I was in one of those moods when my mother screamed my name. Not again! I had been up and down the stairs several times already that evening and I had not even had a chance to undress. Work was stressful enough without having to hear my name ring through the house.
‘Yes mummy’, I answered.
‘I need you here. Hurry up. You’re going out to get something for me’, she called back.
I did not reply. There was no need, no choice either. “Be obedient to your parents”, no clauses added or had the clauses been omitted? I changed from suit to bum shorts and a tank top, comfortable. I just wanted to lay down a bit but I dare not because mother never used the intercom. I trudged down the stairs once more, dragging my feet. I entered the kitchen and grabbed fruit juice from the fridge while receiving my marching orders.
‘Buy half a bag of charcoal, 5 litres of kerosene. I also need one carton of croaker fish and one of turkey. Make sure you don’t carry small size.”
She saw my stare as she handed me the money. ‘What is the problem?’, she fired. ‘You can’t go or you’re too big to buy charcoal?’ she was definitely short-tempered this evening.
‘Mom, what do you need charcoal for? You have an extra gas cylinder that is full’, I said calmly sipping my juice and trying not to choke on it.
‘I want to smoke some fish for your father. That’s what he says he feels like eating. Are you going or not?’
‘How much is everything?’, I asked trying hard to look extra tired in the hopes that she would send my kid sister. No such luck!
‘3,000 for charcoal, 500 for kerosene and 13,000 for the frozen things. Do the math.’
She had dismissed me. ‘Yes ma.’
‘Don’t go and die there ‘, she warned sounding menacing. Oh mother! Cut me some slack I thought as I walked to my car only to realise that I wasn’t with my keys. I had to rush back in and I used the main entrance hoping that I would not bump into mother. I did not think I could stand another scolding in this my tired state. I made it upstairs without incident but as I was dashing outside, I ran into her.
‘I thought you were already on your way back home. What are you still doing Cinderella?, she asked.
I just dangled my keys and dashed outside before she could think of adding to my task. Surely, she was not thinking that I would take okada with the things I bought. I hopped into my car and drove out. I bought everything without incident although the queue at the cold room was scary. As I headed home, I decided I wanted to snack and I stopped by the roadside to buy maize and local pear. It always tasted so good when rubbed all over d maize, just the treat I needed to feel better! I drove in the direction away from home to my customer. She wasn’t out tonight. I drove slowly through ‘maizeville’ as I called it and eventually stopped in front of one guy. I parked and crossed the road.
‘Customer, how na? how much for corn?’, I asked touching four fresh cobs.
‘One na N70. How many you dey carry?’
‘You no go comot money for me?’
‘No o aunty. Na flat rate be that. Buy pear na, 2 for N50. Make I add am?’ I had to laugh.
‘I go carry 5 for N100. If you gree add am join my corn.’, I replied.
I dipped my hand in my pocket for some change only to discover there was no money nor wallet. Oh boy! ‘I dey come. E be like say I forget my purse inside car.’
I was rattled because my wallet contained so much that if it were missing I have no idea what I would do. I searched my car but I didn’t find it. I stuff money in odd crevices in my car in case of emergency. I found N200 in the dashboard but it was so crumpled that I was ashamed to even tender it. Well, I had no choice there. Thank God that I had not started on the maize yet, at least this way I was not compelled to buy anything.
‘Guy abeg comot corn make my money be 200. I forget my purse. You hear?’
‘Hmmm’, he grunted in reply and then started to whistle one annoying tune about broke girls on Fridays. Mscheew! Such insult!
‘Abeg do quik jor. Na me you dey sing for! No be your fault. Take your money and let me get out of here!’ I stretched out the money.
‘This money don tear finish, haba! I no fit collect am. When you know say you no get money, why you comot come buy corn!’
Before I was tempted to reply, a man came to my rescue. No questions asked he gave the boy N500. ‘Keep the change for all your trouble but this your rudeness would drive your customers away.’
I turned to follow him. ‘O my! I can’t allow you to do that. I don’t even know you’, I protested.
‘You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure’, he replied.
‘See forming o. ye! Women sef ehn’, the silly boy said. ‘Na your sandals I for collect till you bring my money. God save you say you never start to chop am’, he laughed sarcastically.
In my mind I was slapping this boy senseless. I thanked the kind Samaritan. ‘Thank you so much. I made a mistake of forgetting my wallet at home. Thanks again.’
‘It’s nothing. I’m happy I was able to help. I was buying maize just there’, he pointed, ‘when I heard that boy harassing you.’
We had gotten to my car which was parked under a street light. I got a good look at this strangers face but it turned out he wasn’t a stranger after all. My father’s friend obviously didn’t recognise me which was just as well. I did not relish introductions and I was kind of waiting for the pick-up line although this man was a grandfather so I didn’t expect it from him.
‘Let me buy you a drink. It’s a Friday night. You shouldn’t drive home alone’, he smiled with intent.
Really! ‘No thanks. My husband would wonder where I am. Thanks for offering’, I grinned.
He looked surprised. I used my remote to open my door and he pulled it open for me and closed it when I was seated. I was still smiling and didn’t give him a chance to speak before I dropped it.
‘Good night and have a nice weekend Wellington’, I said pointedly. The shocked look on his face was priceless as recognition dawned. I laughed and zoomed off. I drove fast and sang along with the radio. When I entered the compound, I parked using my handbrake which brought a screeching noise from my tires. Dad saw that and came outside looking concerned.
‘What was that you just did?’ dad asked looking both amazed and shocked. Even mother came out to find out what was wrong.
‘I parked dad. With my handbrake’, I laughed it off. ‘And before I forget dad, Wellington sends his regards’.
I walked past dad toward the kitchen carrying the two cartons on my head. I laughed heartily. My parents thought I had gone mad but his aging relic of a friend had just become the joke of my weekend. Skimpily clad in a bikini, I dived into the pool and didn’t come up for air for a long time!