Dedicated to Bruce Jenner, an ex-man
Chief Raph Ikeagwu woke up one morning to discover he had transformed into a woman over the night. It had started with an itchy feeling in his left breast. He had reached lazily for the petulant breast then his hand froze. His breast which had been as flat as his soles had now grown into the shape of a rectangular pawpaw with the crooked softness of rotten mango. With humbling fear he reached for the other breast and ‘Chineke’ dropped from his mouth.
Even his voice had metamorphosed. His harsh bass had been replaced with an untreated soprano. It had also dropped enormously in tone, taking, rather the comic urgency of a trapped rodent. Chief Raph scrubbed both eyes with the back of his hands. He didn’t wake up, it wasn’t a dream, though it was vividly dreamlike, more like a nightmarish reality. Even his hands which were dominated with veins and withering hair now looked differently, or was it his eyes? The veins were now countable, the hair almost human, or was he drunk?
He brought shaky legs down to the torn carpet which had bravely protected a large chunk of the dignity of the broken floor.
A knock landed on the door. ‘Papa,’ it was Onyiye, his last daughter. She had been living with him now, with her two daughters, for three months. She left her husband because he had beaten her. This was the fourth time she was coming home for this flimsy reason. Why should Onyiye pack her bags whenever her husband touched her a little, and leave the house? A true man should beat his wife now and then. But his daughter, proud like her late mother, had refused to understand this, she would leave the house, bringing dishonour to his name, a red capped chief like him.
‘Papa,’ Onyiye knocked harder.
‘Ogini?’ that shrill voice, again.
Silence. Chief Raph waited, preparing his voice, thickening it for a verbal offensive. Then Onyiye’s departing footsteps reported. Good for her. He had a monstrous issue at hand, no time to massage sulking egos. He rose to his feet. His tiny waist had expanded considerably, and his hitherto rigid hips had curved with added flesh. What obscenity!
He made for the desk under the heavily netted window full of miscellaneous stuffs–his radio, a bottle of gin, old newspapers, a battered hymnal, an ancient Igbo Bible, a can of snuff, sachets of half drunk drugs, a diminishing cheap toilet soap, an half eaten kola nut, a broken mirror, an abandoned chewing stick, etc. His hand connected with the mirror. He refused to pay attention to his heart which was engaged in terrifying beating, even knocking on his chest, deafening him. As he picked up the mirror he noticed that his hand quaked a little, and that tiny beads of sweat lurked between his fingers. He lifted the glass up. He looked at his reflection.
‘Whoooooah! Whoooooah! Whoooooah!’
The glass fell from his hand and shattered on the floor, in protest.
‘Whoooooah! Whoooooah! Whoooooah!’ He couldn’t stop, like a radio with a broken dial knob, his lungs screamed away. An angry knock landed on the door, interrupting his overflow of emotions.
‘Papa?’ Onyiye called. An angrier knock followed.
‘What, ogbanje? Go away, pest.’
The angriest knock.
Chief Raph decided to punish her with his tongue, cause her injury, but her next words stopped him cold, midsyllable. ‘That’s not my father’s voice.’ In his agitation he hadn’t realised that he had been venting in the borrowed voice of a witch.
Someone said something in reply to this, and Raph discovered she had company. The person spoke again. It was Cletus. Cletus the fowl thief. Of all the people to call it was this good for nothing ill-ambitious petty criminal. Raph was already limited by the gods by bearing five daughters with his wife, even the three women he had impregnated outside had borne daughters. He was cursed with the girl child blood in his loins, a repayment for a major transgression in his previous life, perhaps. But his biggest curse was his last daughter Onyiye. First she refused his directive to remain in her father’s house and bear children in her father’s name, she married that worthless carpenter. To torment him more, she refused to remain in her husband’s house.
Now she had brought this low life to the house to desecrate his red cap. This humiliation lent venom to his tongue and he opened his mouth, but stopped when he remembered the witch’s voice.
He slumped on his bed. His breast had frozen him, his voice had disgraced him but the greatest evil was his face. His respectable white beard had disappeared, replaced with a few whiskers; his well tended mustache had varnished; even his hairline which was a great three inches removed from the forehead had made a brave charge to cover lost ground. His high cheekbones had lost their aggression; the three permanent lines on his forehead had been erased. Overall his entire face had rounded in a shameless attempt at beauty which was comical. He had been robbed!
‘Nnanyi,’ Cletus slapped the door. ‘Open this door.’
Anger bit hard into Chief Raph’s heart. Open this door. An ordinary fowl thief ordering a red cap Chief.
‘I think your father is with a woman in there.’
‘No, he never brings his women friends home. No, something has happened.’
‘Like what?’ Cletus asked. ‘Maybe he’s drunk.’
‘No, he is not. It’s something more serious.’
The other sighed.
They are talking about me like I do not exist, the way you will talk about soup ingredients. This crayfish is burnt. This ogiri is rotten. Like that. Me, a chief, a chief!
‘Papa,’ the daughter called. No answer. ‘I believe the person is trying to imitate my father.’
Chief Raph Ikeagwu thickened his voice and said, ‘May Amadioha break your necks.’
‘You see what I mean? The someone has my father’s venom but not his voice.’
Cletus sighed. ‘Let’s contact the Umunna.’
‘No, Cle, whatever evil is in there I want to see it first. Break the door.’
He hesitated, she added, ‘I tell you to break the door. He’s my father. I will take the consequences.’
Cletus said something and left, probably to go get a bar. No they cannot see me like this, Chief Raph made to go under the bed. He stopped himself. A chief does not run from his house. A true man defends his stead no matter the opposition… Wait, am I still a man? Still a chief? He knew what makes a man a man isn’t visible. Yes, he had lost his beards, his voice and now had breasts, but these were secondary. A beard uplifts masculinity, breasts humiliates manhood, but the heart of manhood is the manhood.
He decided to check his manhood. He did the sign of the cross, his first in a decade and reached for his boxers (actually the manufacturers intended to make a skirt but changed their mind in the last minute). He slipped his hand into his skirt-boxers, in search of manhood. His palm hit a bunch of hair. This was no problem, God made the hair for male and female. He caressed lower praying his palm to hit a mould and rise to the phallic hill of his apparatus. To his ultimate horror, his fingers reached what appeared to be a slope. He willed his hand to stop but it was too late, his middle finger had touched the bank of a damp canal. He confirmed his final humiliation when this finger entered a small but apparently deep hole. This was it, he was cooked, his chi had sold him to the evil one. His penile identity had been dislodged by an inferior genital. Eww, aru, aru! How could this be, a red cap chief with a woman’s something? And, as if in response, a thunderous blow landed on the door. That was when the heart attack hit him/her.
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Image source. Stolen, Facebook