The queue at Skye bank ATM inside school was long. The other two ATM’s the bank weren’t working, so everyone, who wanted to do out-of-bank transaction, stood on the queue. I was at the somewhere at the middle of the queue, and my girlfriend, Zaynab, was right in front of me. Cladded in a green floral patterned waist length khimar, and a black loose pant that almost covered her loafers. She was holding two ATM cards, and that was no news because almost everyone at the ATM held similar number of ATM cards. It mostly belonged to their close friends or their room-mates.
The queue was slow, mainly due to the operators who spent endless time checking their account balance before withdrawing money, and finally buying airtime before inserting the second ATM card they had with them. Sometimes, the ATM machine would hang and refuse to dispense for several minutes.
The guy using the ATM was spending way too much time that I had to ask a rhetorical question , “Has a car race been installed on the ATM?” Many people on the queue laughed to this, and others urged the guy to quickly round-up his transaction. This went on until it remained two people ahead of me, Zaynab and a guy. It was the guy’s turn and he went to the ATM. I had estimated the guy would use like four minutes before it got to Zaynab turn. All was fine until he appeared. Chucks.
Chuck was the son of my school’s Pro-chancellor, one old SAN lawyer like that. That position gave him an almost invincible nature I like to call – The God mode. He did things at his will and terrorised students, most of the time cheating them of their natural rights. He had faced three disciplinary panel but never been rusticated. The closest being a two weeks suspension which raised may brows, but no one talked. So when his car revved to a stop near the queue, I knew trouble was coming. I didn’t just know the form it would take.
He got out of his car, and as his timberland boots hit the floor, my heart lurched with fear. Two of his friends also followed him and they got out as well. Then they came towards the ATM queue. The guy using the ATM was through and it was Zaynab’s turn.
“Please let me use the ATM before you use it,” Chucks requested, he was almost near our position.
“No, you can’t,” Zaynab spat. She took a stride towards the ATM.
Chucks and his friends followed, and I quickly followed too.
“I don’t want to cause any trouble here sister,” Chucks said. He was at the ATM behind Zaynab.
“If you don’t want any trouble, then go and queue. I have been here for the past 55 minutes.”
I wanted to pull Zaynab back, but one of Chucks’ friends blocked me. What happened next was like a melodrama. Chucks pulled Zaynab and gave her a hot slap. She held her hand to her cheek and tried to return the slap. Chucks blocked it and pulled her Khimar. He pulled it loose, exposing her fair complexioned face, before he connected a resounding slap to her cheek. I saw her face turned red before she bent down holding on to her cheeks. I pushed the guy restricting my movement and he fell, but before I could reach Chucks, his other friend had reached my side raising his balled fist high in the air. Meanwhile, Chucks was using the ATM. Seeing that I was outnumbered, I went to Zaynab’s position, and squatted beside her, trying to comfort her. She had buried her face in her palm which was placed on her thigh.
“Next time, look face before you try slap a guy,” Chucks spat at us as he went back to his car.
I sat on the bed at the corner of my self-contained hostel, brooding over the ATM incident, when my roommate, Jeremiah, entered.
“Wetin do you?” he asked
I decided not to reply.
“I say wetin do you,” he dropped his bag on the table and came to sit beside me on the bed. “You chop poison?” he poked me.
I let out a short laugh, “You’re not serious o.”
“Seriously, what wrong?” he wore a serious façade.
I narrated the whole incident to him. “Too bad you couldn’t do anything. But who will save us from the tyrant boy.
Because his father is the pro-chancellor now, he is above discipline. oga o.”
“You should see Zaynab’s face. There is an imprint of Chucks hand on her cheek.”
“Iro ni o,” he said, switching to Yoruba.
“I don’t know what to do. And God is in heaven watching all this. At least let him sent someone who will match Chuck’s wit, I mean someone—k”
Someone knocked at the door. Before we could ask the person’s name, the door opened. Damn, my cousin just arrived.
“Cuz cuz,” he greeted dropping his bag.
“Don’t greet me. Just go back to where you’re coming from.” I thundered.
“At least let him relax now,” Jeremiah pleaded on his behalf.
I cast an evil gaze at Jeremiah for some seconds before I turned to my cousin, Tayo. He stood by the door with his backpack still on his back. He wasn’t someone one could be proud to call a cousin. He was a drunkard, and there were reports that he smokes Indian hemp too. I believed the rumours because his eyes were usually red, and they seemed to have sunk inside its sockets, giving him a monstrous look. His hairy dark skin completes the monstrous look. He was jobless, school-less and homeless. Almost every member of the family had chased him. The last time he was at our place, he stole my Sony PSP and sold it to a guy in the next street. But for all the evils that lived inside him, I took an exception for liking him, and that was the fact that he was a terrific dancer. He was an all-round dancer, particularly when he was drunk. He danced whatever tune he heard with perfect synchronisation. His dancing moves were well timed, and you would think he attended a dancing school.
