Floods had forced them to move once again. Now as the waters receded there was mud, garbage and rats everywhere.
All her children had rat bites but Chioma was most worried about her youngest boy, his fever was too high.
She thought of offering what little food they had left to offer the elder and ask him to cleanse him, but that had never worked before. No, this time she would go to town and buy medicine. It was a long hot walk, at the small store the owner said she needed to get rid of the rats or else the medicine will not help, he would not sell her just one. She did not want to buy both the rat poison and the medicine, it was all the money she had, but she loved her youngest.
He poured the rat poison powder into a brown wrapper and wrote poison, the medicine he poured into a red wrapper and wrote fever. Suspecting Chioma could not read he said remember, red is hot like the fever. The walk back to the village was long and it was past dark when she got home, her son was very sick, blood was in is spit.
All she had for light were the small flames from the bush charcoal, in its dim flickering light both wrappers looked the same.
She stared at the wrappers, the words were silent.
She counted the letters, one had six and the other five.
Six letters must mean it is the best one.
She poured the powder in a tin cup of brown water and helped her son drink it fully.
Her mistake was quickly evident, she had given her son the rat poison.
Calling to her neighbors her son was rushed back to town, his stomach pumped, his life saved. Chioma vowed that day to learn to read. There was life in the words.
Thank you for giving the gift of literacy to people like Chioma!