy…” called the little girl as she pet the mad woman who shook her head in glee at the ministrations of the innocent child. “Mummy see… Winnie has come home”.
There are certain things cannot be explained in this world, too many things that are beyond the human understanding. Many tried, but none were able to explain what they saw on Coker Street that November morning.
Iya-were was rarely ever seen prowling the streets after that and whenever she was seen, she was clean and well dressed in clothes the street folks knew belonged to Amara.
Daddy could not explain it either but his wife and daughter looked happy to have Winnie back. So he, against his better judgment, allowed them their blessing to count.
Amara did not understand it and she did not care. She had her oldest companion back and that was all that mattered to her.