Beneath the emerald pavements of VGC and the golden streets of Parkview, is an unacknowledged underbelly. The heart of the masses.
“Before we start… everybody dey around?” Ifiok asked in his thick Efik accent while looking at all the occupied benches.
“Find out nah. Do roll call. Na today you begin work secretary?” That was Sparrow. Brash as ever. The benches had been meticulously arranged by the secretary. Two columns of four benches each. It was always a bit of stress moving them from “Madam Wangerr’s Food Booka” – the canteen down the road – and then moving them back, but Ifiok deemed the stress necessary. Plus he always got the neighbourhood kids to do it for him.
Madam Wangerr herself was in attendance. Looking every bit the role of “Canteen CEO” as she called herself. Grossly overweight, oily and filthy. She sat on one of the benches on the back row.
Ifiok’s chair and table faced the half-occupied benches. Beside him sat the Landlord. Nobody knew his name. Not even Ifiok. Nobody bothered. The man was mysterious in his looks as he was spooky when he spoke. Every time he came around to the premises, he was always seen wearing an Agbada. He never said much, if anything. The few times he parted his fully bearded lips, it was to yell or growl. But it sounded more like a growl. His baritone voice bellowing out threats to tenants owing rent or found guilty of misusing the property was not considered a privilege worth earning. Everyone kept their distance.
You see, every squad has its players. Meet theirs…
Ifiok opened his ledger and started calling out room numbers: “Room one…”
“Present,” Laide replied. Her voice was like a loud whisper. Ifiok looked up from the book to see where she sat. She always sounded like she was recovering from a cold. And as always, her face was devoid of makeup and her dressing was plain.
“Na wetin?” Sparrow answered, “You no see me?” Sparrow cursed under his breath while Ifiok simply made a note of his presence in the journal before him.
Room Two was as yet unoccupied. The previous occupants had been worthy recipients of the dreaded landlord’s bellow. This had been followed by swift action: luckily, no animals were harmed in the eviction.
“Present,” answered a female voice tinged with a slight Yoruba accent. Ifiok marked without looking. Even he knew Ibiyemi’s shrill tone. In truth, Ibiyemi was not the proper occupant. Ifeanyi was. But he ran a pharmacy two streets away and was much more concerned about his early morning takings than what was, in his opinion, a pointless meeting.
“Room five…” Ifiok didn’t wait for an answer before ticking because he was the occupant of that room. Ifiok was the Calabar stereotype version of Nirvana. He was a squat Efik man. Complete with muscular, hairy legs. Plus, he could cook up a storm. The only thing missing was the perceived randiness that the stereotypes preached. During discussions with some of the other male occupants and their friends, his rather chaste nature had become evident. Thus, Sparrow coined a quite horrid moniker which he spat at the secretary every time he wanted to spite him.
As he did now:
“Ifiok wey no dey fuck!”
Ifiok ignored Sparrow as he had learnt to start doing. There was no point arguing with a mad man, he thought.
“Room Six…” Silence. Again Ifiok announced: “Room Six!” Still nothing. Room six was in fact Kevwe’s room. Kevwe was number 43’s enigma. He was a wiry fellow who always wore sunglasses. Morning, afternoon and evening. Rumour had it that he once woke up from sleep wearing them. And now, he was out. Nobody really knew what Kevwe did to begin with but he was always the first to pay rent. He never owed dues. He never looked for trouble.
Maybe that was what scared people.
Rumour also had it that even the landlord was scared of Kevwe. Kevwe was light skinned, 6″1 and always clean shaven. He always smelled of really cheap perfume. Or new Okrika clothing. This morning, as with most other mornings, Kevwe was nowhere to be found. Ifiok moved on without more enquiry. Out of the corner of his eye though, he observed Sparrow squirming where he sat. Ifiok assumed Sparrow was craving more of the weed that was perpetually between his lips. He figured that only respect for the landlord prevented him from lighting up at the meeting.
“Room seven,” seated on either side of Madam Wangerr were two of her kids: Doshima, and Lucy. They helped their mother out at the canteen. Especially now that Doshima, the elder had just graduated secondary school while Lucy was on break.
“Present sir,” Lucy’s voice was particularly sonorous and sweet. She spoke like she was singing. Everybody liked to hear her talk. Especially the boys.
Sparrow slapped the side of his head twice in anger. Ifiok thought he wanted to run out screaming for maijuana. Instead, he got up and momentarily lapsed, for one sentence at least, into proper English!
“Wait, I can’t take this anymore. All of us be adult for here.” Sparrow turned around to look at the rest of those gathered and spat out accusingly:
“Who mess?!” Some had their noses turned up, others feigned ignorance of the horrid smell. Sparrow expected someone to own up but of course, no one did.
When you’re not sure, remember: it’s always the fat person…
“Madam Wangerr, na you abeg!” Sparrow yelled.
And Madam Wangerr was not known to take personal accusations lightly. Her two kids beside her had already gotten up in defence before she even opened her mouth.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to #43 Fafunwa…
And so it begins. 43 Fafunwa is jointly written by Thetoolsman and @cikk0. You can check his blog here. This is one I must say I’m excited about. Please share your thoughts and expectations in the comment box below and if you enjoyed it, please hit the like button and tell your friends about it. Cheers.