I had gone to the market to buy soup things. Ugu leaves had been scarce since November and as I hadn’t learned to eat ewedu, efo and a dozen other vegetables flooding the marketplace, I decided to buy just okra and cook it with ponmo. I bought ponmo, but there was no okra anywhere for me. I roamed the marketplace, which wasn’t bigger than two lawn tennis courts, for vile minutes, then waited for viler minutes. No okra. As I couldn’t return the ponmo, I decided to go home and make ponmo pepper soup. After all, it isn’t what you eat that defileth a man.
While trekking to the lodge, I kept passing my students on their way to school. None of them greeted me. Those who bothered just said ‘uncle o’, which I duly ignored. While growing up in Kaduna, it was believed that Yoruba people have so much respect, but these ones had since proved this to be a criminal lie. Micah said that those who have respect were the ones that Awolowo gave free education, not these yeye children.
When I entered the lodge, I discovered that my keg of water which I reserved for my cooking was empty.
“Who took my water?” I shouted.
“It’s me, your sweetheart,” IBK said from her room. She came out of the room and blew me a kiss.
Fetching water in this village was a difficult task, and I’d told IBK in a moment of recklessness that she could fetch from my keg when she needed it. Even at that, I wanted to shout at her and tell her a piece of my mind, but something stopped me. Perhaps it was the blown kiss or the fact that I owed her 12,000 naira, or both, that stopped me.
I entered my room and collapsed on the bed like a pole when you machete it a dozen times.
I opened the chapter of my situation and began to ponder on it. I had paid my okada man, the welcome due, my tithe and made provisional purchases. Now I had less than 10,000 naira on me. From now till the time I travel for Christmas, I must have spent three thousand naira. Now 7 thousand naira wouldn’t be enough to transport me to Anambra and still do big boy at home. And I was too thin. I have this crazy aunty at home who would shout and embarrass me if she saw me like this; she would scream, “Don’t people have food in Osun State, or is it HIV? Talk true. Chei, my husband is finished o!”
Oh, and General Gowon had returned to Plateau State after four days here, to resume January (that’s by the way).
Now, what my body needed was ora soup and he-goat meat, every day. I could only get this in Ikirun, and the Owerri woman who cooks this ora meal prices it far above rubies. My 10 thousand naira wouldn’t get me a dozen meals from this woman. I hissed and turned in my bed.
“Are you not going to school today?” IBK peeped into my room.
“Pregnant corper,” she said and disappeared before I could throw a bad word back at her.
I pouted my lips to hiss, but my phone charged to life, interrupting my lips mid-hiss. The incoming call was from and unregistered number.
“Hello,” I snapped.
My lips tightened. How did he get my number?
“I am in the bank right now,” he continued. “What’s that your account number?”
I looked at my ponmo tied in the nylon bag, lying in a corner like a dead cat. I looked at my palms turning white like a corpse’s for lack of vegetable – ora to be precise. I heard my aunt’s shrill voice: “Ewo o, my little husband has become a rake o.”
“Hello,” Chiemeke said, “you there?”
“I am busy.” And I ended the call. What kind of evil spirit is this?
The phone began to ring. I rejected the call. It charged to life soon afterwards. I rejected it again. I waited with my hand on the end button, but it didn’t ring.
“Nonsense,” I said and returned my back to the mattress.
Fool, something inside me cursed. Collect that money and do something useful with it.
Don’t try it, remember you are a man of honour, another something said.
The first laughed. Keep deceiving yourself.
The second countered, and the two began to exchange tongue lashes, driving me crazy. “Sharrap!” I shouted. “You people are disturbing me. If you want to argue, go look for another accommodation.” Why would people who enjoy free accommodation in your body want to drive you crazy?
But they continued to argue as though I had spoken Korean. I picked myself up, dusted myself and left the room for the two mad dogs. They followed me, cursing each other.
Send your account number, idiot!
Shut up, goat!
I hurried towards my school. I needed to come in contact with civilization before these rascals would cause leakage on my head and breeze would enter my brain and my name would enter the Village Book of Record for people to one day say, “There was this corper who woke up one day and began to pick papers in the roadside, just like that.” God forbid.
Halfway to the school, I heard a deafening roar. I increased my pace. When my legs reached the gate, my eyes beheld a rowdy atmosphere. Students were about, jumping with wild excitement. I saw corps members running with angry purpose to SSII block. I ran after them and caught up with Agatha.
“What the hell is happening?”
“A student slapped Mercy.”
Micah and three or so female corpers had reached the block and were challenging a massive boy who stood with his hands in his pockets. A thug in uniform. They shouted at him, but they didn’t touch him. He dared them to. I reached for my belt, but stopped. I didn’t trust my trousers to remain around my waist if I unbelted. Moreover, I needed something that would draw blood. My eyes began a crazy rummaging of the earth and fell on Mercy whimpering under a cashew tree. This broke my heart and I rushed towards the boy.
Edwin burst out from thin air, rushed with his six-month-old pregnancy and crashed stomach-first into the boy. The two landed with a thud that could have caused a minor earthquake. The boy fought like a wild cat, but he wasn’t a match for the lorry that had fallen on him. They got to their feet still tearing at each other. As Edwin raised his fists to rain blows, the boy managed to slip out of the grip and kicked to his feet. Micah slapped him on the face, and as he turned to assault Micah, my own slap blinded him for a few seconds. Before he could recover from it, my other hand thundered on him and he staggered. Edwin crashed into him again and the two fell again. The school roared.
Pinned to the ground, I kicked the boy’s ribcage. Not satisfied with this, I grabbed his foot. Micah grabbed the other and we stretched hard until the boy was forced out of the wreckage of Edwin. A normal human being should have died, but the boy kicked so hard, we let go of his legs. He rushed towards Micah with clenched fist, but a devilish wood crashed on his back, slowing him. As he turned to look at the person who hit him, Agu slammed the club on the side of his head. He fell down without a sound. Agu lifted the club to hit the unconscious body, but I grabbed it. He let go the weapon, rushed and lifted a rock. But Uncle Dayo fought that out of his hold.
“Do you want to commit murder?” he roared at the crazed Agu.
Agu let go and rushed forward. Students scattered in terror like birds at a crash of gunshot. He didn’t find what he wanted and turned. He rushed to the fallen body of the student, and stamped on him. He raised his leg for the second time, and Dayo shoved him off.
“Are you mad?” he shouted.
Micah and Edwin held Agu back. He fought them, but they held him tight and began to pull him away.
The ladies had now made a protective circle around Mercy and were leading her home. I made to join them, when my phone vibrated to life and began a rude ringing.
I snatched it from my pocket and barked at Chiemeke, “What is it?”
“Guy man, send me your account na.”
My anger filled my head with so much awful gas, it made my head soft like bladder. “If you ever call this line again,” I yelled, “I WILL DESTROY YOU!”
Written by Kingsley Okechukwu, tweets @Oke4chukwu