192 Pages
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192 Pages


Madam Essin stood watching the young people holding each other. She looked at the young man who was her son. How handsome he looked. When he smiled he had that elusive curve on his lips that reminded her of her husband. She had been unable to resist that curve of the lips even after eight years of marriage. When her husband smiled she had the feeling he was looking down on her in amused condescension. This used to annoy her but she could not resist the charm he exuded. Now here she was an abandoned wife with an estranged son. Her thoughts roved as she watched them, plunging into the past, the present and the future. The girl brought back the past. She wished she could obliterate that past from her life and her son's. In Precipice, Susan Nkwentie Nde, in her first novel, has a way of weaving past intrigues and present emotions to keep all guessing about what will be. She opens up her characters for the reader to enter and inhabit their minds and bodies in a compelling story of love and estrangement, happy accidents, quest and survival.



Published by
Published 15 April 2008
Reads 0
EAN13 9789956716517
Language English
Document size 2 MB

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Susan Nkwentie Nde
LangaaResearch & Publishing CIG Mankon, Bamenda
Publisher: LangaaRPCIG (LangaaResearch & Publishing Common Initiative Group) P.O. Box 902 Mankon Bamenda North West Province Cameroon
ISBN: 9956-558-17-6
©Susan Nkwentie Nde 2008 First Published 2008
DISCLAIMER All views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Langaa RPCIG.
Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
1 13 29 50 66 86 105 122 134 153 177
1 he crowd outside the casualty department grew larger as T news went round town that a bus had fallen down the station hill in Bamenda town. Some people were wondering whether to go to the scene of the accident or to go to the hospital. At the scene of the accident, a crowd was still gazing with unbelieving eyes at the wreckage. The bus was bashed on all sides and splinters of glass were scattered on the hillside. The onlookers wondered how anybody could have come out of it alive. At the hospital, the fourteen passengers who had been on board were in various stages of shock. The reception was full with casualties. In the inner room, two of the very bad cases were lying on the two available beds. The rest were on the floor while some sat on the benches outside. Those who were conscious enough to speak recounted the incident. The narration was interrupted often with groans of pain. The nurses discouraged the casualties from speaking too much but the excitement and the shock of the incident was too much for them to keep quiet. There were exclamations and sighs from the audience. From the versions that passed from lip to lip, it was finally established that while the bus was being loaded at the Nkwen bus stop, the driver was busy drinking in a nearby bar. It was even said that at one point when he was called to settle a problem concerning a passenger who had refused to pay an additional sum of five hundred francs for his luggage, he had rushed out in anger and, without asking what the man wanted to give, had asked him to pay or get out of his bus. He had come along with his unfinished bottle of Export beer from which he sipped as he spoke. When the passengers complained about his drinking and driving, he asked them to get down if they were afraid of dying. 1
When the bus was full, he took off with such speed that the passengers looked at each other. At the outlet of the bus stop, a woman asked the driver to stop so that she could buy a bottle of Supermont for her baby. In response to her request, she got a barrage of recriminations from her fellow passengers and particularly from the driver. They asked why she had not bought it when they were still at the bus stop and the bus had not yet taken off. Women were such nuisance, some of the passengers complained. The passengers were divided into two camps with the majority taking sides with the woman for they were disgusted with the uncompromising attitude of the driver. Fortunately the bus was by the Total Petrol Station so the mineral water could be bought without anybody getting out of the bus. One of the workers at the petrol station was kind enough to bring the bottle of water to the bus and collected the money. When this was done the driver sped up the incline towards the Finance Roundabout seemingly delighted at the discomfiture that reigned among the passengers. He aggravated the situation by making annoying remarks. The Bamenda Station Hill is a test of the ability of drivers and many a learner driver has failed the driving test on this hill not from lack of skill but from fright. From the hill, the town is seen lying in a valley. It is beautiful scenery with rolling hills in the background. But from the road winding down the hill it looks like an abyss. Many drivers coming to Bamenda for the first time especially in the night have been forced to leave their vehicles up the hill and take a taxi down to town. The driver, excited by the state of tension among the passengers because of the argument, wanted to frighten them further to keep them quiet. So he sped up the hill, his hands firmly gripping the steering wheel. He focused his gaze on the road. As he negotiated the second bend, he was right in the middle of the road. An oncoming vehicle flashed its lights for him to keep to his own side of the road. He swerved the bus, miscalculated the width of the road and sent the bus rolling down the hill. No passenger came out as the bus somersaulted and was battered on all sides. As taxis deposited the victims at the hospital, nurses came with stretchers and wheel chairs to evacuate them. The
