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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - the foul stench of Father’s drinking, fingers lightly skimming a half-full beer bottle, Christmas, My Father snored his life away, my mother.

How does Christmas make you feel? What does it mean to you? Family. Love giving. Food galore. Celebrating those who can’t celebrate themselves. Beautiful decorations. That honest-to-God Christmas air. Presents as high as the eye can see. I guess it must be nice. To expect it. To miss it when it’s over.

Not me.

I hated Christmas. To me, it was the smell of desperation, the foul stench of Father’s drinking, mother’s struggle to patch the holes in clothes that belonged to a raging fire. Seriously, no amount of diesel could be enough for those washed-out, shabby rags. It was the sound of a creaking house tired of harboring five noisy brats too small to understand, and myself.

“Nate, mother wants you!” Sierra, my immediate junior, shouted upstairs from where she was fervently scrubbing the dirty concrete floor of the small room that served as a dining room, a parlor and a bedroom. I sighed from where I had sprawled on my thin mattress, trying to pretend that I was in another planet and made my way down the crumbling concrete we called a staircase. “She’s in the farm.” She mumbled around a particularly tough spot. I don’t know why she bothered. That floor had never been white or clean since the day I was born. My Father snored his life away on one of the three threadbare chairs in the room, the tips of his fingers lightly skimming a half-full beer bottle. I made sure to ‘accidentally’ trod on his toes as I walked past. He shuddered violently and the bottle fell and broke.



I was still smiling as I closed the door on Sierra’s maddened expression and sputtered curses. It was a shame that no matter how much he imbibed, the potbelly his mates had developed, had completely missed him.

The day was bright and windy and I hated it. My smile died off immediately as I made my way to the small patch of land beside my Father’s house. Past the age-worn, navy blue Santana parked on the dry grass in front of the house, my three brothers and sister, ages 9, 9, 8 and 6 respectively, played a game on the deserted street. I wasn’t worried about passing cars or kid snatchers, they were smart enough to remain within sight of each other and my mother’s left eye. Without looking up from where she was watering her beloved spinach, she thrust a dust-stained paper into my hand and a couple of rumpled notes.

“I need this from the store.”

That was another thing. Christmas cooking. Where we had to slave away in a hot, tiny, windowless kitchen to prepare a shabby meal and eat as a family.

I hated the supermarket. Not because I had to trek as money for transport couldn’t be wasted on trek-able distances. No, it was because of them. The ‘looks’ I got from those families. You know the ones. All covered up to ward off the harmattan chill. In their nice, perfumed clothes as they strolled about laughing at each other’s lame jokes. The way they wrinkled their noses, surreptitiously of course, and tried not to look in disdain at the scraggly, poorly dressed Okoye family. Like we didn’t cut their grass every other day of the year, didn’t weed their plants, didn’t pack their dog’s shit or clean their houses. Like they didn’t drive by my Father’s house on their way to work. Like we didn’t attend the same government schools as their children.

I never screamed a word though. I bent my head, got what my mother wanted, lots of canned foods, ignored the cashier except to fork over cash, trekked back home and had a good, nice cry in the room I shared with my brothers. Like I did every other Christmas season.


Written by:
Thea Onyekwuo

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - the foul stench of Father’s drinking, fingers lightly skimming a half-full beer bottle, Christmas, My Father snored his life away, my mother. An African Literary Blog
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