If Certain Things Did Not Restrain Me – 'Ewepu-Ihe-Anaso' I Would Have: A Short Story
When his fifteen-minute rendezvous ended, JD emerged from the thick sugarcane bush behind the two-story family house. It was well past midnight and the moon had only a glimmer of light left. Looking around, JD wondered why he had so many thoughts in his head. Nobody in their right mind would be awake, watching the backyard gate and waiting for him to return home. For all his worries, the grownups might not even realize he had been out of the house. Not when they had total darkness and the mosquitoes to contend with.
Uncle Foreman was the one person to avoid at all cost. From behind the bush, JD had checked multiple times. Luck, it seemed, was on his side, as there was no sign of life in Uncle Foreman's bedroom which was located upstairs, with windows overlooking the backyard. Foreman, he knew, owned a gun and wouldn't hesitate to use it should he mistake him for a bandit. Why old men did not appreciate the romantic needs of young men baffled JD.
Confident in the shield darkness provided, he was free from fear and even quickened his pace towards home. The faster he could get across the intervening grass lawn between the bush and the backyard wrought iron fence, the harder it would be for anyone to wake and confront him. A wisp of wisdom blew by and he agreed that the elders were right when they said, 'If one hurried one would avoid obstacles.' But what about fear? They forgot to say what to do with fear. 'Slow down and slink towards the gate like a cat,' he said to himself.
With one outstretched hand the young man pushed on the gate and the chains behind it clattered. 'These Obanshis [children who still defecate in their pants] never forget to lock the gate at eight o'clock, the exact time ordered by Uncle Foreman. What do they know? May dysentery dwell on them! ' he swore under his breath.
Not that he had any problem scaling the fence — he had done it successfully on the two previous nights and hadn't woken anybody. Had there been a strand of barbed wire over the wrought iron fence his entry would have been more difficult, even bloody, but not impossible. He prided himself as a good climber. 'Why don't you genuflect and thank Jehovah for the absence of barbed wire?' he pondered, but did not follow through. If nobody had stopped him two nights in a row, nobody saw him and nobody was looking for him. He almost smacked himself for making this entry appear more complex than it deserved.
With his right hand still on the gate, he deliberated. 'Why am I hesitant tonight and not last night or the night before?' It dawned on him – the phenomenon of the third attempt. There is something frightening about third attempts; streaks of good or bad luck always reverse the third time around.
Uncle Foreman liked to sleep on his right side with his right ear over the bed. Because of that, he said, he was able to pick out all footsteps, including those made by ghosts. For some days now he had asked himself the same question over and over again: 'When will this young man, JD, have a change of heart, and stop going around at night? Sooner or later street marauders will knock him on the head and discard him, leaving no trace of his body. Wouldn't it better I did it for him? That way at least his corpse would be found and buried by his folks. Tomorrow, if this behavior continues, I shall show him that quick stealthy legs are seen by quick stealthy eyes. '
As JD shifted from the gate and began to study the part of the fence to climb, an idea flew into his head; to hurry back into the sugarcane bush, find a strong fallen stem, and use it to vault over the fence. At first, that appeared real and reasonable. Thinking more about the plan, though, he realized that an inevitable rough landing would roar across the household and send grownups searching for the intruders.
Yet his heart still troubled him on using the same technique the third time. Other ways exist for those who search in earnest, he reasoned. Between the bottom rail and the ground, there was a gap which, if widened, could take the head and the body of a slim young man. He turned around, looking for a sharp instrument. A fat, juicy sugarcane stick revealed itself, only to crumble when used against the ground.
Left with no other option, he decided to take a chance with his third entry. He grabbed a vertical rail next to him, but hesitated before releasing it.
He studied the wrought iron fence again. Three strides from the low rail, through the middle rail to the last rail, would get him on top. He clutched hold of a vertically placed iron bar and hauled his body up.
He found a footrest on the lower rail and placed the right foot. Holding the iron part with both hands he lifted the left leg to join the right leg. Only two more rails to climb, he nodded with satisfaction. Like a monkey on a tree branch, he switched hands onto the smooth surfaces of the top projecting post caps, adjusted his grip in a firm manner, waited, and took some deep breaths.
From an upstairs back room overlooking the backyard, a hand had cracked a narrow gap in the window curtain. Two unblinking eyes followed the silhouette of a shadowy figure as it emerged from the sugarcane bush. The eyes tracked the silhouette through a series of stalls and starts before it began walking decisively towards the backyard gate.
As JD cleared the first rail on his way up the wrought iron fence, the observer fastened the ties of his pajamas, covered his hairy chest with a brown towel which he hung around his neck, and then opened a cupboard in a side wall and retrieved a gun. There was no need to bring along the long whip resting in the tall narrow cabinet behind the door, he connected. Three steps out of his bedroom he veered left to use the steep corner stairs that led down directly into the backyard. With the moon out of any glimmer the observer walked unseen until he got behind the gate, from where he watched JD astride the wrought iron fence.
Though a fast climber, JD was stiff tonight. Two long minutes to get on the last rail of the fence. What was left? He only needed to get his right leg over the fence, and then his entire body. A job well done, he wanted to say, but instead felt the presence of someone holding a short metallic object, and then heard a voice.
'Ewepu-ihe-anso,' [If it wasn't for something restraining me] stated the gravelly voice, 'I would have shot the brain out of your skull. Get off the gate forthwith. '
JD released his grip on the rails, hopped down and froze in a hunched position. From where he stood, on the outside of the wrought iron fence, only a couple of vertical posts shielded him from his captor.
Though frozen, JD was occupied with thoughts. If there was ever a time to get into someone else's mind, this was the time. What would be restraining Uncle Foreman from pulling the trigger? Only a couple of open iron bars separated them. When action is needed lions know no restraint. Foreman was a lion.
'Do you drink ekpeteshi [home brewed gin]?' interrupted the captor.
'No sir,' said the captive, certain his captor wanted to make sure he didn't die drunk.
'Then what made a breastfed baby like you an uncontainable night beast?'
'I don't know, sir' responded the captive, even though his heart was planning another romantic escapade.
'Nwokem, my young man,' his captor continued, 'your end has come. Every night I have watched you scale '(he pointed with his chin)' over this wrought iron fence, like a bandit. Where you go nobody would ever know. '
Then there was an instant of silence, during which the captor did a soul search. What separates strength from weakness is the ability for strength to follow up with a threat made. With that in mind he moved a few happy fingers over the trigger.
Instantaneously JD died. He passed knowing that he was not alone, and will not be the only lad to lose his life for a teeny teenage rendezvous.
Staring at the frozen body of JD, Foreman regretted he had not brought his whip with him. Several lashes with the whip would have warmed the young man up, and would have been just right for the sin of lust. His failure to act at once allowed room for doubt to occupy his heart. Back and forth, he weighed whether his restraint was a sign of overpowering strength or the beginning of weakness that occurs over time.
Unsure of the answer, he lowered the hand carrying the gun, and JD lived to tell the story.