A REQUIEM FOR DREAMS

“Write your obituary”. The bespectacled old lecturer barked the order at the students. The response was not unexpected; shocked looks with incoherent murmurings.

“Write your name, your matric number, your obituary and your signature. You have five minutes.”

The students began to make moves, tearing sheets of paper out of their books, and holding their pens in the way they would when writing. But neither was sure what the other was writing. How does a lecturer ask students to write their own obituaries, and worse still, ask them to append their signature? But Akin who caused this was already writing, and he could feel his classmates’ eyes feeding on him with confusion. He could care less if they all began to curse him.

But how did this happen?

***

Akin looked out through the window next him in the lecture theatre. He saw another egret swoop down and perch on the newly mowed lawn. There were five altogether, the egrets, projecting their necks to and fro while helping themselves to a lunch of insects.

Akin beamed a benevolent smile at the birds. The scenery was a welcome distraction from the boring Philosophy class. The vast lawn was a tender, vegetable green which extended metres away from the classroom and to the edge of the road. The egrets were marked out by striking white and long pink legs that looked too thin to withstand the weight of the birds. When one of the bird beaked an insect, it swallowed in such a dramatic manner, ran after another insect, picked it, swallowed, and then stood at a point, its neck, the shape of a question mark.

Question mark. There were so many questions running through his mind, especially about life and human endeavours. If only one of these egrets could answer them, just, if only. Three years ago, he had applied for admission to study Law, but he was offered Philosophy. He took it with joy, having stayed at home for so long after secondary school, yet his parents would not let him be as they always reminded him their plans for his life; get a degree in Law, go to Law school, graduate and practice.

It was a triangle of confusion; on each edge was an interest conflicting with the others. His parents had it all planned out, ObafemiAwolowo University where he was a student countered his parents’ plans, but above all, his idea of himself was an adventurous fine artist. Life really is a complex question. And he might never find its answer.

He found himself asking the egrets so many questions, without speaking a word. Do you egrets ever have to wash to be this white? If I make a painting of you, will you appreciate it? Why do you feed on innocent insects? Is this some kind of power? Why does my girlfriend toy with my feelings? Why have I never had an A in any course? Isn’t this like my lecturer feeding on my grades? Do you think I will make it as an artist? What is the answer to life?

He must have said the last question aloud, angrily perhaps, because everyone in the class, including the lecturer turned in his direction, as if controlled by some supernatural force, their eyes peering quizzically at him.

“What did you say?” The lecturer asked, his face a somewhat squeeze up expression of hunger for an answer.

“Sir?” Akin turned away from the bird, but he caught a glimpse of four of the birds leaping into the air while the last one was on the ground. He registered the scene in his mind.

“You just asked a question. It is besides our discourse. Why did you ask that question?” The PhD holder adjusted his spectacles so that the frame sat firmly on his nose. He peered through the thick lenses, waiting for a response.

“Sir, what is life?”

“What is life?” the lecturer struggled to hide his confusion, it was a futile effort.

“Yes sir. I mean. You are here teaching us abstract topics. Aren’t you wasting your time? Aren’t we all wasting our time?”

“Excuse me?”

Other students were taken aback. One would adjust her sitting position, another dropping his pen and then some were focused on the lecturer, others pensive about the turn of events in the class.

“Yes sir. This is my third year in the university and this discipline is still very abstract to me. Yes, I mean, what do we hope to achieve with Philosophy. True sir, we engage in arguments after arguments. You call it critical thinking, but I don’t see the point. I have never had an A in any course.”

“And how is that my problem?”

“Well, sir, because so many times, I have been torn between choosing what I believe is right and what the lecturers want. Including you sir. Perhaps you are frustrated too.”

“Have you lost your mind, Akin?”

“I think I will find it when you answer my question sir. What is the answer to life?”

“And you think a frustrated lecturer would be able to answer you?”

“Well, sir, I think your coping mechanism with frustration is to frustrate us too. Maybe this is a societal structure.” Tears were beginning to drop from his eyes, nobody, not even the lecturer understood him, or why he cried. “Sir, there are so many questions, and no answers. For example, what do you say to that bird?” he pointed to the bird. “Why didn’t it fly with its mates?”

“What is wrong with you?” The lecturer questioned calmly, went to Akin and made to touch his head. But Akin stood to the table and retorted with a deafening yell; so loud that the lecturer backed down.

“Tell me, I say tell me, what is the answer to life?” And he broke into a loud wail.

The confusion was tense, and written all over everybody except Akin, whose cry was now in fitful pitches of acoustic syncopation.

“Okay, I will answer your question.” The lecturer said after returning to the lectern-like table upon which his course materials were placed.

