There are eight rooms in Cemetery Lodge. Four rooms on each side of the battered cemented passage. The five male corpers occupy five rooms, while the six ladies take the remaining three rooms—two of them per room. There is no kitchen—the girls cook in their rooms, I and Edwin cook in the passage. Micah doesn’t cook (I have told you this before). Agu eats weed. And Dayo feeds on the fruits of the Spirit.
The apartment has two toilet-bathrooms. One for guys, the other for non-guys. The guys’ toilet is a mess. The first time I saw it, my buttocks slammed shut and I didn’t shit for seven days. Now, I use the toilet in my school (at day), and the bush (at night). The girls’ toilet is a gory mess. Normally, these girls do shot-put. They shit into a nylon bag and hurl it into the bush; but some other times, they shit into their shit-bucket full of water and then pour it into the overflowing toilet bowl.
Sometimes a powerful smell would grip the atmosphere and everyone would seize the flimsiest excuse to leave the house.
No one uses the toilet-bathroom for bathing. We use the zinc shack beside the lodge as bathroom. This shack has no roof, in fact it is so low that when you bath, people walking by on the road could see your shoulders (if you are short like Edwin). Tall people have their chest exposed. Tina, to prevent passers-by from viewing her breasts, would always bathe squatting.
So I was taking my bath in this amphi-bathroom, when I saw two ragged boys carrying a long black lifeless snake in the hand. Two village girls approaching them jumped into the bush for the snaked boys to pass.
At the sight of them, an idea hit me on the nose. If these village girls could jump into the bush for fear of a dead snake, how much more would this sleek corps members fear it. Oh yes! This is my tool of vengeance.
“Micah!” I hollered. It wasn’t time for lunch, so I didn’t expect him to answer his name. I beckoned the boys. They were eleven or twelve years old. “I like your snake,” I said.
The dirtier of the two shook his head. “Is meat,” he said.
I knew he didn’t understand me. That was why I called Micah, so he could help me communicate with them. Micah now spoke and understood a handful of Yoruba phrases and sentences; I was still in the ekaro-odabo level. I noticed that the snake was headless.
“What of the head?” I asked, gesturing.
“Is not meat.”
I began to wipe my body with the towel. “Dash me the snake.”
They laughed coyly. “Snake eat you.”
It is you that snake will eat, I said inwardly. Aloud, “I will dash you money o.”
“One thousand naira,” the spokes-boy said.
“Are you mad? One thousand naira for one snake! Is the snake imported from Holland?” The boys were speechless. I calmed down. “Two hundred naira.”
“Aaah, egbomi, ewo kekere… ashe idamu pupo ki a to mu ejo.”
I shut my eyes in frustration.
“What is it?” Micah asked when he emerged.
I explained to him in quick Hausa that I needed the reptile for my revenge.
“You never forgive them?”
“Forgive my foot.”
Upon my return from the native doctor, Dayo had forced me to undergo seven days of fasting to cleanse myself from ‘the diabolism of the devil’. I was now new-born clean, but my heart still ached for vengeance.
The boys started walking away.
“Hey, stop there!”
With the communicative help of Micah, I bought the snake for four hundred naira. We put the snake inside a nylon bag; just looking at the dead reptile made me flinch.
Over a late lunch, we discussed who should get the snake scare. Micah said that he was ‘closing in’ on Corper Mercy, so we should rule her out. Mercy is a plump, chatty girl who teaches biology, same as Micah, but because she isn’t so bright or because she is so lazy, or both, she relies on Micah for her lesson notes and presentations. Now Micah was closing in on her… bad boy.
We ruled her out. We also ruled out was Mercy’s roommate, Corper Ibukun whom everyone calls IBK. A beautiful one whom me and Micah secretly refer to as ‘On The Road Corper’, due to her crazy love for travelling; she hardly spends a weekend in this village. In fact, she left for Ibadan this morning to visit some ‘uncle’.
That left us with roommates Agatha and Tina, Fisayo and Fatima. They all deserved to be punished, but we only had one snake. We decided to cut the snake into two, drop one part in Agatha/Tina’s room and the other in Fisayo/Fatima’s room.
But I couldn’t use my knife to cut the unclean animal, neither would Micah. So we settled for Fisayo-Fatima candidacy, we would punish the others later.
Fatima and her heavyset, over-endowed coal-coloured self was watching some Korean film on the television, while Fisayo lay on her bed thumbing at her phone. Terrorist Me stood on the smelly alley, watching through their netted window, the snake in my nylon-gloved hand.
Slowly, I squeezed the snake into a hole in the net and began to lower it. It was unnerving holding a snake, dead or alive, this close, but my call to vengeance gave me strength. I kept my eyes on Fatima whose profile was to the window.
Then, with the snake half-way to the floor, I lowered my frame and hissed loudly. Fisayo turned. I let the snake drop. And someone began to scream her lungs out.
I rounded the house, entered my room, hugged Micah, and we shook with laughter. The scream was music to us.
“Whooo, whooo,” I mimicked, and we laughed harder. Micah fell down and began rolling on the floor, while I hit my head on the wall with mirth.
Just then, someone crashed into my room. We turned to face Agatha, still laughing.
“Fisayo has collapsed o!” she choked out.
Our laughter vanished like a drop of water on a hot stove, replaced with ice-cold fear. We rushed to Fisayo’s room, and found Agu and Edwin carrying her unconscious body out of her room, and Fatima on the tow wailing.
“Oh no…” I stopped before them. “Where are you taking her to?”
“Clinic,” Agu said.
I felt her pulse.
“She is alive,” Edwin shouted.
“Give way,” said Agu.
I made way as they carried her away, the girls on their heels.
“Is she alive?” Micah asked me.
I nodded. It was critical. They were taking her to the village clinic. Some weeks back, I had gone to the clinic where a corps member doctor attended to me. He wrote a prescription of four drugs for me, and I could get just one in the pharmacy. I had to buy the rest.
Now they were taking Fisayo there! No one would be there at this time, except the night watchmen. I decided to get my cell phone and join them. So many calls would be made tonight.
I made to walk by Micah, but he blocked my way.
“Do you know you are evil?” he hissed.
I eyed him. His eyes were red with passion. If I was one foot shorter or five years younger, and had no fear over Fisayo, I would have been afraid of him.
“You are a big devil. What kind of heart do you even have?”
I made to pass and he pushed me on my chest. I bit my lip and held unto my temper. I made to pass again and he pushed me harder.
“If that girl dies, her blood will be on your head!” he fired and stamped away.
I entered my room. As I picked up my cell phone, an idea struck me. I began to throw my clothes into my box. I would be ready, just in case.
Written by Kingsley Okechukwu, tweets @Oke4chukwu, and blogs at kingkingsley.wordpress.com