Wale sat in Mama Sikira’s buka as he awaited his order- bitter leaf soup and two wraps of amala, a bottle of cold stout stood open on his table. He had come straight to Mama Sikira’s when he started feeling dizzy, and remembered that he hadn’t eaten before he smoked ‘igbo’ with his guys. He checked his pocket to make sure he had enough money to pay and smiled at its content. He was living the life; made money by hustling hard on the streets, came down to mama Sikira’s for a full stomach, smoked some joint every once in a while and slept till the next day. He wanted nothing more…Well, except for the occasional ‘piece of ass’. He had been living the life for as long as he could remember.
Once upon a time, he had been Adewale Ogunsaya, an Ilesha boy who had come with a relative to Portharcourt, to work as a houseboy. It hadn’t worked out right as his Madam was unbelievably cruel, more so, after her husband left with some other woman. Having endured enough, he left her to her ‘man-less’ life a little after the husband. He had gone back to his relative’s house only to discover that she had relocated and left to an address unknown. That marked the beginning of his street life; moving from hawker, to conductor and then to a respected tout .
He was interrupted as Ronke, one of Mama Sikira’s girls placed the steaming plate of food in front of him.
“Ronke baby, U don dey form for me abi?” he said, as he reached out and tapped her buttocks.
“Ahn Ahn… Wale no be like dat na” Ronke giggled as she moved out of his reach.
“Na like how na? I don dey tell U make U come visit me so I go do U well but U no gree.” Wale replied as he repositioned his food, placing the plate of amala to his right.
“No vex na, na bizness cause am. Oya I go show for ya area dis even…” Her reply was cut short by Mama Sikira’s call from the inner room that served as the kitchen. She made a motion with her fingers to show that they would continue the gist later, he smiled as he dug into his food. When like today, he was able to get a willing girl, he was more than satisfied. Tonight he would have Ronke singing in her mother tongue beneath him…that much he could swear to.
* * * * *
Wale looked up from his meal to see ‘Prophdet’ lower himself onto the seat opposite him.
“Prophdet! Prophdet!” Wale hailed him despite his full mouth. Prophdet was a lanky guy with a skin turned coarse and swarthy by the hours spent hustling under the scorching sun. He had been dubbed ‘Proph-det’ (coined from the words Prophet and Edet, which was his name) after he had – with startling clarity, foretold the goals to be scored by The Dolphins football club some years back, (that had been the beginning of his fame). Football always had a way of fostering friendships, especially among males.
“Prophdet how tings na? Your side clear?” Wale asked, as he watched Prophdet attack his meal – egusi soup and four wraps of fufu , this amazed him because he ate with Prophdet occasionally and knew the limit of the latter – two wraps of fufu which Prophdet claimed was more than satisfying. Seeing his friend attack with gusto, a meal he wouldn’t be able to finish even in his ravenous state, prompted him to ask;
” O boy, Wetin dey happen now?” At which Prophdet stared at him bemused.
“U jus dey upload dis food anyhow, U no sabi chop pass two na. Which kain hunger hook U like dis?”
Prophdet struggled with a piece of meat, tore it into strips and put it into his mouth, chewed on it with concentration and swallowed before he replied.
“Wals Baba, if U see de kain drim wen I drim dis aftunoon ehn, U go undastan.” He replied and gulped noisily from his ‘Orobo’ Pepsi. He swore that ‘Orobo’ sent the balls of fufu down smoothly than beer ever could.
“Which kain drim be dat?” Wale asked as he washed his hands, ready to understand how the dream connected with his friend’s eating habit.
“I bin drim say I die wen I dey go Shaki place for general meeting, na im make I wan chop wella incase I kpeme, food go dey my belle.” Prophdet said candidly as he cut off a ball of fufu and chewed on it.
Wale let out a howl of laughter that had other customers turning in their direction.
“Wait o! na drim make you wan overfill your belle so?” He asked, still laughing.
“E be like say You don forget say na tommorrow morning de meetin go hold? I wan make de belle full well well, incase of incasity.” Prophdet reiterated and dipped his determined fingers into the plate of soup.
Wale’s howl reduced to a chuckle and a constant shake of his head. He didn’t believe in dreams; not since the day he dreamt that his sick mother was hale and hearty, but woke and found her cold hands entwined with his on the bed they shared. Not after he had dreamt that he won a lottery and woke up to find his carton of gala for sale gone.
“Tah! To believe drim na for fools!” he concluded, and looked at Prophdet with a knowing smile on his face.
“Wals Baba, Wetin you go wan do if God tell you say na today you go kpeme?” asked Prophdet as he rinsed his hands.
