— Storytime online —

The clouds waved in the sky on a Thursday. Mr. Isigwe rolled the tires of his wheelchair and looked up to the sky often to watch its beauty. It was November when the sky was free from dark clouds—dark clouds that were heavy and didn’t wave. The dark clouds didn’t have the beauty of white clouds that shined like flickering white lights in the dark hallway of a president. Mr. Isigwe nodded as he watched nature’s beauty, and as he had often felt, he wished he could reach up to pluck some parts off and eat them. They would have no taste, but they would fill him up until every inch of his body had been reached. He would become a drop of honey at the bottom of a cup of water.

Mr. Isigwe looked on for some long minutes until his neck ached. He stopped looking. The little things mattered more to him in those days after the accident. He would take time to study things that didn’t mean much to him before. He had enough time to go around the garden in his house. He knew all the flowers, shrubs and trees in the graden. And in some days, he sat close to the gardener as the gardener trimmed the flowers and shrubs. He would shout at him when he wasn’t doing it well, and when he did it well, he never said anything. The slim gardener would often tremble anytime Mr. Isigwe was around the garden, watching him trim the flowers and shrubs. There was a day Mr. Isigwe threw a plastic bottle of water at the gardener for trimming the yellow bushes badly, and although the bottle missed the gardener, he skipped work for a week.

— Storytime online —

The gardener wasn’t the only one who suffered from the often boiling temper of Mr. Isigwe. The cook, the steward, the gate man and the entire members of Mr. Isigwe’s family groaned under the yoke of his temper that boiled and boiled and never got done. The previous day, the cook, a mother of seven children, was slapped by Mr. Isigwe for cooking a meal that didn’t suit him. The cook was smiling when he called her. She had rubbed her hands and thanked her God that she would be receiving Mr. Isigwe’s praise since the accident. Mr. Isigwe told her to come close, and like the fall of a dictionary from the top shelf of a large library, the slap embraced the right cheek of the cook. The cook moved back, hand on her cheek, and eyes opened widely. Her ears received the awful tunes of the bad musician goddess.

Mr. Isigwe sat on the wheelchair, calmly, and he stared at the air in front of him. He was at home all day, and the entire house bored him. He remembered some months ago, on the day of the accident, when he walked to his office smiling and talking loudly. He greeted everyone he saw that day. And the office affairs that day had been good. The marketers had come to the board of the company with good reports. The contract with African Delight Restaurants had been signed. He had turned around several times on his swivel chair. The day was the day of goodwill.

— Storytime online —

“Good evening, Di m,” a voice said behind him. He turned to find his wife, Mr. Isigwe, standing there. “How was your day?”

“Do you expect me to say fine?” he said, voice raised and hands waved with speed and energy. “You keep asking all these stupid questions!”

Mrs. Isigwe looked at him, and her husband couldn’t tell what her reaction was. She looked for a short time, and then she smiled and patted his shoulder. “We’re going to somewhere tomorrow. You don’t have to sit at home all day,” she said. Her husband focused his eyes on her black suit and her blue shirt. Her perfume entered deep into him and made him calm. He still liked that aspect of her: her good choice of perfumes. “You’ve heard of the Deep Healing Power of God Ministry at Emene.”

“No,” he said. “What do they do there?”

“I heard the pastor is a good man of God. God has done so many miracles through him. A person was even cured from AIDS there.”

“I don’t have AIDS!” he snapped. He hated his situation when his wife talked like that, equating AIDS with his crippled legs. Bread and milk butter wasn’t bread and shear butter. “I’ve told you to stop this.”

— Storytime online —

“Sorry,” she mumbled. She inhaled deeply and exhaled. “What I’m trying to say is that your prayer for good legs can be answered …”

“Answered by whom?”

“By God, of course, and you know that.” She placed her right palm on the upper surface of the wheelchair. She bowed her head and spoke calmly. “I’ve told you to seek God now than ever. He’s the only one who can save you from this situation. We’ve wasted almost all our money seeking the treatment in the hospital.”

Mr. Isigwe raised his right hand. “Point of correction!” he said. “The money is mine. All of the money is mine. Another correction is that I’m not wasting my money; I’m investing it on a quest for better health. You don’t know anything about business and investment, empty skull!”

She hissed. “You shouldn’t forget that I’m your wife, Mr. Isigwe. No sane man talks to his wife the way you just talked to me. It’s despicable.”

“Yours isn’t despicable, right?”

— Storytime online —

She turned and walked to the house. Mr. Isigwe watched her shoes’ heels hit the concrete walkway that ran through the lawn in a loud way. She walked and stopped close to the veranda of the house. She moved close to the allamanda flower nearby, beside the walkway and on both sides like guardian angels at the entrance of a holy place, and she picked a stalk from it. She inserted her middle finger into it. She brought the stalk closer to her nose and took a deep breath. Mr. Isigwe looked away, because he knew that the flower’s smell wasn’t nice. “You should come, Di m. I think you’ll not only be cured from your maimed legs, but also from your recent rage that might kill you!” She frowned, and crushed the stalk in her hands. She walked into the veranda, and Mr. Isigwe saw the aphid on her calves disappear behind the purple curtains of the sitting room.

He watched the glass door of the sitting room for some minutes. His mind worked round like an overworked houseboy. Before the accident, he’d been a regular church attendee, and to him church was an obligatory part of the week. His parents and his grandparents had taught him that God was more than a thousand diamond, and without Him, one was worthless. He’d kept the belief alive in his mind. Throughout his secondary school and university days, he’d held one position or another in church organizations. When he established his company, half of the profit of his first year was given to Him. And as his company grew—a baby growing into an adult in five years—and he’d always given large percent of his profit to Him. Sometimes, his wife had advocated that the money should be given to the unfortunate ones in the state, but he considered man’s lack of success as the result of his past sin or the sins his forebears.

