Who Is The Old Man In The Tell-Tale Heart The Biafran Recruiters: A Tale From the Nigerian Civil War

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The Biafran Recruiters: A Tale From the Nigerian Civil War

Odera

Monday, January 08, 1968. Around 5 o’clock in the morning, Oderah, who was about six years old, had been awake for a while. Sandwiched between Kenko and Bartholomew, on a narrow, bamboo mat, he scanned the ceiling again, and looked again and again at the bare walls. When the two walls met, he lowered his gaze, and contemplated the Unukwu-Udu Mmiri – a large clay jar containing drinking water – topped with a flat plate on which stood an upside-down cup without a handle.

Odera and his brothers slept in one of the rooms inside the house. One of the back windows in the room was closed, making it difficult to tell whether the moon had risen late or the sun had risen early. Even so, Oderah just decided to get up and go without waking up the brothers.

Farming, weaving, breeding, selling, destroying and cultivating keep children very busy during the war. How Kenko and Bartho managed to sleep despite having work ahead of them surprised Oderah as she tried to hold back her frustration. Maybe she came to sleep next to him late at night. This mat, as smooth as palm oil, made no noise when laid.

‘Because of the conditions of war,’ he thought, ‘three brothers are now tied together on a narrow mat, on a cold cement floor in a small room. But how long?’ When each of them got on board, they wanted to escape from their friends and continue with their businesses.

The elders were gone, many did not return to their villages; many, for fear of being hired, hid. The children of war will do everything they can to help, to stay alive for as long as the war lasts.

No one works while lying on a mat. All he had to do was reach the door, just a stone’s throw away from his fingers. He thought: ‘How useful is this door opener, opening the door every time it turns, without making a sound.’

The only concern for him at this point was how to get off the mat safely, without waking up Kenko or Bartho. As soon as he was on his feet, he could lean towards the door which opened with the sound of a pin drop.

If Oderah had been lying on her stomach, it would have been nothing. Like a monkey on all fours, he would crawl backwards, remove the mat and his siblings, and stand up when he reached the doorknob. Sadness filled his heart.

Turning from a supine position to a prone position in such a barricaded position would anger Kenko, who sure as hell, even in his deep sleep, would land an accurate elbow and rib attack on the offender. Another pointless thing, the mat was slippery with no grip, was the idea of ​​taking his back under the mat.

Only one option remained possible. Near their three heads, within arm’s reach, was a bed as strong as a termite, with four iron legs. Every now and then, Oderah used the power of the sofa to get down on the mat. This morning should be no different.

Lying on his back, he stretched his left hand over his shoulder to grab the metal foot that was closest to the hard sofa. Likewise, his right hand was attached to another metal foot. Using his chest muscles to gain strength, careful not to be bitten by his brothers, he pulled his whole body up onto the mat, like dice on a blackboard, and stopped when he reached the surface.

At the same time when he pulled, like an acrobat turning his head on his heels, he somersaulted, changing into a crawling position. Back on his two feet, he waited for action. No one came. His moves were flawless, and Kenko didn’t drop an elbow. He walked halfway around the mat to the door, turned the doorknob and went through the small but wide passage behind it.

On the other side to his right was the kitchen, the door of which could not be closed, open for Oderah to enter without lifting a finger. On one of the low wooden shelves was a box of matches. Oderah picked up and struck a match and directed the flame nearby ogbeidimbua locally made device, similar to a candlestick that rests in an empty glass bowl.

Joy lit up his face when, scanning the kitchen like chaos, he saw that his drum was not where it was, in the corner behind the kitchen door.

Picking up the paint barrel by its crooked metal handle, he lifted it onto the wooden stool in the center of the kitchen near the mudroom. A steel knife with a hard tip on the top easily opened the lid every time he came to see it, which usually happened several times a day. He took the knife, but soon changed his mind. One of the rats may be ready to jump out of the hive and escape.

‘Bring the knife from the wooden shelf’ said Oderah to himself. After listening, he fixed one eye on the diamond-shaped opening in the middle of the lid. Five trembling shadows assured him that the five rats were still alive.

Joy and honor descended upon him. He became a man who took pride in not only keeping peace among these captive creatures, but also making a living for himself. Who knew how far this business would go? If the mice were domesticated and learned to live in peace, he would have enough to feed some of the hungry children in the village during the war.

At the beginning of every joy comes sorrow, and so it was with Oderah. Inside the drum, he remembered that there was a rat with a fresh wound, and a predatory neighbor. The animal, which had the jaws of a tiger and the hairy neck of an ape, had chewed on the hind thigh of its crippled relative. Looking down on the big-haired rats, most of the time, kept him from scaring his neighbors. Again, Oderah took a metal knife to open the lid.

As soon as he bent over the box again, there was a noise from the back of the kitchen. Still holding the metal knife, he climbed two steps to the rear windows, loosened the vertical bolt and quietly opened the left window.

Even though the moon had not yet waned, it was only sunlight, not strong enough to diffuse the fog of the village, which made it difficult but not impossible for a person to look into it.

Looking down to find the source of the noise, Oderah saw behind the two Tigers holding onto the edge of the fence, their feet about to fall into the back of the house. Every child in the area knew how the recruiters walked their slaves through the streets of the world villages, but no one saw them climb the fence, as far as Oderah could see.

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