And Christmas died in Minna

And Christmas died in Minna

A childhood memory of Christmas.

 

It starts with the sun: the large red disc that appears at dusk up behind the houses and right atop the Fadama. The sun and then the smells: the scent of dust and bush fires and finally the aroma of fried meat and frying tomatoes. The sun assumed that colour and particular position only when Christmas was near. As far as we knew, Christmas, fell from that red disc and arrived floating on the scents of the harmattan.

In those times, Christmas celebration was not confined to any religion. It was a communal festival that got all the angwa involved. For us children, it was the best time of our lives. Parental discipline reduced in severity as the scent of dust and bush fires changed to that of fried meat. On Christmas day itself, childhood freedom knew no restrictions. With merry hearts and with heads sporting the latest Bobby Brown or MC hammer hairstyles, boys knew Christmas was the onetime they could get away with any mischief.

The Chief and Supreme ruler of all the pleasures of the season was the Bangers or Knock-outs. It was the largest singular cause of disappearance of coins, naira notes and other loose change from purses and beneath pillows. Any boy in those days who could not boast of his exploits with Bangers or embellish his favourite scenes in the movie Sinbad the Sailor or The 7 Lucky Kids might as well not be alive.

With Bangers wars were fought, territories claimed, manliness confirmed and girls impressed. We smoked them, exploded lizards and frogs with them, besieged rat holes, scattered fowls in poultry and disrupted church services. It was a feat to hold a Banger and have it explode in ones hands. The braver boys even lit Bangers and stuck it to their lips. Heroes were born from these feats. It did not matter that many lips suffered from blisters totally different from the ravages of the harmattan, or that many hands suffered burns that had nothing to do with the bush burnings in search of rats.

Exploding knock-outs was a grievous offense as far as mothers were concerned. But fathers pretended not to hear the bangs and in some cases unobtrusively placed cash were it would be pilfered by sons.

I recall a particular Christmas Eve that ended in tragedy, although we didn’t know at the time.

I was with Danlami and Ibro that evening in the Tudun Wada Housing Estate Minna. The large red disc had almost climbed out of site behind the houses, many doors were open to the harmattan wind and the aroma from the chimneys mixed up in the air reminding everyone that tomorrow was Christmas. The estate houses were built in rows of twelve 3 Bedroom flats, such that, block A faced block B and block C faced block D flats. The three of us lived in block E. A large space between the blocks served as car park, playground, football pitch, and venue for naming ceremonies and birthday parties. Danlami had managed to obtain one stick of the Rocket Banger – an expensive brand of Fire cracker boys loved because when stuck in the ground and lit the banger will fly high into the air before exploding with a loud bang and fireworks. But the Rocket Banger didn’t always fly straight into the air. That evening as the air resonated with bangs and the estate grounds filled with children enjoying and cheering the Banger throwers, Ibro and I served as back up as Danlami did the honours.

He stuck the Rocket into a mound of sharp sand and lit the fuse. Other kids who had gathered round us scattered as the Rocket sizzled and rose into the air. The Rocket didn’t maintain its upright trajectory. As we watched, it took a dive towards Mama Enoch’s open door. Mama Enoch had always been old to most of us, her grandson, Enoch was some years older than we were, and like his uncles had the habit of sending us on errands to buy things without giving us money – and we had to go if we wanted to keep watching Chucky and Home alone through their window.

The Rocket flew through the open door vacated by the billowing curtains and in the instant it exploded we saw the old woman topple from a chair in the sitting room. Few seconds later Enoch and his uncles rushed out and we fled. We later learned that she suffered a stroke and died in January. Nobody said it was Danlami’s Rocket.

Blue Pickup was a man named after his blue Peugeot 404 truck. The truck had become the means of free transportation to all the children in the neighbourhood – those fast enough to avoid Blue Pickup’s Koboko whips. This transport system was forced labour, as neither the man nor his vehicle had any opinion in the matter. Blue Pickup’s children attended school in Bosso area of town; unfortunately for him most children in the town also attended schools in the same Bosso. As his truck was open-ended he found himself constantly overloaded by hordes of children to and from school. The children had taken the habit of hiding behind his gate in the mornings or waiting for him after school when he comes for his own children. It wasn’t that Blue Pickup was mean; there were just so many kids that his truck could endure. And countless young bodies have fallen from the back as he drove. There was a time the Pickup was so overloaded that it couldn’t climb the Shiroro fly-over bridge. After countless appeals to the children who preferred to spend their transport fares and ride the free awoof, the man, frustrated, bought the Koboko to help remedy the situation. His Koboko proved useless for as soon as he stopped to flog the illegal passengers off his truck the children would scamper away only to return immediately he got behind the steering wheel. Many times this war between Blue Pickup and his insistent passengers happened on the high way, and was usually very comical to other commuters and road users.

