“E don die?”
My eyes flickered open, then shut. The sky was black. Very black. It seemed as if a giant fist had blotted out the sun.
“E neva die o!”
“E don dey wake!”
The giant fist morphed into five, each one splitting to reveal splinters of sun. Five heads peered down at me as I lay on my back on the muddied ground.
“Wetin happen?” I asked, with my mouth as heavy as a planet.
Mufu came into focus.
“TJ, you dey alive?”
“You dey craze? You wan kill me before?”
“Sorry o. But na just one punch the guy give you now.”
Slowly, I remembered. Sunday! Kia-kia, I stand up. The circle of people around me dissolved. Sunday stood at a distance, his face filled with fear. Last night, the bastard gave me some numbers say make I play them for Baba Ijebu. “13, 14, 15. Too sure,” he had said. I ask am how those kain numbers go win and him talk say make him mama die if dem no win. Na so I come give the bastard 1k. I put another 3k on top the 13-14-15 wey him give me. See, Sunday had never failed before; he was just like God. Sule, for the Baba Ijebu shop, dey ask me sef why I dey put all that kain money on those numbers. I tell am say make him go ask him mama.
In short sha, when result comot for night, the three numbers no even show face. 64-7-23. Imagine! Like a crazy lion, I go find Sunday. The guy don run! So what should I have done when I saw him at the busstop this morning? Me, wey no sleep for night wey I dey think of the money wey I don lost? Tell me, what should I have done?
True, I made the first attack. Quick as lighting, I gave him a few slaps and locked his shirt. He tried to explain something, but I no even hear. Before I knew what was happening, a punch landed on my face sending me to sleep.
So, even though Sunday was afraid of me, he stood his ground. Against his rippling muscles and giant frame, I appeared like a mere grasshopper. I thought of attacking him again, but I remembered his punch. If I got another couple, I might just die.
“Sunday, your mama don die o!” was all I said as I retreated to a corner to nurse my bruised face.
Business was slow. To collect money from the buses was becoming harder, and Fashola’s BRT nonsense was the cause of it all. Most of the drivers had started plying other routes since passengers no dey gree come dem side again. I dey even hear say the thing don vex Jasper so tay him boys don dey plan how to burn like 20 BRT buses. Easy thing now: no be for one garage dem dey park all those buses? Just enter for one night, burn the useless things. At least before dem go buy new ones, we go don make our money again.
Anyway, as business no come, na so we retire for under the bridge o. Rashidi produced some Rizla and Mufu brought out the satchets of igbo. We were smoking our thing jeje o when Iya Sidikat gave a cry of fear. Next thing, people don scatter everywhere. Iya Sidikat’s tray of paraga fell to the floor, the bottles rolling all over the place.
Before we could say “wetin happen” two guys in lemon-green shirts land for our front to begin pack Iya Sikidat’s tray and her bottles. Another one grabbed her by the waist and pulled her towards a van. Iya Sikidat wailed like a maniac, tearing at her hair and trying to free herself from his grip.
“Hey hey! Wetin happen?”
Kia-kia, we don stand up go meet the guys. Mufu and Rashidi circled the two looting the tray while I confronted the one holding Iya Sidikat.
“Ehn? Wetin happen? Your papa don deaf?”
“We be KAI!” The upper row of the bastard’s teeth had disappeared. Four brutal lines clawed at his cheeks in typical Egba tribal marks.
“And so? If you be KAI nko?”
“Go ask Fashola now!” he replied. He dared to reply!
“Ehn? Na Fashola dey put food for dis woman’s table? Na Fashola put us for here?”
The guy no answer.
“Oya, leave dis woman alone and go jeje.”
“Go where? I dey carry dis woman go station and nobody fit stop me!”
Though my face was still bruised from Sunday’s punch, my ego was bruised as well. Calmly, I picked up a bottle from amongst Iya Sidikat’s stuff.
“Wetin you wan do?” he was slightly afraid now.
