I can still remember how my father walked into the house that evening and announced that he had been fired.
“I have just been fired,” he said to my mother miserably and languidly sank into the chair. “I have just received my termination letter. My own is finished. I am finished. We are finished.”
As he cried, my mother came to sit beside him. God bless my mother. She just helped him to unbutton his shirt, remove his jacket and turn the fan to face him.
“You are not finished my husband. You are not finished.”
She summoned my elder sister.
“Lucy, bring your father food to eat.”
I could see the shock in my father’s eyes. How could she not understand that he had just lost his job? I believed that was what he was thinking. But my mother remained in that manner as if nothing had happened.
Lucy brought my father’s food while my mother called on me to bring her a paper and a pen. I wondered what was on her mind. There were tears already hanging on my cheeks because I didn’t like the mood I saw my father in that evening. I had never found him in such a vulnerable situation before.
When I gave my mother the pen and paper, she began at once to scribble something on it. I wondered what it was. Although I sat in front of the television, my ears were cocked to pick up every sound. I wanted to know what they were going to do with that piece of bad news that my father had brought.
He just ate about ten spoonful of the rice that my sister had placed on the dining table for him. The meat, he did not even touch. My father was a very heavy eater. He must really be in a terrible mood for him not to have eaten from the food. I felt for him. I really felt for him.
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Soon, his head was cradled in his palms. I knew he was thinking. I quickly remembered my classmate, Biodun whose father had died of hypertension and when I asked my sister what could lead to such sickness, Lucy had said it was ‘too much thinking.’
I wanted to tell my father not to think because I did not want him to die but we were taught to keep quiet when our parents were having a heart to heart talk. For this reason, I simply maintained a dignified silence.
“Chai! Upon all the things I did for these people, they still had the mind to fire me! This world is wicked! This world is crazy..” my father kept on lamenting.
Heaving, my mother said. “Mr. David Kadema, we are not going to discuss the past now. We are going to discuss the present and the future. You have lost your job and it is now in the past. We are not going to talk about it. We are going to talk about what we are going to do from now onwards because job or no job, this family must feed and carry on with life.”
My father was just staring at my mother as if she was his teacher and he was a very obedient pupil. As if she had just returned from Jupiter.
“What are we going to do now?”
I was surprised to hear my father ask my mother such a question. What did he mean by that? He had always been the breadwinner and the one who took almost all the decisions in the house.
My mother said; “How much do you have?”
He looked at my mother as if she had just asked a very difficult question on rocket science.
“Mr. David, talk to me. How much money do you have in your account?”
Somewhat reluctantly, he mumbled a sum. My mother heaved a long sigh.
“I have double that amount in my account,” she said. “We can start up something with what we both have and live happily.”
From where I sat, I saw the palpable shock in my father’s eyes. “How did you get such money?”
He did not expect that my mother could have such amount of money in her account because my mother sold only soft drinks with iced blocks at home. Most people who always go to work usually look down on people who did petty business. However, I have come to realize that this assertion was completely wrong. Because he was usually not at home, he didn’t realize that my mother was making so much money from her petty business.
Again, my mother was not an impulsive buyer like my father.
Every kobo counted whenever she wanted to buy or sell. As far as being prudent was concern, my mother could score a hundred marks.
“We are going to start selling eggs in crates and we shall be using your Sienna car to do supplies.”
“What?” wild horror lined my father’s face. “What are you talking about? You mean..”
“Yes,” she replied without waiting for him to conclude. “We are going to be selling eggs and your car will be used to supply them.”
My father sat like a cocked gun. I could sense the irritation in him but he was calm. I think the termination letter with the figure my mother said she had in her account had humbled him.
My mother began to talk about her proposed business and with rapt attention, he listened. They talked for a very long time.
“We are going to draft a new food roaster,” my mother said. “From today, we are cutting down expenses. Only needs will be taken care of from today. No money will be spent on wants and frivolities. Please let me be the boss for six months and thereafter, you will take over fully.”