But before he could say another word, a fair-complexioned, petite female student raised her hand.

“Yes, Sola?” the lecturer prompted.

“Sir, I think we need a doctor.”

“Well, goes without saying. Have your sit. We need a doctor, but first, we need an answer to Akin’s question.”

The lecturer then instructed that everyone, including Akin should tear out a sheet of paper, write their obituary and append their signature.

***

“This is the answer to life.” Dr. Femi said after the students submitted their sheets. “Life is a complex question with a simple answer. Man is too caught up in the question’s complexity than to trust the answer’s simplicity. Many puzzling questions of life have very simple answers.”

He pursed for effect.

“But the ultimate answer to life is death. This is the essence of life, as long as you leave, these questions will come. Usually, as challenges. But death answers them all, because the day you die, you do not have to worry about these questions. I just hope you understand this. See me in my office, Akin. Good day.”

***

This was three days ago. And Akin was now in a pair of black suit and red tie. His lecturer looked at him, eyes behind lenses. Akin’s classmate, who had opined that a doctor be called, was also present. His parents were also present, and their only son looked what they had always wanted him to look like, a lawyer, dressed for the profession and making them proud. Only now they were not proud of him having embraced the ultimate answer, wearing his suits, shoes and tie only to be lowered into the source amidst wails and sobs between every measure of sand, every movement of the shovel and every word of the cleric in black; “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

Sola shoved a piece of paper into Dr. Femi’s hand. “He sent this to me. We could have rescued him, but we were too late.” She broke into tears.

Dr. Femi opened the paper. It was a painting of the lawn beside the class in which Akin asked his question. Four egrets were airborne; on the ground was one with a broken leg and a withered wing. Below the painting were the words; “when your dreams are the objects of a requiem, you embrace the ultimate answer.”

Ablad (2017)

 

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A SAD LOVE STORY

The room was brightly lit so that I could see about three silhouettes behind the window blind of our dining cum study. Coupled with the inaudible sounds of wrestlers and their crazy fans that welcomed me into the house was the savoury aroma of well seasoned egusi soup and amala that caught me salivating immediately I entered. This made me forget that my early homecoming from prep at the school hostel was unplanned, because the boarding house mistress had suddenly entered the hall and screamed my name over the public address system to inform me that I was needed at home.

I had ignored dad’s stern look at the table. It was the kind of look that reminded me that something related to doom was awaiting me. However, I couldn’t think of anything bad I did that might have earned me the proper correction that dad’s pankere was believed to make to any erring child. More so, the instructional material wasn’t on the table so I chose to devour the dish awaiting my judgement.

In less than five minutes, what were left of the dish were crushed bones of ogunfe. I looked at the empty plate and wished the food would resurface. Mother was such a good cook. The meal caught each of my five fingers taking its turn under the laundry expertise of my tongue. I was allowing my tongue to explore every corner of my mouth for any remaining taste and particle of the food when my dad’s throat-clearing sound snatched me from my pleasure.

“Tell me Dolapo, who wrote that letter in your bag?” His voice drowned the sound over the TV and panic took over me completely. For once, I prayed under my breath that the chair on which I sat should sink into the floor under it. I shut my eyes so tight hoping that it was a dream from which I would wake up.

“Answer me now!” Dad growled again and I didn’t need to be told of the weight of his lividness, I had experienced it before. I immediately started picturing myself soaking my bed sheet with salty tears and crying my way into dreamland or worse still, a place of nightmare.

In my moment of unspoken litany, dad pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and because my hand was so shivering that I could not take it from him, he flung it across the table and over my head. I had to stand up and pick it where the dining room curtain had terminated its flight.

“Now, sit there”. Dad said, pointing to the chair I had vacated to fetch the paper airborne by the anger-induced force of his hand. He stood and firmly banged his clenched fist on the table so that my empty plate jumped and landed back on the table.

“Read it to me, Read it!” he ordered then brought out the popular instructional material; the pankere from under the table. He had hidden it there so well that even the bright lights from our chandelier couldn’t reveal it to me. Even if it had been revealed, what would I have done? Nothing!

On other occasions, if it was my younger brother who was to be punished for anything, I would have stayed at a corner of the house and be singing “Jeun k’oto j’egba”. “Eat before you receive cane”. It was a song that suggested that it was better to first, eat and then be beaten as this would help you to sleep. Now however, I was the theme victim of the song.

“Dear Love…”

My voice broke into pieces the moment I started to read the letter. I wanted to look up at dad but I dared not, for I may be welcomed by a round of hot slaps. More so, I had the advantage of studying dad’s shadow on the table and monitoring his movement, perhaps, if I calculated well, I would be able to dodge some of his too-many-for-a-fifteen-year-old blows.

