Been unable to post on all my devices all day. MTN BB and Etisalat Modem. O ga. Finally sha, bb is working now, so I’ll post something I wrote a while ago. Hope it brightens your day. I’ll post from a reader once my internet access tools behave.
Mama Lolo saw the taxi enter the street from her vantage position in front of her house on Berkley Street. When one heard a name like Berkley Street, you would expect some very upscale neighborhood. But this Berkley was far from upscale. All the houses were face me I face you apartments in one of the off-route parts of Ebute Metta. The houses themselves were old, colonial style houses with smaller modern houses and shops built in between them. Most of the women were involved in petty trading right in front of their houses, the children went to the public school around the corner barefoot and the men were anything from danfo drivers to okada riders and those kinds of work. Taxis simply did not come into the street regularly. This was why Mama Lolo was curious to see who it was that had taken a cab home today. Maybe it was someone who had lost their way. She braced up to be asked for directions. So she was more surprised when the taxi pulled up in front of her and the large figure of her husband stepped out of it. In all their twenty five years of marriage, her husband had taken a taxi only twice that she could remember. So she was so surprised she didn’t react.
“Wetin swallow your tongue, you nor go greet person?” Trust her husband to remind her she was acting silly. “Who die wey you carry taxi?” she retorted. “Hold your side abeg. Where Otega and Efe, make dem come carry this load enter house.” She went into the house shouting their names at the top of her lungs. The taxi man honked impatiently to get his attention “Oga, pay my money and commot your load for ground now, make I fit dey go. Time na money o.” Papa Lolo turned on him vehemently “Thunder fire you two times. Put wetin for floor? Dem buy this kain thing for your lineage? Abegi, wait make my pikin come carry am commot.” The taxi man shot him a measured glance “Oga you harsh o”. He knew better than say more than that. Papa Lolo was six feet tall and built like a bear with a pot belly. If provoked, he was sure to dole out a good sized beating to the driver. And knowing how Berkley Street was, they could also seize his taxi if he angered the people here too much.
Mama Lolo emerged with two tall teenagers in nothing but boxers shorts. They resembled their father and descended on the back seat of the taxi roughly. The whistles they let out brought their mother to their side in a jiffy. “Ayagaya! Na flatscreen be this o, plus Startimes. Papa you too much.” Efe said. “Omo, this one na correct. Suffry carry am o, Efe”. As they brought it out, a small crowd of neighbors had gathered to look on as Papa Lolo’s family unveiled their new acquisition. He smiled as if some paparazzi photographers were snapping away and beamed with the smiles of a victorious politician. Mama Lolo too would not be left out as she commandeered her children, making way for them to carry the precious TV through the crowd, strutting in front of them. Papa Lolo made a show of paying the taxi driver and dismissing him. The driver was all too glad to leave the gathering crowd. Shouts of “Mayor, we must wash am o, you must declare for the boys o”, rented the air. He was prepared for them. “Mama Caro, give the boys one bottle each.” Cheers arose from the crowd and he made for the opening to the house entrance. One bottle indeed. He had told Mama Caro earlier that if she gave anyone drink, she would bear the cost herself. When he got inside, his boys were already setting the TV up on the wall in the parlor. They were one of the few families that could afford two rooms in the house; one was used as the parlor and another as the bedroom. He was a driver in a bank and so he fared better than most of the neighbors. But with four children to feed, clothe and school, even his better pay didn’t reflect. His wife was waiting to drill him; he could feel her eyes as he entered. Women. And she was strutting like a peacock just now o. “Papa Lolo, where you see money buy all these things?” He responded, “Find me water first, weather hot.” When she returned with the water, he continued “Na all those things wey you go carry am, pay small small for four months. Na only bankers dem dey do am for, so na my oga account I dey use.” “Okay o”, she said, sitting on the well worn chair. “Okay wetin?” he sensed her saying something he was not picking up. “Okay nothing jo”.
He decided to leave her. “Oya, take money, go buy things to cook better banga soup. We go launch the TV for night when family don complete with better food.” Turning to the children, he instructed “if that TV break, I go break you join, so make una do am suffry. No on am when una finish, na me go launch am for night when we wan chop. Una hear?” the two boys nodded their heads. As the children went about setting up the TV, Papa Lolo retired into the bedroom to rest.
Otega stepped into the long corridor that ran the length of the house, with the rooms on both sides. This part of the house was usually hot, as some of the tenants cooked their meals in the space right in front of the houses. Almost as soon as he entered the corridor, two boys about his age joined him in the corridor. The shorter one spoke first “See as you dey carry hand. Na flatscreen we never see before?” Pushing Otega’s shoulder downwards, the other added “drop your hand jor. See this monkey o, Benji” Otega made faces at them “Jealousy! Una go green o.” The shorter one let out a whistle, turning to the other “Taju, see this one o. Show am wetin we get.” Taju rummaged through the black nylon bag he was holding and produced a PS3. Now he and Benji made the faces at Otega “shebi you go dey watch only your TV as we dey enjoy our game.” Otega became conciliatory “Una no dey try. Make we”, he clasped his hands together “synergize. Your game plus my TV. Toh bad gaan be that o.” as they were talking they didn’t notice his elder sister enter the corridor from outside the house and walk up to them. She had heard all about the TV before entering the house. “Lolo, how now?” Taju greeted, obviously love struck. Lolo ignored her younger brother’s friend and addressed him “How far? Have you people tried the TV?” Otega switched to proper English with his sister, “No we have not. Papa said we shouldn’t until he turns it on at night.” “Oh, okay”, she said as she went past them towards the room to greet her dad. Taju’s eyes followed her all the way, till Benji pulled his lips laughing “Otega, keep your sister from this boy o, he don die for body as you see am so”. Taju retorted, obviously irritated “Na bad thing to like person? She fit like me like that o, make she dey form because I be her brother padi”. “For your inner mind,” Otega retorted, waving a finger at him. His mother’s shrill voice calling out to him pierced the hallway. “We go arrange the runnings for the game tomorrow.” He shook his friends and then raced towards the back of the house to answer his mum. If she called him again, he would get a scolding in the minimum when he got there for “counting her voice”.
The family gathered around the steaming bowl of eba and banga soup set on the center table. Thankfully, PHCN had been kind enough to humor the family by giving them power today, so they didn’t have to run their “I better pass my neighbor” generator. Mama Lolo had prayed a lengthy prayer thanking the good Lord for everything, and dwelling specially on the TV and Startimes. It had taken a growl from Papa Lolo to get her to round the prayers off lest they all die of hunger and awaken in heaven. Now, as they settled to eat, he turned the TV on and then the Startimes and tuned into the movie channel. They had bought soft drinks and the family was talking excitedly over the meal whilst enjoying the movie showing on TV. Suddenly, about twenty minutes into the meal, without warning the voltage dropped until the bulb in the living room was barely bright enough to see. Otega shot up from his sit as he raced towards the switch of the TV. “Off the TV, off am sharp sharp”, Papa Lolo shouted. But even as Otega got to the switch, the voltage shot up and the bulb became extremely bright. He was too late. There was a loud explosion and then the smell of burning wires and smoke. When the smoke cleared, the TV was powered down and the wall beside it and its socket was burnt black. Papa Lolo was up on his feet “My TV, my flatscreen, oh my God, Nepa don finish me”, he mumbled. Then he crumpled to the floor and lost consciousness. Mama Lolo’s scream attracted the neighbors and they came running in.