My uncle, Ube, was a great fisherman. He was my first example of a good man. Mama calls him so and our neighbours see him so. He goes to the river every day and never forgets to bring me fingerlings—daughters of the queen of the coast. Those he instructed mama to prepare for me with much pepper, to give me good health. I first ate it when I had caught a fever—but I found it wicked then, giving pepper to an ailing child; I now relish every bit and sip of Nkwobi soup. Occasionally, he gifts mama bowlful of fish that, she sells at the eke market.
Since Pa’s death, he has been good to Mama and me; he promised to see me to any level at school, if I remained a good girl. But, who doesn’t want to be in his good books like Itegiri, the daughter of our village Baptist pastor? Therefore, mama and I are most grateful for all his goodwill; even, the neighbours have kind words to say about him. Not just because he takes care of his maternal relations but he was such a generous man to all that comes his way.
He is found of children and plays with us as if he were our father. Our parents allowed this, to compensate for his lack of children. Uncle Ube has no wife and hardly thinks of getting one. When we play with him, he gifts out sweets, especially to the well-behaved ones, which I am always among.
He asks us to deep hands into his pockets and play with an Nsi’monkey that is hidden there; the longer we played the bigger were our rewards. Only Itegiri ever complained of not liking to play with the Nsi’monkey:
‘Nsi’monkey usually messes up my hand with Catarrh!’ she voiced, one day.
Uncle Ube called her a bad girl and we never called her along to Uncle Ube’s house anymore.
Uncle Ube came to our hut on the last eke market day when mama had gone to sell her fish. He asked after mama and I told him where to find her. He complained of tiredness and I gave him a stool in the room to rest. Moments later he called me and requested I play with Nsi’monkey
‘But, the fun would be lost without other children here?’ I complained
‘No, the better for you to take all the rewards.’ He countered
As I started playing with the Nsi’monkey; Uncle Ube reached out to grab my breasts, I wondered what he was up to. He smiled. He cupped my breasts in the bowl of his hands and smiled again.
‘You’re a good girl. If you continue to make me happy like this I would never let you suffer again’
I started losing consciousness but Uncle Ube’s hands were hurting me, yet I didn’t want him to take them off. He started talking again but they went muffled in my hearing.
‘…never let anyone know; not even your mother.’
Though lost to other words, that mention of mama stopped my heart and I jerked off from his laps. Mama has warned me about keeping secretes from her and how can her own brother tell me to do so.
‘Don’t do that, you don’t want to get me angry, do you? he asked in persuasive tone
Do you remember the Igbe feast garments that I promised you and your mother, I won’t get them for you again; you and your mother would be shamed by the community. Now, come here and play along I won’t hurt you’
I thought of the humiliation that mama would face if he kept his threat, and if what I am doing is right. Uncle Ube is a good man mama often says and why do I want to enter his bad books like Itegiri?
‘Nsi’monkey has poured catarrh on my hands, too.’ I complained.
Besides, why don’t you want Mama to know?’ I queried.
‘It’s because I want to surprise her.’ He said reassuringly.
‘Hope you will buy those Igbe garment for us still?’ I asked again
‘Yes, if you’ll be a good girl still.’ He said.
‘Why won’t she be a good girl?’ Mama’s voice thundered from the balcony
I ran inside to clean up my soiled hands before mama would think I have been playing with catarrh to irritate Uncle Ube.
‘Apkevwe, it is good that you are back’ Uncle fired back
‘Your daughter may have started joining bad groups you had better admonish her to remain a good girl, or else, I will hands off your affairs in this house.
‘Nweke! What has come over her? God forbid evil!
As I returned into the room, Uncle Ube stormed out of our hut.
Mama asked what happened but I couldn’t utter a word. I did not understand what suddenly turned up Uncle Ube’s rage; I haven’t said I won’t play with his Nsi’monkey.
Mama pleaded with me to be a good girl and continue to please the kind human spirit the gods had sent our way. She begged me to behave well not to incur the wrath of uncle Ube before the Igbe feast. She sent me to go and apologise to him before his anger settles down in his mind.
Uncle Ube was furious, I begged him and begged but he wouldn’t bug, so I dipped my hands down his pockets and grabbed at his Nsi’monkey. He smiled at my sudden use of initiative and rose to touch my breasts, I was hesitant but I remembered mama’s admonition to do everything that pleases him.
He took off his clothes to reveal a huge bulge down his member and I was scared.
Mama barged in, two hours later, and met me weeping in a pool of my own blood. She screamed. But, I passed out, thinking the world had come to an end.
No one has seen Uncle Ube since then, and most people look at me with some hidden scorn. Was I ever wrong to have heeded mama’s voice?