This was one of those long days. We had been preparing earnestly for Pa Joe’s return from America ever since we received his letter stating he will be coming back in two days. Everyone missed Pa Joe so much, more especially his tales by moonlight therefore, the entire community was bustling with activities for his return.
Pa Joe is the most respected man in our community and his several trips to America always brought a ting of hope and light to our community. Aunty Ndika likes to call him “the modern-day angel”. And truly he is, not just to the family but to everyone.
Pa Joe is a missionary also he schooled in the white man’s land. Since he obtained his degree he made several trips to and from the white man’s land and returned not just with his polished English but with great relief to our community.
He is the community’s Pa.
Finally, the long-awaited day was here. It felt like forever since receiving his letter. We all waited for him at the village square which is where the taxi driver will alight. The taxi driver could take him to our doorsteps, but Pa Joe won’t let him.
As soon as he sees us waiting at the square, he would alight and walk home with us. It was always so humbling to see him do that time after time. Unlike previous times, he didn’t return with a white man. Usually, every return he makes from America, there was always a white accomplice.
It didn’t matter to us whether he did or not, what mattered was that he was home and there was a lot to eat and drink. The air was filled with laughter too as he cracked jokes and told tales of his visit.
Our community was a small one so Pa Joe had presents for every family. Finally, it was sundown and everyone started to leave. We quickly cleaned up so we could listen to more of his tales before he retired to bed.
“It’s already midnight”, Pa Joe called our attention to the time after taking his eyes away from his gold plated wristwatch.
“Oh, no! Can’t we stay a little longer, we are not even sleepy, Nnamdi, the last child in our family cried.
No, you can’t, Pa Joe retorted. Have you forgotten? Early to bed……early to rise, we responded grudgingly. Even our parents hated to return to their bed.
Okay, everyone, he is not travelling, tomorrow is another day. Oya! Oya! Mama Ndidi, the eldest woman in our family clapped as she sent everyone out of the room.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
Some people had jumped into our compound through the fence. We all froze in the sitting room. There was no movement, no one dared move to their rooms nor make a sound. Before we could think of the next action to take, our sitting room door was broken down and we were surrounded by three robbers who threw their tiny guns in our faces.
Everybody lie down! Lie down now or I shoot! They yelled. We all fell to the floor in fear.
I say lie down! One continued to yell. We were all on the floor, why was he still yelling I wondered.
Old man, you think we are here to joke? He continued. Soon we realized that Pa Joe was still sitting undisturbed. We began to give him signs, pleading with our faces for him to obey them but he ignored us completely. It baffled the robbers because they argued amongst themselves on what to do to him.
Oga, this no be Amerika, one said in Pidgin English. We go carry your pikin shoot am for here, he continued.
Why kill a child? Did you not come for me or should I say my American goods, Pa said laying emphasis on the “American”.
This infuriated the robbers but clearly, they had no choice so they yelled at Pa Joe to bring out everything he returned with or risk having his family members shot. Pa Joe started to whistle. We were both scared and confused. How could a man whistle in a situation such as this? Was he out of his mind? We couldn’t speak for fear of being shot.
Which one of you is the strongest? Pa Joe asked.
Wetin be this oga? Which kain question be this?
That isn’t an answer, Pa Joe said sarcastically with his American accent.
We saw that he threw them off balance with the question. Each one started to say why he was the strongest. As they argued blindly, they didn’t notice Pa Joe leave the room. We didn’t notice too until we heard a loud gunshot. Everyone scrambled on the floor including the robbers.
We looked up and it was Pa Joe. His lean frame with a rifle in hand and that heroic smirk on face gave him the look of a superhero character of a Hollywood movie.
Throw your guns forward else I will shoot you three, Pa Joe said calmly. In fear, the robbers did. Now stand up! Pa Joe shouted.
They stood and he took off their masks. Pa Joe seemed to recognize one of them. Aren’t you Chike? Son of Ogbuka?
The young man afraid that his cover was blown began to beg for mercy. Pa Joe looked them over and began to laugh. This time we too stood from the ground. We couldn’t even laugh, I for one was confused as to what emotion to express.
Finally, Pa Joe asked the men in our house to tie them up. He promised to see that they received discipline for their crimes. Oh! What was more laughable was the fact that we were held captive with fake guns.
I couldn’t imagine the shame the older ones in our family felt upon realizing that. The rest of the story is history, but we were sure that night beat most of Pa Joe’s tales by moonlight. It was our own special midnight tale with Pa Joe staring as the hero.