THEY CALL ME A-ZED
EPISODE 2: RUNAWAY PIKIN.
“Useless boy. Omo ale jati jati. See ehn, if you think you will be in this house and become like Austin, it’s a lie.”
I jumped to my feet in shock, narrowly avoiding tripping over the pile of firewood at my feet. Yemi was at the door leading from the compound to the latrine, and her face showed she had heard every word we had been saying as we talked in the banana grove. I ducked just in time as Yemi flung a pot cover in my direction. I was a bit confused. I had washed the plates as she asked, and the balcony had been swept clean and scrubbed of goat droppings. I didn’t understand why she was angry, and I was even more surprised she was comparing me to Austin. I hadn’t done anything wrong.
“Ti n ba ri o around Austin, ma fi oju e ri mabo (if I see you around Austin, I will show you). You will tell me what you’re using him to do. As for you two, ori yin ti baje (your head is not correct). If I see you near the house again, ma se yin lese (I will destroy you). Common bo sinu ile yi (get into the house) my friend.”
I left Shittu and Kolapo and ran inside the house. Even if her pinched, sour-looking face was not enough warning, I had learned from experience that Yemi did not make idle threats. I would find out what Austin had done later.
I knew Austin by reputation, as did everyone else in the village. Parents exhorted their kids not to take after him, and children were threatened with all kinds of punishment if they were caught talking to him. His father was a rich, successful farmer who had disowned him when he found him trying to sell off his house. Austin had refused to apologize or show remorse and had shrugged and moved out of his father’s house and into the market, where he survived by his wits, his strength, and by doing any odd jobs he could get. When some youths had tried to force him to leave town, he had viciously attacked their leader, broken his hand and beat him up that he couldn’t walk for a week.
His notoriety only spread after that, although it was difficult to pin the blame for anything on him. Traders, farmers and women lived in terror of him. He swindled shoppers, stole from traders, and was suspected of being behind the disappearance of several chicken and goats. It wasn’t difficult to believe he was behind the vanishings- his bulbous head, tiny shifty eyes, quick hands, permanent mischievous sneer and furtive manner made him suspicious. When Baba Yekini’s goat went missing, Austin was the obvious suspect, especially as he had admired and commented on the size of the goat the day before. Austin swore that he had nothing to do with the missing goat, claiming that he was at work with the laborers constructing the new road. He disappeared for more than a week after that incident, and returned looking even more sinister and evil-looking. He was also dressed in new clothes, and walked around with a huge smirk on his face.
Naturally, such a person was treated with cautious suspicion and fear by most grownups in the village, although, to the great dismay of their parents, all the children of the village admired him. Among the children and younger members of the village, he was venerated and his escapades were discussed in the tone of voice used to describe a life-transforming vision of angels.
It was to Austin I went when I realized I needed help to run away.
I met him at dusk, in the shade of the trees at the fork in the road leading to the stream. He was sitting on a rock and looked at me with a lopsided grin on his face, curiosity blending with wariness as to what made me rebel and decide to approach him.
“Wetin you want? Ki lo fe? Ki lo wa ri mi fun? (What do you want? Why are you here?)”
Mama Yemi was expecting me back from the stream in time to make fufu for dinner and people were passing by. I didn’t want to be discovered. I went straight to the point.
“Mo nilo iranlowo re. Mo gbo pe ko si oun to soro fun o labule yii. (I need your help, I heard there’s nothing hard for you to do in this village)”
His lips trembled, almost as if he were resisting the desire to laugh. The look on his face increased to one of deep merriment.
“Talo so iru isokuso yen? Eledua nikan ni ko si oun to soro fun (Who told you that nonsense. Only God fit do everything). Oya so nnkan to fe (say what you want). I don ask you before you never talk.”
“Abule yii ti sumi. Awon eeyan kan fe gbemii mi. Mo fe salo si Ibadan. (I’m tired of this village, some people want to kill me. I want to run away to Ibadan.)”
He looked at me, his face not showing any reaction.
“Talo so fun e pe emo ni oko lati gbe e lo si Ibadan? Oko, mi o ni, ajagbe, mi o ni. Ki lo mu o ro pe mofe ran e lowo gan?”
(Who told you I have a car to take you to Ibadan? I don’t have one. Why do you even think I want to help you?)
In answer I raised up my shirt.
Austin jumped back in shock.
“Ah! Ki leleyi? Wetin be this?”
My stomach was an uneven patch, and dead, black skin hung in strips side by side and above lighter skin. Pus flowed out from the blisters, and in some places the skin had not grown back over the bleeding sores. I had torn a few of my old clothes to wrap around and stop the bleeding, and they were yellow and red from absorbing the fluids flowing out. It was a revolting sight.
“Na my madam pikin pour me hot water. I no get power again. I don tire, I swear. I wan go.”
Austin’s tone softened as he looked at me crying and wailing. “Wetin you come want make I do? Wetin you want make I do now?”
“See ehn, I don tire. I wan comot. I wan run away. Anywhere sef. I go find my way reach Ibadan. Make I just dey go. I no wan make dem kill me.”
