Mrs. Alga was sitting outside her room, picking beans. As she picked, she separated only dirts, chaffs and stones, the other category that would normally have been disqualified by any other average Nigerian, were those beans that had been badly shaped, or with deep hollows, but as she picked, Mrs. Alaga didn’t care about separating those, most of the beans she was picking were even bored deeply, so if she decided to disperse them, she could as well just turn the whole one congo of beans she was picking into the bin.
The beans was the last food stuff left in the house, as a matter of fact and sincerity, there was no palm oil, no onions, and no maggis to garnish the food with, and even if she decided to collect it from Iya Alate, that would be extremely embarrassing, being the twelfth time that month, without having paid for any, and besides, she was still planning to anyway, to collect salt from the woman who owns the grocery shop opposite her house.
As soon as she was done picking everything that looked like beans into a bowl, she walked towards Iya Alate, and sat on a long bench beside the young woman. From a distance, both women could already read what was in the minds of each other.
Iya Alate could read from the way the approaching woman tied and retied her wrapper from a distance that she was proceeding towards her shop to collect another set of inevitable bad debts goods, but now even she was most reluctant to give out anything. It was regarded bad luck to start a new week by giving out anything on credit.
“Good afternoon Mama Funke” That was customarily delivered with an unintended chuckle, a laughter to support her reason for needing these particular things she was about demanding, and even though Mrs. Alga was older than the young lady, she still bent her knees to greet.
“Ah, Mama, good afternoon”, she replied, as if they had not sighted each other from a distance.
There was a brief silence, which allowed the older woman to take a seat beside the other woman on a long bench. They both kept staring at a distance, waiting for each other to give the lead off.
“This Monday afternoon is hot o”
There was an abruptly prolonged silence, Mrs. Alga almost didn’t notice when the Iya Alate replied, “Yes o.” Another short silence took over before the younger woman spoke again; “that reminds me mama. How about Dr. Festus?”
There was an unusually loud shriek of laughter from the older woman, the talk of her ‘Doctor-Son’, was the only thing that interested her anytime, any day. It wasn’t as if her son was literally studying medicine, he was actually studying Nursing at the college hospital in Ibadan, but given the kind of rural area, everyone just assumed that he couldn’t have been in a college hospital studying a different course other than Medcine.
“Festus is very fine o, thanks for asking” she tried to hide the happiness of the thought but failed woefully and only displayed a beautiful white set of teeth in an helpless smile. “In fact sef, he sent message home yesterday, that they ask them to pay for some very expensive project in school.”
“Really?!” The lead off often had to take the women through beating around the bush before capping and concluding their discussion with the real request that had brought her. “This country sef, good things don’t come easily o, expensive project for a man that would soon become a Doctor”
“That is it o. May God make it all very quick, so that he can pay for all these suffering of his parents.” She had not finished completing the words before rubbing her eyes with the tip of her wrapper.
“Mama don’t worry ehn? everything will become good in their good times. God is with you.”
“Thank you my dear.”
There was another silence before the younger woman spoke, she had deliberately maintained the silence so that the older woman could verbalize her request, but Mrs. Alga choose rather to keep sulking concerning the money of her son’s project which she could not afford. “How much is it ma?”
“I thought that his scholarship also covered such requirements”
“So I thought too, but Festus said this particular project was organized by their seniors, so it is not officially for his own class yet, but he needs it to. . .”
Iya Alate’s heart melted with pity, “Mama, although I don’t have that huge amount, but be rest assured that any other material thing you want, that I have in my shop here, you can come to pick it and pay later.” With that, she knew that she had laid a very good template for the older woman to relay her request. But before the old woman could say anything, there was a hurried call from her apartment. Mrs. Alga tried hard to neglect it, as if it was a call she could stop by her imagination, but when the call became more incessant and hasty, she stood reluctantly and spoke;
“Mama Funke, you have been a very kind woman to me, may God continue to bless you. I actually have some small ingredients I would like to collect, just to cook the small beans left in the house, I promise to pay as soon as I can, but pls wait let me attend to this stupid boy calling me.”
