WE ARE ABLE PT 24 & 25

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WE ARE ABLE
By: SammyHoe

Episode 24

Toyosi asked me something in sign language. I was
surprised she was able to do the sign better than I left
her.
“Your mother would be here in few minutes,” she
assured me.
“Really?” I was excited.
“Yes,” she said. My father came to sit beside me and
held me close to his chest. He cleaved my hair and
kissed the middle of it. This is a miracle, I thought.
Bode was lying down ill. He needed care. Toyosi took
all his clothing material to wash. I asked her if I could
help, but she insisted that she would do them on her
own.
When I remembered that my poem collections would
soon be published, I intensified my effort on it, writing
more and more. This time around, they were poems of
happy reunions and happy endings. I couldn’t find it hard
coming about a poem anymore, because they were just
a replica of events unfolding.
It was a week already and my mother wasn’t back yet.
Toyosi had assured me that she would soon be here
with us, so why should I keep worrying?
I began to develop a poem. It was titled THE
STRATEGY OF GOD:
It all began with a solid tragedy
Until I thought there was no remedy
Never knowing it was a strategy
To bring about a wonderful comedy
I thought it would end in an elegy
But in the end it becomes an eulogy
All glory to God who made me a prodigy
Beyond all human analogy
I thought I had no ability
But I discovered them with agility
When challenges came with intensity
But now I can display my audacity…
Toyosi saw me writing it. She tapped me and smiled.
She had been reading it all the while, unknown to me. If
my ears could hear I would have noticed when she
opened the door and entered my room.
I quickly flipped the book closed.
“Come with me,” she said in sign language. “I have a…”
she couldn’t sign out what she meant.
“I have a something for you,” she said at last. She must
have thought of saying she had a surprise for me, but
she didn’t know how to do that in sign language.
I followed her. To my shock, it was my mother I saw
sitting right inside the parlour. I rushed to her and gave
her the tightest hug I have ever done to anyone.
Mother and I rolled on the floor, thanking our God for a
happy ending. My father met us in the euphoria. He was
happy too.
My father and my mother hugged each other for the
first time since I got to know them. Toyosi said that
she had become a born-again Christian now. She said
God told her to bring my mother back from the prison.
She even confessed to the fact that she was the
person calling me up in my dream.
“I knew I cannot kill whom God hasn’t killed because I
tried it with voice language the first time but Rose
didn’t hear me, let alone give a reply. The second time I
tried it, it was my own son who appeared and not
Rose,” Toyosi said. “Assuming Bode understood the
sign language, he would have been dead by now
because that is Apepa! ”
Toyosi wept and asked for our forgiveness. Willingly
we forgave her.
A week later, aunty Rachael came to tell us that she had
found a fiancé–a very rich one for that matter;
Honorable Daniel, the man she met during my
graduation ceremony.
“Daniel is a God-fearing man,” Rachael said. I could spot
a tint of gladness in her dimples. Her lips expanded and
contracted as she did the sign language. She was
telling my mother with her mouth and doing the sign
language at the same time.
“That’s great!” my mother was happy.
“Daniel would be travelling to the US with me
permanently. He would be settling down there.”
“Thank you Jesus!” I exclaimed in sign language. But I
would miss my aunty so much.
Our school had resumed but my father insisted that I
wasn’t going to continue in a public school of the
handicapped.
They said I would do my school in a private secondary
school for the deaf and dumb. I would be travelling to
Abuja for that purpose. It was a special school where
the special people from rich families attended.
My father and her concubine, Toyosi, took my mother
and I to Abuja to see the school I would be attending.
It was like heaven. The buildings were as tall as the
clouds. I saw rich children over there; the deaf, the
dumb, the lame, the blind. They had no cause to be
burdened in their hearts. Why should they worry when
they had all things at their reach? If there is money, the
disabled people wouldn’t have any reason to worry, I
thought.
My father and I returned home after the one-week
holiday in Abuja. My mum and Toyosi said they were
going to do a little shopping.
When we returned home, I found a letter hung in our
letterbox. I read it:
My aunt was notifying us that she had just travelled out
of the country with her fiancé, Honorable Daniel. They
wouldn’t be returning soon.
It was a mixture of joy and sadness for me when I read
the news. Oh! My aunty! There can never be any two
aunties in the world for me.