“Calm down my guy. Why you go dey cry? You no be man? Why you dey do like woman? Nobody go kill you.“
The tears slowed to a sniffle, and my heaving chest slowed to more regular movement. “Abeg help me”
“Oya, which time you wan run?”
“Anytime you tell me say you ready. I ready comot now sef if you don ready.”
“No be so. E no easy like that. No be something wey you go just do anyhow. Dem go call police for you. Dem go find you go ya mama house. You fit even die for road sef. You go need plan am.”
“Ah. Ok. So when?”
“I go tell you when everything don almost ready, but e fit reach like two weeks. My own be say, you go settle me. I no be church. Find one beta tin for dat house wey I fit sell and just dey expect am like that so you dey ready wen I come.”
“Thank you. Na God go bless you.”
“Abeg carry your God dey go. No be only God. Find me beta tin for dat their house, if not, me sef go pour you my own hot water.”
The wind whipped through the windows of the room in which I lay, and the force of the wind rattled the shutters and slammed the window frames against the lintel. When I still lived with my parents, I had been afraid of the dark, and mama often had to leave a lamp or candle in my room before I could sleep. It seemed ridiculous now that such a little thing as darkness could scare me but it did. I ignored the dark and the noise. My only real concern was that weather could spoil my plans in multiple ways. Sleep tugged at my eyes, and I dragged myself off the bed and to my feet, forcing my exhausted body to the window. What I saw did not improve my mood.
The night was dark, a deep darkness as far as I could see, and apart from the occasional firefly, there was no light breaking the darkness. It was also very quiet. The only sounds I heard were the sounds of the forest: antelopes walking around, leaves brushing against each other and the animals running. I could also smell rain, and my heart increased its pace. I forced myself to calm down thinking that panicking wouldn’t help me, and provided the rain didn’t fall heavily, it could even serve to my advantage.
As I waited, my eyes went over the part of the room in which I slept. Most of the room was occupied by the chairs and a small center table. In one corner was a small wooden chair which needed repair and a fourth leg. Under it was a small bag containing all of my life possessions. The mat from which I just stood was just beside the chair. The tears stung behind my eyes. I had never felt as choked-in as I felt that night. The walls seemed to close in on me as I looked around. I couldn’t wait to leave there.
I hoped my escape would take place that night. The combination of thick darkness and the impending rain were a combination that may not occur again till it was too late for me. My plan depended on Austin, and it was him I was waiting so impatiently for. I wondered why he was taking so long.
Just as I thought I couldn’t take the mental torment anymore, a stone struck the wood of my window and rolled onto the clay floor. I barely heard it because of the thunder rumbling in the distance and the pounding in my chest but I saw it roll forward. I hurried to the window and whistled softly the way Austin had showed me. An answering whistle came from the darkness below me.
I could barely control my happiness. You know how it feels when, just as you’re about to pass out from thirst on a hot day, you find a basin of cool water? That’s how I felt. I tried to force myself to remain calm. There was still a long way to go.
Austin’s face appeared at the window. I lifted my hand to throw my bag to him, but he signaled for me to step back. I watched confused as he lifted himself over the sill and plopped at my feet.
“Wetin you dey do? Make we dey go now.” I whispered, a little angry and confused.
“Relax mai fren. Wey my own thing first?”
I handed him the gold bracelet that madam had left on in one of her clothes three days ago. She normally didn’t check the clothes I washed and ironed for 3 days after I returned them. Unless I forgot anyway. Then she wouldn’t waste one minute before descending on me.
Austin eyed the bracelet and then put it in his pocket.
“We no fit commot. Rain wan fall, and the way e be, e go be the kain rain wey dey carry person. E go be better rain.”
“Why you come come enter? My madam dey house. If she come see you nko?”
“I gats come. I be no wan make you think say I don bone you. If for say way dey make I reach you, I for send you message. But no way dey. Na why I come.”
“But wetin go happen now? If we no de run, you sabi say you no go fit stay here. Wetin wan happen?”
“Wetin you dey talk? Make I enter rain back? Which kain nonsense talk you dey talk so?”
“No be so. That my madam na winch. She fit come my room anytime come beat me.”
“The woman eye no dey close when she dey sleep o. Any small thing, she don wake. I shock say as you enter sef she never wake.”
“That one go be problem o. I be like who go dey fear your madam? My own na say I no fit enter this rain wey wan fall. Nowhere dey where I fit perch?” He asked, a sharp glint in his eye.
“All this place tight. You no go fit hide here. Make we quick think am find how we go manage.”
“Ehnnn.” Was the only sound he made.
He still did not answer me. I watched his face and suddenly was taken with shock.
Austin was not looking at me at all. Instead, he was smiling and looking over my shoulder at the spot where my madam stood, her face displaying wild shock and anger, and her mouth opening to scream.
THEY CALL ME A-ZED
Written by @ToluBablo
Based on MY NAME IS A-ZED by @thetoolsman
THEY CALL ME A-ZED Continues next week Thursday at 10:00 am