“Continue or do you want me to land this on your back? Do you?”

“I pick my golden pen from the basket of love to write this letter…”

My voice faded into a loud wail. I drew back, into my head, the mucus that was already moving down my nose. Few minutes ago, I had been relishing the pleasant taste of food, now, what I was going through made it seem like I last tasted salt over a century ago.

“This is what you do with my money” dad’s voice raised in the same tempo with his cane that would have left my back with a mark like the trace of an earthworm on the ground after rain if it had not been suspended by the fan blade rotating above the two of us. It seemed to weaken dad. I was glad the moment he said we would sort it out the next day and he dashed out of the dining into his room mumbling some inaudible words that faded into the air; something like he would not allow the devil to take over him the same way he (the devil) had made me disobedient. That night, I had the ceiling fan to thank for my escape.

Dad went with me to school the other day and explained everything to the principal who also expressed his disappointment with me. And because I couldn’t tell a lie, I had to produce Segun, my to-be ex boyfriend. We got the beatings of our life that day. I don’t know about Segun, for boys had a way of wearing jeans under their school uniform to reduce the effect of flogging, but I sure had three days before I could sit properly on my buttocks. Segun was suspended for two weeks. His parents were summoned and he had to write “I will never write a love letter again” five hundred times before he was readmitted to school.

***

That was about fourteen years ago. And I should go home to thank my parents for many reasons. One, I was not the girl who got impregnated by Segun six months after the incident. Two, I have become a practising medical doctor and owner of a specialist hospital in Abuja. Three, this man on his knees, holding a ring will get a ‘yes’ from me and I would be a woman, married, untouched and undefiled. This should not be a sad love story. It should be a happy one.

A NIGHT OF BAPTISM

A NIGHT OF BAPTISM
We were all out in the veranda. Some of us unclad save for shorts and signets. We were there, at about 9.30pm, each of us holding anything, anything from parker to book covers and hand fans to blow air to ourselves, for the heat was there in the room like a terrorist, posing a death threat to anyone who dared enter the room without first staying outside for the cool breeze and then bathing with the water, laid outside in bowls to get cooler, calm enough to mirror the full moon up in the sky.

The hostel had been interesting and uninteresting of late, especially because our exams had been concluded and despite the fact that we got food that was inversely proportional to the number of days we had spent in school, we were allowed to go out and source for feeding from our day student friends or from the canteen when we were lucky enough to get money, even when we ended up eating more toothpicks than pieces of meat.

“My dad will come on Wednesday”, Kunle said, while his face beamed a smile with a gesture that showed how happy he was about this development. His father had called the boarding house master earlier in the day and informed him of his imminent coming for Kunle.

“I am happy for you”, I told Kunle, envious of what it meant to get out of school earlier than others. You would have the comfort of your parents to run to and be fed like a baby at home. But Kunle was luckier; his parents usually came for him as soon as the exams were finished. We finished on Monday and his parents would come two days after. This meant he would not have to serve seniors who seemed to get their last days enjoyment from only one thing; oppressing the juniors.

“When will your dad come?” Kunle asked and I blew a measure of air to myself before answering him that my dad was not to come until the following week. The man seemed to enjoy my absence more than my presence at home.

In the time I spent thinking of another thing to say, a tall SS2 boy walked up to us and stood menacingly above us, JSS 3 students.

“I need a bucket of water”, he said with a voice that carried the determination to get what he wanted at any cost, to be paid by us.

“Senior, the hostel well is locked. It is past nine already, and the taps are not running” Kunle replied.

“I have not asked you about the well. I said I need a bucket of water. And for speaking, I need your water”

“But Senior, but…” Kunle muttered his defence against what was something he had little or no control on. The guy cut him off.

“I said I need water. Which one is your bucket there?”
By this time, all JSS3 students in the veranda had stood, unable to say anything for the fear of being punished by the angry senior.

“It is not fair senior. I have kept my water in the open so that it will be cool and here you are, wanting it by any means…”

“Do you want me to slap you? Go and put that water in SS2 bathroom for me now” the senior said and went away with an authority that could only be practised when there was no superior one.

With that Kunle made for the water, banging his legs on the ground and repeatedly dangling his head to both sides in protest to the order of the senior who had already gone into the room to get his toiletries. Kunle returned after putting the water in the bathroom. I consoled him by offering to share my bucket of water with him.

It wasn’t long before the senior ran out of the bathroom, clad only in his towel that he loosely tied around his waist. He screamed and writhed in pain like a salted earthworm. First we had thought he had been stung by a scorpion for there were many of those arachnids in the school hostel. However, the school had just be fumigated few weeks ago.

