Roses and Thorns, Episode 1


By Gideon Odiase


The sun came up early, spreading its golden rays across Papa Etim’s spacious compound. It brought with it a soft, warm feeling, unlike the previous night which was cold and frigid enough to make fingers twiddle. Emeka, Papa Etim’s youngest son knocked hard on the door of Etim’s room, both with the base of his clenched fist and the edge of his boots. “Get up sleepy head!” he shouted at the top of his voice, loud enough to awaken a polar bear from hibernation.  Etim, still curled inside a milk duvet given to him by his father, unwrapped himself from sleep’s enclave and peered through the window from his bed.

He never hated Sundays, he just did not like going to church. Having to wake up very early was the highpoint of it all. Mr Asukwo, popularly called Papa Etim by the neighbours and his family – as it is a norm in Nigeria to address parents by the name of their first child, whether this was borne out of the age-long tradition of scorning childless women remains to be ascertained. He was already dressed in a red native attire, made from expensive Da’ Viva clothing material which was one of many, his wife, Amarachi got for him.

Living in the eastern part of the country has its own benefits, one of which is having a variety of choices to make as regards purchase of items, even at a cheaper rate, making its reputation of being one of the most business oriented part of the country rightly earned. Another benefit could be the rich cultural and traditional values inherent therein. Abia, one of the states in the east is home to Mr. Asukwo and his family. Having the aforementioned characteristics and a lot more, Abia is one of the fast developing states and with its commercial centre, Aba, it hosts traders from the four cardinals of the country year in, year out.

The time was 7am and mother was becoming impatient with Etim… dressed in a typical Ibo woman attire, with her blue wrapper, having the crest of the church to match with her white top and blue head gear; a dress code for the Aba Christian Women Association (ACWA) in the ancient St. James Parish which is the oldest church in Abia state, founded in 1916. Eventually, Etim was ready, putting on an almost faded blue jean with a pink top many would argue looks girly, but that meant little to him. His oval face and well pointed nose and curly hair made him a look-alike for an Anglo.

Father Thomas’ sermon for that morning mass was really powerful, as evidently seen in the jumping and shouting of women, most of whom were members of ACWA. They cheered and clapped and the Father felt motivated to even speak more. It all played out like a comical drama before Etim who was clearly lost, maybe because of his disinterest or was he bothered about something? He had just finished his secondary school education and barely made it out with five credits in his O’ level result where he had the lowest credit in Mathematics. But he made it through. Just yesterday, his good friend, James, told him the result of the admission examination they wrote together in the University of Benin, Edo state, had been released. This did scare him the least, the news that James did not pass made his heart pound and his mind throttled down, through many insane and lowly thoughts. “James failed, what chance have I got?” he muttered to himself. He was still in that state of soliloquy when he felt a vibration, the vibes shook him back to consciousness, taking wind off the sails of his negative thoughts. “It’s only a text message”, he said, breathing out hot air heavily, from his boiling blood pressure. His heart raced again when he saw the sender, it was from the University of Benin (UNIBEN), he wanted to open the message, he really wanted to, but his twiddling fingers could barely hold the phone, let alone open the message. After taking off the steam through several batches of deep cleansing breath, he opened the message and the content made his eyes flash brightly like the heavenly comet. His gaped mouth drew the attention of Mama Etim, who was clearly unimpressed with his attitude of operating his phone during service. What she saw next paused her pulse for a moment. Etim was all in tears and smiles, and when his eyes met hers, she knew something had happened, something very good. She had not seen him cry since he was eleven. Now Eighteen years of age, she could still see the baby, behind his eyes, shimmering with silver tears. That evening, the atmosphere in the Asukwo’s home was lively and serene. His father wore the looks of a man proud of his son and so did his mother. The events thereafter would prove to be a new phase in Etim’s life, a new adventure, one which he’ll tell to every young man until his very last breath.


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