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By Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema


Friday, October 15, 2010.


I paced the antiseptic-smelling, squeaky-clean passage like a devil seeking for a soul to devour. Sweat drenched my face; I had run out of handkerchiefs. Though my eyes were wide open I could not, indeed I dared not, gaze into the depths of my imagination. There are some things a man does not attempt unless he wants a one-way ticket to the land of Never-Never. In my ears, long after it had ceased, the soul-piercing keen of hundred-karat agony that had me pounding feverishly on the medicine-white door till a visibly angry Dr. Mayuwa came out continued.


‘‘What is happening to my wife?’’ I had thundered.


‘‘Onyeka, we have everything under control. She is in good hands.’’


‘‘Good hands, damnit, and she’s yelling in pain!’’


It had taken Mama and Aunt Helen’s efforts and considerable self-control on the part of the circus-fat doctor to restore my sanity. Now an hour had gone since the exchange and though all was quiet, I was not calm. If I heard as much as a whimper from behind that door I would break into the labour-room and Dr. Mayuwa and his team could go to hell.


Mama and Aunt Helen watched me with a calmness that shouted volumes about their intimate familiarity with this type of battle. I was Mama’s last child; there were a boy and a girl before me and both were married with children. Aunt Helen had spent thirty of her fifty years as a British-trained and certified nurse and supervised the birth of countless babies. Looking at her placid demanour you would not know that she had overseen the birth of the woman screaming off her head behind that damned door.


‘‘Onyie, come and sit down.’’ Her voice was a tranquilizer. But I could not. She came up to me and put her arm around me.


‘‘God is in control, Onyie. We have done our part; let the Lord do the rest, okay?’’


He had better, I half-prayed, half-threatened. Nothing must happen to Jane and the first fruit of our love. We had prayed; booked novenas and masses. In an adjacent room members of Aunt Helen’s prayer group were firing heavenly missiles. I love my food but had embarked on an involuntary fast since Jane was rushed to the hospital last night, over eight hours ago. But God had a sense of humour I could never understand; He kept quiet when you needed His answer desperately. It was not above Him to clinch deals with Satan. Remember the story of Job? Indeed we terrestrials are mere pawns in the hands of the celestials.


‘‘It is not my portion,’’ I almost shouted. I had no choice; my imagination had gone into overdrive.


Before Mama and Aunt Helen could react the door opened and Dr. Myuwa came out. One look at his stricken, weary eyes and I knew, even before I opened my mouth, that God and Satan had clinched the latest deal in the celestial realm.


‘‘Sorry, Onyeka, we lost both mother and baby.’’


Henry C. Onyema is a Nigerian writer. His works have been published online and in print.His short stories have won prizes in and outside Nigeria.

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