The pitch trembled and grasses scampered off as boots madly stumped on them during the soccer match between Saint Gregory’s College and Saint Finbarr’s College. The guests were winning, and the Saint Finbarr’s fans were on edge. Young Mitch watched the striker, their biggest threat, approach the penalty zone. He was the last stand. Another goal from this Ronaldo would decimate every chance of Saint Finbarr’s ever winning this match. Mitch went straight for his right leg and swept him off the floor. The striker stood no chance. He screamed and writhe in pain. The referee’s whistle went off, but the rage had been born, spurring two members of the opposing team to rush at Mitch. Mitch smiled as they advanced without thinking. Two punches and his assailants were on the grass. Madness took over as the game became a free-for-all fist fight.
Mitch entered his compound, feeling frustrated. He had been suspended for 4 days and taken off the football team till further notice.
‘What are you doing at home at this time?’ His mother asked before noticing the bruises on his cheeks. ‘You’ve been in a fight again?’
‘It was nothing, Ma.’
‘Nothing!’ She barked. ‘You are just as useless as your late father.’
Normally, Mitch would have held back and gone to his room. But not today. ‘That must have been why you cheated on him on countless occasions.’
The information stung his mother like a wasp. She watched her son, nonplussed.
‘You must think I am stupid. I have eyes mum and a very good pair of ears too. Ever since he lost his job, you treated him like he was rubbish, slept with many men…even my friend’s father. You drove him to his grave. Don’t worry I will soon get out of your hair soon.’ With that, he dropped his school bag and left the house. He would visit Iya Sikira’s canteen and have a free meal. Her daughter was nuts about him even though she was befriending one rich university guy. Clearly, women were not loyal.
Mr. Smalls was teaming with activity. Young adults couldn’t get enough of the donuts and meat pies.
Young Mope laughed. ‘You’re just an idiot,’ she said to Toluwani, her best friend. Mope had a string of white beads around her neck, which matched the colour of her afro and contrasted her white tee-shirt.
Toluwani maintained a straight look. ‘Seriously, big men don’t have big things o. It’s the greatest deception known to man. Take my word for it. I have a wealth of experience.’ She burst into laughter.
‘And yet you cannot resist them,’ Mope said.
‘You know I like hunky guys na. There is this feeling you get when you walk into a place with a big guy by your size. There is no better feeling. I know size matters, but skill matters more, if you know what I mean,’ Toluwani winked.
‘God help -’ Mope said.
‘Excuse me ladies,’ someone interrupted.
Mope and Toluwani turned in the direction of the baritone voice. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and had very kind eyes. To say the least, the word handsome looked very good on him.
‘Hello,’ Toluwani said, taking the forefront. This was her kind of guy.
Mope smiled. ‘Hi.’ She concluded the gentleman would be interested in Toluwani. After all, most dashing guys were. Tolu had the classic figure 8 look and the front and back goods that men found irresistible. She was a little surprised that the stranger’s eyes were on her. She didn’t dare to hope, though. He must be polite, she thought.
‘Would you like to join us?’ Toluwani invited. She noticed his eyes were still fixed on Mope and this irked her. Was he blind?
‘I’d love to but, I’m a man on a brief mission.’ He grinned still fixed on Mope. ‘I think you are the most beautiful woman I have seen. Can I have your telephone number?’
Mope didn’t see that coming, but she bounced back quickly. He liked her and she was feeling very adventurous. She let her natural personality take over. ‘Courtesy demands you tell me your name first, Mr. Smooth.’
The stranger laughed. ‘Certainly. Certainly. My name is Theodore, but you can call my Teddy.’
‘Not so fast,’ Mope said. She was smiling too.
Toluwani watched angrily as Mope produced a piece of paper, wrote her number on it, and hand it to Theodore.’
The sun was bold in its glare and the air danced with dust in Zinder, Niger.
‘Iskilu!’ Abdul called. He was a very dark-skinned man.
Young Iskilu came out of the hut, wearing only a pair of shorts. ‘Yes, Father,’ he said in Hausa.
His father coughed hard for a moment. ‘Sit down with me,’ his father replied in the same language.
Iskilu sat down quickly. There was usually a serious thing to talk about whenever his father asked him to sit down.
‘It’s time for you to become a man. You are my first son. None of this nonsense of running off to wrestle with other children can be allowed to continue. You hear me?’ He let out another deep cough that exposed his rib cage.
Iskilu looked a little perplexed. He knew his father was ill, but had it gotten to the point of insanity? ‘But father, I am only 14 years old. How can I be a man at such a young age?’
His father shook his head. ‘I am very ill as you can see. Aminu had the same sickness and died in less than 6 months. I expect my time will come very soon. You must step up and take care of your mother and little sister. Your mother is unlikely to remarry, and life can be very hard to widows. You are not blind. You can see what happen to widows in the area, can’t you?’
Iskilu nodded. Dread began to fill him up. How was he supposed to take care of his family? ‘But father…you have no farm. This place is dead. How am I supposed to cope?’
‘If this place is dead, find work elsewhere. People are going to Nigeria to make something out of themselves. From what I have seen they send good money home to their families. Do whatever it takes. You can go.’
Abass looked at his digital wristwatch. It would soon be 8pm. A gecko scampered off as he drew the window blind to see what was going on outside. ‘Aunty Risi,’ he said turning to the sleeping figure on the bed.
She stirred then opened her eyes. ‘Yes, Abass.’
‘I will be outside for a bit.’
‘You have your final year exams tomorrow,’ She stated.
He smiled. ‘I am ready. Now, I need fresh air and some entertainment.’
‘Okay,’ she said. With that she returned to her sleep.
10 people were outside, sitting around a young adult of 18 years. They loved his stories and he was one of the two reasons Abass came out that night. He found a spot on the short fence and sat down. He looked around for the boy’s sister, but she was nowhere to be found. The focus of the audience spotted Abass and acknowledged his presence with a nod.’
‘Oya ooo brother Kenneth ooo,’ a little girl from the audience spoke. ‘Start our story before mummy comes out. I have school tomorrow morning o.’
‘Story story,’ Kenneth said. Possessing the ability to command an audience this way was a good feeling.
Everyone but Abass shouted back: ‘Story!’
Abass knew this week’s episode would be interesting as always; he had been following the tale for 3 months now. The boy’s well-articulated imagination and ability to switch between characters was nothing short of a wonder. He would do well in theatre arts. Abass eyes turned to towards the entrance of the face-me-I-face building. At that very moment, she appeared, spurring Abass’ visage to immediately light up.