The other day I tell Iya Basirat make she add jara for my food, but she no agree. She tell me say cup of rice cost, and the rice go finish quick. Say she no go see her money collect back. I come look her somehow. And she no stop there. She come add say even one seed of rice join she no go add for the one she sell for me already. I come beg her, say even if say she fit add one spoon only, me I go happy leave her shop. She come shout for me o. Say if me I no see how the country spoil reach and how complain full plenty for people mouth these days. I vex come leave her shop. As I go front small, then come reach that place where those dirty nylons and plastics full for inside gutter, I come shout wicked woman, then run go house.

I tell Mama tire say Iya Basirat no be better person, but she say make I shut up. Papa lie for bed since three weeks now sick for what I no know. I ask Mama if the sickness be typhoid and malaria—as them be the kind of sickness we for Ajegunle like to sick. But Mama say no. She say this particular sickness be like say it be the one those big-men for Lekki like to carry.

“Nurse Titi say na big-man sickness and the thing pass her power,” Mama talk. “She advice us make we better carry am go hospital before e go de too late.”

“Which big-man sickness again?” I ask Mama. I come wonder where Papa from catch that one. Or Papa keep money somewhere we no know about?

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As I come back from school the next day Mama draw my ear tight I begin shout. She say Iya Basirat tell her say I call her wicked woman. She say make she no hear that kind of talk again next time. If not I no go chop food for house again.

After Mama squeeze my ear finish, she come loose the money she tie for her wrapper give me to go buy food. I carry my shoulder up as I begin reach Iya Basirat kiosk. I no even like her food before. So make she keep her jara. I no want. As our two eyes meet, I come squeeze my face, begin play with my plate make she for see the thing well. So she go know say no be only her sell food for street.

*

Papa matter just tire me. These days, to smile again be problem for person stomach. Food no reach to satisfy me again. And that no even be the major problem. The major problem be say Papa no fit go work again. Even to stand up go toilet be problem for him. Everyday him go lie for bed, and sometimes, if piss worry him Mama go say make I follow make we carry him go backyard. Or go toilet, if shit worry him. And I know say when I go school, Mama be the person to carry him go toilet and bathroom. And it be the reason why Mama no like to go market again to go sell her stockfish.

I no happy to see Papa for this condition at all. Papa be very strong man, and this sickness no fit him at all. Street people know Papa to be very strong. I remember when One Million Boys been send letter say in three days time them go come rob us for our street. Them say them go rape our sisters and force us to rape our mothers. Everybody for street that time begin fear, because this One Million Boys them be serious criminals, and them no like to talk play-play talk. Their story been rain tire for our area, as them go walk from street to street, and people houses to steal properties and rape girls.

I remember the night after we see the letter for our street. Papa go house to house to go tell all the men to come out with their cutlass when the time come. Papa say make them no fear, say nothing go happen. Papa come back house come begin tell us how him take shout for the men, put morale for their body before they finally agree to come out come do security. I see the strength for Papa eyes, and my head come swell up with joy. I come go school the next day, begin tell my friends them say my father been be the person to go house to house to go put morale for the other men body.

The One Million Boys no later come again.

*

As I stand for house begin look Papa for where him lie down for bed, I no know when water come out from my eyes. I rush go outside as I no fit bear as Papa been try to bend his neck but him no fit. To move him body become big problem for him.

Small time as I sit down for outside, hungry begin catch me. I come remember say I never chop afternoon food. Mama begin send me to go buy food after we come back from church, one day, we no come see our stove for kitchen again. Mama been cry tire before Papa come beg her to stop. Her cry follow be say she forget to carry the stove enter house that morning after we use am boil water drink Lipton. She say, if say she carry the stove enter house neighbors for no steal am.

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I go look for Mama for where she sit down for bus-stop. One small stool stand for her front. And one tray, stockfish plenty for inside sit down on top of the stool. I tell Mama say I hungry. She come give me money from the small money them she keep under the tray.

