The morning papa beat mama again after the Bode “thing” is the day I knew about Pastor outside service days.

Papa beat mama because Mary did not come home at night. Papa said it was mama’s fault-she was raising whores (I did not even know the meaning), girls who will not even be useful enough to fetch him a big bride price. Papa said he won’t pay our school fees again, so I did not go to school that day. My school had already pursued me home for money two days before.

When Papa left for his job at the post office with his die-die bicycle, mama came from the backyard where she had been crying and washed her face and told me to change my clothe and tie a scarf that we were going to church.

When I asked her what would happen to her ugwu leaf she had to take to the market so they will not become dry like somebody’s under-leg, she said: “Don’t worry about it. Getting a child…a son, is more important now than getting #1,000.”

I did not understand. We needed #1,000-we always needed #1,000. But I tied my head and ear until what I was hearing became as if someone reduced the volume, and we went.

The church place had plenty people outside, mostly women. I became confused and wanted to ask my mother if the day wasn’t Monday again. But my small brain told me that these people were like mama; they were looking for great things and did not mind not going to work that day in order to get it.

Mama was given a number. Number 30! There was no list, but everyone knew who was after whom to go and see Pastor.

Many of the women came with their children, most of them looking hungry and tired of life. Their mothers were with canes, the ones for flogging the devil. And they were with things too-chickens; small bags of beans, garri, rice; kegs of palm oil; tubers of yam-things that I think their children needed more than the person they were going to give.

But I knew-we knew-that Pastor did not pray for or “talk” to any person without them giving him something first, even though the person giving already looks like he/she has not eaten for 40 days, and there might not be any strength to flog the devil when he asks them to bring out their canes.

There were only 2 men waiting to see Pastor, and they both had a goat, with the other things too. But they only brought goats; it made me think that maybe their problems were bigger than that of the women.

The church is just one building with spaces that are square for where windows should be. Then there is just one room that is Pastor’s office-that is the place the people that want to see him, disappear into and close the door.  There is one shed at the back that we call toilet, but no one likes to use because it is always dirty and is never washed. So the bushes around the church serve as toilet. So the church compound always smells bad-bad.

But it is still in this compound, outside the church, that the people wanting to see the Pastor to solve their problems stay. The young, langa-langa boy that runs errands for Pastor said they have to stay outside so that the people’s animals will not mix together, and their poo-poo will not dirty the floor of the church. But when it is the turn of somebody to go to Pastor, it is with this boy, sitting inside the church, that they will keep the things they brought and their children too.

The sun started to shine around 11:00am, two hours after we got to the place. The 20th person on the list had just gone in. She was a very fat woman, looking like blom-blom. In my mind, I believed she was also adding to the smell of where we were sitting, because she looked like somebody that will be polluting, polluting every second. She brought 3 children that were sick and were vomiting throughout.

They could not even sit on the sand like all of us, so their mother begged the errand boy to let them sleep on the church veranda that had small sand. I was pitying for the children, and so when it was their mother’s turn, I was happy for them. I believed that Pastor will heal them after he has taken healing money from their mother and poured the anointing water on their head and shouted for the devil in their bodies to die, till saliva will be falling out of his mouth by mistake. I wanted them to be well.

The woman and her children came out from Pastor’s office quicker than many of the other women who dropped their children with the errand boy did. Those women would disappear and spend more than 10 minutes inside the office, and when they would come out, their wrappers will be to one side, and they will be sweating. It made me imagine how much they must have been killing the devil with Pastor, and why Pastor could not buy standing fan if his office is like oven.

Sleep was starting to catch me, my eyes closing and my head almost falling to my legs in my front when mama tapped me. It was time to go inside.

 My stomach was making noise, and I wished I could eat someone’s chicken, even with the feathers and the blood. Only five new people were in the compound now. Nobody we had met was around again.

I looked at the new people… the five of them were women, and only one brought her son. Mama was holding my hand to go inside, but she stopped by the woman and greeted her, maybe because of her son. Mama greeted and would not continue going inside. She asked the woman what she was coming for. I noticed that mama whispered when she asked the question, and I wondered why.

“Hmm, na because of this my boy, oh,” the woman answered.

I looked at mama. Mama looked at the boy. The boy did not look sick. In fact, he was very fine-yellow, sef-like his mother. He was holding something in his hand and talking with it, playing with it.

“Wetin dey do am?” Mama asked, and I was happy she did because I wanted to know the thing wrong with a fine, normal-looking boy like him.

“Ah ah,” the woman began. “You no see the thing em hol for hand?”

We looked at him again. That is when my eyes saw that the thing he was talking to and playing with was a dolly-baby, the type that I had at home, though I could not find one leg of my own again.

The woman then told mama of how this boy always plays with the thing as if he is a girl. She said when boys his age mates were hunting lizards with their fathers, he would be crying and gumming her in the kitchen and be helping to taste stew. She said many other things my hungry head could not take. And then, when mama was still looking at her somehow, confused about what the name of this “sickness” could be, the woman took one leg of her slippers and threw it somewhere, and told the yellow-pawpaw to go and bring it.

My mouth and mama’s own fell down, open, as the boy stood up small-small, like snail, and held the baby to his chest with one hand and put the other one on his waist, and walked, one leg in front of the other, like a cat, to go and bring the slippers. I was looking at the way his waist was bending, to the right and to the left as he was coming back, and I put my hands on my head.

“Mama, take your slippers.”

His voice was high, as if they increased the volume of his throat, and blocked part of his nose.

When he gave his mother the slippers and sat down again, he crossed his yellow legs carefully and was talking to the baby again.

Our mouths were still open. The woman began to cry.

“You see. You no see wetin my village people dey do me? I know since sey dem bin no want make I see good husband marry. Now my son na girl-boy and my stomach dey reject my husband ‘things’. So I want make Pastor flog them bad spirit commot for em body, make em body dey like boy own wey God create am to be.”

“Eyahh,” mama remarked, pitying her.“But make Pastor take am easy for the flogging oh; you know sey na small pikin em be.”

“I no care for that one; make them flog the devil out of am until em well, be my own. Abi you want make my husband people pursue me commot from em house?”

“God no go gree!” Mama said and hurried us inside the church. Something told me it was so that the woman will not ask us why we came, because her eyes and mouth were already opening to talk again when mama grabbed my hand.

When I looked back at the fine boy, he was plating the baby’s hair. I shook my head and felt sorry for him and thanked God that I did not use to climb trees like a boy or else it would have been me mama would give Pastor to flog boy-girl spirit out of.

To be continued

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