Broken Ideas Begat Broken Men

The boy was a sponge. Taking in everything with no filter whatsoever. The boy loved his father in ways many boys love their fathers, wanting to be just like them, trying to walk and talk like them. Their fathers, their heroes. Their fathers, a shining light in this dark cold world. Their fathers, a path already cut out for them to walk in this jungle. Their fathers, a manual on how to be a man, a manual on the dos and don’ts of being a man

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The boy’s father – like many other fathers like him – was blatantly ignorant of the little eyes that watched his every move, every word, every twitch learning and soaking everything up without proper filter about what’s right or wrong. The boy’s father just lived his life, trying to ‘provide’ for his family – because that’s what men are supposed to do – leaving parenting to the boy’s mother alone. Ignoring the fact that she might just not be able to teach him things only fathers can teach boys.
So, when the boy’s father slipped into the backyard every other evening to roll up dried grass in little brown paper, he never noticed those little brown eyes watching him, trying to imitate him when he rolled up his grass in brown paper, lighting it up with a match stick and inhaling and exhaling the bittersweet smelling smoke.

The boy was a sponge.

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The boy’s father never got himself drunk whenever he knew he was going to spend the night at home. He only drank enough bottles to get him tipsy – one or two bottles with the boys at Iya Chuka’s beer parlour where broken men came for some reprieve from their broken lives and to share their broken ideas round the drunk table.

“… See ehn, I don tire. You see my wife ehn, everyday na so so complain. Chuks, you see the wahala wey you put me inside now? You know say I no wan marry before. Na you just dey shout go marry go marry.” the boy’s father said.

Chukwudi belched before he starts to speak, the alcohol already holding his voice, ready to speak through him, “Idiot. Shey una no dey see this idiot ehn. Who you wan born for you if you wan marry? You go prefer baby mama abi?”

“Ehn, shebi that one no get any commitment na.”

“I talk am say you be idiot na. You no know say marriage go give you stability. Go give you woman wey go dey by your side on a steady, go take care of your pikin wella ehn. If she dey give you small wahala for house, just knack am for head like two times, you go see say she go comport herself for your side. Abi no be you pay her bride price, ehn? Abi you no be man? You no fit control your woman again?”

Stupid nods of agreement went round the drunk table.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The boy was a sponge. The boy rolled paper perfectly now and like every budding researcher, he wanted to test his work. Unfortunately – or fortunately – he couldn’t find his father’s stash of dried grass, so he resorted to testing with his perfectly rolled papers. He took out a box of matches from the kitchen up into his room to kick start his experiment.
He lit his first paper, relaxing the rolled up paper in between his middle and index fingers just as he had seen his father do it. He brought his lit rolled paper to the soft pink of his lips… and inhaled… but not exhaling. You see, his young lungs just couldn’t handle it just yet. Then came the fits of cough, hard and unadulterated and unfortunately loud enough to cause his mother to rush into his room. She saw the lit rolled up paper on the floor.

She screamed.

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When the boy’s mother screamed, she did it with her whole being. Gut wrenching screams that dated back to a childhood of screaming at her father to leave her mother alone. Screams that became a habit she never lost, a habit whenever she got upset.

“You want to kill me abi?”

“I didn’t kill my mother oh, please don’t come and kill me”

“Do you want to burn down your father’s house?”

“When did you start smoking? You’re smoking now abi. Ah, this boy has killed me.”

“Just wait till your father comes. Stupid boy.”

All her statements interjected with slaps on the boy’s face and body. The boy was used to it now and a tear barely left his his face whenever she beat him now. In a few years, he wouldn’t even feel pain when she beats him and by the time she realises that her beating had zero effect on the boy it’d have been too late and she’d have lost all the powers to raise a man different from her own father. Maybe, just maybe she didn’t just resort to beating the boy. Maybe if she tried other means of getting through to him, maybe he’d have listened to her – boys always need a iron hand, they say.

The boy was a sponge.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The boy’s father came home tipsy – not drunk. He dropped his keys off on the table and loudly lunged himself onto the sofa, slurring his greetings and asking for his food. But the boy’s mother wanted to thrash out the boy’s paper problem thinking it ought to enrage the boy’s father, enrage him enough to dish out some form of punishment to the boy. She believed that punishment from his father ought to carry much more weight than her lightweight hands slapping him.

It enraged the boys father. Only not in the way the boy’s mother thought it would.

“Woman, after a long day eh. I just want some peace and quiet and my food. What’s all this now? Just give me my food first.”

Then came the screams, the only way she knew to express herself when she was upset. Loud enough to wake dead men.

The boy, meanwhile, peeped from a corner watching all the drama unfold. His father seething silently while his mother screamed her grievances so the whole neighbourhood could hear that the boy’s father wasn’t bothered that the boy was trying to smoke in his room


Two quick slaps landed on the boy’s mother’s cheek. She went quiet – mostly from shock.

“Will you go get my food, my friend, before I slap you again. Maybe you’d understand better when I need quiet when I beat you in this house. I am the man of the house and you’d do as I say. Now go get me my food.”

She quietly goes and get his food. The boy sees it all.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The boy was a sponge. Taking in everything with no filter whatsoever.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When the man’s wife started screaming at him – a little louder than acceptable – about his smoking and drinking, telling him how it was bad for him and how she could not cope with the smell anymore, all he wanted was some peace and quiet, so he did the only thing he knew how to


Two quick slaps had landed on the man’s wife’s cheeks, but she didn’t go quiet, she only intensified her screams, screaming bloody murder. So, he beat her the more, a punch here, a slap there, then a belt somewhere else. And she screamed bloody murder while she had strength in her…

He kept beating her until she kept quiet. Until he had proven he was indeed the man of the house. Until he took her life.

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