The picture of my school-to-be set on my face:
Springtime International Special School. I was glad I
would be there someday, soonest.
Toyosi returned to the house late. I was shocked when
she returned all alone.
“Where is my mother?” I asked her. She made her
fingers into a bundle and flipped it over her mouth to
signal to me that I should speak with my mouth.
“Where is my mother?” I asked with a frown on my
face. She touched her ears to signal to me that she
couldn’t hear my voice. I was flabbergasted as I saw
her laughing out loud. John joined her in it.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
I was filled with suspense as I awaited Toyosi to tell
me where my mother was. Perhaps, she had taken her
somewhere to kill her.
“Impossible,” I said to myself.
Toyosi pulled me by my hair as she led me to my room
and began to throw my things out from there. She then
led me to the kitchen to show me where I would be
lodging henceforth. I would be living with the rats over
there.
Toyosi tore a sheet of paper and wrote all the rules and
regulations I must follow there. They were very many.
I began to read:
Deaf Rose, henceforth here are the things you must
observe:
You should not step your toes in the parlour except
whenever you are needed there. You are now a
housemaid and nothing more. You will only be fed once
in a day as from now. You will cook, wash the plates,
clothes and clean the house every time. There is no
more school for you–your room is the kitchen
henceforth…
The rules were without end.
Toyosi pushed me. When I fell, she pinned me to the
ground with her right hand.
My suffering started afresh. I had returned to my old
self, this time worse. Toyosi had now made my father’s
home her permanent residence. I wondered if her
husband wasn’t concerned about her whereabouts.
I couldn’t do anything well at the thought of my mother.
It was already a week and I still didn’t know what
happened to her. I was living a hell on earth.
Toyosi would beat me up at will. She would complain
that I had put too much salt in the meal. All the clothes
I had just washed, she would demand I rewash them
because they were not as clean as she wanted.
Toyosi wasn’t going anywhere anymore. Maybe
because of me I didn’t know. She was always at home,
monitoring me. She would prevent me from leaving the
house. As if she knew that leaving the house was the
next thing on mind. If only I could get out of this house
arrest, then the next step would be for me to flee the
house.
I could earn a living outside, I thought. My mind flashed
back to that swindler feigning deaf and dumb that day. I
would just do something similar: I would write I AM
DEAF AND DUMB on a paper and laminate it. Then I
would put it on my chest and beg for alms. But how
could I possibly get out of the house?
Whenever Toyosi was leaving for the market, she
would lock me in and take the keys with her. That
would be the only time I would have the opportunity to
visit the parlour.
Bode was my regular human-guest in the kitchen,
always there to bully on me. I had many non-human
guests; geckos, cockroaches and rats. At night
mosquitoes would lodge with me too.
I had made some big yams into pillow. A bag of rice
was my mattress. Rats and cockroaches would run
around my body as I lay flat like a handfan.
I was desperately seeking a way out. My poem book
was nowhere to be found. I didn’t get talked to by
anyone. I had developed phobia already, fearing
everything around me. Even Bode could walk up to me
and give me a slap on the face. My confidence had
vanished.
I became sickly. My appearance had gone imbecilic. I
do fold my hands together all the time, shaking like a
cloth spread on the line.
One day, I got to the parlour while everyone had gone
out of the house. I lay on the sofa and sighed. The fan
was pouring its breeze on me. My stepmother mustn’t
come and meet me there, else I would be doomed.
Toyosi got in suddenly. I was in soup. If only I had
some functioning ears I would have heard the sound of
the door as she was turning the keys in the keyhole.
Toyosi thumped hard on me until I was no more on
earth. My mother’s aparition appeared to me and spoke
to me. She said she had been killed by Toyosi. She said
she didn’t want me to die too, so I should rise up again.
I felt a blow at my back. When I raised my head, Toyosi
poured a pail of water on me. She was laughing. I
thought I was destined for suffering so I accepted my
fate.
The courage to write a poem was no more in me. The
zeal had died since Toyosi tore the book I was writing
them in. I remembered what my classteacher told me;
so how would I come in contact with that publishing
company, Judimax? I had better give it all up.
The world was no more worth living in; no one to share
my pain with me…just only me in the planet earth. I had
totally accepted my fate. Now a little surge of strength
had engulfed me. I would confront Toyosi and ask her
for my mother once more. This time around, I will pull
up a strong face teeming with audacity. I thought I had
nothing to lose at this juncture. Nothing worse could
come on me since I had already experienced the worst
tragedy anyone could have.
