The Burden

by Joseph Ikhenoba


The story is about a man whose wife conceived quintuplets. In the course of fear, he escaped since he waas penniless. He tried various means to pay but he was jailed until the government rescued him.

Edeki and his wife are expecting a baby. Osaro, his wife was nine month pregnant. The thought of getting money to pay for the hospital bill had been much on him. He worked as a lumber and only get paid little. It was a cold night and dropping sounds of rain could be heard. Osaro has been uncomfortable all day. She knew the baby might come soon. That night, Edeki was asleep and snoring like a pig when she began complaining. The baby was kicking. She couldn’t hold it. She kicked him to the floor. He woke up immediately. He could see her rolling and holding her stomach. He thought of what to do since he doesn’t have a car. It was ten past two in the morning. As he bent to take her to a hospital, she pinches and swore for him over the pain, while he struggles to take her to a nearby hospital.

The hospital wards were filled with patients of different ailments. A toothless old man complained about his rheumatism and rebuked the doctor for prescribing the same medications that won’t work. Another yelled at a nurse for not attending to him. However, two nurses moved Osaro to the Labour Ward A while Edeki sat at the reception. There were several pregnant women there. Some midwives taught them how to push their babies. A woman was crying uncontrollably for losing her baby. Edeki began to panic and hoped his wife put to bed easily.

Moreover, their wedding night was the funniest. Both had married as virgins and neither knew the technique. For weeks they stared lustfully at each other not knowing what to do. Edeki began pacing up and down along the corridors, hoping to hear good news, when a woman stormed the hospital beating her fourteen year old child for getting pregnant. She confessed that her father was responsible but her mother rebuked her. The woman wanted abortion fearing her daughter’s future might be jeopardized. The child resisted and promised to report the case to the police.

Another woman came in. She was suffering from Alzheimer’s and was supported by her two children. Footing the bills was his major problem. He hasn’t been paid for two months. Whatever happens, he will devise a means to pay the money.

He was in this solemn mood when a nurse told him his wife had put to bed quintuplet. Hopeless! He doesn’t know if he should cry or celebrate. Taking care of one child is a hurdle, let alone five. He managed to smile. The nurse told him to wait awhile for the children to be cleaned up. In the meantime, he could see the cashier for payment. He pretended to see the cashier only to escape through the backdoor. He returned home shattered. The small money on him couldn’t pay the bills. So, he decided to try his luck with gambling.

That morning, he went Uncle Arabamen’s shop to play dice. Old men and young were playing their fortunes out. Uncle Arabamen was one of the soldiers that fought for the British during the Second World War. He never stopped talking about his heroic. Edeki won some fortunes and soon lost it all. He became penniless and watched those playing. He wished he had never come there.

He recasted to his wife and children, the nurses must be looking for him now. He has to devise means to foot the bill. He returned home thinking of suicide when James, his friend visited him. He asked after his wife. He told him what had happened. James told him he has no money with him but they can make some money by selling illegal fuel since there was scarcity. They visited James’s friend, who gave them some kegs of fuel and urged them to be wary of police officers. They agreed. They stood beside the road running after vehicles. They had sold all the fuel when two police men came. They demanded for bribe but the two refused. They were locked in jail along other arrested culprits. Edeki told them he ventured into it to pay for his wife’s hospital bills.

They refused to believe him. The jail was so crowded and stale stench of urine filled the air. A boy who stole plantain chips due to hunger was incarcerated. Two days after, Edeki and his friend were released when the policemen read about his news. The government had decided to pay and support the children. He visited the hospital to beg for forgiveness. His wife looked angry but the nurses begged her. In the end, they all went home.

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