The rain hammered my roof with vicious intensity as the wind raged through, making my window lattice let out complaining squeaks. I hurriedly shut them to avoid any damage as it seemed the weather had become a mad titan on a rampage.
I could hear mothers screaming at the top of their lungs urging their children to come take shelter indoors away from the violent rain. But the good little boys were having a swell time playing football in the rain.
I reminisced growing up as a young boy in the early 90s, doing the same thing these lads were doing. Okoro, the owner of the size 4 health ball we do play always selects the best players to be in his team. Playing in the rain brings special excitement and a different kind of feeling, it was during this time that the worst of players could become the best with the slightest of moves sending his opponent into the mud, well not because of any special skill of his but thanks to the slippery ground.
My heart skipped when a sudden surge of electricity flashed through the sky accompanied by a deafening roar of thunder. The boys were frightened and ran inside abandoning the game that was already become interesting.
The rain hadn’t stopped and worse still, it showed no sign of stopping even in the next couple of hours. I went straight to my kitchen to prepare .something to eat but only to find the cupboard laughing at me with its emptiness. Going out to buy something was not an option since the downpour hadn’t stopped and the roads would have been flooded.
I had no option than to settle for the little garri that was kept on top of the fridge. I added some water and sugar, ate and went to bed.
The buzzing sound of my alarm woke me up and in a few minutes I was dressed. I bought three noodles from the Hausa man down the street and two eggs. Everything had become expensive.
“One egg na hundred naira o, “ he said.
“Hundred naira?” I exclaimed. “No be fifty naira again?”
“No be pipty naira again. Oga, egg I don cost. Ebritin I don cost for market oga.”
“One egg for hundred naira? Shey na operation dem the fowl dey take lay egg now?” I asked jokingly.
He burst out into uncontrollable laughter at my joke before adding, “Me I no know oo. Make God just help us.”
I paid for them, got home, prepared them, ate and in a few minutes I was ready for work.
I tried to close my door and found it creaking again, the sound was so annoying but there was nothing I could do that morning as I was running late. I noticed it started about two days ago; the hinges must be getting rusty and I’d have to do something about that maybe later in the day or probably the next day, but right then I needed to go meet the boys for training in preparation for a video shoot.
My Bajaj motorcycle came to life when I turned on the ignition. It had become my lifesaver on the frustrating roads of this city.
I am a dancer working with a dance crew. We train four times every week but must always be punctual especially when we’re having a video shoot. Our leader Ben, who also doubles as our boss since he owns the company, doesn’t appreciate lateness. For that reason, I had become his most loved dancer, much to the chagrin of Ejike, the team’s longest serving member.
The potholes on the road were numerous and the rain that fell the night before made matters worse with mud and dirt splashing as my bike ran through. There was no point trying to dodge the potholes, one just needs to look for a more favourable one to plunge into.
The ride wasn’t smooth as I constantly bumped into holes making my bike gallop unnecessarily. As I made to join the next street adjacent a road side mechanic, I noticed a large hole on the road, and in an attempt to avoid it I swerved sharply to the left hitting an animal as a result — a mother duck.
I stopped the bike and alighted to check if the duck was still alive but was hurt to see that it had died. Of course, I eat animals as food but I do not condone the intentional killings of animals just for fun or sport.
“E don die already, “ said the mechanic, moving closer to where I was.
“Yes, “ I replied. “It wasn’t intentional. “
“I understand. No be your fault, sometimes these animals dem go dey waka for road with yanga like say na dem get road. And if to say the road sef good, you for no need to bend your hand wey make you come jam am, “ he said.
“Thank you for your understanding, “ I said. “It’s a pity that it had to die like this. “
I put on my helmet, climbed on the bike and was about to move when he stopped me.
“You wan dey go like dat?” He asked.
“I no understand your question sir, “ I answered.
“I say you wan dey go just like dat? “ He repeated.