And so on this same Eve, a gate in a block E flat opened and the Blue Pickup backed out slowly. Children were waiting for him. Like bush fires in harmattan, news quickly spread that Blue Pickup was heading to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Niteco Road. In minutes the truck was piled high with children, Muslims and Christians alike, many sitting atop the car roof. Blue Pickup, perhaps, knew that his koboko would be useless against this particular throng as he made no effort to combat the assault. He drove us slowly to the church.

Adults might go to the church to receive mass and to worship, but for us, Our Lady of Fatima was Children Centre, a place for gymnastics, deflation of car tires, smashing of windows and Police-and-Thief games.

It was on this Christmas Eve and in this church that Spanzy became famous. 1-Rounders or 2-Rounders as we called the Bangers according to their explosions was all most of us had ever seen. 8- Rounders were very expensive and rare. But Abdullahi Jubril Kuta a.k.a Spanzy, son of Commissioner Kuta had managed to acquire a 32-Rounder. Unthinkable! Word spread. All other side attractions were suspended as we gathered round him. Spanzy knew how to prolong suspense to maximum effect. With baited breaths we watched in awe and envy as he gingerly removed the fire-cracker from its wrap and slowly lowered it to the ground. Match boxes appeared from eager hands but Spanzy nonchalantly dug his hands into his USA jeans and brought out a Lighter. Whispers carried in the harmattan that Spanzy had a Lighter. His kingship was instantly reconfirmed. In those times, Lighters and Telephones were property of the rich. With exaggerated thoroughness he lit the banger and as it sizzled we scattered. There was a lull after the sizzle and then the explosions came. It was glorious! Cheers followed the staccato. Spanzy, the hero beamed as he received pats and handshakes from his admirers. For many, that Christmas Eve was the height of the whole season. Tales of the 32 -Rounder would be told far into the January school term.

After the Christmas Eve, things usually simmered down until New Year Day. Christmas Day, aside from the overfeeding was a quiet day for many homes in Minna. Most of the day was spent watching videos of Devil Sword, Big trouble in little China, No Retreat, No Surrender and Commando. 26th December would have seen better excitement as visiting day and a day to explode more Bangers but the excitement was usually hampered by constipated stomachs and indigestions from the previous day’s over feeding.

Nostalgia drew me back to Minna last Christmas. The red disc looked forlorn and as dry as everything else. The acrid smell of bush fires was not tempered by any aroma. The town seemed to be trapped in the Minute-Silence observed for Blue Pickup who crashed with the Pickup 10 years this harmattan. Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church was as quiet as its graveyard. Where were the children? What happened to Bangers?

Who killed Christmas?



63 thoughts on “And Christmas died in Minna” by kaycee (@kaycee)

  1. It’s too long joor.

    Quite interesting though.

    I thought you would give us Candid Shot. Anyway, I didn’t want to convince you to submit it so that you won’t win. Hehehehehe…

    1. @babyada,….why you hate me so…
      Anyway, Candid shot is about 700 words. @admin said between 1000- 2500

    2. @babyada…lol…lazy reader.

  2. Hmm. Nice, @kaycee. Praying you make it to the longlist though. Just the longlist! :-/

    1. LOL
      Any list is good.
      @kayceenj

  3. It’s a good one @Kaycee…reminds me of the christmas I spent outside Lagos. Throughout that christmas, I kept asking myself if I got the date confused. So I understand the feeling.

    Well done.

    @Babyada…I agree it’s long buh it’s not too long. It’s also good he submitted this one, so that if he doesn’t win, he won’t say he dint give his ‘best short’ *winks*

    1. @quuenzayta
      Thanks jare. Dont mind @babyada.
      Its not my best o. It was just my last write up. You know my best now.

  4. Christmas isn’t dead….as long as it stays alive in the eyes of the child was you…. It was nice seeing christmas through your eyes.