The senior was muttering, menacingly, though in pain that whatever guts Kunle had to have peppered the water would lead Kunle to trouble that night. But I trusted Kunle, he couldn’t have done such bad thing because someone forcefully used his water. Besides, he had taken the water straight to the bathroom and returned almost immediately.

But what could I say? Here was the senior squirming in pain and dashing for the buckets of water and emptying the contents on himself in the open, screaming pepper. It looked funny, though we dared not laugh, that someone who had threatened to slap my friend few minutes ago had returned, almost crying and displaying to the delight of his juniors.

“Senior, I didn’t put pepper in the water” Kunle pleaded feebly, rubbing and showing his palms to the space as if in supplication to the Almighty. By this time, the senior shot him a deadly look, one that could dry up the blood in the person at its receiving end of it was sustained more than ten seconds.

A heavy slap landed on Kunle in the same tempo with how fast the senior furiously uttered his “You did not do what?” “Ah!” We screamed as we watched Kunle gasp for air like a fish taken out of water.

“This is the last time you will ever do such thing in your life”.

“I said I didn’t do it, Senior”. Kunle said sobbing, yet we could feel the usual insolence that always accompanied the excuse of a junior who felt oppressed.

“If you say anything again…” the senior warned, and continued, “Your punishment begins tonight. Every morning and evening, you will sweep my dorm and get bath water for everyone sleeping there, including your juniors”. The senior then left, his tall, tiny frame fading to the darkness in his room.

I drew Kunle closer and wiped his face with my palm.

“Don’t worry, we will serve that punishment together” I promised.

“But I didn’t do it Ayo. I didn’t…” and his voice broke into another round of sob.

Just then, Samuel, the notorious boy in JSS 3B walked up to us and whispered to Kunle “You escaped this right?” I didn’t understand but I suspected he must have been the one who peppered the water. I could remember he had a bet with Kunle to make him cry. And if my memory served me well, he had been out earlier in the day with some other guys. This could explain how he might have come across grinded pepper. Besides, he was one of those last set of students who set their buckets out in the open.

“So you did it Samuel” Kunle asked, “you put pepper in my water just because of a bet to make me cry? I am going to tell the senior” he turned to leave before Samuel dragged him by his hand and said in a whisper how stupid Kunle sounded, a tyrannical senior just got served a piece of his own cake and Kunle was still trying to inform him the source of his reward.

“Just serve the punishment, and I even offer to help you. At least I have made you cry and that yeye senior has learnt his lessons the hard way. Sorry Kunle, sometimes the righteous get punished for the sinful.” He offered his hand for a shake; Kunle hesitantly took it and managed a smile.

I looked at the evil planning Samuel, how he had made a friend out of someone whose misfortune he had architected. I also looked at Kunle and wondered at his large heart, so how he found it easy to forgive never ceased to amaze me. He usually said that someone who never forgave could not live long. I thought about the senior, how he had used Kunle’s water and stormed back to beat him up for a crime Kunle knew nothing about. I wondered if Kunle would also forgive him after serving the punishment. But I didn’t have to worry much, for Kunle wouldn’t even have to forgive him, in two days time, his dad would be coming for him and serving the punishment with the help of Samuel and me could as well account to a last day in school fun.

THURSDAY FART MASTER

It was a hot Thursday afternoon. 12.35pm to be precise. We had just finished a paper and still had about 20 minutes before the next would begin. The paper we just concluded was generally enjoyed and everyone was high on something, or so it seemed. Chairs were turned to face one another to form groups in the class. Each group talked nineteen to the dozen about different topics. Some guys discussed  football while others discussed movie, fashion and the likes.

“Hnnnn, hnnn”. It was the angry grunt of some students that jolted me from my chair. I had held my PASS, studying my data on it as if it had just been handed to me. I looked around to see the injured expression on the faces of my classmates. Someone had farted of what smelt of decayed cooked beans and egg.

Everyone started throwing tantrums. I sat on my chair, indifferent. I had never reacted to the smell of farts in the class, not even for once had my facial expression showed discomfort. This made people wonder if my nostrils were functional. I would just sit on my chair and run my fingers on some book page.

“This is mercilessly terrible. It is absolutely unbearable” John, the grammar guru in my class angrily ejaculated. “Whoever did this is dead. They just have not buried him” Someone else lamented, and the rants seemed like eternity.

“You will eat everything that comes your way, how won’t you be farting like someone whose stomach needs fumigation? How?” a girl asked, as if she would behead the farting culprit if she found out who it was.

“It is beans”. Someone said convincingly. “And rotten egg” Another person added in the analysis of what could smell so bad. I didn’t smile, though I wanted to; for I concluded that it was plain dumb to debate the makeup of a fart instead of avoiding the smell itself by any means possible.