“Ehen nah. Abi wetin you want make I do again? “ I replied.
At hearing my question, he laughed. He was a dark-skinned man with patches of grey hairs on his head and from his accent I could tell that he was from Ibadan. I still could not understand why he was laughing.
Sensing my puzzling look, he said “Pikin no know medicine, e dey call am vegetable.”
He went to explain that the duck, just like the pigeon was a sacred animal to a particular deity (I could not remember the name of the so-called deity) and that taking care of these animals brings blessings to those taking care of them, no wonder some people had taken it as a duty to feed pigeons with guinea corn in order to receive blessings.
He further went on to say that as a result, it was considered an abomination to kill any of these animals in order to avoid misfortune. But in a situation where a person kills any one of them unknowingly, the individual is expected to drop any amount of money on the corpse before leaving.
“And what if I don’t drop any money on it, what would happen? “ I asked.
“Dem no dey tell blind man say rain dey fall, “ he answered. “Na im body go tell am. Before night reach, something bad go happen to the person. So e better to just drop any money to avoid wahala.”
“Thank you Sir, but I no believe that kind superstition sha. I no dey put any money. Na wetin person believe na im dey happen to am, “ I said as I mounted on my bike. I could see him from my side mirror shaking his head with pity as he watched me zoom off.
Practice was more tedious today than it had been in recent times, an A-list musician needed a dancer from our crew, so we had to practice hard. He would come the next day to pick his choice, the individual would be in his much anticipated music video. The selected dancer would also go on a tour with him to perform in the United States and Europe. That was definitely the best opportunities of our lives.
We decided to stop at a local canteen and have a little feast to replenish all the energy spent from jumping around and trying to make the best of moves during practice. All the boys were together excluding Ejike of course who decided to stay behind for more practice. He was obviously obsessed with trying to outperform me.
It was 12pm already and the sun was overhead, laughing cynically at humans below. I ordered for two wraps of fufu and vegetable soup garnished with enough periwinkles and mushrooms, and a cold bottle of Pepsi, one that had been been imprisoned in ice for a very long time. The boys also made their orders and we all ate, discussing about the next day.
For some reasons, the waiter who had served us food and drinks was no where to be found. The bottles remained unopened because he hadn’t brought the bottle opener for us. Fortunately, I had a bottle opener attached to my key bunch and it was passed round to get the drinks flowing but Bobby, being the bushman that he was, would always want to open it with his teeth.
After the meal, we decided to stop at an event close by to say hi to a few friends hanging out. AK and Moose excused themselves, promising to meet up later. Now that I think about it, all these while I never had my keys with me.
It was almost 4pm, AK and Moose caught up with us as we were leaving the event centre. Moose gave me my keys and I noticed a slight twist in the key ring.
“He probably dropped it or bent it by mistake,” I thought.
I didn’t dwell much on that as I put it in my pocket.
“Are you going home already?” AK asked.
“Of course, I am, “ was my reply.
“I thought you said you didn’t have foodstuff at home,” he said. “Instead of rushing home just yet, It would be better for you to go to the market first and then go home later, “ he insisted.
That sounded more reasonable.
“All right guys, thanks. Let me head to the market first. See you later. “
We said our goodbyes and parted. Along the way I remembered that the electricity company would switch off power once it’s 6pm and there was no water left in my tank. I changed my mind, turned back to go home, pump some water and if possible return to the market after that.
I got home and noticed that my key didn’t fit into the hole as it used to, another slight bend on it. After examining it closely, I became suspicious. I opened the door and something felt awry. I live in a self-contained apartment and so I could tell when something is a little out of place. Unfortunately, the electricity company had unsurprisingly switched off power. I walked to the windows to open them and as I turned around, something caught my attention. I moved closer and then I saw it; a bloodstained knife right there on my dining table.
I have learnt not to panic whenever I see something strange but for goodness sake, I live alone. Just how did it get there? It being the knife looked vaguely familiar. I mean if you were covered in blood, you’d look vaguely familiar too because the knife was mine.