“Why cuz dey vex like this now?” Tayo busted out, gesturing with his palms.
“No mind am, na one guy slap him girlfriend.”
“And he cannot beat the crap out of him.”
“The guy na the pro-chancellor son.”
“And so what?”
“That’s the god we have been worshiping in this campus o. He is invincible.”
Tayo dropped his backpack on the carpeted floor and sat on the only chair in the room. He was quiet for a while. It seemed he was thinking.
“Can I see this guy?”
“You mean Chucks.”
“We can see him at his department tomorrow.”
“What about his hostel?”
“I don’t know where he lives, but he usually goes to X-ten bar every night.”
He stood from the chair and sat near me.
“Cousin, I know I’ve caused you so many headaches, but give me the chance to deal with this guy who thinks he is God, and after that, I will be gone.”
“No o,” I shouted, “You will kill him.”
He shifted his mouth to my ears and whispered for a few seconds. I smiled. “Okay.”
Chucks and his two friends with two ladies were at table filled with bottles of Star lager beer and cans of Maltina and Fayrouz. There were also dishes of catfish pepper soup in a ceramic dish for each of them. They were eating the catfishes, and were using the drinks to counter the hot and peppery nature of the pepper soup. Suddenly, a bouncer, cladded in a black body hog that triumphed in showing his well-built muscle, approached them.
“Sir, someone broke the mirror of your car,” the bouncer reported.
“What! Where is the bastard,” Chucks was already getting up. So were his friends.
“He is outside.”
“Take it easy o,” one of the ladies said.
Chucks and his friends followed the bouncer towards where the car was parked outside X-ten. When they got outside, Chucks saw another bouncer with similar build and attire holding a black skinny guy with eyes sunk into its socket. He was fighting bitterly to get free, but the bouncer had a good grip of the guy. There were two guys beside the bouncer, begging fruitlessly for the release of the guy with the bouncer.
“Leave him to me,” Chucks ordered.
The bouncer released him. He didn’t try to run. Instead, he sank to his knees and begged.
“You are begging me; you must be mad.” He opened his right palm and flatted it towards him. “Do your parents have the money to buy this kind of car?”
“My parents?” The guy appeared insulted and he stood up and quickly threw a punch that caught Chucks in his jaw. He wasn’t expecting it, but didn’t give it much thought as he returned the punch, straight into the face of the guy. It was worse that the punches Muhammad Ali gave Joe Frazier. Within a few seconds, few more punches were delivered by Chucks and his friends to the offender and it was over. The guy was on the ground with foams coming out from the edge of his mouth like someone having a convulsion. His chest was jerking up and down every three seconds, and he looked like he was fighting for his life.
“This one go die o,” one of Chuck’s friends announced.
His announcement brought an instance reaction as Chucks and his two friends bolted towards the unlit street. They could hear the shouts of; apayan, he is dead, and o ti ku o, as it filled the air. They still managed to hear the scattering of chairs and tables as everyone ran off X-ten before the police arrived to arrest anyone for questioning.
A week later
I was in the kitchen of my self-contain room, frying plantain for my rice when my phone rang.
“Jeremiah please help me bring my phone, I don’t want this dodo to get burnt.”
He brought the phone to me and I answered it.
“It’s me cuz. How far? Is the guy still troubling you?”
“No. He ran away. I heard his father has made arrangement for him to school in Ghana. Meanwhile, the police are hot on his pursuit.”
“That means mission accomplished.”
“Yes cuz. That was brilliant of you. Thank you.”
I placed the phone on the kitchen table and continued turning the almost burnt plantain.
“Who was that?” Jeremiah asked. He was at the kitchen door.
“It was my cousin.”
“But… wait, it can’t be,” he muttered. Than he turn and set his gaze towards the room. He was trying to unravel it all. “Unless you guys faked his death.”
“You finally figured it out.”
He hit me with a balled fist. “And you can’t tell me all along. Gosh, I really felt sorry for him.”
“Tayo felt it was best if only he and I knew about it, which was why he whispered it to my ears.”
“Bu–but he foamed when he fell at X-ten.”
“That was made with the aid of toothpaste.”
“That was very brilliant of him.” He carried my plantain with fast reflex and bolted out of the room, “Your punishment for keeping me in the dark.”
I didn’t pursue him. I smiled, basking in the euphoria of Chuck’s fear. The fear that has eased us all, that we can all be In peace.