Rolling Dreams

                      ... great men prefer to die than to betray their dreams, their rolling dreams...

                                              Has the sun ever been stopped from shining?
                                              Has the moon ever been covered?
                                              Creatures may cast aspersions
                                              They may try to thwart your growth
                                              But the Creator safely guides...

"No," I answered my teacher, "I did not copy the poem from anywhere; no, my uncle had not written it for me; yes, the idea for it was mine."

" In that case, see me after school today."

From my meeting with Mr. Olupitan, I knew myself to be a writer. It was an amateurish knowing but a knowing anyway. I backed out of science which other teachers were saying I was good in. I was only a secondary school child then but I had fallen in love with the craft of writing. I couldn't explain it but I grew up with a passion to go into professional writing as I often get entranced even while classes are going on and find myself writing rhymes and punch lines. Unlike my friends, whose lives revolved around playing games after school until their mothers called them to go back home, I stayed alone in the back of my uncle's study and wrote in small notebooks and on sheets and sheets of plain paper. I wrote poems, half-sentences and short paragraphs, short stories, essays and jokes. Then, I was always waiting for the school magazine to come out and to read and reread my own compositions over and over again. Surreptitiously, I wrote poems and short stories which I never intended to show anyone, not even Mr. Olupitan, not even my uncle. I imagined characters, circumstances and places for my future novels and scripts. I simply wrote for the joy of writing as it was all I wanted to do in life.

But there is more, I often reminisce about my dead parents. I was an only child. I was mummy's handbag and daddy's office mate. It was a happy childhood for me. Though they were of average means, my parents gave me the best of everything. They had many relations: brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, first cousins, second cousins and so many I never knew where to place them - like first cousin of second cousin of uncle this and that. I enjoyed the company of so many relatives until one December when we were home for the burial of an uncle. Our village was invaded by an enemy village and that was how my parents and so many of my relatives lost their lives. That day, my uncle and I went to the stream to swim, escaping crisis and death. From that time, I began staying with my uncle. That day, I wish I could bring them back but it was only a dream. I felt it was wrong that they died at that time but what did I know about the mystery of death? I cried and cried and cried. I couldn't forget that experience. It became an indelible imprint on my soul. I resolved to tell the story because being alive, I felt I owe something to the dead.

Most of the times I returned from school, my uncle will probably be sitting in his study, in his pet divan. He'll be reading a novel or a play. When I greet him, he'll smile, take off his glasses and asked me how school went that day.

"Hey, Enenche, how was school today?" He often asked.
 "It was fine Uncle." I always replied him.
 "What did you learn today."
 "Oh! I learnt literary terms today." I told him one afternoon.

"And can you give me an example?"
"Of course! I will give you two." I was passionate about life, wanting to do my best in all I tried.
"Simile and Onomatopoeia - The sun was as red as  a ripe pawpaw this afternoon. - I heard the rustle tree-leaves and I knew that harmattan has come." I said.
"That's my boy." My uncle often applauded me.

One evening, Udokamma, the house-maid, set the tray of Ona and Okoho on the dining table, after she set the ceramic plates and cutlery on the finely-clothed table. After she left, it wasn't long before my uncle and I moved from the sitting room to the table.

"I hope your appetite is good?" My uncle asked me as he smiled, keeping the copy of Adimora-Ezeigbo's Roses and Bullets by the side-table. He then sat down and washed his hand in the basin of water kept just at the table's centre. I washed my own hands after he had washed his. I rolled the ona every time between my fingers before dipping it inside the sauce and finally inside my mouth.

"The ona is well-prepared. I like it uncle." I told him.

As we went ahead eating and chatting, Mr. Bako, the gate-man, came in with a parcel.

"Oga, one soja sey mek I gif you this." He said.

My uncle suddenly became solemn, his face unruffled. It's been close to ten years since he retired. What message would the parcel be carrying from a soldier? He washed his hand, collected the parcel and thanked Mr. Bako. Surveying the envelope before opening it, he saw written: ALL MILITARY EX-SERVICEMEN ARE TO MEET AT THE KUTURU MILITARY CANTONMENT FIVE DAYS FROM TODAY.

"Open the letter." My uncle told me.