  5. Who is saying this is long? No na.

    A relate-able story, more of a memoir. Finely written, however, this is not your best short, @kaycee.

    And here- ‘and we had to go if we wanted to keep watching Chucky and Home alone through their window.’ Seems you forgot to italicize ‘Chucky’ and ‘Home alone?’

    Then, the last line would have been the apt title for the story: Who Killed Christmas?

    Well done.

  6. @kaycee Good one. For everyone of us whose childhood was in that time the nostalgia is laid bare. It would have benefited more if you introduced the first person voice right from the start. The five paragraphs it takes to change from the omniscient view is quite a jerk.

    And providing a backdrop for Minna, past and present, from the beginning would have really emphasized the effect you were going for. The three lines in the second to the last paragraph are over shadowed by the awesome gaiety of the knockout days.

    On a final note, large red disc, bush fires and scent of dust cropped up a little too much.

    Otherwise, heartwarming.

    Cheers,

  7. @kaycee, you just captured my childhood christmas times… Well done bro. Well done.

    Oya, go and read my own now; Eater.

    1. You entered for the competition too?
      haba na!
      Any way the three musketeers are in, Great!

  8. nice one @kaycee. I love the characters and the setting.The descriptions are very vivid and I can almost feel like I’m there.The only thing is that I believe it doesn’t fit the format of a short story.I might be mistaken.It is very nice to read though.I would love to read more of the kind.

  9. The nostalgia is vivid…the humour is poignant…the narration is fluid.

    I think the fact that it was based on true life happenstances (hope I’m right?) made this story a delightful read.
    Also the true reflection of childhood which many of us can relate to (that is if you weren’t born with a silver spoon!) heightens the nostalgic recall.
    The story helps bring back memories of what childhood used to be at a period when cell phones and the internet were non existent.
    The brat nature of Nigerian kids of those times getting into trouble…the ascribing of nicknames to individuals in the community…the recognition of a ‘king’ among the community kids…very real and a mirror of what you see in many Nigerian neighborhoods

    In true reflection… Christmas seemed to be more fun back then…but then change is inevitable.

    I guess Christmas didn’t die…it evolved.

    Good story Kaycee, a classic…but you listed it under Short…is it not a memoir?

    1. @afronuts. Thanks for the good words. I really don’t know what kids of today do for Christmas. It used to be awesome for us.

  10. This is just lovely.. the telling was fluid and the descriptions vivid

    1. @topazo. Great! My much reading of Twain is beginning to pay off.
      Thanks.

  11. Aha! A different voice from the one I’m used to, close to that of Twain’s nonetheless very good. It struck home, so much so I feel like I should be the one writing this with a different setting. And I agree with Femi on the title…

    Nice!

    1. @francis. Great! My much reading of Twain is finally paying off.
      Thanks.

  12. My candid opinion? The story had difficulty holding my interest because it seemed haphazard, like you wanted to cram so much into a wrong format. Again, in my opinion, there are many short stories in this short story, that want to fly on their own or live harmoniously with their brothers.

    You asked.

    But well done o! :) And lest I forget, my entry is titled ‘Moonlit Clearing’. Would like your opinion too.

    *But seriously, do children of this generation even know what is banger again? Ha! BH una see wetin una cause?

    1. On second thoughts, I think the second clause of the first paragraph is what I really meant to say in that paragraph. No vex ;)

    2. @chemokopi
      But your opinions are wrong, my friend.

  13. Who killed Christmas? Plenty people ooooo!
    It’s almost illegal to celebrate in this climes, too much blood shed but celebrate we must!
    Nice one Kaycee, lovely memories, no retreat no surrender- lol- back then we used to watch the same films over and over again.

    1. @elly, those days were quite fun. I don’t really who to hold responsible for the loss of interest in Christmas. I have not heard a banger sound this season seff.

  14. @kaycee: Great, though reads more like an article than a conventional story, just like your other works. Probably that is the ‘format’ @chemokopi reffered to.Your writing never fades from memory though. You leave your mark, and make sure it is indelible. I wish you good luck. Ps. Kindly go through my Best short: Okula – a daughter’s vengeance, and let me know what you think. I crave and value criticism from good writers.

