The morning seeped in slowly through the curtains of the sky, it was one of those mornings that made liars out of clocks, you could check them for all you cared but the sky made them so.
On the road was a mangled rat, certainly crushed by a car and more cars had run over it, it was not obviously freshly thrown out to the road.
At the end of this road was a music store but it was silent this morning despite the electricity that was restored during the previous night. Light came on at about 3am as i was awaken out of slumber.
The ceremonial cheers was absent that usually heralded and hurrahed their arrival-up NEPA!, up NEPA…
i heard footsteps in the compound certainly that must be Mama Nonso’s, i muttered to myself as she pranced about, she was going to put her plastic water bucket at the tap and it was sure that if she got to the tap earlier than you, you should forget about getting water. She would arrange her pails from the tallest to the smallest. The first one would spill into the next and then the next like a well arranged domino.
she would sometimes sit by her window to see if anyone would try to defy her, but no one did, nor tried after she beat the landlord’s daughter silly only once, we all had the warning signal we needed-she was not all bark no bite like Yoruba people as she often said.
It was not her height or her manly features that frightened people but her determination and the way she fought, very few men could dare her, her presence alone made her stand out and could cause a real argument to end, there was no one she could not insult very well or pick a fight with, she was feared by all and afraid of none.
But then it had not rained, otherwise i would have joined the rest of the compound to arrange our pails under the edge of roof side of the house and sift the part that belonged to water from the part that was dirt.
But this morning was sleepy! It was a Sunday morning! it was not just that. It was Palm Sunday! The street would soon be littered with skinny fronds of make-belief crosses.
I lazily rose out of my bed and walked into the next compound opposite the street and bent into the well , greeted mama rafiki, then i heard a noise that was atop me, tanko’s husky voice had called out over my bent head he slapped my back, twaah! And he hit me again i lifted my head out to reply him ” its yr father that you are beating” and we broke into a joint laughter.
Until we heard a bit of a screech accompanied by a fiery voice, we knew that voice as tanko turned towards to me as if to suggest we both picked the voice at the same time with a poise of surprise and a connection that was precisely familiar.
it was Salenko’s i swore, i had still not completely turned when his baritone but steep voice flew the words past my head, “your head no correct oh”…. Salenko was surely annoyed.
This was sure a gist i could not be lost on, i was certain to be relied on for the graphic accounts so i in haste hurried the ropes and the pail at the end of it out of the well with less than half of the water.
Salenko was really mad, janja had run across the road towards him, i stood watching the whole matter and unsure what must have made him so angry.
Salenko had a short almost brutish mien, with a hair that had transformed fully into dreadlocks from its natural state, he had very little height, but his feet dazzled everyone at two events parties and street soccer, his name had come from the latter.
He was a beauty to watch, he easily cut past the best of defenders and made the game look too easy, he had the smile that seemed to mock you after he had successfully outwitted his opponents, so he was naturally the one everyone would argue on whose side to play for when we had our matches.
i was always the defender, they called me Nesta after the Italian defender during a flimsy argument which i won.
Salenko was rumoured to have travelled to Russia for trials, he was that good.
He had a speed that made him worthy of the higher leagues but unfortunately he was just not the type that could survive in the Russian winter so he was hurried home and never played beyond street soccer.
Salenko was also in a class of his own when he came to drinking, he drank alcohol like a fish swallows water, he enjoyed drinking both beer and the local gin ogogoro and his staggering fits after he was reasonably high often landed him in gutters much to his own shame, it was often said that more women would have liked him in our area had he not been such a “beer champion”, but he cared less about women, they were to him a lesser mortals and brainless.
it was one of those women that made his rage ten times hotter than hell, he had woken up early to begin his usual Sunday morning jogging he had done a couple of laps up and down the street until a red Audi ran into a muddy water from the early rains of yesterday morning, which lay quietly in a pothole and splashed its contents unto his body, at first Salenko had not reacted until the woman appeared to pause as if to say sorry only speed away, perhaps she mistook him for a teenager, she made the wrong decision. Salenko chased after the car from the end of the untarred street to the other end we were, his first words were caustic enough for the woman to stop.
She stepped out of the car in a rage that could have equalled Salenko’s except that her well knotted headgear affected the rate of reaction as with the look on Salenko, the realisation that he may be short but was well built bodily diffused the eagerness of the anger on her face.
She had still not apologized when he almost hit her, at this point janja held him back and the woman began screaming and hurling empty fists at him, i ran towards the scene ignoring tanko and mama rafiki, many more people joined us even though it was initially quiet, suddenly we heard her and we knew that voice -“draw ring for them make he design her face, that woman na idiot, she deserve am, if na me i go slap am she go craze”.
Automatically, the crowd started to thin out. Mama Nonso was already at the scene, the tension immediately died down as she moved closer, the woman did not need any advice, she got into her car and sped away as the frond on her car fell away.