Whenever he spoke, it was with a gentle voice. Even when he chastises me, his voice was soft most of the time. He was never harsh to me.
One day, he came home sad. The lorry he used to support his rental business had been stolen. It was driven away in the mechanic’s workshop. Two of his personal cars had crashed earlier, at different times in a month.
The loss of the lorry took its toll on the family’s economy. He couldn’t deliver orders of chairs and tables for occasions with his own vehicle. Gradually, orders went down till the business experienced a near-collapse. He was left only with his bank job to cater for his family. Despite the predicament, he never showed any sign of frustration. Remarkably, he never transferred any sort of aggression to his wife and kids.
Whenever he came home from work; late in the night, I would have slept off on the brown rug in the sitting room. After taking his meal, he would always carry me into the bedroom he shared with mummy.
In one of those conventional nights, my father came back from work around 9.30 PM. On a normal day, I would have slept off because I’d to prepare for school the next day. But holiday was fast approaching. We had finished our exams and had gotten our report cards. When I got mine, I was worried. I had dropped from the third position to the tenth in class. I reasoned that the family’s slumping economy had affected me.
Though I was a boy, I could sense that all was not well. I’d heard mummy and my father argue a few times over money. Mummy had always accused him of being an obstinate person. She would always make reference to when he converted one of the personal cars of the family against her wishes into a taxi and it eventually got damaged in the accident.
I could feel the effect of the slump through the food I was served. I used to have huge chunks of meat in my plate but all of a sudden I started seeing small pieces. Shopping was no longer regular as before. My father couldn’t afford the game stations I saw with other kids.
That night, I was uneasy as I saw my father walk into the sitting room. I ran to him and he carried me close to his chest.
When he carried me to his chest, he didn’t notice the blandness in my face. He didn’t know something was wrong until my mother announced it as he sat down on the settee.
‘Lanre’ mummy called. ‘You ought to have reported yourself.’
‘What’s the matter?’ my father asked with genuine concern; his eyes narrowed on me. ‘What’s the problem?’
‘Oya go and bring your report card,’ mummy said.
When I handed it over to him, he was shocked. ‘Lanre what happened to you?’
I didn’t know what to say. I just stared blankly, thinking about how I’d let him down.
‘Ahan, but you came third last term and now you are tenth in class. What’s the matter my boy. It’s like you have been playing too much. What’s the matter—‘
‘I don’t’ know Daddy,’ I answered. ‘I-I-I tried but… I don’t know’
He called me to come closer to him. When I did, he carried me on his laps. ‘Lanre, you have to do better next time. You know I believe in you. The girl that takes first position is not better than you. You can beat her if you put more effort into reading your book. Trust me, you can do it next time.’
Though I felt I’d failed myself, his words fired me up for the next term.
Things never got better.
In fact, it worsened when he retired voluntarily from his stressful bank job. I wondered and asked God why bad things happen to good people. His gratuity was sunk into a failed business of importing electronics. He couldn’t reinvigorate his old business too. All he had left was his pension, which was a paltry sum.
Mummy had quit her job when she had her third child. I was the fifth and the last, so all my life, I’d known her as a housewife, although with some petty businesses by the side. So my father had always shouldered all the responsibility including giving me and my siblings the quality education we needed. That was all I needed in life.
Born in Lagos, Seun Ogunbiyi grew up drawing Super Heroes, especially the Ninja Turtles. While studying English in the University of Lagos, he was inspired to improve his various literary drafts. He currently lives in Abuja, working as a civil servant and working hard to publish his long-held debut novel: Ojo Veracruz.