Adelaja kicked at the glass . The glass chattered into pieces like jigsaws. The ocher coloured mud water flowed into the bus. The mud splashed on his face. He spat and kicked again at glass . His heart was beating faster.
” please l am here ” a faint voice called from the back seat of the bus. The mud water flowed in again, this time, it was as if it was pumped into the bus.
” who is that, maria?” he asked . He pushed a broken piece of glass that flowed too close to his eyes.
” They left us , please help me am stuck. My leg is under the seat” she said, almost crying. ” please help me , e joo*” With the current position of the bus, the left side of the bus was in the air and the right side in the swamp. The glass windows of the right side of the bus was going deeper into the swamp.
” let me get out, l would get help. Hold tight to that window frame. Can you climb out?” Adelaja asked. She shook her head.
” my leg na” she said. Her face had lost all cheerfulness. Looking at her you would have confused her for pennywise or dante’s mask. Her rainbow coloured scarf was soaked and Algae were all over her ocher coloured dress. Adelaja shifted closer to the chattered glass, he held out his hand and gripped the window frame of the bus. The frame was sticky and viscid. He lost his grip and fell back into the mud collecting at the back seats. He wiped his hand on his head and reached again for the frame . He gripped it and moved sinuously through the broken window.
Outside, the air was cold. Algae were floating on the surface of the swamp. He saw foot prints on the surface. The footprints were scattered and some were almost covered with the swamp water. He shifted his gaze to the ridges by the side of the swamp which was close to the bridge. He spotted a tall black man who wore a long boubou and a blue cap . Another man stood next to him, he was gesticulating with his right hand and the left held a phone to his ear. Both men looked worried.
Adelaja , dug his legs into the mud, his legs sank into it. His boots were heavy and made his wading difficult. Adelaja pulled his jeans trouser up his waist , they were heavy with mud just like his boots.
” Adelaja? are you at the ridge?” maria called from the sinking bus. He jerked and turned towards the sinking bus. By now, the windows by the right side of the bus were under the swamp, and the top directly towards the swamp like the leaning tower of Pisa.
“am not there, wait some minute” he said and continued his struggle. By sheer luck , he got to the ridge were he sat. The two men spotted someone on the ridge and ran to him.
” allah wakba” the man who wore the boubou said. The man’s name clicked, Adelaja remembered his name, he was Mallam Aliyu who held the smelling he-goat in the bus. The other man was the driver.
” wey maria? , we don dey call dem road safety since morning dem talk say dem go reach here and they never come” he said with his deep yoruba accent.
” she dey inside, abeg wetin we go do?” Adelaja said. ” l don tire o” .
Adelaja collapsed on his back, feeling lethargic . After a while the road safety arrived with their vehicle and pulled the bus out of the swamp.
𝘏𝘰𝘸 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯? Adelaja asked himself, at this point, he remembered it all.
The inside of the bus was hot. The yellow orb of the sky was blazing and everywhere was hot like the sahara. One could start with the children who carried their wares firmly to their head and chased after cars who were in the habit of driving faster than the young Usain Bolts, you could also watch with amazement as the drivers called out at people and dragged their baggages from their hands to their car and if you are a stranger to this part, don’t be confused, it’s just the normal setting of a busy Nigerian rural motor park. None of the activities at this park bothered Adelaja, what was on his mind was completely different. He was unhappy about what happened before he came to the park. He had dressed hurriedly and as he was about to leave his house when he hit his left leg against a stone. He rejected any bad omen , but his mind was unsettled. In the yoruba tradition, hitting a left leg on a stone means a bad omen and if on the right, it means good luck. Adelaja would have cleared this out of his mind, if he didn’t sight an owl on a tree, metres to were he fell. He was scared. An owl was nothing but an herald of bad luck, a messenger of witches from their covens. If it wasn’t a Tuesday, being a work day, he would have returned to his house.
The first man that got into the bus after Adelaja was a tall and black Hausa who held the rope tied to an he-goat in his hand. His face was as black as tar. He smiled and revealed his set of teeth , they were just the colour of a decayed corn.
” sanu” he said. Adelaja nodded, his eyes was fixed on the goat that was bleating. It carried about it an awful smell of urine and dried lemon grass.
” why you no put am for boot” Adelaja asked , he covered his nose.
” The boot don full and yam dey there, he fit chop am. I go hold am , no worry” He said. I am not worried, just take the bleating thing out of here, it’s disgusting! Adelaja wanted to say, but he kept quiet.
” Oga , we don ready, he remain two pepul, two pepul, Ore straight. No stopping, Ore straight!” The driver called out to the would be passengers.
A girl with a rainbow scarf entered and sat on the seat at the front of Adelaja’s. She was fair in complexion, but not too yellow. She had her hair done in a braid of blue colour that matched the colour of her Blouse and blue skirt. She held her bag in her hand and was still for a while before she began to make a call. After five minutes, three women joined the bus. Our driver entered and examined his book.
” who be mallam Aliyu? ” He asked.
” na me, l don pay”
” who be Adelaja?”
” l have paid”
” okay, ehen na who be maria ” he asked, turning the first page .
” l am here, l paid you before l entered” she said, her voice close to whispers.
” na Odigbo una dey go abi?” the driver asked, facing the women.
” ehen, na Odigbo”
Odigbo is the local government of Ore, the township after Omifon.
After a while they were on their way to Ore. They were all silent as if they were all asleep or in a trance, it was the driver who broke the silence.
” This country na wa o, fuel don cost, everything dey cost. Even moni for Ore transport na one fifty now” The driver said aloud for the passengers to ear.
” ahh, abeg u no tell us before, na hundred naira we go pay. Ha ha , from Omifon to Odigbo, no bi Ore”
One of the three women answered.
” No be you l dey talk to, na Ore people” he said. His tone belied disgust.
“Oga, na hundred Naira be Ore” mallam Aliyu said , pulling the rope closer to his knees.
” if no be say, we don pass Omifon , l for drop una. How much you buy fuel now? Ehen?”
” But the price is always according to the driver unions decision” Another woman among the three women said. she had a shawl on her head, she was yellow.
” shey na union get the motor ehen, na union abi?” the driver asked in an hoarse voice. ” make una vote for better people , wey go change the local government, una no go vote. Na to dey collect one thousand for vote una know”
“you should not bring everyone to the same level, in this place , we still have people who vote right” the women with the shawl said. For a while the driver was silent except for occasional curses on ‘stupid drivers’ .
Adelaja hummed his favourite music : babylon soldier.
” please do you have data” Maria, asked . Adelaja shook his head.
This was the first time she spoke. perhaps she is one of those shy ones, Adelaja thought.
” what do you want…” the smell became stronger. ” what do you want to check?” he asked.
” Just news update” she replied.
” Oh” he replied and kept quiet.
The vehicle jolted suddenly and the three women came down.
” we don reach odigbo” mallam Aliyu said, but nobody listened. His he-goat was bleating, remembering them of it’s presence.
” so what part of Ore are you leaving?” Maria asked.
” oh, Ajegunle” he replied smiling. The breeze blew her rainbow coloured scarf .
” l stay at the street beside government field, you know that area”
” Oga sumal, small na” Mallam Aliyu said. The car was moving quite fast than normal. ” you know say the road no good ehen” .
To this, the driver shook his head and kept driving at the same speed.
Adelaja and Maria were so deep in their talk, that they could not see the pot hole the driver was trying to avoid.
The vehicle screeched , jolted, then swerved off the asphalt into the swamp at the foot of the bridge.