I showed him what I could do. Brown liquid exploded into the afternoon sun as the bottle landed on his head. He screamed a loud “Yeeeepa!” as he let go of the woman to clutch at his head. Mufu and Rashidi took my cue. Sharp-sharp, dem don start to deal with the two other guys. As we approached their van to deal with the driver and the other guy inside, the driver jumped out and ran across the road. The other fellow was not so lucky. Mufu pounced on him and gave him the beating of his life. We opened the van and set free all the market women they had arrested. We wan burn the van sef but Agbowo appeared and that was that.
“But your name na Taju now. My name na Rashidi and Sikira is Sikira. Wetin we dey go find for church?”
“And so? When you go mosque sef last?”
Rashidi had no answer to this. True, he probably hadn’t stepped into a mosque in hundred years. That son of a bloody pagan! But somehow, Sikira who be Muslim, say make we come church for Sunday. Church ke? How the place dey be sef? E be like say na those her friends dey teach am all these things. So that I wouldn’t go alone, I asked Rashidi to go with me. At least it was better for two people to feel odd in a place than one person. Abi?
So, we got dressed and left for Sikira’s house. The church was a white-garment one, but Sikira no tell us. Sikira and her two friends wore the white aso-adura while Rashidi and I felt awkward in our dirty jeans and T-shirts.
When we got to the church, only people in white were allowed entry. Rashidi and I were relegated to a special bench right at the door.
“So, na here sinners dey sit, abi?”
“But how dem take know say we be sinners?”
We both laughed. The service continued and we kept yawning. The only thing that kept was awake was the loud clapping during the praise sessions and the wriggling fine bottoms of those devil girls. Sinners! Instead make dem come siddon with us for VIP.
All was going well, until one woman gave a loud cry and started making random motions, uttering a whole lot of gibberish.
Rashidi and I chuckled as she left scattered benches in her wake while rolling on the floor. The worshippers were strangely quiet. Suddenly, she burst into a chant and started running around like something was chasing her. She screamed as she tried to ward off the invisible attacker with her fists. I started to get concerned.
As suddenly as she started, she stopped and looked sharply towards us.
“They are here,” she said in a metallic voice that didn’t sound like hers at all. “People from the water kingdom.” When she said this, several men in white with red sashes around their waists fell in behind her, brandishing thin metal rods.
Like a Nollywood movie gone bad, she approached like a zombie and pointed at me. When she got within touching distance, she started to scream, holding her hands over her ears.
“Ahhh!!! Go away! Evil spirit!!” She then fell to the floor, convulsing. Two men held her while the others approached Rashidi and me. My mouth was slightly open while my eyes started emptily at the sight I had just witnessed. I looked at Rashidi and he looked at me. We both shook our heads at the same time.
One of the men spoke to me. His entire head was covered in snow-white hair.
“My son, are you ready to be saved? Are you ready to denounce your friends in the evil kingdom and come into the light?”
As if on cue, the congregation started singing and clapping. The clapping built up to a frenzy. Four arms gripped me and carted me away into the church. I didn’t even resist; I was too numb. They placed me in the middle of the church while more men in white and red joined them. Each person had knotted palm-fronds in his hands. Moving to the rhythm of the music, they cycled me, swaying confusingly.
Come o, wetin dey happen? I glanced at Rashidi; his face was blank. I sought out Sikira but she was nowhere. The first lash landed across my neck, stinging like a bee. The other men followed and palm-fronds slashed across my body. I screamed in pain.
“Ja-de! Ja-de! Ja-de! Emi okunkun, ja-de!”
I struggled against the men but they pinned me to the ground. With welts forming all over my body and my bruised face starting to bleed, I threw around wild punches, hitting jaws and groins. I scrambled to my feet and ran for the door. The men followed with their whips.
“Ja-de! Ja-de! Ja-de! Emi okunkun, ja-de!”
I ran out of the church, never to return.