“Bosun will not even say anything”, someone referred to me. I placed the voice as Juliet’s. I didn’t respond, for the girl didn’t fear anybody, and she could beat up anyone who defied her. She was the record notorious girl in our class. Once, she had been suspended for fighting and twice for disrespecting a teacher.

“Leave him alone o” another girl seconded Juliet. “Does he even have a working nose? Let him be romancing his PASS as if it is American Green Card” Still, I didn’t talk, neither did I raise my head. The class burst into a laughter that lasted a while until a teacher’s cane banged a table three times to get our attention. It was time for the next paper. Everyone adjusted their chair and silence resumed its reign in the class. I assumed the smell had escaped the class through the windows but I doubted my judgement because I could see the clean-cut supervisor expand and contract his nostrils like a rabbit smelling its feed, this in turn raised and lowered the silver rimmed spectacles that sat on them.

“Did any of you fart?” he asked, menacingly. His nose twitched and written on his face was the determination to make a scapegoat of anyone he was led to believe was the culprit. Everyone in the class looked around, as if the topic in the man’s question was alien to them.

“I will forgive you for this. If anyone tries this nonsense again before I leave this class, I promise to make him rue the day he was born. Understood?”

“Yes sir” We chorused.

“Now keep away all books and get ready for the next paper”.

Hell was let loose towards the end of the paper as the pungent smell of fart filled the class. I was calm; knowing that there was no way the culprit would be fished out. The supervisor allowed us finish the paper before he dealt with everyone but me and two other gentlemanly looking boys, because, in his words, it couldn’t have been cool boys like us who never talked since he had entered the class.

***

It was a cool evening, a warm one rather, but its temperature was mild, compared to the one earlier today in school. The full blown golden yellow light of the sun radiated on the windscreen of a car that went past me and the rays directly hit my eyes. The passengers of the car couldn’t have experienced what it felt like to be out under the glorious effect of Mother Nature. I drew this conclusion from the fact that, as I perceived, the car was a brand new one, two months old or there about. It moved slowly in a silent sound, almost unheard and no smokes came out of its exhaust pipe. So I looked at the car and willingly lured myself, in few seconds, into a world of reverie. I envisaged a day when I would be in a better car, possibly with my wife and a beautiful daughter as a first child.

This daydreaming had made my aimless journey worthwhile. I only wanted to be out because nobody was at home and our dear brothers – PHCN, had held their belonging; power. So there I was, on a street in Ibadan, dawdling and looking out for anything interesting that could happen – just anything.

“Dear brother”. It was the voice of an old woman that snatched my attention from the moving car, and my imaginations. From what I inferred, it wouldn’t be too rude to say that the woman would not have been considered if she had entered an audition for a beauty pageant in her youthful days. A black beret perfectly sat on her head, the revealed part of her head was covered by rough gray hair that placed her above fifty. She was clothed in a pleated gown that must have served her for some years.

“May I have some minutes with you brother?” She asked. I gave a consenting nod. She continued her speech but not before she handed me a handbill. I had gone through this before and readily understood what her message would be. I could only pray that she was not as boring as the ones I had met before, you know, those ones who would argue and argue with you until you give them a noncommittal ‘yes’.

“My brother, do you know there is another world apart from this?” I nodded, focussing my eyes on the pit in her shoulders. It seemed someone had attempted to dig a well on both sides of her neck. The pit there could hold two eggs each.

“For everyone to enjoy the luxury of this new world, they must give their lives to Christ”. Hadn’t I guessed right? Hadn’t I?” She continued her admonitions. It was an encounter that would have been nothing short of boredom if she had spoken longer than I could cope with.

When we departed, I started to read the bill she had given me. It talked about sins and related vices; stealing, lying, fornicating, mischief, wickedness, malice etc etc. I was forced to stay by a corner to digest the content of the tract. I found myself strangely affected by the tract, for I had indeed been guilty of every sin stated in it. It ended my adventures for the evening. I went home, sank myself into a couch in our sitting room, drew my knees to my chest, and then started a playback on my life…
***
What could I have done anyway? Our meals at home consisted of beans, eggs and other variations of beans for Wednesday nights. We had been gifted a sack of beans by grandfather and mom considered it a personal calling that we must consume the sack by Christmas. With this development, who was I to control the effect of the carbon in beans? I could not bear the disgrace that would follow confessing to being the Thursday Farting Master in the class. I knew my classmates; it wouldn’t be long before someone would coined a nickname for me, something like “BOSUN THE FART MASTER”. I knew what to do. I knelt down and followed the instruction on the handbill, asking God for forgiveness.

I am @me_ablad on twitter.