I opened the letter and read to my uncle's hearing, the finest and most attractively commanding of all the letters I had read in my Literature classes.
          KUTURU, JAJI,
          18 JULY, 2012.



     Greetings to you all in the name of the Commander-in-Chief of Jaji's Armed Forces.

     As gunshots succeed bomb-blasts; as massacres succeed sleeplessness, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has ordered that I, Ejokparoghene Oboganriemu, the Field Marshal of Jaji's Armed Forces prepare great soldiers that will level these despicable acts of terrorism into heaps of ashes. After going through the ranks and files of present and erstwhile soldiers-in-arms, I have decided to recall all the great military ex-servicemen that fought victoriously during the Second World War and during Jaji's civil unrest. You all were exceptional men of valour, remarkable in military intelligence and the greatest masters in the military craft of sniping Jaji has ever known.

     As we work for your return within the next five days to plan to regain and reconstruct the foundation for sustainable peace in the Federal Republic of Jaji, I would like to inform you that General Ochojila Ekondu will be the soldier-in-command during the entire process. He is, as we all know, the best sniper in Jaji's history. After he led Jaji's team in the Second World War, he was the one who called and lead the soldiers during our nation's civil unrest. Moreover, nobody has broken his record in the history of our National Defense Academy. He was only a captain when he led Jaji's team during the Jaji-Alzarta war. In sum, he is practically the only one with more boots on the battle ground, with deck-plate and flight-line military experience in the annals of Jaji's military history.

     As the Field Marshal of Jaji's Armed Forces, I respectfully suggest that you give him your absolute cooperation that we may unwittingly crush the spirit of terrorism in the Federal Republic. I have great confidence in General Ekondu's prowess.

     May God give you strength and energy to report within the next five days.

     Field Marshal Ejokparoghene Oboganriemu

As I finished reading, I uttered, "The End."     

Standing up cheerfully, my uncle said aloud, "That's my boy. You read extremely well."

"Thank you uncle." I responded.

"But why the excitement? You look more happier than when we began eating." I added.

"My boy, I've never thought of going back to the battlefield since my retirement from active service. My happiest days have been on the fields of war." He said.

I looked at his face and I saw lines of bravery, made evident by lines of sweat. For the first time, I admired my uncle as a military man. For the five years I've lived with him, I never knew him as a soldier but a voracious reader. Now, he's going to the field, maybe not a field like during the Second World War. Now, he may strategically use his military intelligence to help expunge terrorism in the land. That night, I admired him as he walked back to his room. That night, I went into his study to check his files.That night, I was proud of him.

That night was unusually silent. I thought about Jaji, illumined by the light of great characters and at the same time beclouded by series of bloodshed. The people have bled so much from the ignoble acts of man's inhumanity to man. Faintly, like music heard across the rivers at dusk, Mr. Olupitan's quatrain in one of our classes echo in my mind:

                                   You may not hear the canons crashing
                                   You may not hear the waves splashing
                                   You may not hear the dogs barking
                                   But you will never forget the bombs blasting

"O! How splendidly soothing the lines were to my ears." I said aloud to the listening walls of my room. I went through the lines again and again before slept stole me away. I woke around midnight and heard the sound of rain, pattering hard with unfaltering determination on the roof of our house. I sensed the fresh scent of rain-beaten flowers as I rolled inside my blanket. But sleep, fair and warm, quickly embraced me back.


It was barely fifteen minutes after four when I woke up the following day. In the middle of sleep and wakefulness, I heard the voice of my uncle. I didn't want to wake up just yet so I burrowed deeper into the duvet but I had to spring up from my bed like a hunted deer. I didn't know my uncle to be waking up so early, at least, not as much as I know him and never have I heard him talk aloud to himself the way he did. I wondered as I made my way to his door. I wanted to knock but a voice said "Don't." I decided to listen rather than knock.

"This may be the last military duty I will be embarking upon." I was listening to him.

"I have a son to take care of. I'm the only relative he knows and stays with. How will he cope? Should I take him to one of my friends?" He went on asking himself.

"No!" He said.

"Enenche is matured enough to take care of himself. The behaviour he exhibits far exceeds that of his age. I will leave everything under his care. I have great trust in him. I believe he will not be a disappointment. He has shown himself to be such a promising lad..."

