Written By: Ogu Chinedu
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito” African Proverb
Three days later, the reminders of his untimely return were still there for johnson to see, not only did he have the nightly battles with mosquitoes and cold to deal with because of his semi-door, the bodily wounds were still taking up time to heal because of the harmattan. He was walking with a limp, eating with his left hand and swallowing ungrounded food. In fact, the only consolation had been Tolu. Despite walking out on him the other day, Tolu had consistently provided him with food and medicine for the past few days; albeit with little words exchanged between the two of them. This morning before she left for work, she had brought him bread and akara, and then dropped a food flask by his bedside. Johnson was so drowsy that he only managed to stutter a ‘thank you’ before she left.
He looked at the small wall clock resting by the television. Ten o’clock! Johnson jumped up from the bed while cursing under his breath at the pain. It had been weeks coming, this meeting with barrister Muazzam. It was a meeting of huge importance to him, and to think that it was to come up today of all days. Johnson knew he was in no good physical condition for a meeting of that nature, but he had always believed that when one has a passion, nothing should stop him. It was exactly three weeks today that he met ‘barrister’ at one of the newly opened malls in town. In his usual character that fine Thursday evening, he had embarked on an evening stroll around the city to ‘feed his eyes’ on the new structures coming up, and of course the girls. it was not like O’town was a mega city, but one would argue that although the government was generally considered a fraud, it was doing enough to draw infrastructural development. With things such as Razz-styled hotels, bigger malls, modern day brothels and pot-bellied men, it was natural to have an influx of beautiful girls. For johnson, this was a major factor. After all, he who walks around, sleeps around. The new mall was just some fifteen minutes walk away, johnson had wanted to see what it was like mainly because of the fuss that followed its birth. Almost a year ago the governor had demolished a few neighborhoods around the area calling them ‘slums’ and promising that the large expanse of land would be used for something ‘useful’, instead, a month later, demolition work was started on the vicinity by a private contractor who claimed the government had given his employers the land on lease. one year after, the once popular Nku’s corner had been replaced by a new shiny and long building called zektromart. As johnson walked into the mall that evening and felt the exchange of air on his skin with his back against the old, he understood the power that money can wield.
The trail of eyes that followed johnson as he walked through the central aisle down to the shopping area reminded him that he did not belong. He could even remember a girl passing him and weighing him from his easy-wear up with an insulting smile on her face. when her eyes caught johnson’s however, she then murmured what sounded like ‘xup’ and went on her way. He had ignored her, in fact, if not for the super sized ‘water melons’ she carried abreast, johnson probably would never have even noticed her, so as she walked away towards the hot afternoon breeze, he simply popped forward his head like an ostrich in transit and continued his march across the hall. Three rows into his tour, he noticed a man struggling to pull a ball of cabbage from its stack, he was was obviously having a hard time as johnson could see, and ultimately ended up disrupting the fine arrangement on the wooden chamber, a lot of the cabbages were already on the floor, johnson rushed over to help him gather them up again.
“sorry sir, you know how naughty these things can be”.
the man turned to him and smiled through the small balls of perspiration.
“thank you” he said.
Johnson nodded. After picking up the last vegetable, the man turned to him again.
” my name is Muazzam. Abdulahi muazzam.” he said extending a handshake.
” Johnson sir. Johnson Buoy”
“Alright. so Mr Johnson, are you here for the tour as i see most people are, or are you here for some actual shopping?”
“for the tour sir” he smiled. “no money “.
Mr muazzam smiled and started to leave. na so dem dey do, no appreciation johnson thought to himself. And just as if he heard the little musing in his heart Mr Muazzam stopped and motioned to him.
“manage this one” he said, and squeezed four notes of one hundred naira into his palm. Too embarrassed to accept it, Johnson refused the gift.
“why?” Mr muazzam had asked in disbelief
“i don’t need it sir” he replied.
“but you complained of money?”
“i am sure i will be alright sir” johnson answered and walked away as the man stood there in utter disbelief. For a few minutes Johnson felt satisfied with his answer and the way he had handled the issue, But his satisfaction gradually turned to regret when he sighted a huge, fresh loaf of bread sitting beautifully on one of the chambers and pointing with its well made hair at the counter. johnson felt his pocket and remembered his predicament. He felt his adrenaline come to a sudden halt, grudgingly, he pulled his back to the soft devil with shoulders low and walked out of the mall. There, standing in the parking area beside a Prado jeep with his arm outstretched was Mr Muazzam.
“this is my card, i may have a job for you, come to my Office on the 26th of January, but try and call me before then.”
Johnson stood there speechless while his body performed actions that his head seemed not to approve. As Mr muazzam sped off, he found himself walking back into the mall with a card boldly written MUAZZAM & MUAZZAM CHAMBERS and four one thousand naira notes in a wrap.
Within fifteen minutes Johnson was dressed up in a nice fairly used white gucci shirt and black trousers, but the next fifteen minutes was spent in surveillance while Njide took all the time in the world to lock up his door and bang the gate behind him. Buoy crept out of the room and forced his feet into the all-purpose brown pair of shoes by the door. He gathered what was left of the door together and clipped a bent nail between them. Next fight na between me and landlord.
Fifteen metres down the street he flagged down a tricycle that seemed to be grinning from lamp to lamp.
“five hundred naira”
“i go pay four hundred”
As the ‘keke’ hustled up through the muddy street up to the ‘china’ tarred road, one could hardly make out the words on the black frame that covered the skeletal inefficiencies. “Na man wey hustle, na im dey cho…”
please note that the use of the local parlance (Nigerian broken English) in this series is an INTENTIONAL act to pass on the story in the most original way possible. Other works on this blog which do not necessitate such heavy use will appear in pure english form where possible.
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