Hmmm… Me being quite the detective started to connect the dots. Like in the movies, I looked around for drops of blood but found none. I made my way to the kitchen and also found some things a little bit out of place, but not like a struggle for life and death happened there.
“Was someone trying to frame me for murder?” I thought.
My heart thumped hard as I tried to figure out what had happened.
“Was it that the words of the mechanic was coming true just because I did not place any money on the duck I hit? That can never be the cause, it’s just superstition, or might it be real? I seriously doubt.”
“Was it Ejike?”
Ever since I joined the crew he had been indifferent towards me because I had usurped his formerly undisputed position as the best dancer in the group. And with the musician coming tomorrow, he might have thought of taking me out of the way by framing me with such crime.
“Was that why he decided to stay behind for him to hatch out his evil plan? But he doesn’t have the keys and my house was not broken into.”
“Moose? Moose! It must be Moose!” It was he who returned the keys slightly bent. But what exactly did he do? I needed to find out.
The person who did this would probably have contacted the police so that I would be caught at the scene. Well, the guys didn’t know that I had gone home instead of the market. I picked up my phone to call Moose while pretending that I was still at the market.
I had heard stories about people who were framed for murder and had been jailed with others even being killed as a result. This was never going to happen to me! So Moose, who looked so gentle was actually a green snake in the grass.
I called him nonetheless ,only asking why my key was bent. It turned out that Moose was actually given the keys by AK before Moose handed the keys to me outside the event centre.
Ak? I never really trusted that guy. He had once said that if necessary, he would remove from his way anyone hindering him from reaching the top.
“Was I a threat to him? Was I a hindrance to him seeing that we had a lifetime opportunity in front of us the next day? Will framing me for murder be his way of removing me? “
No wonder he insisted that I went to the market first.
“I know we all are like a family,” he had once said. “We are brothers, but guys, it is survival of the fittest because there is no brother in the jungle. “
Hmm… No brother in the jungle! I needed to get to the bottom of this.
I called the gang and planned to meet them at our favourite joint while still pretending to be coming from the market. I decided to come late when everyone was already seated. I had the knife carefully wrapped in a nylon bag (I’ve learnt not to tamper with evidence).
There was assorted meat on them table, it seemed that someone must have been feeling spendthrifty. They told me to dig in and we all did. Before I got lost in the meal and forgot what I came for, I shoved aside some of the plates, dropped the bloodstained knife on the table and in the most dramatic voice that I could muster I said “I saw this on my dinning table this evening, would anyone care to explain what’s going on? “
I noticed the furtive exchange of glances across the table but I stared at AK who had a knowing smirk on his face as he stared also at Jackson.
Jackson cleared his throat…
Jackson? The quiet and carefree Jackson?
“Okay Alby…” My name is Alby by the way.
“The thing is… “ As Jackson started to tell the story, I was shocked, then surprised, then disgusted and then shocked again.
So what really happened was that Jackson and AK who are neighbours and who live two houses away from me had planned to steal their landlord’s goat and kill it. Well, they always borrowed things from me like the matchbox that wasn’t exactly where it used to be, brooms, curtains and whatnots. So they decided to get my keys in order to take my knife because they knew that I won’t support any plans to steal anything.
While we were hanging out with friends, they were busy stealing a goat and “borrowing” my knife, and in what haste were they that Jackson’s cousin who happened to be with him after coming to spend the holidays here had forgotten to wash the knife, carelessly leaving it on my dining table.
I don’t know if I was the better detective or they the sloppier criminals. And to crown it all, the meal I just finished eating was from the goat. Now I feel bad for enjoying it.
As I sit with a toothpick in my mouth, I couldn’t stop thinking about the absurdity of the whole situation.
And here was I, sweating.
Humble Ogbonna, a Diction and Phonetics Instructor with a passion for writing sent in this entry from email@example.com