The heat! I was sweating profusely, like a fish out of water. Yeah, I know that expression is a clichéd one. But I am a priest, not a Chinua Achebe or a Wole Soyinka, or a Nana Awere Damoah so save me that look. Back to what I was saying. I had dealt with several confessions and I was exhausted. It was almost noon. I was just about to leave when I saw her approaching the penance box. She looked depressed. I resumed my position in the box.
Her voice was in sharp contrast to her outward appearance. “Good afternoon, Father.” I could not help but savor the sweet taste of her voice in the mouth of my ears! It was when she greeted again that I realized I did not respond the first time. I stammered a response.
She began, “Father, I used to be a very happy and content woman until …until a few months ago when that thing, that evil, heartless, malefic, malevolent, vicious phenomenon came our way.”
My interest was aroused. Who was she? And why all those big words? Curiosity pushed me to ask, “What phenomenon?!”
From a secret little crack in the wood, I observed her. Tears trickled down the corner of her eyes and she made no attempt whatsoever to wipe them. “Father, the d..d..duu…dum…dum, dumsor.” A faraway look took over her face and it appeared she was having painful flashbacks. I urged her to continue and that no sin was too great to be forgiven.
In a shaky voice, she continued. “I am a very busy woman. I do a lot of things to busy myself just to take my mind off all the emotional pain I go through. I have been married for 15 years but I have never been able to conceive. I have no friends because I have realized that human beings only make friends because of their own selfish interests. Father, because of that, I am a loner. But I had this special friend who was closer to me than any man or woman. And I …we killed him! Father, I … and dumsor…dumsor and my crazy husband and I…we killed him!!!” The sobs broke out like water from a broken dam. She paused for a brief moment, ostensibly to wipe the tears. Then she took up her story again.
“Father, I do not keep any maids. I do everything in my house myself, and my lazy drunkard husband does nothing at all to help. That man is something else. Many times, he just disappears without warning. After stealing a valuable item of mine, he sells it off on the black market and uses the proceeds to sustain himself for the number of days he goes away. I am only in the marriage because I am far advanced in age and it is too late to leave him and start life afresh. Besides, what will people say? Father, my husband is never there for me but my deceased friend used to be there for me each time I needed him. And all three of us, Jabo, my husband and me, we stayed under one roof peacefully. Until the incident.”
Her story was beginning to sound mysterious. Who in this world stays with both husband and best friend in one house? That was some strange stuff.
The penitent proceeded. “I have this really bad problem of rodent infestation in my kitchen. Every night, these rats and mice come out and rehearse their drumming skills on my cooking equipment. And they are bad drummers too!” I smiled. I liked her sense of humor. “So I decided to annihilate them once and for all. Early the next morning, I mixed powdered rat poison with some food and placed it at vantage points in the kitchen. Then I left for work.” She sniffed loudly. “Father, I wanted to inform my husband of what I had done because he had gone AWOL that same time but my phone had gone off the previous night after the 48-hour “dumsor” in my area. And unfortunately, my generator had also developed a fault.”
A long pause came next. She sniffed
“I came back in the evening to find my Jabo sprawled beside my husband in the kitchen! The drunk idiot was snoring but my sweetheart was foaming at the mouth. I rushed Jabo to a facility for emergency medical assistance but it was too late; he was already dead.” A sad smile washed across her face. I was also overcome with sadness. This was a very pitiful tale. I did not know what to say. So I asked her whether she suspected any foul play to which she said no. Her husband did not know about the poison so how could he have intentionally killed him? I wanted to ask more questions of what actually happened but I did not want to come across as being too probing. I was speechless, so I asked sheepishly: “Has he been buried yet?”
She looked amused. “Father, Jabo was my dog.”
I almost banged the box! At this point I was fuming! Ah!!! Really??? A dog? And she had kept referring to it as if it were a man. Not that she was some “oburoni” too (“oburoni” means “white man”, or in this case, “white woman”). I kept my cool.
“You have done nothing wrong in the sight of God. You were a victim of circumstances. For your act of reconciliation, say the Hail Mary thirty-nine times daily for three days and you will be okay. Our Lord is a forgiving Father.”
The joy in her voice was noticeable. “I am very grateful, Father.”
“The good Lord appreciates you, my daughter.”
She rose up and went away. A few minutes later, I stormed out of the confessional booth and almost bumped into Father Marcus at the chapel entrance. The anger on my face was evident. And why wouldn’t it be?
Tell me about dead dogs and dumsor!
By : Leslie Akplah and Nana Elikem, Writers threesixtyGh