When I was eight years old, I watched a movie titled Seven Ninja Kids, and my life changed. I was so enthralled by the feats of the Ninja kids that I decided to form my own elite group of Ninjas. I went on to recruit six of my friends into my own version of Seven Ninja Kids and we commenced training, with I at the helm.
Before our training began ernestly, I made neck chains from Coca-Cola crown corks (canters, as we called them then) and some strong black Simbi-goes-to-school thread I took from my mother’s drawer. I beat the crown corks flat with a strong handy stone and punctured two holes at the centre of each, through which I passed the thread. Making these chains and proudly presenting them to my fellow Ninjas was all I could think of at school that day. I didn’t even take my bath when I got back from school, hurriedly changing from my uniform and rushing outside to begin work on the chains, taking care to avoid my mother’s omnipresent radar. My mother had an uncanny way of knowing the adventurous things–mothers would always tag such as naughty–I was up to and she was good at using her dictatorial powers to stop them from happening. I didn’t want that to even come close to happening on this glorious day. These chains would be the insignia representing our higher echelon in kiddy society.
My fellow Ninjas were thrilled when I handed the neck chains to them. What we had to do next was watch the movie again together, and learn some of the fighting moves. We established a code of honour, which came down to restraining ourselves from beating girls, and saving them whenever they fell in harms way.
Our training involved running, hand combat, somersaults, and jumps over ponds around the estate we lived in. We always made sure to mask our training so that when the day came to flaunt them in public, our skills would come as a big surprise to everyone.
Then a day came, pregnant with a pleasant opportunity to showcase our bravery. A fellow Ninja Kid’s father who was quite rich, asked his driver to take the little kids playing in the part of the estate we lived in, on a jolly ride round the estate. He had a big bus that could carry at least forty kids, and I think we were about twenty-five kids on the whole who got on the bus for that ride. Before we got in, I mooted to my comrades that we should jump down from the bus while it was in motion so we could show the other kids how brave we were. We all agreed we would do it, more so for the fact that many girls were hopping onto the bus for the ride. And so while the bus was at a slightly dangerous speed we were sure would not taint the great glory we craved, we jumped down one by one turning back to see the stunned faces of all the kids as they peered through the bus’ rear windscreen. Some of them were even clapping! How great we felt.
Then another season came with an opportunity to flaunt our skills once more. A fellow ninja complained to the group that one teenage boy in the estate tried to beat him up.
We were incensed when we heard this and we resolved at our weekly Ninjas Meeting to teach him a bitter lesson. We all knew the bully, and also knew for a fact that he was quite big. So we decided to do some more training so we could really beat him up.
Then the D day came and we ambushed him.
Seven Ninja kids against one big teenage boy.
Seven well-trained Ninja kids turning somersaults and throwing punches and high-flying kicks at a big boy who bullied their kind.
Seven black-skinned kid Ninjas beaten properly by a certain big teenage boy who nearly beat a fellow kid Ninja earlier that week.
The severe beating was a reality check for us. Maybe we had to chose our opponents more carefully, we thought. Maybe we weren’t really ready; hadn’t trained well enough. Whatever the synopsis was, we swore never to be stunned like that again.
A month later, we decided to step up our fighting skills. We remembered the real Seven Ninja Kids rode on bicycles sometimes and performed marvelous stunts with these bikes when fighting. So we decided we were going to meet by 5pm on the evening of this particular day and practice some of the stunts with two bicycles owned by two of our members. Unfortunately, as I made for the door when the time was near, my mother’s powerful mental radar picked up the seemingly imperceptible sounds of my footsteps. She immediately asked me to turn back (from wherever she was) and go to my room. And sleep. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I begged her to please let me go that I had promised some people I would come and see them. She countered, as she arrived at where I was, with a deep frown and a volley of harsh words; accusing me of playing too much and associating with unserious kids. I persisted, even promising to forfeit going out the next day. She shouted me to my room as if she hadn’t even heard the unbelievable promise I had just made; and that was evidently supposed to be the end of the matter.
I was very disappointed by that order and I guess my mom had deciphered from my sulking and restlessness that I was still planning to go out, because she responded to that inkling with the unthinkable: She locked the rear door, hid the key and went out through the front door, leaving me alone inside the house. I waited for her to leave our block and immediately set about looking for where she must have hidden the keys. I was determined to go out. By some wonderful stroke of luck I found the keys tucked away somewhere. The problem was, that somewhere was high up above the kitchen door, far from my reach.
