(Episode 1) Village Teacher … from Pit to the Palace!
Bala woke up very early in the morning. Yawned and stretched, sprawling the hands like a man about to be crucified. Again, he yawned letting out the early morning bad odour from his mouth. It was like a religion to him. He did that every morning. After yawning for countless times, he’d smile and bite his lower lips. That was an indication that it was a very good morning.
Some of his roommates were asleep but Clement( known as “Pashe my lover” during their final days in school) who shared a bed with him had gone out for his usual morning routine too. A visit to john; he’d stay in there for hours.
Bala wondered if he stayed that long for some diabolical activities for it was abnormal for one to stay in that hell of a place for a long period. It had a stench of a decomposed body. It was a pit toilet for crying out loud.
Clement always came to his own defence whenever Bala ranted about that behaviour,
Clement: “Bally,do you know how sweet early morning shit is? You go in there when the cock crows and everything puffs out in a very sensational manner as the breeze that comes with some sort of moisture grapples you leaving you in a state of ecstasy,” he would smile exposing his gigantic brown set of teeth. Bala would shake the head and tell him,
Bala: “Clay, it is either you have romanced insanity before or you are about to! I mean how can you feel comfortable in a place that smells like hell!” Clement had a way of laughter that was somewhat irritating if one wasn’t used to having him around or meeting him for the first time. Bala and others were used to him. It sounded more like a jest not laughter,
Clement: “that’s my way of starting my day and to get my inspiration for writing. Bally, you are missing. Once I’m in that world of mine the whole world seems to be at my feet! Nothing else matters! Afterwards I feel happy and free! Especially with the good breeze stroking my balls” he’d add. Bala would gawk at him and throw final words at him,
Bala: “You are just mad!” Clement wouldn’t stop there,
Clement: “I’m sure JP Clark in wrote Abiku after having a sweet early morning shit!” Bala would nod, smirk and walk away. They were friends and they loved each other. Clement was in love with poetry; slept with it, spat with it, woke up with it and lived with it. JP Clark’s Abiku was his favourite, he scribbled the lines on the first page of every of his book, both text and note books:
Coming and going these several seasons,
Do stay out of the baobab tree,
Follow where you please your kindred spirits
If indoors is not enough for you.
True, it leaks through the thatch
When floods brim the banks,
And the bats and owls
Often tear in at night through the eaves,
And at harmattan, the bamboo walls
Are ready tinder for the fire
That dries the fresh fish up on the rack.
Still, it’s been the healthy stock
To several fingers, to many more will be
Who reach to the sun.
No longer then bestride the threshold
But step in and stay
For good. We know the knife scars
Serrating down your back and front
Like beak of the sword-fish,
And both your ears, notched
As a bondsman to this house,
Are all relics of your first comings.
Then step in, step in and stay
For her body is tired,
Tired, her milk going sour
Where many more mouths gladden the heart.
He would then end it by writing “JP Clark my Hero!”
It was their last day on ground of Teachers Training College, Sambisa. To be the first teacher from the village was more than an achievement. He was the pride of Diko. Bala couldn’t wait to return and he was sure envy would churn the stomach of the Maigari, who was his wicked uncle; his mother’s elder brother. Maigari was wealthy but never gave a dime for Bala’s schooling. Being the first indigenous teacher in the primary school that had been in existence since the coming of the Whites to the country in 1930 was more than an accolade and to teach in that same school he graduated from gave him jitters but a good one.
On the wheels of pride he was sure going to trudge on. Clement too was going to be the first graduate from his own village Knayigbnana. A neighbouring village to Diko but Diko was more developed than it. Bala would always say, “Diko is a city and Knayigbana is its hamlet!” Clement would gawk at him. But it was the truth. The only school in that district was the one in Diko the villages around sent their children and wards to Diko Primary School. Popularly known as “Makaranta n’Diko”the name was birthed from the code mixing of two languages, Gbagyi and Hausa. Clement had finished from the same primary school but he was two classes ahead of Bala. He had to stay for two years before getting admission into the teachers’ college.
Clement swaggered into the room. Bala was on his bed dangling his legs as they usually did in the village stream as kids. Returning home was on his mind.
