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I got to the market to meet closed store. The few that were opened were definitely not selling chicken. I don’t like markets, especially the smell that came with their butchery sections. I searched round to no avail. It would have been silly for me to buy a frozen one. I dashed to Mama Joshua’s store to explain to her, but she wasn’t there either. It was 10 minutes to 7, I didn’t have much time.
Joshua was closing up the store when I got there.
“Howfar, where is mummy?” I asked him.
“What do you want to buy?” he asked
“Nothing, I have to see her.”
“She has gone to church.”
That was all I needed to hear, Mama Joshua was a popular Cherubim & Seraphim church member, her church was in the estate. I thanked her dreadlocked son and embarked on my new destination.
The church was constructed with wood and an aluminum roof. I was not much of a religious person but it looked like the ark Noah must have built. I could smell the burnt incense from outside. I also saw a lot of foot wares by the door. Waiting for someone to come out so I could send a message for Mama Joshua, I was spotted by a new arriver.
“Fifi, eeeyah, you want to worship with us this evening? Come inside,” Oga Ade said, he was a popular carpenter in the zone.
“No sir, I came to see Mama Joshua,” I said.
He acted like he was deaf, he instructed me to pull my slippers, and follow him inside the church. The air was thicker inside, burnt incense was like a cloud above our heads, with majority of the members dressed in white garments. I was among the very few dressed differently. I found a spot at the back row.
They were in their praise period, the movement was nothing like I had ever seen. Most of the songs were in Yoruba. It was electric, the drummer has hitting the drum ferociously. The choristers were singing, clapping and shaking their big backsides at the same time. I wondered why most of the female had very big bumbums, could it have something to do with the sutana? All I could do was clap, a little boy that had been abandoned by his due to her devotion to praising God, crawled to my position. He made actions that suggested that I should pick him up, but he was covered in dirt and catarrh, I ignored him. The teenage girls started dancing in circles, with body parts that they shouldn’t have at that age.
Finally, it wasn’t a bad idea to be at the church. My eyes were clearly entertained and I decided to use the opportunity to say a prayer for the soul of my dad.
A very tall skinny man with an over-sized sutana started dancing in the middle of the church. His gown was different, even the cloth tied around his waist was of a different color. He was dancing with a leg then he switched to the other leg, making sounds that humans born of a woman wouldn’t understand.
The drummer was excited. I was scared he was going to break the skin of the drum, the choristers gathered around the majestic man and danced around him. He was like a rockstar!
I sighted Mama Joshua from a distance; she saw me too and smiled. I wondered if she had told her colleagues in church that they had a thief among them. I was wondering when a girl seemed to go into trance. She twisted and turned, ran to and fro, some older ladies ran to her side to hold her, then she started talking.
“humlalai maliaka ransom lai ku daya!”
A woman with a red cap that had lady leader written on it, came close to the girl. She was holding a shiny metallic rod.
“Talk to us Jesus, we are listening (in Yoruba),” she stretched her hands in front of the lady, for that episode, the lady was a vessel of God.
“humlalai maliaka sorogun juju manina tudu wa!” the girl said.
Was this heavenly language? It was not like those people I have seen speaking in tongues, it was melodic, something only the speaker and interpreter understood.
“God said he is pleased with the praise,” she informed us.
The church was joyous; people clapped and shouted “Ogo/hallelujah”
“humlalai maliaka blun go ra yogi ma yama!” the girl continued.
“God said, peace be to everybody that was in church today. Nobody shall die in your house, you shall prosper, and your enemies shall perish!”
The spiritual sentence seemed way shorter than the interpretation but I listened. God started speaking to people personally, the woman kept interpreting until the convulsing girl ran to where I stood. She started pointing at me, I was embarrassed.
“humlalai maliaka yaka yam aka go sare lo mi na maliaka!”
“God said you should never forget that he is your creator”
I didn’t know who I should have looked at, the girl or the woman, so I looked at the small boy that didn’t want my attention anymore.
“humlalai maliaka go so ta rayin ku li ba li ma sa kun dey ruga!”