RIDING HOME

Dr. John, pot bellied, dark, loquacious sixty-year old civil servant in the Ministry of Information, or Misinformation as people always said, sat in a cane chair, his favourite spot behind the new cottage he acquired for Lara, his new catch. There, across Lara, he drank and chatted, but did the former with more care and the latter as a corollary to the former. Though rich, he was selfish with money as he was with forgiveness. He never gave too much, except to beer and beautiful women and he only forgave when it was almost useless.

“I shall not remember my own name after our night together”. He said.

Lara laughed and the bulge of her mammary gland made Dr. John smile, soon, he would bury his head in between her cleavage and forget the flapping pieces on the chest of his wife whose only work included growing fatter and making children.

“It won’t be bad”, Lara said, “after all, I can remind you”.

She blew an air of kiss across the table between them and Dr. felt that, this newly acquired woman with her dark skin glowing in the warm rays of the setting sun, would take him to the heavens, and back hopefully.

And she did. For during their night together, Dr. John had coughed and gasped for air, his body twitching as he withdrew from Lara. She had quickly gone for a glass of water and on returning, dropped the glass at the sight of the man’s body, as it lay silently, lifeless with a manhood without its earlier glory.

“I shall not remember my own name”. She remembered his words and her own promise to remind him. But she would not have to, for now she looked again, after two weeks, at his body being lowered into the grave, amidst wails from co-workers at the Ministry, family members and his housewife, whose only hope of sexual fulfilment was being covered in bleak darkness, by every measure of sand, every movement of the shovel and every word of the cleric in black: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

PRESENTATION PALAVER

PRESENTATION PALAVER

“I hereby invite Adekanmi Abiodun to the podium to give his presentation” The co-ordinator said as I made my way to the stage. The sound of my name made a thunderous beat on my heart and I knew something trouble was lurking around. How can my own name scare me so much? I thought.

“Ablad, Ablad, Ablad.” Everybody started chorusing as I mounted the raised pavement that served as the podium of the school hall. The noise was so loud that it drowned everything I had in mind to say, including my intended catch-words. My confidence immediately evaporated.

I was in SS2 then and the school social prefect, Pele Banji, had organised a gathering that featured juniors to present on various topics. Mine was “Indiscipline”.

I looked around and saw my friends wave hands at me and repeating my nickname, Ablad. Actually, they had expected me to talk as though I was a parrot, just the way I did in class. Until then, I wasn’t going to disappoint them.

Samwagba College, Ore, Ondo state was a popular mixed school in the area. You can be sure that once you are embarrassed in the presence of the students there, your news is sure to break into the public faster than the speed of light.

I took the opportunity of the hailing to remind myself of my intro lines. “Good day everybody, my name is…” I rehearsed under my breath until suddenly the noise died down.

Then everybody looked at me. Their eyes bored into every part of me, eating me to the bones. My stomach churned and I became uncomfortable. I looked at the audience, numbering over a hundred. “Mogbe”, I cursed as I began. I needed a magic that would turn the whole thing into a dream, or nightmare, (that didn’t matter since I would wake up).

“Good day every…” I blurted. I soon realised I wasn’t ready to face the crowd. After I struggled to introduce myself, I defined “Indiscipline” and moved on.

And there she was. Queen was my favourite enemy in class. We hated each other with passion. In the school hall, she occupied one of the front seats. As soon as I caught sight of her, the remaining bit of my confidence disappeared to nowhere.

“The yeye girl”, I thought. “Today is your day right?”

“You’re in for it today”, I could hear her say in her mind. She already had a topic to discuss in the girls’ hostel. “This girl will finish me” I even thought of going to her after my presentation to settle scores with her. That though would diminish my dignity. The stupid girl was not even as brilliant as I was. Our hatred for each other started during an Economics test. She had whispered to me for what arithmetic sign to use, plus or minus. I innocently told her the wrong one. I actually didn’t know the answer. I was only to realise that she had begrudged me by the second term.

“I will put you to shame today” I promised without saying a word. In other times, I would have scolded her that the bleaching cream she used would soon tear her into pieces. Today however was not the day for scolding.

I continued my speech. “Indiscipline will lead you nowhere…blah, blah, blah” Before I knew it, the saliva in my mouth had also dried up. What was left of my mouth was some sticky white liquid that made my speech much more difficult.

I looked at Queen again and cursed her. “The witch has sent super glue to my mouth”.

“Stop being paranoid” A voice warned me. That must be Queen’s voice. She must be using telepathy.

