Joshua walked into the stuffy room to find his friend seating on the eight spring mattress, which was on the cheap blue rug. In front of Dan on the floor was a steaming plate of beans.
Standing at the door, Joshua smiled. It was the first time he allowed himself the luxury of that emotion in three weeks. The troubles of the past weeks made such almost alien to his hitherto humorous nature.
“oboy, you and blood capsules sef!”
“how omo boy go do now?” Dan replied, with a trace of smile lining his thin lips. “economy no want favor us, besides what else does a bachelor like me know how to cook?”
Blood capsule was the name they used to refer to beans, while they were still students and roommates at the university. Joshua pondered on the name “blood capsule” and his smile widened as he wondered what had inspired the invention.
“you no get anti-malaria to take boost your immunity?” Joshua teased. Dan couldn’t help but laugh at the reference to garri as anti-malaria..
“oboy, that one na long thing” he replied, still smiling.
“Make yourself comfortable bros” Dan said, with obvious sarcasm in his voice.
Joshua dutifully walked his eyes from corner to corner as if trying desperately to find the ‘comfort’. The only piece of furniture in this room Joshua jokingly refers to as a shrine was the eight spring mattress on the rug. He picked a ‘comfortable’ spot on the rug and ‘made himself comfortable’.
Dan offered to get a spoon or ‘weapon of mass destruction’ as he put it, but Joshua said he was in no mood to ‘fight a war’.
While Dan attacked his plate of beans like a starving man, Joshua took a cursory look at his friend’s room. At the far end of the room was the cupboard, just besides the door on the floor was a table fan well beyond its years. The curtains where the same they had shared in their final year in school, the wall was disintegrating, the painting and the water soaked ceiling seemed to be screaming for deliverance. This rented room was so much like the room they had vacated five years ago upon graduation – it reeked of squalor.
Joshua’s mind was working. Five years running and they still lived like rats. Yes he was better off, but only slightly. This wasn’t their dream. He hated to think they were poor, but the honest part of his conscience told him, ‘poverty couldn’t have a better definition’
“oboy na so we go dey dey?” He asked with a voice laden with despair.
“Jo boy, what is it again?” Dan replied from a beans stuffed mouth.
“Dan I am beginning to have a feeling that something is just after me”
“How do you mean”
“Several wrong things happening to me in such rapid sequence. Doesn’t sound like coincidence to me”
“Jo boy, what is it this time?”
“This time? Haven’t I had enough already?”
“Jo, ok, your petty store got burned down in a fire accident. That isn’t enough to …
“It is!” Joshua interrupted. “Look at me. After five years of graduation! Is this the kind of life we planned? Just yesterday I got a call from my kid sister telling me my mum is down with stroke”
“Ah, really? I am truly sorry to hear that”
“That’s not all. I keep having these strange dreams with dogs, snakes and strange people chasing me”
“oboy, that one no good o” Dan said with alarm in his voice. He was from the western part of the country, where ‘nobody died a natural death’. There was always an evil man.
“You see what I am saying. I need answers to these problems and really fast!”
“Answers?” Dan asked. “What is on your mind then?”
“Not an idea yet. Perhaps you could help me out”
“Don’t make me laugh. I am no magician. If you think there is a spiritual undertone to your problems, then Pastor Best is your best bet”. He smiled at his own pun making.
“Pastor?” “Guy, which one be that? Don’t tell me you have found religion”
“Not exactly. I have ears and I use them. I hear he can even see a man’s future and tell a stranger things only God can know”.
Joshua wasn’t really a religious man. He grew up in a Catholic family and only attended mass when he was at home because it was a ‘sin’ not to attend.
As if reading his mind, Dan said “Jo boy, I know what you think about preachers. But if you have a problem, then you go get a solution”.
Joshua had once told Dan, that if they are two persons he was dubious towards, they were policemen and … pastors.
Joshua saw how casually Dan sounded and wondered if Dan did not realize he also had a problem. Well if he did not think he had, that was his funeral, he concluded.
He thought about it and decided he had nothing to lose in seeing a preacher man…only if he did not have to pay for consultancy. He would meet Pastor Best and hope his best put his problems to rest. He was such a religious cynic!
Joshua sat in a room that reminded him of a hotel lobby. The sofas were made of leather, the kind he dreamt of, the red rug looked so expensive, he felt putting on his shoes was an act of rebellion. Seated opposite him were four women. Their faces seemed to be telling their stories. He glanced at the wall clock ahead and the time was 9.50 a.m. On the door marked Pastor Best was the notice indicating the counseling hours for Saturday was 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. He was early for once, and that seemed to amuse him.
After about three minutes of waiting, a young man of about 25, dressed in cream colored suit with a smile that indicated he had no problems walked up to them.
“Pastor would see you in a while” the young said. However you will leave your phones with me before going in. We don’t want any phones ringing while you are in there” he said casually.
Ten minutes later it was Joshua’s turn to see Pastor Best. As he approached the door, the youth which he had given the mental name ‘P.A.’ asked him to take his shoes off. ‘Holy Ground’ he thought to himself. His knowledge of that Moses and the Mount account in the Bible made him smile. He wasn’t completely lost after all.
As he walked through the ebony panelled door, the chilling gust of air conditioned air flushed his face. Immediately he felt good. The blue rug on the floor looked so posh and he wondered to himself ‘is this the much talked about Persian rug?’. Immediatelyunderstood why he had removed his shoes. Why defile such a grand looking rug?
