SISTER REBECCA

Sister Rebecca was my version of Mother Teresa. She was three or four years old in our parish, but such was her kindness and love for the villagers through services as little as sharing milky smiles, visiting all, comforting sundry, as enormous as building a block of six classrooms for Girls High, and running nightly adult classes that the people of Ezira spoke great of her and my people never spoke good of anyone. Sister Rebecca was a big deal.

My people have a good quality, if it could be called good, of spinning yarns. Reverend Sister Rebecca became their favourite theme and they told a thousand stories about her. They said The Holy Mary dropped by a few occasions to see her. No one had ever seen the Holy VIP, and I suspect a jester began this as a joke but it was now yarned by respectable people including my father who saw action in Federal Polytechnic Oko, so that this now became a local truth. They said she once fasted for a marathon twenty-one days and twenty-one nights. This was more than half of the time Jesus Christ managed, and she was just a woman. They said she had healed a woman of her diabetes. No one ever gave this woman’s name but it was normal, for even the Bible sometimes refers to a certain man, sometimes uses unnamed characters; why, she healed a certain woman. So many outrageous things, my people said about the Reverend Sister.

Sister Rebecca was a great woman.

Two months back, I came home after a bout of malaria struck me down. It could have been hunger that manifested through malaria because after three nutritious square meals at home, malaria left me though I had taken series of drugs in the campus. It must be hunger; officially, malaria. That is by the way, I was home is the point.

Having been cured of malaria, I became hungry for a walk, to go out and survey the village’s latest brave attempt at urbanisation. But I waited until my mother left for Nkwo Umunze and my father left for his second home in the bush. It was important that no one knew of my cure yet, so as not to lose a large chunk of care. With the coast cleared, I took my walk. I tried not to think about the test I missed yesterday. I tried not to think of the make-up test; Dr Okafor had sworn he would never give a make-up test since he didn’t work in a cosmetic industry. Evil man.

A couple of houses from our house, I reached the gate of the house Chief Obodo built for the church, where reverend sisters live. No, the sisters, three of them, didn’t live in the parish house where two red-eyed reverend fathers reside; as I once overheard my father saying, you do not use ear-pick for the eyes. I didn’t understand but I know the Bible advocates the separation of sheep from goats. The Igbos in their wisdom separate goats from yams. Rhema!

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I decided to drop in and say hi to Sister Rebecca. I loved the way she pronounced my name and I fearfully wished she remembered my name. I pushed the gate open. I stepped in. Sister Rebecca ran out of the house. I wanted to dash off, and I could have lowered Usain Bolt’s record, then I heard her laugh, uneasily. My heart returned to my chest, slowly.

‘Lizard in my room,’ she said. Sister Rebecca was in her thirties but she possessed a small body and a pretty innocent face that kept her saintly portrait at twenty-five. She was wearing singlet over above knee-length skirt. The singlet sagged a little so that it revealed a significant chunk of the canal in her chest. I refused to look twice so that heavenly fire would not burn my eyes blind.

‘I will drive away the lizard,’ I said. I am not afraid of lizards. I was a little surprised a whole Reverend Rebecca was afraid of lizards, enough to threaten to burst her lungs. I am only afraid of rats and snakes; I believe these would make her eminence pee in her panties. God forgive me.

I passed the magnificent sitting room with an incredible feeling of space to her plush bedroom, with a raised broom. I saw no lizard. She said the lizard must have hidden under the bed. I dropped the broom, lifted the bed and shifted it off the wall. My eye bulged. ‘Chim o.’

‘What is it?’ she asked. I couldn’t bring myself to say it. Sister Rebecca came over. She looked. She lost colour. The rolls of condoms on the rug stared at us.

‘I–we, ah, er…’ she stammered. ‘We use it to sensitise the local girls. HIV Aids is terrible, you know…’

The lizard dashed out of the bed, the woman of God screamed and jumped. I pursued. It entered the half closed toilet; I followed and killed the sinner. As I lifted the death by the tail my eyes caught a waste basket filled almost to the brim with used condoms and balled tissue papers soiled with dry blood-sperms. A wave of nausea hit me as a painful wave tore across my stomach.

I nearly collided with Mother Teresa at the door. ‘Did you see anything?’ she asked me, her eyes imploring.

‘I have malaria,’ I replied.

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