I felt the whole world was against me when I saw a girl waving at me. It was Angel. That was the christening I gave her. She had been my crush since JSS3. I had taken the courage to write her a love letter which I later learnt, because of her carelessness, became a topic in the girls’ hostel. I was in danger. I could only hope Queen hadn’t heard about it all, she would just open the can of worms at the least opportunity. I could see boys and girls already making jest of me the next time I meet them, some pointing at me form corners and saying “that’s the boy who cannot even face his fellow students”. I could see Queen saying in her Yoruba accent, “you are not even mashure”.

As Angel waved at me, I felt the need to satisfy, compulsorily, two people; Queen and Angel. Pele Banji, the social prefect boy was there behind the high table expecting me to be blowing grammar the way I did during preparation. I was really disappointing him. Why did he even choose me? I was stammering.

Oh God. My legs were shaking. My heart beat at fast irregular intervals. My voice broke into pieces. I prepared well for this. I even did a three-day fasting and prayer and went as far as anonymously asking my fellowship members to pray for confidence for a member. Now, the prayers didn’t even count for anything.

I didn’t memorise which would’ve made it much worse. So I did it the free style. It was apparent I wasn’t confident but I managed to make my points which earned me claps, claps that killed my intentions, no matter how good.

After my long speech with a final bow and a “thank you” that planted relief into me, I hoped I had defeated Queen. I made out of the hall and its intimidating occupants. The ovation however made me wonder if the people understood that it wasn’t easy and that I had done my best. They all (I like to believe that) chorused my nick name. ABLAD! ABLAD!! ABLAD!!!

Outside the hall, I felt a hand over my shoulder offering me a sachet of water. “Thank you”, I said taking the water and turning only to discover who it was, Queen!

 

NEW YEAR, NEW THING

OSCARPOEMS

HELLO PEOPLE. HOPE YOU’RE HAVING A GREAT SATURDAY. @me_ablad DID THIS STORY ON NEW YEAR’S DAY. IT’S AN INTERESTING AND HUMOROUS ONE FOR YOUR WEEKEND. ENJOY, AND PLEASE DROP A FEW LINES IN THE COMMENT BOX…Oscarpoems

I got out of bed twenty-something minutes past four in the afternoon. I can’t imagine how long I had slept since 1.00am when I returned from the crossover service. It was first day of the year and I was supposed to have prepared whatever meal the unrepentant bachelor that I am could prepare.

I picked my phone and unlocked it. Too many messages and missed calls. No thanks to the silent mode it had been on since during the crossover service. I wanted to calculate how long I had been sleeping but I could not.

I could faintly remember what the sermon was. “A New Thing – Isaiah 43:19”. I liked that theme so…

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MEREDITH’s SECRET

MEREDITH’s SECRET.

As she moved fore and back wearing the rarest smile in the world, she caught my attention, and everything else went with it! It was like a dream, a reverie and I wished I would not wake up or if I did, I was going to sleep all over, to see her again, in my dreams.

She had come to pick up her little sister from the Country Nursery School. Or so I thought. And so have I, to pick my six year old brother. As nature would favour me, her sister was in my brother’s class, class two.

A myriad of thoughts went through my mind. Each thought succeeded by another unfathomed. How could God have endowed her with so much beauty which could be shared by a million other girls without appearing any uglier than the angels? She was my dream, my day and everything.

As she went out giving her smile unsolicited by anyone, I chose my chances, and I carefully did, to return such, out of free will and for nothing in return. She got my attention and I hers. It went well.

“I’m Solomon” “I’m Meredith” “That’s a name as wonderful as its bearer, or the bearer before me, you’re not bad”.

One thing led to the other and we shared phone numbers and Blackberry Pins. We introduced our younger ones; my brother, her sister, as she said.

I was happier than I was before then. For seeing an angel. An angel more beautiful than the sun in the day, the moon in the night, the grass in the winter and the peacock in the forest! She was registered on my mind, as a template of my desire in a woman.

And things went the other way. It really was a dream, and I already woke up the moment we departed. She had come to take Ann, the name she called her sister though she wasn’t her sister.

Only one thing I never knew, that she had come to take her daughter, Ann, whom she had at the age of fourteen when her innocence was taken six years ago, by her paedophilic older cousin, Jack.

Meredith’s only secret to me after all, was that she never had a secret!.

THE APPLE IN THE BROTHEL

THE APPLE IN THE BROTHEL

He was casually dressed and did not come in his car so as to remain anonymous. As he was climbing up the brothel stairs, holding the newel with his right hand to support himself, his phone rang in his trousers’ right back pocket. He stopped and answered the call without checking the caller identity. “Jones” the voice said. He knew whose voice it was. It was Frank’s. I only want to remind you to make sure you get the lady convinced of your intentions”. Frank said and Jones responded in agreement.

