Sunday 28 October 2012

Literary Africana: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim has been described precisely as ‘a writer to look out for’ by Helon Habila, the author of the magnificent Waiting for an Angel. By the way, Abubakar is among the 20 journalists selected for the 2013 Gabriel García Márquez fellowship in cultural journalism.

The Whispering Trees is a collection of 12 short stories which are told by a very confident writer with a penchant for nuance

Excerpt from The Whispering Trees by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim




I guess I should tell you everything else, Mother, since you now know I’ve got cancer. I haven’t got long to live, the doctor says. But before I die, I thought I should let you know: I still see father every night. He hasn’t changed much: He still has the sneering smile, the dim light in his eyes and the perpetually-rumpled shirt.

“Yes, I want to wring your neck, you scrawny little bastard. You think I don’t know what you did?” he says, but his eyes are on my leg—the left one. I don’t think my bad leg would allow me to flee his wrath.

“It’s the devil you traded your leg to. Nobody should blame polio,” he hisses as he did in old times. “You bastard son of your mother.”

When I leave him on such nights, my left leg feels heavy, like the dead load that it is, you know. I used to wonder why you wouldn’t tell me how my leg turned bad, but I found out, Mother. Aunt Mary told me father wouldn’t let you take me for the vaccination when I was a child. I also used to wonder why he would not accept me. And I know you have asked me not to say this, but I hate myself because, every time I look in the mirror, it’s his face I see staring back at me, even after all these years.

I remember returning home from the moonlight plays when I was much younger. You and Father were arguing again. He was drunk, as usual.

“How can you hate your son like that?” you were saying. But he wouldn’t listen. He would hear none of it.

“Oh, Jesus,” he slurred. “You little, whoring witch, you caused all of this!”

“But you can’t deny he’s your son, Dede . . . .”

“After throwing your legs open to all the men in the neighbourhood, why shouldn’t God curse you and the filth of your womb?” he shouted. “That’s why I have a rag leg for a son, the bastard! God damn him, and God damn you too!”

I remember the sounds: the thumps and whacks, the muffled cries. I also remember your bruised face and black eyes. I remember too how he would kick away my food when I sat eating by the door. I remember how he would flog me with his belt, how he made me carry my polio-sucked leg like a curse for a sin I knew nothing about. I remember his stinking breath as he stared me in the face and told me my existence was a sin, and that you, Mother, were the devil’s widow. I remember how you, the superwoman, were powerless to stop him. But I could not understand why you chose to stay with him then, because I was young. I did not understand what love could make people do. But he, too, did not understand what hate could make people do.

I resented the way he would sit at Mama Caro’s beer parlour all day making a fool of himself, downing mug after mug of beer. I resented him making a mockery of my schooling, the fees for which you paid with your sweat.

I hid my tears each night, when you asked me to massage your back and rub in the heat balm after you were done pedalling away on the sewing machine all day. I hid my tears on the day I came back from school and saw your hand bloated, bloodied and bandaged, where the machine had stitched you up so bad you needed an injection. And then he came home that night, smelling of anger and stale beer, belching resentment and fear.

“Where is my food?!” he thundered, even though you had placed it on the table right before him. I watched him that night as he ate, resentful that he lived off your sweat and blood.

“Hey, boy,” he said, his mouth full, “what kind of idiot are you? Go get me some drinking water!”

And I got him the water from the fridge.

I still see father every night, Mother. I see him in my dreams. He knows now that I poisoned him that night. He knows I enjoyed watching him die. He is waiting for me on the other side so that he can wring my neck. But he doesn’t scare me anymore. He’s just a disgruntled ghost lurking in the shadows of my memory.

The Whispering Trees is published by Parresia Publishers, and is available in many bookshops in Nigeria. Here is a link to some of the outlets.

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