“Catch that boy for me”, shouted a voice I cannot mistaken for another. Even in this chaos.
I weaved out of the reach an extended arm.
“Help me. Stop that boy running,” screamed the voice.
I avoided a branch at the nick of time.
I increased my speed. Dodged a body bent at the waist. Wove right. Then left. And right again. I made a near perfect “S” around obstacles, or bodies, on my way. Few pit and pats of my feet against the face of the ground, I pushed against the ground and got elevated a few above the earth for some seconds, and was back on the ground. My feet maintaining a beat of pit and pat like a drummer beating the “Omole ” drum. With this beat in my heart and head and also serving as fuel for my legs, I made towards my destination.
All of a sudden, a figure appeared in front of me. I need to manoeuvre my way around this figure, obstacles, or whatever, to get to my target. I looked right, looked left. To my right was a big canal. To my left, a small space that I could barely manage to squeeze through. I’m at a dilemma. As I was considering which option to take, I remembered there was nothing in my morning that foreboded me facing that kind of ordeal.
That morning was not a usual one for me. I got up before my mother could come to the mat. It was starting to get bright. With the little light streaming into the room from the breaking of the day I made towards the kitchen like I always do to check if there are no used plates and cooking utensils in the big bowl beside the door in the kitchen. The bowl gets to be at the back of the door once the door is opened. I pushed the door open. At the same time I heard a sound like a cymbal making a continuous rolling sound on the kitchen floor. I froze, then rushed to the back of the door and started patting the floor around the bowl. There’s nothing there. I was turning about to continue my search when I heard, “What are you doing ?”.
“I mistakenly toppled…” I was saying in reply.
“Don’t worry. That was me,” she retorted.
I squinted. Then my eyes adjusted to the partial darkness. I could vaguely tell apart the shape of my mom against the background of the darkness.
She looked beyond me to the back of the open kitchen door.
I stood up slowly.
“Is it this morning you plan to go and wash those plates, the ones that you have allowed to pile up for days, the ones that is already a breeding ground for cockroaches and flies?” she enquired.
She shook her head at me.
“You won’t remember they are washed. Why would you? I came to check up on you again and again while you were using your nods to wash the plates.”
I looked at her puzzled. Then fear crept onto my face as flashes of me washing the plates alternating between dozing and washing. Then it dawned on me that I didn’t know how got to the mat.
“After so many nods,” she said interrupting my thoughts, “ and you were finally able to get them washed and rinsed properly, I had to come drag you back up here to do the rest.”
The words rolled at me like barrels of drums rolled into a pond splotching my mind with more patches of the night. That night has taught me that I don’t do well when sleep deprived.
“That reduces my concerns this morning,” I regarded as I left the kitchen to go prepare for school.
As I did the things that needed to be done for the day, “That was a close one. That scene would have played differently on some other day,” kept running through my mind.
I got to school on time. The inspection during the assembly went without a hitch. The day was on point. Not that my days were always bad. But this was as I wanted it to be. I even got to had my favourite food, potato porridge, for breakfast.
We sang and marched into the class. Everyone looked happy. The weekend was a long one. It started since Thursday.
The teacher, Mr. Bamidele, stepped into the class.
“Good morning sir,” we all chorused making the “Morning” longer and louder.
“Sit down,” he commanded. The day’s work began.
Minutes into the first class, Mr. Akande, the Principal, walked in with his well-known book.
“Good morning sir,” we chorused again.
Many faces shifted from looking relaxed and jocund to looking uneasy. It is like the channel was changed from a favourite movie to a boring channel about a redundant experiment.
The smiles on our faces melted as the principal began, “Good morning class. This is just a warning visit. I want to give you all the opportunity to do the right thing. You have till Friday. Come Monday…”
He picked his book and left.
A moment did not pass before it began.
“Excuse me sir. Can I go and meet my mother in the shop?”
“Excuse me sir. Can I go and meet my father in the shop?”
“Excuse me sir. My mother may still be at home. Our house is not far.”
The teacher gave consents knowing what was at stake.
I added my voice to the others and I was granted consent. I thought I was one of those that needed to do the needful. My legs took me to my mother’s shop. I was to later come into the know that I was not one of the individuals that needed to do the needful. I was a “staff”, that is I enjoyed the privileges the children of members of the staff enjoyed.
When I got there, my mother was not at any of her usual spots; at the cutting table, the ironing table, nor the sewing machine.
“Good morning Aunty,” I greeted.
“What happened? Why are you not in school?” was her reply.
“I was sent home for school fees.”
“Oga, your son is here,” Aunty Bola shouted into the shop.
“Which son?” my mother replied surlily from the back of the shop designated for fitting.
“Your last born.”
“He said they sent him home because he has not paid his school fees.”
“Which school fees?” my mother said as she got up and came out of the fitting area. Her eyes blazing. Maybe it was because her sleep was interrupted or not, I cannot tell.
She turned towards me and asked the same question Aunty Bola had asked and I gave the same answer.
“Afira, go back to school,” my mother said with fire in her eyes.
I took to my heels. My heels that brought me to that dilemma that was in front of me. I was getting close to it. The closer I moved the higher the risk of getting caught. I had to make a decision fast.
I couldn’t turn right. The canal was very big. Besides, there have been stories of children being lost to it. I was just few feet away the man.
I considered the small space on the left. Too narrow. Now fewer feet to him.
Then my eyes fell on a space below the obstacle, the man before.
I dove without stopping. I saw the other side. My head was already out. My torso was halfway through.
“Just few milliseconds more, I’d clear this obstacle and be back in my class,” I hoped.
Suddenly, everything started moving in reverse. The things that were close started moving far, like it was a movie and a finger was on the rewind button.
I got placed on my leg like I was about to start running backwards and a hand clasped around my wrist tightly. I was heaving, looking wildly.
“Lekan, Lekan,” my mother called out softly to me.
My body relaxed a bit. “What more could happen than a serious spanking?” I said to my heaving heart. Not that I didn’t fear spanking. I dreaded it.
After she was able to calm me down, my mother explained things to me. I got to know the fire were not absolutely because of me. It was as a result of her working late into the night trying to meet customers’ deadlines. It was then became very clear.
All this he mused as he sat in the bus waiting for it to be filled with passengers.
“Why are these memories coming up now?” he asked himself.
A boy was crying. The sound drew him and turned his head in the direction of its source.
“He has been caught by his mom. That boy is one runner and dribbler.” he muttered to himself.
“Ooh, that’s the hook that reeled those events to the fore of his mind,” he noted.
Omole drum: (omeyley) A type of drum beaten with two sticks made from leather common to the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, West Africa.
Aunty: A term attached to the name of someone older than you by few years, who is a female to show respect.