I walked right into the parlour. She was having her head
on a pillow, having ensconced herself on the sofa. I had
no fear. I tapped her shoulder and stood tall. If I perish,
I perish, I thought like the biblical queen.
Toyosi never expected it. She was stunned when she
saw that I was the one tapping. She must have thought
that it was Bode, going by the way she was turning
lazily from side to side while I was tapping her.
I read her lips. She had just said ‘What!’ I was prepared
for the worst. She had warned me not to ever step my
feet into the parlour except if she needed me there. As
a matter of fact, the only time Toyosi would need me
was when food was ready. I would have to set the
table for the family and return to my corner–the
kitchen.
Toyosi’s eyeballs bounced like basketballs in their
sockets. She was ready to pounce on me. My look was
stern right now. I was ready for her.
“What do you want?” she said with sound language
which I understood going by the movement of her lips.
I had been very familar with such lip movement.
I didn’t need to sign anything. I just gave her a note I
had written earlier and then I sank into a chair opposite
her. She raised her head to lengthen her look. Her
mouth was wide agape.
Toyosi began to feed her eyes with the content of the
note I wrote there. I was expecting a reply, but for
minutes she was still having her head bent, perhaps
absorbed in the one-sentence note I gave her.
Is there anything in there to ponder about for so long? I
ruminated. I stood up and walked close to her. I signed
my request before her face right now.
Definitely, she had murdered my mother, I thought as I
gave consideration to the vision I saw in my trance
when she beat me to blackout earlier.
The simple question I asked in that note was “Where is
my mother?”
Toyosi stood up in a flash. She was speechless. I
stiffened my bone as I got prepared to get a spicy slap
on my cheek. Her shoulder touched my forehead while
she was rising up. To my amazement she just walked
away.
Toyosi returned with a pen and a notebook. She began
to write something. When she was done, she gave me
the note and stared into my face.
I took a little time to stare back into her eyeballs. Her
big almond eyes reminded me of the almond fruit. I
began to read:
You asked a question and I have an answer for you;
your mother has returned to her habitat, the prison.
Well, it was a funny little trick back then. We got your
mother out by bribing the chief warder and everybody
we needed to bribe. It was for a little time, so she
would return back there. Oh! You would need to see the
horror on your mother’s face when I led her to three
policemen at our return from Abuja. I told them she
was an escaped prisoner.
Your mother was arrested and taken back to the chief
warder. Her jailterm would no more be two years but
five, says the chief warder. Rose, I hope you’re now
clear of it all.
My tears dropped on the note and my eyes went dim,
but there was more to read.
Last month, November, your classteacher was here to
see your mother and you. I told her you now leave in
Abuja, schooling there, so she wouldn’t bother coming
to see you anymore. And as you know already, your
aunty has travelled out, so then, tell me who will fight
for you. Who else knows you are existing, no one? Not
even your father. He sees you as dead, just the way I
also see you.
I let the note fall off my grip as I sighed. Knowing that
my mother was still alive was all I cared about. Let
Toyosi do whatever she could, I wasn’t going to be
moved.
Toyosi picked the note. It was as if she still had
something to write:
Two men walked in here just yesterday; they got your
contact address from your school. They said you won a
publishing contract with them. I chased them out with a
turning stick when they wouldn’t want to admit that it
was the wrong address they had. They wouldn’t dare
look for you again because I threatened to pour acid on
them at their next visit. Ask me where your poem
notebook is right now; I turned it into mash and flushed
it down the sink. Gone forever!
I knew what I would do if there seemed to be no one
to talk to. I would rather find solace in that book my
aunty told me about–the bible. She said it could comfort
one. I have read it sometimes in the past but
eventually, I gave it up.
Now I had no Bible, but John had one dusty one he kept
inside his room, on a small table beside his bed. If only
I could get in there to have it, then all would be well, I
thought. My father wouldn’t even look for it even if I
took it from there, because he had abandoned it since I
was three according to what my mother told me.
Toyosi laughed and laughed as she stood up to go to
her room. She didn’t chase me out of the parlour right
now and I was surprised at her behaviour.
I sat down confidently to watch the ongoing
programme on the TV. Only God knew what they were
saying in that big box. All they were saying fell on my
‘deaf ears’ or maybe they were just miming.