As he went on talking, his voice was sounding as strong as Richard Davis' bass, yet the message sounded as soft as Celine Dion's tunes. With a little sense of pride, I quickly went back to my room. Surprisingly, I saw my window opened. It must have been that I left it opened yester-night before I went to bed. I looked out of it and what did I see? I saw the flowers around the poultry house close to the gateman's  quarters dancing with joy. Then, I thought about freedom and what it meant to be free.

I grew up fond of doing things my own way. My parents didn't bring me up with so much restrictions even though they never tolerated any misdemeanor, let alone a faux pas. That way, I learnt so early to quickly adapt to new situations in especially new environments. I did what I always did and my parents allowed the adult in the child I was to take charge. I loved it that way. I think my parents loved it that way too. So I grew up with great respect for my parents and elders as I thought no one could harm me. I saw every man and woman as a father and mother figure. I never considered any mountain too high to climb. The love my uncle expressed towards me further strengthened my confidence and hope in life. But I've never been all the while in total charge of my life. I've always been under the tutelage of another - first, my parents and now, my uncle. My uncle's statement: "I will leave everything under his care" set me thinking. Moreover, I was only approaching seventeen. My uncle is a respectable personality in our country. He's known home and abroad as a reputable military man. Will I be able to take care of myself by myself? I was asking myself.

I ran to my uncle's study. I cast my eyes over the shelves, looking for, let me say a guidebook. But it's going to take me a really long time to go through all the books here. I wondered as my eyes fell on Herbert Kaufman's lines pasted behind the door:

                                 Walls crumble and empires fall.
                                  The tidal wave sweeps from the sea
                                   and tears a fortress from its rocks.
                                    Nations drop from off time's bough.

                                     Only things that dreamers make live on.
                                      They are the chosen few who,
                                       through all the ages,
                                        have heard the voice of destiny call to them.
                                         Dreamers are the architects of greatness.

Instantly, I felt surrounded , warmed and reinvigorated by those words. Yes, I somewhat thought I was too small to be left alone to control the affairs of my existence. I was only in my final year in the Secondary School and with little experience about the wider world. Anyway, my uncle was only going on a military mission which I hoped wouldn't take him away from me for a long while. Come what may, there's no river too wide to cross over.

I removed a book from the shelve. It was Remi Raji's Lovesong for my Wasteland. Opening the pages of the prologue, I got entranced as the poet evoked my innermost emotions with his words:

                               I speak not only of the past; I speak of the horizons of
                               days to come.
                               I carry the burden of generations in my chest
                               and you must listen to me and judge me later.

With those words, I returned to my room with Raji's Lovesong for my Wasteland. How can one man carry the burden of generations in his chest? Perhaps, Raji's thesis was that every human received innumerable treasures from past generations and adding on them, passed on to posterity. It was a question my mind ruminated on before I brushed my teeth, showered and went to join my uncle for breakfast at seven.


In the course of our tea and bread breakfast, we chatted for close to about forty minutes. We had been so close and his leaving for the military headquarter in Jaji touched me like a frightened child in a dark tunnel.

"Enenche, hurry up with your tea. I will be taking you to school today." He said.

"Uncle, but that's quite unusual. What about the driver?" I asked with a thin faint voice and my eyes, as bright as a blazing star.

"I need to have a ride with you before I take off for Jaji. I will take you to school today and bring you back afterwards. What you have to do now is to finish your tea, put on your uniform and join me in the car."

As he spoke, his face was like light illuminating my darkness. Quickly, I went to my room, dressed up and came out with my schoolbag. I was smiling as thoughts of happiness ran leaping through my mind like fawns at play. It was a day I would never forget in my life.


He took me to school that very day and came to pick me up after school hours. The memory of the early morning hours and the emotion his coming in the afternoon incited in me surged in my soul like a welcoming tempest. I was really happy. However, instead of going home straight away from school, my uncle took me to Eat & Smile for lunch. After that, he took me to his lawyer, Barrister Bulus Allahnana.

