Uche was on his way home from school. The talkative Yoruba man beside him had been trying to initiate a conversation all through the journey; and like all other old Yoruba men, the man’s mouth odour was intense. He was not in the mood to be nice, he had gotten news the previous day that Papa had been struck by blindness. The man was hell bent on compounding Uche’s woes.
Uche was a 300 Level student of Social Studies Education at Tai Sholarin University of Education. He worked as a dry-cleaner in school, to send money home to Papa, and had become quite popular amongst the cultist boys. He was the one whom they always came to, to dry-clean their clothes. He had become an expert at removing blood from the very yellow shirts, and he did not even care how ugly and bright the shirts looked, as long as the boys paid him well. And they did.
Papa had lost his left leg while working at the textile factory close to their house, and Mama had died the day she decided to leave Papa. He had overheard several times, the other tenants in their Brazilian style house, saying it was Papa’s juju. He did not believe any of them. If Papa had that sort of juju, they would not be staying in a face-me-I-face-you, full of dirty Yoruba people. If he did, they would certainly be rich.
Uche was the only child, and Papa enjoyed taking out all his frustrations on him.He had several scars from the belts, canes, the hausa neighbor’s koboko, and even the motor coil the very silly next door mechanic left lying around, that Papa threw at him when he was only eight and had simply forgotten he was not allowed to play football.
The money he got from the dry-cleaning job was used as his and Papa’s upkeep, and to pay his school fees. Now, Papa had decided to be struck by blindness, as if life was not hard enough. He did not have time to take care of any blind bitter man, who would only look for an excuse to hit him, as soon as he gets home.
Just as Uche suspected, as soon as he got to their one room apartment, after greeting the man with 6 tribal marks that lives down the hall, who enjoyed gossip as he would sex, Papa stoned him his walking stick. He complained bitterly about him not coming home immediately news of his blindness had got to him; instead deciding to wait till the next day. After all, everyone knows the night bus is cheaper; wasting money that could otherwise be used for food. Uche apologised and dropped his things. He had sha come home and Papa should understand that he had school work to deal with.
He looked into the mirror, and tried not to slouch his 6’2, 19 years young body — he was often teased as a kid that he was adopted, as he did not take after the very petite Mama, not to mention his almost dwarfed father. His eyes were tired, and his ugly face was weary. He had developed very strong arms from washing a lot of clothes, and strong legs from the football he always sneaked out to play. His chest was bulky as a result of Charles’ cement weights, which he used to lift because he thought being muscular would reduce his ugliness. Alas, the stupid thing did not help; he however, did not care anymore. He had a tattoo on his arm that said something the tattoo man he gave 1500 Naira said meant power four years ago. It was already fading, and the flesh around the tattoo had swollen to look like he had a thousand pimples on the arm.
It was getting dark, and Papa was already complaining that he was hungry. To be very honest, the blindness did not make him any nicer, in fact, he seemed even more bitter, complained more, and had thrown his walking stick at the 14inches black and white TV, while aiming for Uche. Uche went to make Eba and Okra soup, his favourite, with the neighbour’s stove, and the very nice man, whose wife was a demon, did not mind. The wife however, was already hissing. What is it with Yoruba people and hissing? Do they have snakes as ancestors?
Papa of course complained about how soft the eba was, and how the Okra was tasteless. It tasted perfect in Uche’s mouth. He was sick and tired of the man complaining about everything, when he was sacrificing so much for the stupid midget. He did not know that he had thought that out loud. The old man lounged towards Uche’s voice, and had put his peppery hands in Uche’s eyes before Uche knew what was happening. When he finally did, after being hit with fragile blows from very old and weak hands, he easily overpowered the man and punched him in his one leg. The man screamed, and while the nosy neighbours were already filling the room, Uche stormed out. He was tired.
He decided after a few minutes, that he was going to take his own life that very night. He had seen a girl on that American documentary do it with a knife, slitting her wrist. He regretted not bringing a knife along when leaving the house. He then remembered he saw a Nigerian film where one girl used shaving powder. He could easily buy one can, and one pure water with the change in his pocket. Yes, that would do.
After buying shaving powder and pure water from the chemist who was very rude, he trekked into the roadside bush, opened the shaving powder can and poured plenty in his mouth. He was too strong for just little. He downed the pure water, and just after 30 seconds, his stomach began to feel funny.
The five Ghana-must-go bags full of money were dancing around in the space bus. The portholes on the road were too many and the bus was speeding. The police car chasing was not very far behind; so the armed robbers needed to dispose off some of the load, so they could go faster. They would come back for them when the police car loses them. They decided to throw them in the roadside bush, close to the petrol station, so that they would know where exactly they dropped them when they came back for them.Two of the Ghana-must-go bags went flying into the bush, and the robbers quickly closed their door. They did not see one of the Ghana-must-go bags hitting an arm, with a barely readable tattoo meaning “power” in Chinese, with the very disgusting flesh just around the tattoo. They did not see the body writhing on the floor, about to die.