I thought my father was going to object to that but he didn’t. Instead he agreed to all the things that my mother was saying nodding at various intervals.
“And lastly, you will not lament to anyone that you have lost your job. As far as I am concerned, you resigned and got a better one because no job is as good as the one you do for yourself.”
My mother went on talking for a long time and my father kept listening and nodding at everything she was saying.
Finally, she looked at me and said; “Mercy; are your brothers at home?”
“No Mummy,” I shook my head. “They have gone to play football.”
“Tell your sister to fetch water for your father to bathe with.” She said and turned to my father, “congratulations Mr. David take your bath and rest your bones.”
Somehow, I saw the relief in his eyes as he got up from his seat and went to the bathroom.
Later that evening while he was asleep, my mother gathered us all for a meeting. My brothers; Jerry and Eugene had both returned from the field. Jerry had just got admission into the university and had only returned after the first semester. He was going to become a civil engineer. Eugene was going to SS3 while Lucy was in JS3. I was going to JS1.
We all gathered at the dining table as she talked. “Your father has just lost his job,” she began rather expressionlessly.
“What!” Jerry and Eugene cried in unison. Lucy’s hands were on her head.
“What happened?” Lucy asked. “Did he fight with someone?”
My mother shook her head. “I don’t care what happened. I am only concerned about now and after. I want you all to assume that nothing happened and we will all get our hands on deck.”
“Will he start looking for a job?” Jerry threw.
“No,” Mother said shaking her head. “He just got another job.”
Lucy raised her hands to the air; “Praise the Lord.”
“Thank God o,” Eugene heaved. “I hope it’s a better job o.”
“Yes it is,” my mother nodded.
“What job is that?” they all chorused with naked curiosity.
That was when I spoke for the very first time. Before my mother would reply, I muttered;
“He will be selling eggs.”
They all turned to my mother. Eugene’s eyes darted with inquisitiveness. “Mother, is it true?”
“Yes,” she nodded and I saw the disappointment in their eyes. “Your father is now an egg dealer. He is going to start working for himself now and no more rushing his meals just to go to work on time. He will plan his day from now onwards and his time will be spent in doing his own business not another man’s business.”
She went on to tell us so many things and in the end we were all convinced that the termination letter was a blessing in disguise.
“All hands must be on deck. Your father has been working for this company for over a decade now and we still live in a rented apartment. If the job was that good, we ought to have been living in our own house by now.”
She wrote so many things on a sheet of paper and mapped out duties for all of us. The next day, she made zobo and kunu and bottled them. Lucy and I went from house to house telling people that we now sold cold kunu and zobo.
Mother bought a bigger refrigerator a week after and we began to sell more sachet water along with the kunu and zobo.
Within a month, we had found a shop across the street. My mother set up a laundry shop for my elder brothers there and they were always busy because she announced it at the church. Almost half of the men in our church patronized them. Most evenings, we all joined hands in washing while Eugene and Jerry did the ironing. When they had so much work, they would invite their friends and pay them for the services rendered. Our house became more like a business hub.
The egg business started a month later and my father got very busy. His phone was always buzzing with people calling for supplies. Mother was always counting money. With the interest that came from the business, she bought agro products and kept them in a very big shop which we rented months later.
When it was six months and she was to hand over to my father, he smiled and said; “Be the boss my love. Just be the boss and I will forever be at your beck and call.”
By the time Jerry returned to school, he opened another laundry shop there.
We now have three Sienna cars to distribute eggs. We now have people working for us. We now have three shops and own two houses which we gave out for rent. Our own living house will soon be completed. It might seem like magic to some people but we are all proud of my mother. We all saw how it began and she was transparent enough to let us know how every penny was got or spent.
To crown it all, my brother Jerry will be graduating this year while Lucy will be heading for Finland to further her education.
THE TERMINATION LETTER by Japheth Prosper