Short Non-Fiction Writing 1 (Funny Encounter with the Stern Mama Uche)

“Eat that ‘Uda’ before I slap you!” Mama Uche shouted at me. I had a mild sore throat before going to school that morning, and when I complained about it to my mother, she made a salt and warm water mixture for me to drink, claiming it would help clear my throat, as she gently pushing me out the door since we were the last two people in the house and she was running late to the market to open her small kiosk where she sells “garri,” all the while whispering under her breath about all the customers she must have lost. Hopeful that my mother’s magical mixture was going to cure my sore throat, I parted ways with her at the junction, with her taking a bus to “new market” while I crossed the road to walk to my primary school, which was very close to the ministry of agriculture quarters where we lived.

After an hour or two, I can’t remember how long it took before I became really sick. The sore throat had become unbearable. I recently researched my mother’s mixture and found that the mixture is supposed to be gargled, not gobbled, but at the time, it didn’t help. Thinking it was better to go home and lay down, my class teacher allowed me to go home because I was too sick to remain at school.

I was walking home from school that day when I ran into Mama Uche, our neighbor and family friend, who was coming home from Aninri, where she worked as a teacher. I don’t know her real name; she was generally referred to as Mama Uche, as my mother was also called Mama Blessing. Osy is her first son, but in my mother’s case, my sister Blessing came after four boys. So, I guess the neighbors on their own decided on which child to be used as the pseudonymic sacrificial lamb.

Mama Uche was a tall woman with smooth ebony skin that always seemed to shine like our Vaseline-coated legs during the harmattan seasons. Her hair was always relaxed and neatly combed back, with a high forehead and a slightly wide nose. Her eyes, however, always seemed cold to me, like she was always angry. Maybe because I had once seen her beating her son Uche who happened to be my playmate at the time like a thief. She didn’t just spank Udo; she raised him up and smashed him down on a crate of cola bottles arranged close to the store in their house. I ran home and would only visit when I knew she was not home.

“Good afternoon, Ma,” I greeted.

“What is good about the afternoon, and why are you not in school?” she asked.

“I am sick, ma,” I answered.

“What is wrong with you?” she continued.

“I am feeling very feverish, and I can barely swallow my saliva or water, Ma,” I replied.

“Oya! “Follow me to the house,” she said.

Whom am I to question Mama Uche? I followed her to their house, which she opened with her key, and then she told me to go wait for her at the parlor. I went to the parlor and sat on the sofa closest to the door with my minion backpack still on my back, my bottom barely touching the seat, and my hands on my thighs tensed, waiting for Mama Uche to tell me the sins I might have committed by leaving school early. She came to the parlor some minutes later and handed me three long uda peppers and ordered me to chew and swallow them one after the other while standing over me. The taste of this spice mostly found in Africa is best described as a combination of black pepper, nutmeg with an overtone of resin, and a bitter pungency. After miraculously chewing and swallowing the first one barely controlling the urge to cry and howl all the insults running through my mind at the time at her, she insisted I follow up with the second one, and when I resisted, she raised her hand threateningly towards my face waiting for me to question her superior knowledge of the use of uda as a sore throat remedy, so that she would derive joy from slapping the shit out of me.

Her solution worked, but at the time I was far from grateful. I honestly thought of her as a black Ursula in the animation “The Little Mermaid,” the collector of unfortunate souls, mine being the most recent. I couldn’t wait for someone to come home so I could leave and tell my story of how I survived Mama Uche. I recently googled the English name for uda pepper and got “negro pepper.” Ironic! That woman mastered me.

5 thoughts on “Short Non-Fiction Writing 1 (Funny Encounter with the Stern Mama Uche)

  • Ebi Eluma
    1 December 2023 at 13:25

    Love it.

  • Joseph
    15 December 2023 at 04:32

    Another beautiful story. Keep it up.

  • Patrick Onuh
    23 December 2023 at 22:25

    Mama Uche. God rest her soul. She had a good heart . This encounter captures her personality to the letter. A great read.

  • Theresa
    24 December 2023 at 07:33

    Very capturing

  • Bosan
    9 January 2024 at 17:49


    I can relate to this story.
    Beautiful story, keep it up. Welldone

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