Fiction: The Dead Can Rise Twice
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Packed on the weathered bookshelf are many books, including books from the Nigerian civil war. My grandfather owned them and the last time someone tried to clean out the rotting place, our help was fired. Grandpa’s house is spooky enough, with endless arrays of torn books until the fireplace became an alternative storage. It is the bloody occurrences from these books that cost my Grandpa his left arm, yet he cannot stop reading them. Those horrific events he eagerly divided into bits of bedtime stories, much to Mother’s distaste, has also caused him some irremediable mental issue.
Mother always says to leave Grandpa alone in his beaten armchair, propping an old book under his single arm and mumbling the words of another which sat on his laps. Most afternoons when she’s out to work and I’m back from school, I silently watch him the corner of my room. He loves his black Lipton and groundnuts. I often wonder why he never talks about anything else; how that after thirty years, he thinks every problem that happens in Nigeria has deep roots in the civil war. He survived through all; why shouldn’t that resolve his inquiries?
Grandpa became my father after our biological father left us. Or so I believe unless Mother has plans of taking another man. The house is his; a one-storey building with four bedroom and a big yard. He is a very accommodating man and I know he loves us in his own way. Yet, Grandpa would grit his teeth and vibrate angrily whenever we played outside, running across the street and cursing boys. He would wobble outside and curse the other children if any of us got hurt. And much later, he would lash out at Mother, his resident daughter.
Much later, I take interest in Politics & Geography at school. I am soon representing my school in an inter-schools debate and like all debaters, I need facts and figures. After careful plotting and jotting, a wicked idea comes to me. Grandpa is fast asleep in his chambers. I climb onto the dining table to get a better view of the kind of book I want. There are so many titles including Alexander Madiebo’s The Nigerian Revolution and the Civil War. Surveying through each stuffed shelf, I am stunned for the first time. I begin to extract a few, hoping I’m noiseless enough to complete this venture.
At night, I secure torchlight and open one of these musty books under my blanket. The product of each read is the mixed emotions I feel when I’m awake again, and asked to go to school. Grandpa’s world is becoming clearer. How that every news headline makes him shed tears and groan about how this is not the country his friends died for; it no longer embarrasses me. When Mother curses about how much rice cups she can get for two hundred naira and how tempted she is to grab something from a food stall and run; I sympathise with her.
When Grandpa doesn’t sit on the armchair and demand for green tea that morning, my heart skips several beats. We are not allowed into his chambers, but pressing my ear hard against the door, I hear voices. Like Mother and Grandpa and some men. I fear greatly for him as I watch his feeble body being helped into the taxi, one sleeve waving with the wind. How that I may not be able to tell him that I’ve been taking his forbidden books and that I’ve stopped caring about playing with the children in the street.
I bet he’d be so proud and maybe pour me some of that tea. How I’ve started to make small notes and brief arguments with my classmates about how nothing is taken seriously in our country. How they laugh when I’m able to quote the humongous sums of money, the current administration is spending on reforms. How that this is a war, but no one is fighting or fleeing. How I’m shedding my old friendships and spending plenty of time perusing books from my Grandpa’s collection, seeking answers.
Favour Iruoma Chukwuemeka is a creative writer and poet from Eastern Nigeria. Her works have appeared/are forthcoming in Conscio, Cypress Journal, Kalahari, The Shallow Tales Review, The Mbari Story Place, SledgeHammer Lit, The African Writers, amongst others. She is an Alumnus of the Creative Writing Workshop with Chigozie Obioma.
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