“Mama, uncle Sunday is not stupid oh.” Iya Alate chuckled, “after all, he is also your son.”
“Son? indeed.” Mrs. Alga squeezed her nose in disbelief, “He is a bastard, he has only brought nothing but disgrace to me ever since his birth.” The noise continued determinedly from her hut, and it thwarted the remaining words she wanted to say. But she still managed through; “only God knows what he has done wrong again this afternoon.”
“Mama God is with you don’t worry, I will send Rokibah to bring the ingredients for beans to you now ma.” Iya Alate said helpfully as the woman disappeared into her hut.
“Maama!” The excitement that engulfed Sunday’s face that afternoon at seeing his mother was beyond description. “I knew you were at home. I just knew you were.”
“What is it this time? See, Sunday, if you have lost any bet again, don’t think you have come to your abode of coverage o, there is no single grain of shishi in this entire house.”
“Maama, please have your sit.”
When she sat, she noticed a blue checkered bag, the biggest size of the common Ghana-must-go bags, sitting peacefully beside their TV; the TV has refused to work for years.
“What is it? Say anything you want to say now while standing, I am sure ‘no’ will be the answer to any of the requests you are about to make, see ehn? I am having a serious discussion with Iya Alate, don’t delay me pls. From what I can see here,” she pointed at the bag, “you have impregnated a girl abi? You are now thinking of bringing her to my own house, that would only happen if you kill me first.”
“Mama! Please be patient and listen to me!” This was not the first time he would be shouting at her, several times in the past, when he had to justify himself of one gambling or fighting offence or the other, but the shout this time seemed awkward, and something felt happy inside the old woman that Iya Alate would have inevitably heard from outside, a sign to proof what she had just told her.
“What is it?!” She yelled back. Quietly.
“I know how much I have disappointed you, I know I have messed up in several ways even though I always try to assure you that one day, I’ll make you proud. I know that you wish I was like Festus, who had almost every good things of life, and even though I tried hard to be like him, I just found out that I couldn’t, getting prizes on Prize Giving Day and getting scholarships… getting all those academic blah blah blah are just simply not what I have been constructed for.”
“Why are you now saying this?” She was becoming tempted to become emotional, but experiences had thought her that it was best to stay neutral on Sunday’s matter, he was a drug addict, his mood could swing instantaneously.
“Well, to be very frank mother, I love you soo much. I did what I have never done before yesterday, and believe me, I have cleaned every dirty step I took.”
“What?” She asked restlessly, not sure where he was headed.
“Yesterday, I followed some guys to rob a politician who stole some amount of money. It isn’t as if the money had any official documentation, it was just… mama you know how this politicians loot money naw. See mama, we didn’t kill him, but we only carried the money from him.”
“Jesus! So the police men are looking for you now.”
“Police? Police can never be after us for that money, the man can never have the guts to tell it to the police, the money has no official documentation. We traced it neatly, However, I will be travelling today, and I might never come back, just to save face for any … Please take care of my brothers and sisters, any way you want to. Inside this bag is a million naira for you. I have also kept a million naira for myself and my fate. I believe that should do.”
Mrs. Alga became completely paralyzed with bewilderment the moment he mentioned money in the bag. Before she retrieved from the shock, her son had dashed out without further ado right in front of her.
She sat staring at that bag of money, too scared to torch, too scared to even think.
What she knew was that, her six other children needed better welfare, better academic exposure and a better atmosphere altogether. And even she needed a huge capital to start her long planned clothing business, above these; her husband needed money to survive his stroke sickness. There were many more things that she needed money for, and it felt like a dream that all her wishes had just suddenly started becoming fulfilled in a twinkle of an eye. But one barrier however was whether or not her Christian faith would permit her to spend the money. But if she didn’t, what was she going to do with it then? Tell the police? Or her pastor?
Mrs. Alga was not deaf, but she suddenly couldn’t hear as a neighbor – Rokibah, stood outside, yelling. “Mama! I have brought the ingredients ma. Everything is a total of two hundred naira.”