I remember in the days of old, when my chest was still flat and I didn’t know how babies were made. Yes, those are the days I speak of. That was when I had my first experience of WAR.
I remember it so vividly because it is never easy to forget the first time a person experiences something as ravaging as a WAR.
I was in the kitchen, doing my duty – washing dishes with all honour and glandeur. Not knowing I would be called up to battle at any moment.
I heard screams,
“Where e dey?”
“Daddy, e dey under the chair.”
“No allow am run o, check that side! Check that side!” Those were the orders given to my brother by my father.
“Daddy, see am! See am eh! E don enter the kitchen!” Screamed brother.
After I heard brother say “kitchen”, I became alert. This was my territory. The ball was in my court. I had to prove my honour. I had to do something. I picked up a broom and took the posture of a woman ready for battle.
Father entered the kitchen and gave the following speech –
“Daughter, guard the main door. Son, guard the door to the store room and I shall guard the door to the backyard.
Remember, today is the day you prove how authentic of a Nigerian you are. You cannot be a good wife or husband if you don’t know how to kill a rat.”
And then he gave the final command, “Do not let the rat out of your sight.”
Now, the rat was under the freezer which was close to the main door which is the door I happened to be guarding. How convenient.
The rat hunt began. All three of us, sticking our brooms underneath the freezer, in every which way. Just to make this rat come out.
It was not an easy battle for me. If a man tells people he killed a rat, everybody would believe him. Whether it was true or not. If I told people I killed a rat, my statement would be followed by a series of “hahas”. I had to prove myself in front of these men so as to have allies. I had to prove that whatever a man could do, a woman could do it better.
As you can imagine, I had never been so alert in my life. Adrenaline pumping, soapy greasy hands holding my broom and then the rat came out.
The grayish black, 3kg weighing rat came out and I ran.
This was not your average white people mouse or mice. I repeat, it was not a white cute mouse with a pink pretty round nose and tail.
It was a rat. A black people’s rat. The kind of which you hear tales about. Tales of rats who conquered cats in their kingdoms. These are the kind of rats that made cat owners throw their cats away. It was this kind.
There was no where to run to. But boy did I run. I ran away from the freezer to my assigned post. But something weird was happening.
As I ran, it seemed as if the voices of father and brother kept following me. It was strange. If the rat was out, father and brother were supposed to chase after the rat and not me. Except, the rat was behind me and chasing me. Which would make father and brother come after it and that would make it seem like they were coming after me. Right?
Right. After I got to my post, I turned around and saw my soon to be allies running towards me. They kept hitting their brooms on the floor with strength and aim but it seemed like the more they hit the ground, the closer they got to me. What it seemed, was what it was.
I was starting to panic and then a command came from father, “daughter! Hit it! Hit it!” I lifted up my broom and it was the worst mistake of my life. Because just as I was about to do that, the enemy ran up my feet, went past my stomach and headed straight for my chest.
I’m Nigerian, if not, I would have fainted.
I threw the broom away. Struggled with the 3kg weighing enemy who was now tangled in my shirt buttons and I just decided to die.
I didn’t die.
There was no where to run to. Every door was shut. I know it was shut because while I was trying to de tangle myself from the enemy, I stepped back and tried to push the main door open. Now that I remember it, I should have just pulled the door. By this time, I was half naked and technically crazy.
Children, when I tell you that battles won in the kitchen are great battles, believe me.
I have told you stories of battles of how mother caught me stealing meat from the pot because it was too hot and not easy to chew. I blame sister for bringing it down from the stove too soon.
I have also told you the story of how mother caught me, again, stealing peak milk because she asked me to spell ‘crook’. But nothing compares to the War Against Rats.