The First Timer

Every step he took was heavy, he walked slowly towards the church, and the heat of the ground pierced through his leather sandals burning the sole of his feet. He pressed his hand in a fist firmly like he didn’t want to let go of something. Approaching the three mountainous steps of the church, through the door he could see members of congregation dancing and praising hysterically, clapping their hands together wildly like excited apes. He reached the summit of stairs and was welcomed with a warm smile by the ushers at the door, that smile took him back to a contrast of the first time he attended a church, he was only seven years old.

“GET OUT!” the usher screamed at him, “You dirty boy, shuu!” he was covered in dust and his hair brown like the earth, his big brown eyes looked down as he ran away like a stray dog, with one last glance at the woman to see if she will have pity on him and change her mind, she brought out a cane and chased him outside the gate of the church premises.

Disappointed, Abu wandered down the street of the church kicking stones and trying to catch flies to lift his downcast spirit, he smelt something in the distance like rice and ran to it, it was a big blue dustbin by the side of a white house just concluding a party, he followed the smell and found some left over rice, his face lit up like he had found gold in the dust, quickly grabbed all he could, took out the bone and devoured it like a rabid dog. As he walked down the road, he cracked down hardly on the bone and sucked every juice of bone tissue out but he kindly kept the rice with the mind of sharing with his mother and siblings.

“Salaamalaikum!, Abu you have found food” his mother snatched at the food as his younger ones surrounded her like Santa Claus, Abu stood in the distance helpless and hopeless, he scratched his eyes from the dust, tears rolled down his cheeks as he watched his 7 little ones devour the food he slaved to get, he pulled the slacked collar of his oversized t- shirt in frustration, turned around and walked to his favorite corner, where he sat and pulled his hair in anger.

“Offering Time!” the pastor announced. Sitting on the last row, Abu observed the offering basket being passed from row to row, a heap of One thousand Naira notes in the basket overflowed like a released dam.

This sight flooded back memories to when Abu just hit puberty and remembered how an Imam in a central mosque made him wash his car and clothes, cut his nails for one week, promised to take him to Lagos and give him one thousand naira per week once he got there, this deal excited him as he always looked forward to going to Lagos and probably own his motorbike once he saved up enough money. He heard popular stories of his kinsmen driving motor cycles in town, after his chores, he often drove an imaginary bike on the streets “VROOM VROOM!”  He would make the sound while his lips vibrated with hope and optimism.

As soon as he got to the mosque on the last day, he found out that the imam had left the town for good, leaving him with nothing; Abu stormed back home crashing into his favorite corner sad and dejected.

As the offering basket reached him, he snapped out of his mini-trance and brought a thousand naira from his wallet as offering. He looked round like the church like someone in a mirage as he admired with a satisfactory nod the expensive chandeliers glittering like ice caves, the church chair so soft and tender he could fall asleep on it sinking into the soft expensive leather, he immediately remembered how he slept on the floor of his house looking at the sky because no roof was present, the moon was his chandelier and everyday was Ramadan.

Suddenly the pastor announced “if you know you are worshipping with us for the first time, Please stand up we will like to recognize you and show you a bit of our hospitality” with a broad smile on his face.

“All first timers please come and sit at the front, we have special seats reserved for you” with the same broad smile and pastor cleaned his nose as his gold ring and watch competed for the spot light, his haircut perfect like it was measured by an architect and his suit looked like he was born with it.

Abu walked slowly down the aisle of church with all eyes glued to him, he had this royal aura around him like a prince. Adorned in a flowing white caftan, he moved slowly up the aisle and tapped his gold ring at the back of his finger a habit he picked up from a very wealthy man who found him at the mosque Abu begged for alms and menial work.

The Wealthy man took a liking to him and promised to make his life better, Skeptical of this promise Abu ignored him several times, until one day the minister handed him N50,000 naira cash.

He sat at the summit of church and over saw the congregation, he admired the colorful multi cultural attires on display, and the smell of expensive musk filled the air, the jewelry shining like he was in a treasure cave.

“We would require donations for the new permanent site which will cost about 500million the lord will bless you 500 times more all as you contribute towards” the glittery pastor announced, while he was coming to the church he saw a beggar seeking alms from a certain dark tall man in a luxury Mercedes Benz car. He watched as the man ignored the beggar and drove into the parking lot this same man came up to church pulpit to announce that he was going to donate 50million naira to the building of the church, the church blew up in hysteria as he was ushered to a special seat on the highest of tables, praised like a king.

Abu’s belly turned in disgust, as the church praised the new money king, he immediately put on a smile, stood up and started walking towards the pulpit, the whole church turned in awe to see what Abu was up to, Abu could feel the goose bumps grow on their skin, the anticipation and tension in the air was great.

The microphone felt light on his hand as he looked straight down the aisle from the pulpit to avoid eye contact. Abu then took a look around the church once more before he said in a soft voice laced with his Hausa accent “To the Glory of God I’ll like to pledge a donation of 60million naira to the building of this new church” the church erupted into a frenzy, the pastor’s eyes widened like an owl on its prey, the choir started playing music frantically, the ushers dancing and moving around, the young women in their short dresses jumping and revealing more than they should.

Abu looked around and thought to himself “So its money? From being sent away for begging for money to being celebrated for donating money” he soliloquized.

Once the congregation calmed down, he smiled and said “I came from dust to poverty and from poverty to riches, Glory be to God!” the church went into another round of thunderous applause and beaming smiles. “This 60million naira was the amount promised to my family if I pushed this button, for now I must return to dust” he raised his hand while making the last statement revealing to the congregation the device in his grip.

Everyone in the church gasped for air simultaneously.

Then he screamed “Allahu Akbar!!!”

2 thoughts on “The First Timer” by Banji Danny (@BanjiDanny)

  1. From the start I made a guess–a church would be blown up! And I was so correct.

    * I had to read some sentences more than once to understand what had been written–the punctuation did not work quite well.

  2. I like the use of flash back in this write up and the unexpected turn of the story. Thumbs up.

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