Bode had just awoken from sleep. He spread-eagled as
he began to laze towards me. He frowned and yelled
when he saw me:
“Mummy! Rose is in the parlour!” I knew that was what
he was saying repeatedly, having studied his lips
movement. He walked away in shame when no one
answered him.

Episode 25

I began to seek a way of getting through to father’s room to get
his bible. Even if I took it away from there, he wouldn’t notice it.
I just had to make sure that he didn’t spot me entering there,
else I would be in ‘pepper soup’. I had to look left, right and left
at several occasion, but each time I was about taking the step,
either Bode or Toyosi would be coming close.
Since the day I stepped into the parlour to confront Toyosi, she
hadn’t beaten me. I wondered why. Maybe she was scared of
my look that day, I thought. Perhaps she was up to something
again. However, my bedroom was not changed—the kitchen.
It was December already. A new year would soon be here.
How I wished the new year could bring something really new.
I just wished to be out of the house. Toyosi had warned me
earlier that any day I stepped out of the house, then I should
count myself dead. I wasn’t even allowed to play within the
compound.
One day, daddy sat on the sofa in the parlour. Initially, he was
watching a movie. But sleep came and robbed him of his
consciousness. The door to his room wasn’t shut, so I knew it
was the best time to get in there. I was fortunate because
Toyosi had taken Bode out for shopping for the approaching
Christmas.
I plodded into his room and went straight for the bible. I got it
and began to make my way out of his room. Hurriedly, I set
the bedside table well as it was, else, my father would know I
came in if he met his room in disarray.
I didn’t hesitate to begin perusing the holy book. Since I didn’t
know much scripture in my head, I began to open at random.
The passage that caught my attention was where Jesus Christ
was on the cross, about to die. I read with interest. I didn’t
know when tears began to run down my cheeks. Initially, I
thought I was the one who had the greatest suffering in the
world, but when I read it, my fear was allayed. If the son of
God could suffer to death in such manner, how much more
me, a human?
I picked up the confidence that no matter what comes my way,
I would no more be shaking. If Jesus could cry and shout “My
father, my father, why have you forsaken me?” then it wasn’t a
big deal if my earthly father, John, also forsook me, I thought.
I fell in love with that expression; I thought of making it into a
poem, therefore I wrote the expression down in a little paper
and put the paper inside the bible.
My father, my father, why have you forsaken me?
The poem I would write on that had begun to form in my
head. I would write it as soon as possible.
I kept the bible in a space behind the bags of rice close to the
wall. I knew it would be safe there.
Toyosi was done shopping. She had brought a lot from the
boutique. I was surprised when she came to the kitchen where
I was passing the day and tapped me. I thought she was here
to complain about the meal she just ate, but to my shock she
wasn’t here for such intent. She pulled me up in a peaceful
manner and pointed the parlour to me. I led the way, she
followed. She began to point to Bode who was dressed in a
well-tailored robe. She even bought a horsetail and a
swaggerstick for him and asked him to do a little pose in the
robe. Bode looked gorgeous in the robe. I was blushing.
Toyosi began to unloose a nylon bag. Then she brought out a
very beautiful pink dress. For who? I thought. Could that be for
me for the Christmas? My father frowned when she brought
out the dress. Toyosi spoke to him and he mellowed down. I
didn’t know what she told him. Anyway, I was prepared for
the worst, so I wouldn’t be taken by surprise.
Toyosi ordered me to pull off my dress. I did that hurriedly.
Then she gave me the dress.
“Wear it,” she told me in sign language. I boggled. The dress
would hurt me, I thought. Who knows what the inner of the
cloth was made of? Maybe she had soaked the dress in juju, I
pondered on.
“Wear it!” she instructed me again. I began to pray in my mind
that nothing should happen to me. Slowly, I wore the dress as
I insinuated a fall of death. Toyosi was smiling and turning her
head from side to side to take a close look at me. Bode and
John my father had some grotesques on their faces still. My
father even left the room and Bode followed him; like father like
son.
Toyosi held the shoulder pads and turned me around. She
asked me to walk a little further away from where I was. I did. I
saw her mouth go wow! She said I looked like Cinderella.
Toyosi brought out a pair of female shoes and asked me to
wear it too. First, I had to stuff my dirty legs into two long
stockings before putting on the shoes. Toyosi cleaned the legs
with a white handkerchief before asking me to put my legs in
there. Toyosi placed a hat on my head. It was a pink hat as
well.