Barrister Allahnana's Chambers, Law Craftmasters at Okija Island was a remarkable sight. Passing through his secretary's office with all the exotic legal books on the attractive shelf informed me about what to expect from the lawyer I had never seen. It seemed to me that there were certain behaviours expected of all the members of the bench and bar. The first appeared to be an exhibition of intelligence underscored by the lawyer's eloquent command of language. The second, being a proof of wide readership known by the type of books carefully arranged on the shelves and thirdly, but never the least, an expression of unalloyed consistency in attitude.

We were most welcomed by the lawyer.

"You are most welcome General. What a surprise visit. You never informed me you were coming." The lawyer said.

"Thank you my learned friend. I had to leave you in the dark about my coming because of the gravity of the matter I came with." My uncle responded in an accentuated tone.

"That's okay General. Our long history together has brought us to this day. Once again, you are most welcome."

At that moment, a certain kind of silence brooded like a gentle spirit over the office as my uncle introduced me to the lawyer.

"Barrister, meet my son, Mr. Enenche Ekondu, he is the reason why we are here."

"But General, you have never told me about any other child of yours since you lost your family."

"Yes. I never told you about my intelligent who lost his family the same time I lost mine. He has been with me since then."

"Oh! That's good to know General." He stretched out his hand towards mine.

"Mr. Enenche, I'm happy to meet you."

"I'm happy to meet you too barrister." I responded in a faint voice.

"The reason why we are here is this," my uncle was talking, "I have been recalled to Jaji to undertake a military assignment that may keep me away from my son for a while - the length of which I cannot tell. Mr. Enenche is quite a promising child and I am leaving everything under his control. He will be in charge of all my properties until my return. However, as a trusted friend, I'm leaving him under your guide. I'm soliciting that you visit him from time to time and know how he is faring. He is such an intelligent and disciplined young man."

Looking at the old-standing shelf in the lawyer's office, the books stared at me pathetically as if the words of my uncle increased their values and turned them into golden treasures.

The lawyer responded favourably even though he said he was in the middle of a case he was interested in. He was helping an innocent man who had been behind bars for nearly a decade. Life had become a precarious journey. No driver remained silent, leaving the vehicle behind to catch up with his or hers. It had been a matter of life and death -  a survival of the fittest and the dying of the unfit.

"General, I have never failed you in any regards before. I will do as you said."

My uncle was hilarious and I was busy enjoy the musicality in their words. It was a day I longed it repeated itself. The lawyer saw us to the car before we zoomed off.
To be continued...                                                            


  1. Hi,
    I like your beginning. The poetry start with asking questions drew me right into your story.

    Is this going to be a short story. I found the first part interesting.


    1. Thank you so much Patricia for stopping by to read my story... it may grow into a novelette or even a novel... I'm inviting to join my blog so that you could follow the succeeding stories... wishing you the best of 2013!

    2. It has me entranced Innocent; the makings of a great story. I am looking forward to seeing how it develops.

      Concomitantly, I often reminisce about my dead parents.

      I am not sure that 'concomitantly' is the right word here? I had to look it up - would a simpler word do? And you leave too much unsaid about your 'dead' parents - a hugely significant comment, but left to dangle - the rest of the paragraph does not deal with this topic at all. But I am assuming that you mean, thoughts of your parents often follow, after writing and dreaming ...? Just a few thoughts. I love your style Innocent ... keep going my friend.

    3. I'm glad you read the story Amanda. I see your point- the paragraph on my dead parents is in need of further development, beginning with a change of the word 'concomitantly.' I really appreciate your honest comments, I will keep you updated...

    4. I believe you were born to write. I loved the story. The only thing i might add is, " Readers are more apt to read a short story than a long drawn-out one. You can always say, " To be continued. " Which you did. Write on my friend. I will follow..Cheers.

    5. Ruby, your comment has me encouraged... thanks for being there as my story unfolds... I will keep you updated...

  2. Well done, Innocent. Nice write up.

    1. A bunch of thanks Myne... I will intimate you on the progress of the story... you've been a great inspiration...

    2. Keep going Innocent - it promises to be an interesting tale. I am assuming that your blog is your 'first draft' and you will revisit each chapter again as the story takes shape. It is a courageous thing to do ... to put your story out there as it develops and unfolds. An artist unafraid to show his process!

    3. Thanks Amanda for being there... for reading... for your suggestions... for your insight... I really do appreciate...