12th September, 2014
Lagos, Western Nigeria.
Eneh sat resignedly in his 2005 model Honda Civic saloon car. The traffic on the bridge was not moving any faster and the tropical heat of the day was replaced by engine and exhaust heat emanating from the cars crawling fender to bumper across the Third Mainland into both sides of the big city.It was a friday, two weeks after he had placed Toby in the Gifted Children’s School in Kaduna and a week after he returned from Uyo. The digital quartz piece on his dashboard showed six fifteen p.m. Night was approaching and Lagosians were getting ready to party. On friday nights like this, public workers joined the partying frenzy. Theirs was to celebrate the arrival of the weekend. “Eko oni’gbaje o! Thank God its friday”, they would often be heard saying. Some Lagosians would even have TGIF emblazoned boldly on their tee shirts.
Traffic usually was at a dead-lock. On evenings like this, no radio station offered traffic warnings. They all played music- and Lagos music was full of variety. Such a mad symphony it was hearing the mix of diverse forms of music blaring from so many car stereos. Lagosians had a “mind-your-own-business” mentality, so you could only listen to yours and ignore the noise from the others.
Ahead of Eneh’s Honda Civic, Fela Kuti was croaking from a BMW X3- probably an afroJuju fan heading to the New Afrika Shrine at Ikeja. Tuface Idibia was crooning sweetly from another car behind. The yellow painted danfos and molues (as commercial buses and taxis were called) played Garala– the reggae flavored dancehall originating from the ghettos of Ajegunle. Daddy Showkey was their maestro. Few conservative drivers tuned into stations that played Yoruba high life music- if those ever ventured out on fridays, it would be for an Owambe to Sir Victor Olaiye’s record. Lagos was a land of mixed cultures.
Traffic idled along the bridge. The air had a faint smell of decaying reeds from the lagoons and creeks. When Eneh went off the bridge, he headed towards Ikorodu road where he picked up Cynthia at Commonwealth Avenue in Palm Groove Estate and headed back to his house at Surulere. Cynthia had been his lover for two years now and they always spent weekends together.
Eneh woke up from a dream by seven in the morning on Saturday. As he sat on the bed rubbing his eyes, an aroma of fresh cooking filled his nostril. Cynthia was already making breakfast, he thought as he wobbled to the living room. Unlike other times, Eneh was not attracted to the kitchen. His mind was focused on the dream he woke up from. It was about Toby.
In the dream, Toby was sitting on his iron school-box with his left hand hidden behind his back. Eneh had asked him what he was hiding; at which Toby gave him a smooth, brown pebble with numbers written on it. While Eneh was still turning the pebble over in his palm, the boy had started crying. He said he was not done with the pebble yet. Eneh had offered the pebble back, but just as the boy stretched his hand to collect, he vanished into thin air.
As Eneh sat in the living room struggling to interpret the dream, he was startled by a loud ring from his cell phone. He answered at second ring. The call came from Kaduna. The caller who identified himself as the principal of the Gifted Children’s School sighed mournfully over the crackling line. He began to narrate, stammering in-between sobs.
“He-llo S-sir, there is a problem here in Kaduna. O-our school was a-attacked…yes! attacked at about two-thirty, this m-morning. Some gunmen probably members of the Boko-Haram insurgents came in the veil of darkness. It was terrible, walahi!
M-many children were taken; Those that tried to escape were shot”, the voice broke down and sobbed more; paused a moment as if to regain some control, and then continued.
“Please s-sir, I am so-so sorry to inform you that Otobong was one of them. We saw his b-body th-this morning. As I speak now, he has been placed in the city-morgue.
I hope you…you…”, it trailed off and the line disconnected.
The phone fell from Eneh’s hand. The call had ignited an inferno inside him and he was burning. The information was too much for his mind to process. All he thought of was the dream- the numbers on the smooth pebble. His breath shallowed, his knees buckled and Eneh fainted.
The Madman’s Recompense
©Poet Razon-Anny Justin, 2015