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Thug by Victor Oladejo

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Spirits are citizens of this earth too, they leave among us, watch us, and see through us. They love this realm, the physical realm. They long to breathe, laugh, play, love, indulge in mischief, and be a part of all vanities within our reach as humans, but they can’t, because it is against the law. Only the living exist here.

So when a spirit decides to appear in our realm, he possesses a body.

It was on a Saturday when a spirit passed my brother, Bamidele.

*

It was raining when my father returned from his party meeting. His body was soaked, and his print shirt, like a sleeping slug, glued itself to his body and you could see the hairs on his chest pushing against it. My sister, Wumi came out of her room almost immediately with a towel as though she knew he would arrive that minute.

“ Ekaabo sir”, I greeted and collected the small polythene nylon he was holding.

“ Bawo ni Jimi?”, he asked and sat on a cushioned chair, wiping his body slowly with the towel, starting from his head.

“ Fine sir, “ I replied.

“ How was school, when did you return?”

“ Two hours ago sir” I replied and pulled at the collar of my shirt, the cold air was nudging at my neck and giving me crazy chills.

My sister left the parlour and returned with a tray of food. She set it slowly on the center table and left.

“ Has Bamidele returned? “, my father asked and dropped the towel on the arm of the cushioned chair.

“ No sir, “ I replied and hugged myself.

“ We left the secretariat together, what could that boy be doing out there by this time ehen? Jimi do you have card ehen? Jo bami pe Bamidele”, he said and pulled the center table with his left hand and his right holding the tray firmly till it was close enough for him to eat comfortably.

There was a knock on the door, I rose to check who it was. My father signaled at the window. I walked to it and pushed the blinds to see who it was. I smiled, it was Bamidele. Big bro!

I rushed to the door and opened it. I opened my arms and hugged him. His body was rigid, drained of excitement and I could smell alcohol on his breath. Strange.

I released him from my grip and he laughed.

“ You are back, see my kid bro o, how school?” he asked. His breath smelt of rotten eggs now.

He pulled at my cheek, then entered the house, shaking like a pawpaw tree in the wind as he went.

I wiped my cheek and closed the door after him. Now the rain had stopped and the gutter at the front of the house was making slurping sounds as milk tins from the canteen at the other end of the street rolled through it.

“ Where have you been ehen, don’t kill me o, I did not kill my parents. Check the time now and you know the election is here already.” He said and dropped a morsel in his soup.

My brother stood still as though he were taking the words in, then he smiled and staggered down the hallway.

My body shuddered. what had come to lose in my brothers’ head? I waited for my father to run after him and give him a sound beating. But he did not, instead, he shook his head and picked up the morsel drowning in his soup.

I left for three months, now it felt like I had left for eternity. This wasn’t the father I knew. This wasn’t the man that locked me in the store, a dimly lit room with fat rats the size of a fist playing hide and seek among the sacks for one hour because I came home with a broken lip from a fight at school.

I watched my father eat his food in silence till my mother came in with a bright hurricane lantern for the night prayers. Her prayer was short but filled with arrows that must kill her enemies in the neighborhood and the unseen forces trying to destroy the name of our family.

After my mother and sister had left for their rooms, my father switched off the light and called me to his room.

My father was seated on a chair close to the only window when I came, the room was sliced in half by the yellow rays of his touch, leaving the area close to his chair and the ancient bed close by in a wash of yellow while the rest of the room was swallowed in darkness.

“ Come and sit here “, He said and patted the edge of his bed.

After I had made myself comfortable on the bed, he cleared his throat.

“ You might be wondering why I called you to my room at this hour after your long journey from Lagos, but you see, our elders say that the matter that has to be discussed at night, you don’t leave it till the morning”

He cleared his throat again and dropped his torch on the ground, then slowly he brought his hands together in a heavy clap ending the buzz of a mosquito.

“ I was in my room discussing with your mother when Bamidele came in. I asked if his oga released him from work because it was three in the afternoon. He said he was sent away from the shop by his Oga! Mr. Ola sent your brother from his shop! And on top of it, he accused him of selling twelve ozen of tiles behind his back. “

My body shuddered and my knees became weak. Oga Olu was a family friend and his son, Remi, was my best friend before I gained Admission to the University of Lagos. He paid my acceptance fee and bought the sewing machine that now sits in my sister’s shop.

My head was filled with questions.

