Hope sits in a chair. It kneads dough with practised hands, and sends them to oven for fine butter bread. It tries to show me how; but I cannot slow down. There are higher callings in the world, I believe, and baking bread does not fit. I always make bad bread, Hope collects the bad bread and puts it out for dinner. Father complains, pressing his ear to give heed to Ogene FM. There are all these angry voices, spitting Move for Biafra and the Eastern divide. Young people sharpening machetes and learning to shoot guns. Father’s fingers tremble in excitement, wishing aloud that we get it right this time. He wants quiet, but Hope is kneading. He does not want that sound. He goes around the bakery—which is most of our house—and smacks Hope by the left ear. It smiles even when its cheek reddens, and orders me to set breakfast, because Father is hungry. Later at sundown, it will share a laugh with Father over two bottles of Fayrouz.
When it rises from mild tipsiness, it gathers all MASSOB pamphlets which Father printed and burns them in the oven furnace. Father does not see this because he sleeps. I know there will be another war against Hope. But it says the only world that survives is peace. The freedom we seek from government is hidden among us. Later, I hear Father beat it with a long stick. But it stands at the threshold, telling Father to stop printing those pamphlets; that the words inside are confusing people, killing people. That night, Father sips his drink alone.
There springs a new bakery outlet on the street. Hope’s butter bread has unwarranted competition. It should march outside and chase the usurpers, but it sits in that chair, and kneads dough. Father curses aloud when I am deported home from Federal Girls College, and promises me Harvard when he reclaims his inheritance. The house is placed on sale and we move to a smaller place. All that space, gone. I have more time on my hands. I watch it, Hope, its practised hands and copy it. It prepares sugarless zobo, since Fayrouz is going out of market, and packs ice cubes in it. Father grunts and takes a long sip. Hope finds him a contract to print wedding calendars; but Father says those who fight for peace end up as spoils of war. He swears to print nothing else, unless truth. Even if truth brings war. Because war brings peace in the end. Hope continues kneading.
Father returns one day, zipped up in a body bag, his battered skin still burning. Hope leaves its chair mid-kneading and kisses him on the forehead. It says I should say a prayer of peace for Father like it taught me. I say there is no higher calling in the world, than that of peace, and I wish Father finds. I start kneading again, and Hope joins me with a song.
Favour Iruoma Chukwuemeka is a creative writer and poet from Eastern Nigeria. Her works have appeared/are forthcoming in Conscio, Cypress Journal, the Shallow Tales Review, Kalahari, the Mbari Story Place. She is an Alumnus of the Creative Writing Cohort with Chigozie Obioma. Find her on Twitter @heeruomah