Directly opposite him was seated the Pastor. Dressed in his immaculate white suits, wearing a pious look and with a giant Bible in front of him, he looked what they said he was – a man of God.
He motioned with his left hand for Joshua to sit. While he continued in what seemed to be a trance to Joshua. He seemed to be musing to himself, like angels were before him. Joshua had no role to play in this Holy Communion. He seized the opportunity to do a financial valuation of the Pastor’s office. The rug, the seats, the panelling on the ceiling, the plasma TV that hung on the wall all told him, money was here.
“Hmmm” The pastor suddenly said as he jerked. “I hear you Lord”. “o, yes Lord”. “Hmmm”.
Joshua watched with slight embarrassment, and hoped the messages from the Lord where for him.
Then Pastor Best faced him. “Young man, you are in deep trouble. You enemies are after you, to frustrate you”. But the Lord will fight for you
“Amen” Joshua said, for lack of what to say.
“God has revealed many things to me about you. You will come to service tomorrow, where I will reveal the message from the Lord concerning your life”
Pastor Best stood up, walked towards Joshua and pressing his palm to the mouth of an olive oil bottle on his table, he anointed Joshua on the forehead and said “go, it is well with you son”.
Simple, Joshua thought. He left the office with relief greeting his countenance. Waiting outside the door was the P.A. Joshua smiled as he was handed his phone and worn out shoes.
As he made to put the phone in his pocked, he felt oil. He glanced at the phone and an edge was stained with oil. It seemed like olive oil. But what harm was there, if his phone was also anointed? At the time it meant nothing to him.
The next day’s Sunday service was nothing but spectacular. Joshua heard awesome testimonies, like that of a man cured of cancer and he made up his mind, “God was truly here”.
Pastor Best went on and on during the preaching about how God had given some people the gift of wealth and the urgent need to use that gift to bless the church. Joshua thought to himself that part didn’t concern him yet, but soon.
Then it was time for prophetic ministration. The hour God spoke about people’s destinies. From where Joshua was seated on the 3rd row of the 2nd column of this impressive church, he caught sight of P.A. as he walked to the podium and whisper into Pastor Best’s ears.
A while later, Pastor Best was in the spirit. The same trace mood Joshua had seen in his office.
“Joshua Adagba” Pastor Best called out.
Joshua thought he heard his name, but some times he doubted his ears.
“The Lord is speaking to me about one Mr Joshua Adagba” Pastor Best went on with his eyes still closed.
“If he is here let him step forward”
Joshua stood up like a child unsure of himself. Like a dog entering a strange compound, he walked timidly to the alter. He felt so insecure amidst this sea of people. It was his first time ever, standing out in a church.
“Hmmmm. Yes Lord. I hear you clearly” Pastor Best went on.
“Someone is after your life” Pastor Best intoned in that charismatic baritone of his.
The church fell quite.
“But the Lord who brought you here today will deliver you”
The church thundered “amen”.
“The Lord is telling me things about you”
Joshua had his face to the ground. He had no idea how he should respond.
“Is your phone number 07035309780?”
Genuine shock entered Joshua’s eyes.
An usher brought a microphone to his lips and he barely had a second thought before he said “yes”.
The church went mad with shouts of joy for this revelation from God.
“You have a fiancé you fondly call Nkem”
Joshua was beyond shock now. Technically Nkem wasn’t his fiancé, but she was his girlfriend. Maybe he saw the future.
When Joshua mouthed ‘yes’ to the question, the church went into another feat of joyous madness.
“Life has been so difficult for you. You are wondering why?”
Joshua was tensed now.
“Do you remember lending money to a friend of yours recently?’
How could Joshua forget that. He had so little and every kobo spent was recoded close to his heart. Only a month ago he had lent David his very good friend N10,000 to treat his sick mum. He was still expecting the money.
As Joshua was still thinking about David and the N10,000 he owed him, Pastor Best’s words interrupted his thoughts. “He is responsible for your hardship” he had said.
The church began to murmur words indicating their disapproval for the wickedness of man.
While Joshua’s mind was still working, trying to comprehend how David, his very close friend could be responsible for his woes, Pastor Best said “the heart of man is desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
“But today that spiritual bondage cast upon your life by this evil friend will be broken”
The church roared “amen”
“You shall fast for seven days. Go your problems are over” Pastor Best said.
As Joshua left the church his mind was still working. How could David do such a thing to him? How could Pastor Best possibly have known his phone number and even about ‘Nkem’? Dan had said he knows things only God can know. But did God reveal such things as phone numbers to men? He was still a sceptic.
As if like lightning, it struck him.
There was oil on the phone.
Immediately he snatched his phone. Desperate for clues to the Pastor’s knowledge.
In his sent items he saw what he was looking for. The last message was to Chika. In it he had called her the pet name Nkem. His heart was racing now as he went through a message he had sent to David, asking him to try and pay the money he lent him.
The pieces where falling in place. He didn’t need to crack his brain to solve the phone number mystery. In his dialed calls was a number he hadn’t dialed – Pastor Best’s.
As he made to stop a cab and get out of the annoying vicinity of the church, he was disappointed his problems had not been solved. A part of him was however glad he didn’t have to fast again.