This time he would obey mummy. He wanted to see that good smile that lit up her face whenever she was pleased with him. He liked that smile. It wasn’t like the one he had seen her give daddy so many times. And when she would smile this bad smile daddy would just keep talking. The last time he had almost told daddy, shut up, can’t you see that mummy feels like slapping you! It hadn’t happened yet, but he thought one day mummy just might.
Strapped in with his seat belt in the back seat his legs started to shake. He forced them to be still. Mummy had said not to move. “Stay where you are, Soji. If you come out ehn, you will see what I will do to you.” Mummy had parked beside the road and crossed to the other side to buy the boli and fish that would hold them till dinner was ready. He would obey mummy today. He didn’t want it to be like that day when mummy had asked him to leave the kitchen because she was frying fish and didn’t want the oil to jump on him. When mummy had turned her back he had gone closer to the pan. He wanted to know what made the oil jump like that when they put fish in it. He put his face close to the pan. He heard a popping sound and started to marvel at it, before the pain registered and he screamed. Mummy had given him a conk before rubbing Vaseline on his forehead where the oil had jumped. The wound did not heal before his sixth birthday last two weeks, and that was why he had a dark spot on his head in all the pictures. He unconsciously raised his hand to touch his head. He would obey mummy today. If he kept her happy, maybe she would agree to buy him ice cream from Skippers. Yum.
He looked out the window and knew at once that today would not be the day. He quickly checked to see that mummy was still haggling with the boli woman. Then he unstrapped the seat belt and slipped out of the car and into the gutter to follow the pink baby chicken that had walked past. He had seen white chickens, black chickens, black and white chickens, grey chickens, brown chickens, even orange chickens. He had never seen pink. He crept along, following the chick away from the car. If it was aware of Soji’s presence it didn’t act like it. He wondered if the chick would lead him to its mother, in all her pink glory. He couldn’t wait to tell his friends. A pink chicken!
The chick stopped, one leg suspended mid-air, cocked its head and let out a shrill, pitiful sound. It was crying! Tears sprang to Soji’s eyes as he realized the chick had lost its mother. Soji knew his mummy had bad smiles and could conk very well, but he didn’t want her to be lost. He would adopt the chick! He would take it home and feed it grains of rice and garri. It would become part of their family. A pink mummy chicken was pretty awesome, but who needed a pink mummy chicken when they had him? He inched forward to grab the chick. It tried to run away, but Soji got it. There, there, Soji thought as he smoothed the feathers of the shrieking chick, everything will be fine.
He climbed out of the gutter, careful not to hurt the chick. Mummy’s car was no longer where he had left it. There was a big tipper where the car had been, and beneath it he could just make out the red of mummy’s now squashed Kia. He looked across the street, and there was mummy in the boli woman’s arms, both of them on the floor. Her hair was scattered and she was shaking, rubbing herself on the floor. He had never seen mummy cry. He ran across the road to meet her. Maybe the pink chick would cheer her up.
The boli woman was the first to see him. She shook mummy and pointed, pushing her to sit up, to look at him. He raised the pink chick like a trophy and saw mummy slowly start to smile, even with the tears. It was her good smile. He smiled back. He knew the pink chick would make her happy.
Uche Okonkwo loves a good story, whether she’s reading or writing it. She works as an editor and freelances in her spare time.