I seriously contemplated what to do. I had to get out. I needed to get out. And then a brilliant idea hit me. I could just place one of the kitchen buckets upside down, use it as a step to climb the big kitchen table and then while on top, use a stick to draw out the keys from the hole in the wall, were they were hidden. And so I climbed, picked up the stick and reached for the keys. The stick wasn’t long enough: I had to stretch out more. I made two more strenuous attempts to get the keys but was unsuccessful. I was becoming impatient. I couldn’t imagine failing at the edge of breakthrough. I reached out again but this time I stretched a little too far: The table fell over, sending a pan of oil, bottles, breakable plates, a big flask, many other items and my militant self tumbling down to the ground.
Fear. The strong urge to go out and the consuming desire to practice with my fellow Ninjas was completely replaced by fear. I couldn’t even process the scale of the disaster that had just occurred. There was edible oil splattered everywhere. I knew the flask was broken because when I nervously shook it, it made some jiggling sounds. Broken pieces of plates were strewn all over the place. She will kill you today, was all that rang out repeatedly in my mind. With trembling hands, I got around to cleaning up the kitchen, trying hard to keep things just as they were before I climbed upon the table, even though I knew many things would never be the same as they were before this dreadful accident occurred. When I was done, I took my bath and quietly went to lie down inside my room.
When my mom came back home, she summoned me and quietly asked that I tell her what happened. I couldn’t lie. Not with her looking at me like that. So I gently narrated the incident to her as I bowed my head down and fidgeted with my fingers. She didn’t say a word in response. The time was about 6pm.
At 8pm she asked me to go bring a broom from our verandah–we were living on the first floor of a three-storey block of flats. As soon as I entered, she quickly shut the door behind me. Alarmed that I would be left on the verandah to the mercy of witches and wizards, I started crying. “Mommy pleeease! I would not do it agaaain! Please open the doooor! Mommy I am sooorry!” I screamed, repeatedly hitting the door and occasionally peering through the window. I was very scared.
My only sister–then, who was younger than me and about five years of age, was distraught. She couldn’t and didn’t eat. My mom kept urging her to forget about me and eat her food. Each time, my sister refused, begging my mom again and again to let me out. From time to time, she would climb up the long sofa beside the verandah wall with her tiny legs and hands, then peer through the window and call my name. I would respond in-between sobs and listen to her as she comforted me, promising to go beg our mom again to let me out.
Soon, I wept myself to sleep. I guess I must have dreamt but I can’t say for certain now, though I know I woke up by the force of a single slapping pair of slippers held by a woman, on my leg. “Go inside!” my mom shouted, eyeing me with that inexplicable collage of love and anger that her eyes always wore when she had punished me for my naughty deeds.
I went in as ordered. Coolly. Heaving and sniffing. The time was 11pm. My sister had neither slept nor eating. She was on the dining table giggling with happiness as I approached her. Her brother had been released from mama’s jail. Finally.
My mom brought food for my sister and I, and as we sat there, at that time of the night, eating from one plate and smiling at each other, a special part of my mind and heart set to work taping the events of the last six hours and the emotions they spurn, on the most durable of my mental reels.
My sister got married five months ago. Three days to the wedding, some friends of my parents came to pray and prophecy into the lives of her and her soon-to-be husband. They read from Genesis Chapter 24 verse 55 to 61 where Rebekah’s mother and brother tried to make Rebekah remain with them for a little while but ended up letting her go that day–on the insistence of Abraham’s servant, who wanted to take her quickly to Isaac–after they had blessed her.
My sister and her man were asked to kneel, and then my mother and I were told to bless and prophecy into my sister’s life and her coming marriage, just as Rebekah’s mother and brother had done in that passage of the bible. I have other siblings now but on this day it all seemed like a weird nostalgic rewrite of the past; when there were only three of us, dad being out most times (He was out this time too coincidentally). As I prayed for her and her husband, the memories of that Day of the Fall came flooding back, bringing with it consolidated emotions from all the times we played and ate and said our bedtime prayers together, and the nights our mother would cover us with our blanket as we slept side by side on the same bed. I remembered the times she would agree to play rough boyish games with me, not because she loved them but for the fact that it would make her only brother happy. It was now all very real; for the reason that in three days our family would officially hand her over to her husband, knowing fully well that she would never bear our common surname again.
I am no longer a Ninja but most of the escapades the Ninja days brought remain fresh in my mind. And they were fun. Much fun indeed. As I remember them.