Wale shook his head, he had known that his friend wouldn’t finish the meal despite his best intentions. Not when he drank the ‘Orobo’ – it had its way of filling the stomach, and this was Prophet who couldn’t eat more than two wraps of fufu. What remained on the plate would make two wraps. “What a waste!” he thought bitterly as he considered an answer to Prophdet’s question.
” Hmmm… If Baba God tell me say na today Im go off me, the thing wey dey my mind na to straff …” He nodded at Ronke who had materialized to take the plates away.
Prophdet looked appreciatively at Ronke’s swinging backside and gave Wale the thumbs up sign. They paid the money to Ronke who had returned to make sure the appointment with Wale still held. She winked at him and walked back to the kitchen, making extra effort to swing her backside provocatively in the tight red skirt she wore.
“Wals B, U sabi beta thing jare!” This was from Prophdet who slapped Wale on his shoulder, high-fived him as they walked out of the canteen and headed to the bustop.
“Trust me before death jam me, I go mus do dat last one!” Wale concluded.
* * * * *
Pa Laz walked out of the construction site where he had just finished his bricklaying job for the day. He hadn’t recieved his wages for the two days past and this annoyed him badly. The Chief for whom they were building had asked that his house be ready by December- four months from now. That kind of order bespoke money; lots of it and the willingness to spend it. The foreman had told them that the money for the month wasn’t in his account yet.
”Tah! Maybe im don use am.” Pa Laz spat out, as he searched his pockets and came up with two hundred and fifty naira. Fifty naira would take him home and the remainder would tide him over till the next day. He shrewdly calculated how he would spend the money as he headed to the bus stop.
* * * * *
Minutes later, a BRT bus ( popularly called Amaechi bus) pulled to a stop and there was a mad rush. People who hadn’t seemed to be in need of a ride rushed for the bus.
This being an art they had mastered in the course of their job, Wale and Prophdet jumped into the bus at the last minute, just as it pulled away from the curb.
“Oga abeg shake body small make we enter.” Wale asked, tapping an elderly man that stood hanging onto the rails in front.
The man moved some steps back, and some minutes later the heel of a boot came crushing down on his big toe.
“Yeh!” he let out a pain-filled yelp and pushed the owner of the offending shoe. It was Wale.
“Oga shuo! Wetin dem dey call U sef? U don dey madt abi? Why U dey push me lie dat?” he asked obviously annoyed.
“My name na Pa Laz and U bin dey match-match my leg.” the man pointed out angrily.
If Wale had apologized, things perhaps wouldn’t have gone the way they did. Insults were hurled from one end of the bus to the other, as the squabble between Wale and Pa Laz caused an entertaining diversion, with passengers screaming among themselves.
“Bustop dey?” Wale heard the female conductor cry out, this brought a stop to the exchange as some passengers alighted, creating space for some standees to sit down.
Wale was furious as he took a seat, he turned to Prophdet;
” Why dat old man go jus push me lie dat? Cause of say I enter Amaechi bus? After all plenty people wey I sabi get bus and taxi. Na me cause am but I go treat im fuck up!” Prophdet tried to calm him down as they approached their bustop- the busy MTN road.
* * * * *
“Bustop dey?” the conductor called out again, as Wale and Prophdet proceeded to the front. When they got close to Pa Laz who still stood in his former position, Wale lifted his boot and brought it down hard on the slightly sore toe. This time Pa Laz pushed him out of the bus, much to the surprise and annoyance of some passengers who shouted and demanded to know if Pa Laz wanted to kill the ‘innocent’ boy.
Fuelled by the passengers reactions, Wale bent to the ground, packed sand in his hand and flung it at Pa Laz, he could hear the laughter from the passengers.
He watched as the man got out of the now stationary bus, bent down, touched the tip of his second finger to his tongue, the sand and then pointed it skywards.
“Oh na me U wan swear for?”
Just before he could throw the sand at the old man, Wale saw a pained look run across his face as he heard the words:
“True to God ehn! If you no die before the end of today make I kno why!” The man pronounced and climbed back into the bus.
Infuriated by this, Wale followed the proclamation with a volley of sand before he walked away from the bus, cursing and shaking like a drug addict as he wiped his hands on his faded jeans.
He could see Prophdet waiting for him at the other side of the road. They were heading to Greenlight to watch the 5.45pm match between Arsenal and Portsmouth, he bet against Arsenal and wanted to watch the match for himself. As he made to cross the road, a lorry zoomed past him, miraculously missing him by the startled steps he had taken back. He threw open his palms at the back of the lorry and shouted: “Waka!” He made out the words painted on its tailgate: ‘Honor thy Fada and Moda.’ and as he crossed the road, he felt an impact from behind that sent him flying across the tarmac.