Jones was on his mission that was against his religion and conscience. He had been pushed to the wall. Since he withdrew from his church, even as a worker, his life had taken a turn. Either negative or positive, he was left to judge. If he was still a worker in the church, his intentions as fuelled by Frank wouldn’t be executed. Or how does a church worker engage in extra-marital affairs without self guilt?

He was a successful businessman. Married for ten years without the expected fruit of marriage, he was more than frustrated. After series of fasting, prayers and messages of hope – the “it is well” cliché, he seemed not to have that hope anymore. Not even a bit of it. What else was he going to do after doctors have confirmed that he was medically okay?

He had no clue on how to manage his emotional stress coupled with the pressure from family members, especially his aged mother whose hope of having a grandchild solely rests on him. Only him! What about the regular quarrel with his wife, Tina? He easily accused her of being a desert and Tina as well called him various names like “Paper Tiger”, “infertile sheep” among other unpalatable names. There was no understanding of things anymore.

Tina on her own side was one of the holiest girls on campus when they met at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka twelve years ago. They fell in love and got married two years after graduation. Tina had always seen a bright hope for the both of them since they began. Even until three years ago when Jones decided to get out of his boring life of Christianity, she was as faithful as faith itself but at times, “you don’t have to trust anybody, not even yourself!”

Neither Jones nor Tina wanted the marriage to fail; it might be that they didn’t know that it had failed already? Or what is the definition of marriage failure when the wife can’t produce after ten years and yet she has no iota of respect for her husband, and she made him look clueless about marriage?

Pieces of advice from families and friends, like that of Frank, didn’t help matters in the slightest. What about Tina-’s closest friend, Joyce, who had been suspended ten times from attending her church’s women union meeting on the account of insulting her husband and subsequently divorced by her no nonsense husband on the account of being too talkative and insulting to him? Who needs advice from her kind?

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And today, Jones was on his way to the most popular MOGAMBO BROTHEL to test his potency on a lady he was introduced to by Frank. If she conceived, he was going to secretly marry her; if not, he was going to try another person. The said lady was already in the appointed room waiting when Frank called to remind Jones of the importance of what he was about to do.

After ending the call, he went up into the room 55 on the third floor. As he was about to open the door, he saw something astonishing, something he had always seen but in a less beautiful manner, he beheld a great beauty and it was beauty, and nothing more. If he would rethink, not now that a deal was on.

As he turned the door knob, the beauty he just saw turned out to be Tina. His lips stuck together like that of a child learning to pronounce the thirteenth letter of the English Alphabet. Finally, he talked; all he could say was “My Apple”, the name he used to call Tina when they started dating in the university.

They were mature not to have mixed salt with palm oil at the brothel. On getting home, none of the two was a good liar. If Jones was going to say he was there for a business meeting, his car wasn’t there and he was casually dressed. Tina on her side would have no reason to bring her supermarket products to the hotel. They had no choice but to open up.

Back home, the duo could not face one another, they were both speechless. The question which hung over them like the sword of Damocles was “who caught who?”. After minutes of silence punctuated with several sounds of “hmm hmm” from both ends, Jones finally found his voice. “What were you doing in that place?” he asked. He got closer to her, grasped Tina’s shoulders then snarled like an angry beast while repeating the question.

He was almost losing his cool, was in fact about to physically assault her but remembered the position of the law on wife battery. Tina looked at him, bitterness written all over her pretty face. She got up from the bed and headed for the living room without saying anything. He stormed after her like a mad bull demanding answers, swearing and cursing.

Jones’ voice drowned every other thing, including the chiming of the door bell. After several minutes at the door, the person at the door made his way in quietly. Standing at the doorway was their Church Pastor. Pastor’s arrival was all Tina needed to betray emotions. She broke into tears, hot tears which muffled her voice. She wanted to talk, but she could not find her voice.

Pastor originally came to visit them in his continued efforts to persuade them to return to Church where he was sure their problems would be solved. He however met something much more demanding, something which was of more importance than the persuasion to come to church for their ‘miracle baby’. He entered, sat them down and they started discussions to restore peace in the home.

The two had the same reason for their shortcomings. Jones accused Tina of giving him psychological problem, making him believe he was not up to a man and he had no better option, or worse option, than to find an alternative. Tina had the same reason.

The mental pressure, incessant quarrel and wrong pieces of advice was tearing what love and God had joined, they created the chance for that anyway. Each party had faults. Listening to devil-inspired pieces of advice was their major problem.

After the Pastor had talked and concluded by asking them if they had ever read Romans 12:12, the two embraced each other, confessed more sins and resolved to return to their faith. Not until today, Tina and Jones never had to wet their clothes so much with tears. Maybe of joy or sadness, it must be one.

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