“God said you should be careful of the curse on your father, be careful that it doesn’t materialize in your life. If it does, you will die!”
The girl started singing in that same strange language, then she walked away.
The remaining part of the service was about bible study and prayers. I was looking at Mama Joshua as we started filing out of the church, it was 15 minutes to 8. Someone tapped me at the back, it was the lanky man.
“Boy, what is your name?” he asked
“Fifi,” I replied.
“You heard what God told you?”
“Good, you should pray and fast for seven days, when you are done, come to this church and I will perform deliverance for you.”
It sounded rather ridiculous, but I kept that inside.
“Thank you sir.”
I didn’t want to lose Mama Joshua, I could see her royal chubbiness walking briskly away. As soon as the man released me, I ran up to her.
“Fifi, what were you looking for in my church?” she asked, not even bothering to look at me.
“Ma, I went to the market to buy the Chicken but they had closed”, I brought out the money so she would believe me, “this is the money Ma, please accept it.”
“Don’t worry my son. I was just angry at that moment. You people should not steal people’s chicken, its bad,” she said, still not looking at me but laughing.
“Thank you, ma”
“How is your sister, Hanatu?”
“She is fine ma, she is at home.”
“How is life without your father?”
I didn’t like people talking about him. I didn’t like discussing him with people.
“Hope I will be seeing you in church?”
“Sure ma,” I replied.
I hoped that was the last time I attended a church that predicted my death. I had 1000 Naira in my pocket, I decided to get fried yam and Akara for my lovely sister. I would add a bottle of Fanta to it. Tomorrow morning I would surprise her with the amount of money she would have has school money. I whistled as I strolled home.
She was waiting when I got to the house. I had to knock five times consecutively for her to open the door. The only other people that knew that pattern was Ugo, Tope and Ogechi.
“Where have you been?” she asked, visibly worried.
“I went to church.”
“Are you serious?” she asked.
I didn’t reply her; instead I gave her the food I had gotten. I confirmed that she had taken her drugs and I retired to my room.
The house was empty; the only cozy place was Hanatu’s room. She had moved into our parent’s room. It once had a television, but I sold it last month. My room had a mattress and a table which doubled as my wardrobe, as my clothes were folded on it. In the estate, we had taps and all but water never ran, electricity was epileptic so we didn’t bother that NEPA had cut our lines a long time ago. My priorities were straight, food and drugs. Electricity and all were luxuries that didn’t bother me.
Just as I sat on my mattress, having ensured that Hana was ready for bed, she came into my room. She was 10yrs old but looked smaller. She was also too lean for comfort. She was a J.S.S 2 student in a cheap private school in the estate, very close to the house.
“I’m scared, can I sleep in your room tonight?” she asked.
“Why are you scared, what happened?”
“Somebody in class called me a sickler, he said I would soon die,” she replied.
“Don’t mind him, you will not die, you are strong,” I assured her.
She giggled and lay down beside me.
“I know, it just got me thinking. So can I stay here?”
“Of course, mama.”
I have been calling her mama since I could remember. It’s the name dad called her too.
“Thanks bro. I want you to promise me something”
“What?” I asked.
“That you will never leave me alone.”
“I promise, dear”
She smiled happily and turned facing the wall. I left the room to get her blanket and some drugs in case she needed it at midnight. The questions she had asked me and what her classmate had told her in school got to me. I didn’t know I was crying until the tears came between my lips. She was asleep when I got back into the room. I covered her with the blanket and slept beside her.
I dropped her off at school daily but that morning I lingered, I told her to point out the boy that said she would die. When he came in, I called his attention and led him to the school toilet.
“Do you know who I am?” I asked him after we got in.
“No,” the obviously pompous boy replied.
“I am Hanatu’s brother, and the next time you say any hurtful words to her, I will kill you.”
I must have looked serious because he tried running away. I caught him and twisted his eyes till he cried out in pain. I didn’t care that he was way younger than I was, I wanted to bury my fist in his face but I let him go.
Hanatu was all I had, and I was going to protect her with whatever was necessary. I exited the school and boarded a bus that led me to mine.
To Be Continued