“ As if the humiliation was not enough, he sent three policemen to this house and arrested him yesterday. They put handcuffs on my son…”

My father borough his hands together as though an invisible cuff was holding them and began to cry.

“ They treated my son like a criminal! A crime he did no…not commit. He has been drinking since we bailed him yesterday, he started drinking Juwon, my son has started drinking”

I stood still, wondering what to do next. He had never cried before, even at his mother’s burial two years ago. What could make a man break if not pain?

I rose from the bed and tried to hug him but he pushed my hands away.

“ Go and talk to your brother, he needs you now. Good night”

*

We woke up to the hooting of an owl the next day. The bird had managed to build a nest on a branch of an orange tree close to the dwarf wall of the compound despite the presence of a bee hive.

“ God take power from the enemy oo, even if they come in one way they shall flee in seven ways”

My mother shouted as she set firewood under a rusty tripod. My sister was humming her favorite hymn: the rugged cross as she swept the compound.

“ Juwon go and fetch me my cutlass or do you want me to split this firewood with my bare hands?”

I rushed into the house to fetch the cutlass. My brother was with my father in the parlor, his head was bent and he folded his hand across his chest. I knew the discussion was about the previous night.

My heart started to throb and a cloud of fear settled on me because I thought my father would ask why I did not go into my brother’s room because the only thing I did was watch in silence by the door around midnight as he confirmed in a low tone with someone on his phone if they received his supply of twelve dozen of tiles!

“ Ekaaro Brother Bamidele” I greeted him, avoiding his eyes.

“ How you dey Juwon?” my brother asked and shook my hand.

I wondered if he could read my eyes, the anger and disgust in them. I smiled and asked him about his health.

“ Ehen, we were discussing party-related issues yesterday and our party chairman said your brother should come and help in the party. If he is living joor follow him, if Remi decides to shame us at least the party won’t turn their back “

*

The room was almost filled up when we got to the party’s secretariat. The chairman was giving his closing speech. We found an empty bench close to the door and watched the chairman as he promised heaven and earth.

After his speech, the anthem of the party, People’s Redemption Congress was sung and the top members left, leaving the dregs of the society in the room for the Chairman had a different message for them.

I stood up to leave believing my big bro had some traces of self-esteem left in him after deceiving my parents and betraying his boss, instead, he pulled me back to my seat.

“ Juwon what is wrong with you? Did you see me leave?”

I stared at him in anger and suppressed the urge to tell him that I knew the game he was playing.

“ Bamidele come and join us na, “ the party chairman called from the front row, some of the men turned their heads.

My brother rose from his bench quickly and joined them.

“ Young man are you for us, Bamidele who is that !” the chairman barked.

“ Juwon come here na, Sorry egbon, he is my brother. “

I stood up reluctantly and joined the last bench in the row.

“ We all know the election would come up tomorrow and we can’t let our guard down. These people, Npc have paid everybody, I even heard they bribed some policemen for this election. Are we going to watch them?”

“ No!”

“ Abi we will leave them ni? ”

“ No! ”

“ So I beg everybody here come out, let us deliver our wards, we can not afford to lose this local government. The necessary information would be sent to our WhatsApp groups. Obey every order your reps give. PRC! ”

“ Progress! ”

*

The election started at eleven in the morning, and the polling unit my brother was monitoring had already started voting.

I sat under a mango tree close by and watched with disgust as my brother discussed with some party members.

The queue was a very short one due to the low population of the neighborhood. I was glad the whole process would be over and peace would return to me, but it was a lie.

After the last ballot was cast and the counting started, a cloud of tension settled on the crowd.

The party agent for PRC left the poll and ran to my brother’s group for the numbers were not going in their favour.

He returned a few minutes later with my brother’s group.

That was when I knew a violent spirit possessed him.

His eyes became red like amber and his voice, a thick bass echoed in the empty shop close by as he instructed his boys to carry the ballot boxes.

I stood still, transfixed actually. I wondered at that moment if my whole life was a joke. My brother was stubborn, but not wicked, he was muscular but I had never seen him hurt people unprovoked. The Bamidele here was a different one.

“ Shey u won’t help us ni my brother called from among the stampede. Are you mad? Come here! ”

My body shook. I stood from the exposed root of the mango tree as though an unseen force was pulling me towards Bamidele, my brother!

“ Oya collect this box, A le le. Run like your life depends on it”

I held the plastic box in my hand and stared at my brother, at the crowd, at the corpers fleeing for their lives, then I turned quickly and ran away.

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