I go back house carry plate. This time I go buy the rice from Iya Basirat. The other woman rice too small and the thing no even sweet reach Iya Basirat own. That day I go there, I beg her to add jara. But before I know, she open her pot, carry spoon of stew pour me for body. I run.

Iya Basirat face no smile today. Well, me I no send her. I no come Lagos to come look uche face. And hunger full my body.

I no even look her side as I carry my plate give her. I no even greet her as I come. She collect my plate, put rice inside, then put stew. I look the food, the thing small. But that other woman own small pass am. I no happy. I come tell her to put jara for the food say the thing small. She no look my side. I wait small to see if she go change her mind, but she no change am. I come think say maybe if she hear say my father lie down for bed sake of sickness, she go pity for me then add jara for my food. Then I tell her say my father sick, but she no look me. She no even shake. Ah! This woman get mind-o. That is why I always tell Mama say she wicked but Mama go shout for me say make I shut up.

I carry my plate come feel the weight, but the plate no get weight at all. The thing be like say no food inside. I no happy. And it be me like say make I call her wicked woman then run like before so she go feel the kind of pain I feel, but Mama been warn me. I no want make she stop to give me money to buy food.

I reach house then eat my food, but my stomach be like say I never chop anything. I come vex. This Iya Basirat wickedness no be something I go fit bear again. I go do something to her too, so she go know say I get wickedness too. So she go know say if mad meet craze, craze go run. And me my friends know say I be mad person. My name for school be Hyenaboy. Because after I do you wickedness finish, I go still laugh you join the wickedness I do you.

I know the thing to do. I go mobilize my friends them. Ghanaboy and Brownteeth. We go wait for her early morning when she like to always go grind her tomatoes for engine. After we see say she walk come out from the engine place, we go from her back push her. She go fall and her tomatoes go pour for ground.

“But she go see our face na,” Ghanaboy talk, after I carry the plan go meet them for school the next day.

“Na true o,” I talk back. “How we go do am now?”

“We go wear nose-mask,” Brownteeth talk. “You know say this na Koro period, so nobody go suspect us.”

Nose-mask be good idea. But I remember say person fit still know another person through the eyes. And nose-mask no fit cover eyes.

I wake up very early, leave house the next day. I no even remember collect morning food money from Mama. My friends already hide for where we plan. Them first me come. All of them wear their nose-mask. We finally agree for the nose-mask because once we push Iya Basirat, and her tomatoes pour for ground, we go run. She go only see our back.

The plan work. After I run small, I look back come see her for ground where she sit down. To stand up tire her.

My body sweet me all through the day. For school we go late because we laugh for road tire. Brownteeth no shame this time say him teeth no good. Even after Maths teacher flog us finish, we no too feel the pain. We just dust our nyash then enter class.

*

I come back from school, I no see Papa where him lie down always for bed. I see as Iya Basirat been come out from our compound before I enter. I squeeze my face. But inside me my heart begin run fast say maybe she know say I follow push her, that’s why she come report to Mama as usual.

I enter house, but Mama no ask me anything. As I see smile for her face I come get morale ask her where Papa go. The smile sweet me because Mama never smile since Papa begin sick.

Mama tell me say Papa go hospital. I happy well-well. I begin follow Mama smile. She come tell me say Iya Basirat just leave our house now, as she been come ask if Papa body better now. She say Iya Basirat be the person who give her the money to carry Papa go hospital.

Mama say, after Iya Basirat hear from my mouth say Papa no well, she come bring money come house for make Papa to go hospital.

My body weak. Mama talk and talk but I no hear anything. Before I know, I sleep. I no bother eat afternoon food as hungry no even near me.

The next day after school I run go Iya Basirat kiosk. I come greet her, come ask her if she get any plate to wash make I help her. But she no answer me. I come ask her if she need help to serve food, she come look my face come smile. She come ask me if I no bring my plate today.

As I say make I run go house go bring my plate, one man come begin ask her for jara for him rice. I come look the man. Why him go ask for jara? Him no know say cup of rice now cost for market?

 

*******

Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash