After the death of grandma, I was left alone in the world. No one really cared if I existed and my elusive mother was yet to come home. Uncle Ladi a bus driver that shuttles between Ekiti and Lagos told me when he saw me scavenging at the motor park that he saw my mother at ‘eko Idumota’ and told her that her mother was dead and buried, he said my mother had screamed and feigned to be touched and she vowed to be in the village the next day. That was four years ago, she is yet to come home. Uncle Ladi says he still sees her in different parts of Lagos city but she avoids him as much as she could so he now pretends not to see her whenever their paths crossed. No one knows what she does in Lagos, but we know she is alive.
I continued schooling, I continued hunting and I continued to scavenge to survive until I finished my primary education. There was no plan for furthering my education, I was contented with the fact that I could read and write at least.
My only friend was Pharaoh the dog! We became friends the day we were both involved in a brawl at the butchers end in the market. Our prayer was answered when a butcher carelessly threw away a chunk of red meat instead of the bone in his hands, I had beaten Pharaoh to pick up the meat and tucked inside my pouch but the dog would not accept defeat as he grabbed my khaki pouch with his teeth and we began to struggle for possession. The dog was snarling revealing dirty brown incisors dripping with sticky saliva. I held unto the pouch with both hands as I used my legs to kick at the dog, I was shouting at him to let go and accept defeat because I beat him to it. As if the dog understood, he let go and I took to my heels homeward.
I had run for about four minutes and I stopped to trek when I heard the sound of panting Pharaoh by me side wagging his tail and jumping to reach my pouch, I took to my heels again and Pharaoh followed me home. We ate together that evening after I had cooked egusi soup with eba. I dished his portion into an old plastic plate I found in the kitchen. He ate up, lapped up some water from the bucket full of rain water outside the house then he lay down and slept at my door.
That was how Pharaoh became my friend and companion and together we went hunting and scavenging. We were a formidable team when we got the butchers stand, whatever Pharaoh picks, he brings to me and we put our spoils together and go home to enjoy a sumptuous meal. We also went hunting at nights and early mornings as well as check on my snares and traps, we sold our catch to the Villagers operating local restaurants called ‘Buka’. We buy food stuff with the proceeds. I had no future ambition so I took each day as it came.
On a Sunday, I decided to turn the house inside out and upside down, it was my house and I needed to know all the contents. The rubbish in the house was more than the valuables therein; I was gradually turning into a mad man without realizing it. It was a three room apartment without a toilet or bathroom. I grew up taking my bath at the back yard and I do my toilet straight in the bush where the villagers dump their refuse. That is where the pigs of the village get their break fast and maintained their robust stature. As early as 6.AM it was common to see many youths and adults positioned at different angles of the bush doing their thing, the pigs are grunting and patiently waiting for us to stand up so they could lick up the pebbled we have dropped. Some impatient pigs would actually eat up the pebbles from the butt of a little boy before it dropped to the ground. It is from these pigs that we all contact Chiggers that eat up the skin beneath our toes or between the toes. When ever one is scratching between toes furiously, it was common knowledge that that one has contacted chigger. The parasite burrow deep into the skin and live on our blood, growing bigger by the day.
I enjoyed and actually looked forward to being pressed in the mornings so I could go to the bush and hope some girls my age could come to the bush at same hour so I could catch a glimpse of their round bum. I used to marvel at the roundness and smoothness of their bum and wondered why that of the boys seems so hard and battered with craw-craw and scabies. Woe betides any girl that her bum was discovered to be like that of the boys, her reputation in the village would be ruined.
At a stage in our lives, the girls stopped coming to the bush. They resorted to using the ‘short put’ method. They defecate into nylon bags or newspaper and throw into the bush in the morning or at night. So it was common to wake up in the morning and see nylon bag at your back yard or news paper that has been scattered by pigs while eating up its content leaving the green fleas to mop up the rest and deposit maggots on the paper. Such discovery is followed by loud raining of curses on the perpetrator and his lineage born and unborn. It was mostly girls that dropped these parcels in front of peoples house’s probably because they cannot go close to the bush at such unholy hour or because they saw a male who has been wooing them, they quickly dropped the parcel wherever to avoid embarrassment.
You could also be unfortunate in the early hours of the day while doing your thing in the bush; a flying wrapped newspaper of nylon bag could land on your head spilling its content all over you! Your day is ruined as there was no way you could leave the bush without meeting one or two persons.
I remember the night I heard an unusual sound in front of my house. A twelve year old girl Modupe had squatted in front of my house to do her thing, unfortunately she did not expect to meet Pharaoh. Pharaoh had sneaked up to her and yawned, waiting for her to finish so he could clean up the mess. She was frightened and she screamed and stood up holding up her gown with her pants still down and the pebbles on the ground. She stood rooted at the spot for fear of being attacked by Pharaoh.
I came out with my palm oil lamp and beheld a half unclad girl shitting in front of my house; I looked her over with the lamp: Modupe! What are you doing? I asked.
I am sorry! She said shaking amidst tears and staring at Pharaoh who was agitated with anxiety to mop up the ground before another dog or a pig comes around.
I took the lamp downwards and beheld her nakedness, I went further to see the shit she had already dropped on the floor and I laughed. I laughed out loud enjoying my catch. This is a girl that acts as if she is from the city simply because she sometimes follows her mother to Ibadan to buy wares for her shop. Some evil thoughts crossed my mind that night because she was at my mercy, but I was like an orphan in the village, I knew my limits. I let her go. I told her to clean up her self and leave and never repeat such again. She did not clean up even though she had paper in her hand for that purpose. She hastily pulled up her pants, stepped over her shit and as Pharaoh took charge of the pebbles, she fled crying more out of shame of indignity.
Grandma had a lot of junk in her room, I did not know what she really owned because we were not best of friends, I always saw myself as a burden to her. Another strange fact was that grandma never cursed me; she would rather curse my mother.
I brought out five heavy metal boxes from her room. The room had been closed for four years and had become very stuffy with dust and cob webs. I opened the boxes and beheld beautiful clothes I never saw her wear, one box contained twenty bundles of unsown fabrics. These would definitely worth some good money so I kept them back.
The fifth and smallest of the boxes was locked with a key so I had to use my cutlass to hack it open. I held my breath when I opened the box. It was full to the brim with crispy naira notes, in a trinket box embedded between the notes is assortment of gold jewelries. I closed the box and ran out to bolt the front door from within, even though I hardly entertained visitors or friends, my instinct just made me to close the door.
I went back into grandma’s room again and opened the box, the money and jewelries were still there. At that instance, I lost every desire to proceed with the clean up exercise I had embarked on. I simply pushed back every box into place and went out for a stroll with my dog
We strolled aimlessly for about forty minutes before we came to the track road opposite the house of Alabi, the house on the hill top, the sacred house. I stood there staring at the hunted house and the desire to wander into the house overwhelmed me. I was with Pharaoh my only friend in the world. The feeling to reach to the lone building was so palpable that I imagined I was in there already so I started to advance towards the house a step at a time like a Zombie. Under the cover of the night I bent down and crawled towards the house. Pharaoh did like wise and together we approached the house a step at a time.
My Heart beat was pounding furiously that I felt sharp pains in my chest, I was breathing with difficulty while Pharaoh seemed excited panting and wagging his tail as we crawl stealthily forward.
After about fifteen minutes of crawling in the bush, I got to ten yards from the front door. The door seemed close. The door had always seemed opened and inviting from afar. It was rumoured that the door was always open and inviting to preys. I waited. The wind blew and rustled dried leaves all around me, I was scared, I was sweating in the cold night. Something moved fast in front of the house, it was an animal and before I could stop him, Pharaoh was in pursuit. He ran out of my sight as he chased the animal into the night barking.
I buried my face into the ground as the stupidity of the mission dawned on me. I have just discovered some money and jewelries in my house and here I am on a suicide mission! What if I die this night? Well no one would really miss me, I thought. And Pharaoh can always get another master.
Pharaoh dashed past the front of the house again barking at snarling at the Animal just within his grasp, they ran out of sight then something happened.
The door to the house opened it opened slowly that I almost did not notice it until I saw a ray of light from a burning lamp inside the house. The door closed before I could decipher if what I saw was a figment of my imagination or reality. It was time for me to bolt, but I stood rooted at the spot where I laid. I closed my eyes tight and opened it again squinting so I could focus properly at the door. Someone was there! He or she stood silhouetted against the wall but I could figure out the human form from the clothes he or she wore.
I could hear the sound of myself breathing, I wanted to stand up and run but my legs became vegetables, it was like without bones, I could not move a muscle. I simply laid there and waited of death.
Pharaoh was coming back to me with his kill in his jaws, he was half way between me and the house when he dropped the animal in his mouth and started moving towards the house snarling, his mane raised and tail tucked between his hind legs. Pharaoh charged and leapt into the air upon the person in the shadows, there were movements and screams. Pharaoh was biting and tearing, his victim was screaming in pains, swearing and chanting incantations. The man in the shadow got up and ran in two circles pulling Pharaoh along with him before he ran back into the open door of the house closing the door and Pharaoh behind him.
I saw him, it was Baba Oloro! The famous native Doctor and friend of Alabi.
I picked up the warm Antelope Pharaoh had killed and together we ran madly out of the bush that night.