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Roses and Bullets

Extract from Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo's novel ROSES AND BULLETS

Ama-Oyi was bombed again, but this time only one person was killed. Ginika heard a loud explosion in the night and ran downstairs. She was followed by Udo, her father and Auntie Lizzy.

“Everyone come out and run to the bunker,” her father cried. “Carol, are you awake? Bring your children to the bunker.”

Mrs Ndefo and her children were already ahead, racing to the bunker at the back of the compound. “We're out already,” she called out. Amaka was fumbling with the back door. Udo pushed her aside gently and opened it. The moon was shining faintly, but it provided enough light for them to stumble out.

Ginika heard a scraping sound as someone - was it Udo? - dragged away the iron sheet that was used to cover the entrance to the bunker to prevent snakes from crawling inside. It was not easy to get into the bunker, with everyone bumping into everyone else. They were afraid to light a lamp because they thought the plane would see the light and drop a bomb on them.

Ginika heard the sound of a plane receding in the distance until it petered out. She was trembling. “I think they have gone,” her father said, “Let us return to the house.”

“So it's going to be night raids now? O Lord, what kind of life is this? I'm tired. I'm fed up!” Ginika started to sob.

As her voice rose hysterically, Ginika shuddered. What was the pilot looking for in Ama-Oyi to warrant his coming to drop bombs in the town in the middle of the night? She got the answer to the puzzle in the morning when she went with Udo, Amaka and Dozie to fetch water from the Otaru River. On their way back, she heard two women discussing the previous night's raid. She increased her pace so that she could hear them.

“Did you hear that loud noise that woke everyone up last night?” one asked. “Yes, my sister. It was terrible, and I could not sleep again until morning. I thought Ama-Oyi was being invaded by the enemy.” The second woman was short and plump. Her large water pot pressed down her neck. Ginika thought her neck would have become shorter by the time she got home.

“It was a Nigerian plane that bombed Ejike Okoro's house,” continued the first woman who was tall and fair-skinned. “The man was carrying npanaka, an oil lamp, when the plane flew past. I was told the man flying the plane turned back and dropped the bomb, thinking it was a military camp. The bomb dug a big whole in Ejike's house and he was killed on the spot. Luckily, his wife and children were spared. The house was not touched, but Ekenma is now a widow and her children have become fatherless overnight.”

“Hei, o di egwu, it is terrible,” the second woman cried. “These people are wicked. They are hard-hearted.”

As soon as Ginika got home and emptied her tin of water in the huge water pot in which drinking water was stored, she went upstairs to tell her father what she had heard. It was Saturday when he did not go to the hospital. He was shaken by the news. That very day, he hired three workmen to cover with palm fronds the top of the 403, Dr Ndefo's Mercedes and the entire roof of the house, so that enemy planes flying past would not see them. Ginika had noticed that Eloka's father had done a similar job in his compound the last time she visited Eloka. Dr Ndefo's car was filled with some of their things that could not be brought into the house for lack of space - clothes, crockery, books and few electrical gadgets.

Ginika knew the workmen were not from Ama-Oyi, for they spoke a dialect that was different from that of her town. She asked them and they told her they were refugees. They worked till late afternoon and were given roast yam which they ate with palm oil. Everyone was satisfied with the work they did, and her father paid them good money for their effort. Ginika thought the house and the cars were safe from attack. She felt more secure and would no longer panic and quake whenever a plane flew past.

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