Even though I don’t have a smartphone, I know that every time that man in black clothes arrives, my mother ends up in tears that day. It’s been a year since our father passed away, but his presence still looms large, his anger always intense. I feel strong, as if nothing can shake me to the ground.

But, oh, our mother is no longer here, and she won’t return. I wondered when she would come back, but it was wishful thinking.

I muttered to myself, “Knock your head and carry our mother on your back, and you’ll see who’ll make her cry.” I said this while clutching my waist.

My sister, busy washing beans in the house, called out to me. I shot her an angry look and replied, “I’ll lock up the house because of those thieves. I’ll open the door when I come back.”

As he arrived and stepped out of his car, I loudly called him, as if I were imitating my mother, “Lawyer!”

He turned to look at me, momentarily confused. “My mother is back,” I continued, then burst into laughter.

My little sister tugged at my dress and returned, clearly irritated.

I saw him leave and only returned to my corner once I was sure he had left the neighborhood. I went to call my sister.

When she handed me the flour, it was still warm. I took it eagerly and laughed. Then she unrolled a mat and revealed its contents—some missing underwear from where she worked. She gave mine to my husband and handed the rest to my sister, who would distribute them. I was filled with gratitude.

Since I had left the house, the children near my sister’s cooking pot began to disperse. I didn’t scold any of them, especially since most of them were unkind to her. They were ruthless with her money, and if she didn’t have any, they’d hardly speak to her. But if I were at my mother’s place or under her bed, they’d hide from me, thinking I’d take their money. I once took a goat, and if they had nothing, I’d take their cooking pots, and no matter how many people came together, they wouldn’t tell me where I hid them until they paid up.

Shafi’u, our neighbor’s son, was eating without keeping track. I stared at him as he ate, and he didn’t notice my approach. After he had his fill, he stood up and began tearing his shirt. He took out ten naira and dropped it in the basket, saying, “Here’s your money, you’ve followed me around for fifteen.”

I quipped, “What about twenty-five?” holding my waist.

He quickly glanced at me and stammered, “Oh, Hudata, I meant I had fifteen naira left in my pocket. I’ll get it for you.” He retrieved the extra ten naira and handed it over, then walked away clapping his hands and looking back at me.

I returned to sit, and my sister cast a doubtful glance at me. She wanted me to leave, thinking I might scare away potential customers. People wanted to come, but they were wary of me.

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