trauma was of various degrees. There were fractured legs and arms, lacerated stomachs and backs, swollen heads and faces, abrasions and multiple injuries. It was a ghastly sight. Blood had thickened into dark smearing on some bodies and some were still bleeding. There was a young man who lay so still that to the layman’s eyes, the doctor was coming in his case just to write the cause of death and the other jargon that goes with their profession. He was in a coma and was taken to the reanimation ward. In his condition nothing could be done except the assessment of his visible injuries. In the theatre, the doctors were busy cleaning and stitching wounds. In the reanimation ward, the nurses were busy too. Since the patient was in no condition to give any information on how he felt, the necessary medical precautions had to be taken. His eyelids were opened and his pupils examined. His fingertips and the soles of his feet were pricked to assess the level of comatose. His case was considered semi-comatose because he responded weakly to the applied pain. A nurse was stationed near him to take note of any changes. His temperature and pressure were taken at intervals. The radio station had broadcasted the names of the passengers who were in the bus. Now the hospital was full with relatives, sympathizers and those who were just inquisitive. Nobody enquired about the young man who lay in the reanimation ward. A patient in the reanimation ward is a cause for concern but the onlookers at the windows were just inquisitive to know who he was. News was already going round that there was an unknown young handsome man lying in the ward. He was still in his clothes and lying on his back. He was very fair in complexion with high cheekbones. His nose was aquiline. The thin line of moustache on his upper lip gave the impression that he was a teenager just entering into manhood. He had a head of hair and the thin strip that descended on both sides of his face gave it a striking appearance. It was such an arresting face that even in repose, it commanded a second look. The mouth in mobility was sensuous but was now held firmly in place, maybe from pain or the will to live. His shirt was open at the chest and revealed a very fair and unblemished skin, with a thin layer of hair evenly spread on it. He was lying there,
oblivious of everything going on around him. Every plan of his was at a standstill waiting for providence to give him the strength to continue. Ralph Essin had arrived Cameroon two weeks ago from France. Though his only parent, his mother, was living in Yaounde, he had decided to come to Bamenda first to see his best friend with whom he had attended the University of Yaounde. Having been out of the country for five years, he thought it was best for him to make contact with somebody who understood him and would guide him through the transitory period of readjustment before he got caught up in the arms of his mother and the extended family. He had spent a wonderful week in Bamenda and was on his way to Yaounde when tragedy struck. His friend Russell, with whom he had spent the week, had left the previous day for Yaounde to do some work for his boss and also to see how far his documents had gone in the Ministry of Finance. He had been working for five years and had not yet been integrated into the civil service. He could not wait to travel with his friend because he was travelling with other colleagues in a service vehicle. Their plan was to meet in Yaounde so that Russell could be introduced to Ralph’s mother, so that whenever Ralph wanted to come to Bamenda, his mother would not wonder with whom he was going to stay. Ralph wanted his re-entry into the Cameroonian society to be smooth. Though his mother had done everything to secure him a job in Yaounde, he did not want to be tied to her apron strings. He did not want to stay with her for fear she would fuss over him as if he was still mama’s boy. While in France, his mother had always written to him about getting married and having children. Being an only child the mother’s fears were justifiable. He knew that his mother was going to introduce as many girls as possible to him, – those she thought good enough for him. She might have even chosen one for him already. Ralph was planning to avoid all of these as much as possible. But in this state, whatever the future had for him would wait. “Good morning, Doctor.” “Good morning, how is the patient?” the doctor asked as he looked at the chart and report in the patient’s file.