She led me to a round glass, standing on a carved wooden
base. I saw my look. I never knew I could be that beautiful.
“Good,” Toyosi said. She asked me to pull off.
The day after, John came to me and tapped me. I was sitting in
the parlour then. Toyosi and Bode weren’t at home. When I
turned my gaze around, I was shocked at what I saw:
My father held his bible close to my face. Gently, he picked up
the note I wrote:
My father, why have you forsaken me?
The shock was too much for me to easily come off. I was
‘dumbfounded’. I trembled. How did he get the bible? I asked
myself.
John wrote a note:
Why did you write this? Who told you I have forsaken you?
He demanded that I wrote my response in the same piece of
paper. I had no answer to supply. I would ask him a question
in reply.
How did you discover it? I wrote back.
Shocked? You went into my room and took my bible where it
was. I got to know that when you were probably trying to
leave the room; my key fell from the keyhole of the door when
you were leaving the room. I heard the sound, you didn’t hear
it. I followed you and saw you taking it to the kitchen. I peeped
at you as you were pushing it behind the bags of rice. Now,
Rose, can you see how useless you are? Your ears didn’t even
pick up the loud trampling of my feet while I was rushing to
my door to see who was there.
I collected the note and read it. I was motionless. John snaffled
it suddenly and wrote something more:
You want to know why I have forsaken you? Anyway, being
forsaken is what you deserve.
Why do I deserve to be? I replied. I had always crave
something like this. I had wished for so long to ask my father a
heart-to-heart question to know the state of his mind and the
reasons for all his inimical actions. Now it seemed he was ready
to pour out his mind to me when he wasn’t actually the person
I was referring to in the note. That was supposed to be the title
of my poem.
Yes, you deserve to be forsaken; why did you come to the
world, useless? You have never been of help to me in life and
you can never be.
I have been of help to you, father—a great help for that matter.
When was that?
On May 29, 1999, just last year, I helped you when you were
helpless. When the new president stormed the podium on the
handover day and spoke about his ascension and about his
ambitions for the country, your old TV ran out of voice, or
maybe the TV station lost its voice, you came in and tapped me
to come over to the parlour. I was there with you, watching
the sign language done at a corner of the TV. I wrote down
everything and gave it to you. You were happy you didn’t miss
the president’s speech that day.
My father read the note and trembled. It was conspicuous that
he was confused.
John didn’t utter a word by replying the note. He just walked
out of the parlour and went straight to his room. I have won.
How would a man answer the question addressed to God? I
thought amusingly. John is not God, therefore he shouldn’t
dare try to address my question. For all I cared, John is not my
father but a devil incarnate.
A week later, it was Christmas Day. Bode was in his robe as
expected. As for me, I didn’t know how to ask Toyosi for mine;
the one I wore that day. Bode held the horsetail and a walking
stick in his hands and walked like a chief. John was well-dressed
too, as well as Toyosi. It seemed they would be going out.
When Toyosi didn’t dress me up, I approached her to ask what
my fate was. She smiled and said, “Oh! Rose, come with me?”
I followed Toyosi out of the house for the first time since three
months. A cool wind settled on me. I could feel the yuletide.
The frontage had changed a lot, we now had a neighbor in the
other duplex. Toyosi asked me to wait for her. She entered into
the other flat. She came out pushing a wheelchair towards me.
A girl of around my age was sitting on the wheelchair.
Her mother came outside with a boy who appeared to be blind.
The boy was dressed for the Christmas as well as the girl on
the wheelchair.
Rose, here is a surprise for you,” Toyosi signed to me.
“I don’t understand,” I replied her.
“Look at that dress on her, it was the one I put on you last
week,” she signed to me. The mother of the child on
wheelchair was clueless. She was seeing me for the first time
since two months they packed in.
Toyosi told her something which I couldn’t hear. Maybe she
told her that I was their deaf housemaid, I wouldn’t know.
Toyosi turned to me and said, “I never had a dress for you. Her
mother asked me to help her go shopping for her son and
daughter and I did. I tested the dress on you because you have
exactly the same stature as lame Laide sitting here. Hope you
are not blind like blind Biodun standing beside his mother over
there. Merry Christmas, Rose!” she signed and began to leave
the house.

To be continued

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