Children of Ego by Prosper C. Ìféányí

if you help me see Ego make you tellam I don go


We were seeing smoke turn to dust before our very own eyes. Gradually, the silhouette of the big green car disappeared into a narrow chicane. All was still again. Peaceful, if you like. Ego was sitting in front of a mirror in her room; sizing earrings which clung to her ears like pendulum clocks. Her bed was draped in tartan-styled sheets Obinna got her from Scotland. Her hair dryer was hung like a Chekhovian prop waiting to be used. Surely, nothing could ruin this serene moment Ego basked in. She loved to keep things that way. Unruffled. That was why she spoke little. Ate little. Came out only at night when the children were asleep.

We were inside when the car honked again. Dutifully, as we were, we formed a circle around the green Sedan, chanting, “brother, oyoyo!” Ego had told us that there was nothing like “oyoyo,” instead, she said it was “brother, oh you are home!” We felt she didn’t understand the weight of what she was saying. The new lyricism she brought to the routine equation diminished not only the joy abounding our faces, but the zest to actually carry on. Among the disagreers was Obiageli, who labeled Ego as not only boring, but a killjoy. That was Obiageli for you. She was always loquacious around everyone, especially Ego, and the only time she came to an agreement was when she was given an udala fruit.

Brother always came home like this. Perfunctory and uninterested. We, the children, knew better than irk him during moments like this. He was quick to use his cane which seemed to never leave his car, except on Sundays, when we visited Father Francis after thanksgiving or Mrs Stewart, his white boss who spoke posh English. Dozie was always the hapless one who got flogged, especially when he hadn’t done his chores. When we got everything from the car into the apartment, we waited for our names to be called upon by Ego, who would apportion biscuits to us by our age difference. Sometimes, I would conk Obiageli who didn’t waste anytime to disprove the fact that I was older than her. I am usually shy among people, but you see when it comes to moments which define my self-respect, I am always quick to stand up for myself.

We all sat, all five of us, waiting to be called upon. Suddenly, just when we had all given up hope, we heard a thud from the room. We were all excited to finally hear something. Ibekwa whispered silently that Ego would cook for us, but then again, everything we said were mere conjectures. Nneoma, who was the youngest, sang silently about how a river bird caught a snake and didn’t return to nestle. I shushed her immediately because I felt it was the right thing to do as the eldest. I knew subconsciously that this wasn’t our home, and anytime one of us tried to get too comfortable, it alarmed me. I always reminded them that we all came from different villages and were mere orphaned children taken in by the benevolent family. Why they had no child of their own still puzzled me—it puzzled us, but no one said anything about it. Something Obiageli ruled out as she paraded the whole house with Ego’s used clothes and lavender powder.

It was two hours since Brother arrived from seeing his mother off to Umunede park, where she would board a bus to the village; I still hadn’t gotten over the fact that Ego had slapped her because she accused us of being the source of Ego’s barrenness. “That woman and those weird looking orphans eats children,” she had said to Obinna. I was confused about how being orphaned remotely or closely affected a woman’s barrenness; I sensed Ego thought this, too, hence the reason for the retaliation. I was beginning to worry now. First, it was a thud, then a muffled silence. Nothing followed after that. On the sofa, we dared one another to move an inch; or worse, go to Ego’s room. Amidst the silent chaos, we all dozed off with our unwashed feet.

It has been two weeks now, and Ego hasn’t come out of her room. Brother goes to work and comes back the same. His face is blander than ever. Unreadable. Strange. We don’t go to check on Ego because we are scared she might not like it. We all go about our daily chores, silently, as if waiting for one of us to say it. To pluck that phony and tired smile from our faces when we think of her. We know she’s in our hearts. Sometimes she’s singing a little in there. Most times, she’s just silent.


Prosper C. Ìféányí writes from Lagos, Nigeria. A two times Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, his works are featured or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, Salt Hill Journal, South Dakota Review, The Offing, Obsidian Literature, and elsewhere. In 2023 he was shortlisted for the Sevhage Prize for Short Fiction.