“Praise the Lorrddd!” Daddy growled for the fourth time. The first time, Mummy had cut in, calling Adaobi to order while the second, third and fourth times gave birth to attention from the rest of us. Our response to the fourth one was a low grumble because Chidiebere was whining, stretching her hand at Mummy for the biscuit that was snatched from her.
The fifth one coughed a loud “Hallelujah” from all of us, a sycophant one with spice of impatience. Daddy pointed at Adaobi to start praise and worship. She was in the choir at church and barely missed rehearsals, her sonorous voice rang through hearts and blessed souls.
Adaobi started with a well-known song, clapping loudly and shaking her butt to the beat Chima drummed. We joined in, chorusing. Daddy flipped through pages of his Bible, searching for scriptures to teach with. He did that every devotion night. Tonight’s devotion was as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic which was said to have reached our country.
Mummy unwrapped and wrapped her wrapper, holding Chidiebere’s hands as she also danced to the rhythm in the air. Her movements pushed me to Adaobi who smelled of curry and thyme. I wrinkled my face in disgust as I was pressed between both bodies.
“Shake your body. No dey do like mkipsi,” Mummy said, pinching me hard.
I yelped and moved towards Chima, clapping my hands and glaring at Mummy. Soon, it was time for worship.
“Ekwueme! Ekwueme! You are the living God oo…” Ada’s voice pierced the air, giving in chance for more emotional outbursts from Mummy.
Chima nudged me in the ribs. I opened one eye to glare at him but he was pointing at Daddy who was dozing, his head bobbing to and fro, almost hitting the Bible in his hands. I stiffened my giggle, covering my face with my hands but Chima betrayed me as he burst into gales of laughter waking Daddy.
It didn’t take magic for Daddy to know he was the object of fun so he asked Chima to kneel on the hard floor, promising to flog him later. Daddy ended the worship session with a wave and signalled time for prayer. Mummy took over, her hands flailing as she lounged into the same tongues we had been hearing from her since we were little.
She instructed us to pray for our family, for our church members, for Mama Stella who lived next door and for Chief who gave us money often. “Pray for God to blessed them,” she said.
“Mummy, it’s ‘bless’ not ‘blessed’. Present tense,” Chima corrected. Mummy snapped at him, calling him ‘nnukwu isi’, while Daddy hit him with the Bible in his hands.
Mummy was about to continue when Chidiebere muttered, sniffing, “What’s smelling?”
We all sniffed in unison and suddenly Adaobi screamed, “The jollof wey I put for fire!” She made a dash for the door, Mummy following while puncturing her walk with insults at Ada for being daft.
Silence descended. We dared not speak. Our dinner had burnt. Chima drummed quietly and Chidiebere stared wide eyed at us. The room abruptly lit up, the light almost blinding me.
“Up NEPA!” Chima screamed and rushed to the parlour. Daddy went for his clothes, asking me to plug in the iron.
Just then, Mummy ordered from the kitchen, “Make someone plug the heater o!”
I knew right then that our devotion had ended.