  15. This story is nostalgic for me because I served in Minna during my NYSC, more especially as I stayed along Niteco road. Your descriptions were vivid. I remember just like yesterday, the hospitality of the indigenes that lived around me despite our seperate religious backgrounds. We still keep in touch till date and once again, it brought back a familiar longing to visit the town once more. Very nice. Kindly read mine: Black Friday. Your thoughts are welcome.

  16. This one is good o. Well, it’s you na.

    Oya, abeg come and criticize mine: http://www.naijastories.com/2012/12/fountain-of-tears/

  17. @saymalcolm you are a dan uwa!
    Thanks for reading.

  18. I always assumed you were shagged crazy by a very horny househelps when you were a kid but it is nice you had these sort of experiences. Something every guy born in the 80s would surely relate to well.

    This was nicely written. A little longer than I would have loved but it was still very nice. Wouldn’t have expected anything less fro you.

    Keep writing man.

    1. @jaywriter. Thanks my man.
      The story is fictional with a factual setting.

  19. Well, well – your favourite rambling style. I enjoyed reading the story; good display of humour and vivid imageries. However, I think it would have been nice to hear the voices of some of your characters. It helps to remove the stereotypic memoir narration-style.
    Well done.

    1. @petunia 007. You can’t have it all. That’s why its a short story. And its fiction.
      Thanks. Did you submit any story?

  20. Christmas things. I disturbed the peace of my yard by throwing the bangers inside the passage. It was so much fun.it shd have been title who killed Christmas. Well done, boss.
    Pls read and comment on mine. Your comment is highly respected. The link . http://www.naijastories.com/2012/12/still-love-you-2/ thanks.

  21. *sighs* Nostalgic. Beautiful writing. Loved the vivid imagery, the verisimilitude, and the language, particularly ‘free awoof’. It read more like a memoir than a short story(don’t know whether this is good or bad, either ways, good writing).
    A little error; ‘The large red disc had almost climbed out of SITE…’

    1. @IdiAce, thanks for that correction.
      Its fiction.

  22. Beautiful narrative, very pleasant to the eyes!! it’s good to be back after a hiatus and still stumble upon great pieces… well done!

    1. @Toluwalase10.
      Welcome back.
      Thanks for reading.

  23. good story you have there… nostalgic to the max

    1. @elovepoetry
      Thanks. Did you sumbit an entry?

      1. @kaycee…. welcome. yeah, i submitted….. ‘The God Delusion”

  24. Quiet nostalgic… I went back with the story. Nice one.

    1. @focus. Thanks for reading. Happy new year.

  25. Something tells me this could be better. Maybe some conversations, maybe the beginning wasn’t necessary, maybe the allusion to non-fiction was too glaring, maybe, maybe, maybe.

    I love the ending, but the body could be better written. I believe.

    Bros eh!

    1. @banky, something tells me you didn’t even read this.
      I believe. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

  26. You really captured the true state of things today in most parts of the Country especially the north things have gotten really bad, your style of writing leaves one nostalgic of the good old days.

  27. Okay, a few errors here and there which I hope that some people might have pointed out… Aint nothing that a careful re-look wouldn’t show e.g ‘unobtrusively placed cash WERE it would be pilfered by sons’… ‘where’…
    That aside, there was that nostalgia that @jaywriter acknowledges for us all boys of those days, when it was really really Christmas.
    Nice fiction. It tells well when one can write and have people think the tale truly his (or hers as the case may be). It is a salute to the realistic prowess of the said writer in the case.
    @petunia007 has a strong point. @banky too.
    I think the story might have benefited more with life to your characters and all… Maybe some little dialogue infusion. Maybe the ranting spirit should have been a bit more fiery… Maybe it could have been this or that… But it is this and I know, it would definitely get a near perfect shine in the fullness of its time.
    Happy New Year man. Cheers!
    Well done Kaycee.

  28. @danjuma. I appreciate your comment.

  29. @kaycee 2nd oga baba for this site :) I have read your story and I know exactly what you mean, seriously what has happened to Xmas.

    Sometimes I feel really sorry for kids of this generation there is more to life than computer games.

    Please as one of the main guys of this site, please can you do me a favour and read my story and let me know what you think good or bad.

    I’m a newbie ooo so take it easy with me :)

    http://www.naijastories.com/2013/02/he-that-invades-the-house/

  30. though a long write, it was worth my reading

  31. This is GOOD & really made me nostalgic

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