The next day when Mrs. Isigwe pushed his wheelchair into Deep Healing Power of God Ministry, Emene, Mr. Isigwe still had his mind on this. He remembered how he’d prayed early that morning, fervently and loudly than he’d ever done, and it stunned him how differently he prayed that day. When his Kia car’s brake failed along Zik Avenue, he’d muttered, “God is in control. God is in control.” It was night, and the bright yellow streetlights illuminated the road. The car skidded, wobbled, like a man who had drunk a gallon of palm-wine. There was a crash into another car, and another and another and another, and then a tumble. The roof of the car came crashing on the roadside. He saw darkness and felt a hammer larger than a car hit his legs. God wasn’t there in his dream to assure him. He woke up on the hospital bed and listened to the sad voice of the doctor and the teary voice of his wife.

— Storytime online —

Mrs. Isigwe pushed the wheelchair, slowly. There were many people in the church already. The church was so large that it could contain more than five thousand people. Mrs. Isigwe looked around at the people who were in the church. An elderly woman fed a chained young man. They sat on a mat. The young man’s clothes were untidy, and he often shook his head fiercely like one in an electric chair. There was a middle-aged man lying on a bed, and a woman wiped his bare chest with a wet towel. The middle-aged man gasped, and Mrs. Isigwe imagined his spirit torn between two worlds. There was a blind man who sat alone on a plastic seat. Mrs. Isigwe took a deep breath. “We’ve to make the best use of this opportunity, Di m,” she said.

Mrs. Isigwe stopped in the middle of the church where she found space to leave the wheelchair. She looked at the family of five who sat nearby and nodded. The family also nodded after her nod.  She looked straight ahead as she passed the family to get an empty plastic seat after the ones they sat on. She got to the plastic seat and carried it with her as she walked towards Mr. Isigwe. When she got to where Mr. Isigwe sat, she kept the plastic seat beside him and sat down on it.  She looked towards the altar, but she couldn’t see much, because the altar was far away. She was certain that they wouldn’t see the pastor. If they wanted to see the pastor, they’d have to look at the projected image of him.

— Storytime online —

Mr. Isigwe’s eyes weren’t fixed on a single object; his eyes moved around, trying to make sense of the oceanic crowd. Mrs. Isigwe’s eyes were closed after she sat down, and her lips moved as she muttered prayers. Mr. Isigwe stared at the church, and then at his wife, and from the wife to the church. He held his chin in his palms. They had been Anglicans before the accident. After the accident, his wife had changed church, and from one church moved to another. Her friends and the workers at the company often gave her the information of the latest most powerful church in Enugu. Every week, she came back home with the information of a new and powerful church. It got to a time that Mr. Isigwe became certain that the church they attend one Sunday wouldn’t be the same for another Sunday.

The service started some minutes later. Mr. and Mrs. Isigwe saw the pastor’s projected image. He was a fat man in a big blue short-sleeved shirt and white shorts. The man held a microphone and spoke in rapid English and Igbo. The congregation rose and sat at his command. When the pastor left the altar and walked towards the congregation, some muscled men in black guarded him. Many people near the aisle stretched their hands to touch him, but they couldn’t. They only hoped and dreamed of what they wouldn’t have. A huge man broke through the guards of the pastor and hugged him. Mr. Isigwe looked at the projected image and wanted it to be false that the huge man was crying. He looked again, deeper and carefully. And truly, the huge man cried.

Mr. Isigwe relaxed on the wheelchair, and the church made something heavy land in him, filling him up. Instead of the fill up to assure him and assist him, it weighed him down. He watched as the guards yanked the huge man away from the pastor. He also watched as the pastor flung his right arm towards a particular section of the congregation, and there was commotion like a great wind working on trees, houses and poles. People staggered and fell on top of one another. He flung his hand on another section and it was the same. Mr. Isigwe shook his head and saw god in the pastor: a god in rich garb eating bowls and bowls of chicken, and the worshippers of the god in tattered clothes waiting for the pieces of bones thrown away by their god. He sighed. He pulled Mrs. Isigwe’s purple-and-white spotted gown. Mrs. Isigwe stood, her eyes closed. She didn’t turn. He pulled again. She turned.

— Storytime online —

“We need to leave this place,” he said. His wife’s eyes widened. “I don’t feel comfortable again in this church. I need to leave.” She stared. In the midst of the shouting and falling, she tried to understand her husband. Since the accident, he had become a new man entirely.

“How can you say that we should leave when the prayer has just started?” she said. She raised her voice so that she could be heard.

“I need to leave now!” he said.

She looked at him, her face surprised and her eyebrows furrowed. She turned her face away, closed her eyes and continued the prayer. Mr. Isigwe moved the wheelchair closer to his wife. He pulled her gown. She didn’t turn. He pulled the gown again with more force. She turned, and her face burned, a fire that burned a river. “You can go home!” She pointed towards the exit of the church. “If you leave me here and go home, I swear on my father’s grave that I will leave this marriage!” She turned and closed her eyes. She began to mutter prayers again.

— Storytime online —

Mr. Isigwe looked at his maimed legs and swallowed. He looked up and focused on the crowd that roared, thousands of lions lost in their prime. Men and women snapped fingers rapidly and waved their bowed heads from right to left to right to left. He wasn’t sure if he could be like the pastor again, a god in his own way. His god would lead all men that used the road and would make their vehicles skid and roll and roll until the metal will crumble like a Coke can in the hand of an angry man. He’d make sure all men felt the anguish he felt. He looked up, and he knew all hope was lost. His maimed legs would never be whole again.

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