Clement: “Bally, you’re still here dangling like a jelly fish. I expected you to have taken your bath!”
Bala started whistling ignoring his friend. The hostel was awake. Everyone went about their activities. Preparing for classes but those that had just graduated were on their beds. Most of them were leaving that day, “I pray the lorry leaves you behind!” that evoked laughter from their roommates.
It was a Monday and that was Sambisa’s market day. The lorry only came on market days. Those who had plans of going to the city and didn’t intend to trek waited for Mondays.
Bala: “Amen like the way Patience did ko?” and he continued whistling.
Patience was Clement’s lover in the village but few months to their final exams. His younger brother, Shedrach but fondly called “Sheddy” had sent him a letter that Bako his cousin had impregnated her. For a week Clement was always crying and being a piss artist he used the incidence as an avenue to improve his drinking skills and always returned to the hostel drunk. His brand was the local beer called Burukutu. On one of the nights, he sat up crying and singing;
Pashe, my lover! Pashe, my lover! Leaving me in distraught is a wicked ploy. You have broken our promise to only leave each other when we kiss goodbye to mother earth. I still love you! Pashe, come back to me… I don’t mind being the father of another man’s son. Bako is the villain of our love. The venom that has poisoned your heart…! “he sang with his thick Gbagyi accent continued until sleep stole him away. Bala and the rest mocked him the following day calling him, “Pashe, my lover!”
At about 11: 30 they carried their boxes made of metal to the market square where the Lorry was loading. They paid their fares, one naira fifty kobo and hopped in. They were seven of them. The women and children sat in the middle while Bala sat on the edge and others hung around. Clement was talking throughout the journey. He made everyone laugh.
Clement: “I used to have an uncle who was a police officer! You know and their shorts na. He was robust and looked funny in the uniform. Pregnant but never had the privilege to put to bed, “ everyone laughed, “ during one of my visits to his house in the city armed robbers broke into the house. Like a leaf he was shaking and there was a loud that kind of fart that would give one cancer of the nose. We were wondering if he got an amplifier in the anus. It was louder than the sound that came from the speakers in our village church,” they laughed again, “ It smelt like he had eaten beans, slept over beans! The bang was so fierce that I felt like disappearing into thin air! The next I heard was my pregnant uncle pushing his wife to open the door, “ he mimicked a woman’s voice, “ then she said are you not the man go and open the door!” Clement was giggling, “I always used to wonder how he would chase a thief with that kind of stomach. May his soul rest in peace oo!”
A few listening cried, “amen!”
Bala couldn’t concentrate on the novel he was reading, Journey to Kala by Mugo Beti; his favourite. He was laughing with the others.
Clement continued, “After his death I asked myself how my uncle ghost would look like. Wouldn’t it have a protruded stomach too!”
Bala: “God have mercy on your poor soul!”
Everyone laughed .
As they dropped from the lorry the women and some young girls waved a goodbye to Clement.
Clement whispered to Bala’s ears,
Clement: “I like that girl!”
Bala: “Which?” they talked as they head to the bus park where they would get on the bus to their final destination.
Clement: “Look at your 3 0’clock! The dark slim one with red lips! I’ll come for her!”
Bala: “Clay, you and women!”
Clement: “would you be comfortable around me when I start chasing men?”
In the bus,they sat close to each other. Bala was happy that Clement had slept off,he wasn’t in the mood for his loquaciousness. He sat close to his favourite position by the window. With glee he watched as the trees and plants by the roadside chased after the car. It was a hundred meter race but their bus always won. His mind ran through thoughts just the way his eyes did to the pages of the novel in his hands. He thought of his only sister, Kauna,his father and late mother,
Bala: “How I wish mama were to be alive! I did make you proud mother!” he smiled as tears gathered in his eyes.
He had graduated as the best student of his set and Borno state government gave him automatic employment with a house and car but he turned it down. Home in far away Niger state, that was where his heart was.
“Yeh!! Oh my god!Mama! Papa!”
Screams from the bus he brought him back and woke Clement who was sleeping with his mouth opened. There was a bang as the car danced on the road then came a sound of a collision.
What sound was that? Were they involved in an accident?