(Excerpt from the novella The Mystery of Taiwo da Silva)
Originally published by BLACK BOOKS NIGERIA
A division of Human Change Communications Company
by Omoruyi Uwuigiaren
© 2009 Moronic Ox Literary Journal - Escape Media Publishers / Open Books
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About the Author:
A native of Nigeria, Omoruyi Uwuigiaren resides in Lagos. His published books include: The Adventures of Nihu, The Mystery of Taiwo Da Silva, Empire of The Wicked, Shadows in a River, Little Okon, Little King and Giant in a Hut.
Even as brilliant weather sat comfortably on the bare chest of the beautiful earth, and our mutual friend, the morning, took its place in the progression of days, a bizarre tale, more hellish than the enterprise of a sorcerer, crossed my threshold and led me into a gloomy morning.
I had vowed to get rid of the cockroaches in my cupboard, where they’d claimed lordship. Confusion greeted my arrival, as the insects dashed here and there to escape my blows; but just as I ended their reign, a frightening figure, brawny as a man who has spent hours in a gym, emerged from my shabby walls and began to pummel me. His eyes were full of fire, and a puckish nose sat impudently upon his wicked face! As his treachery crushed me against the wall, I yelled like a man that misfortune had dealt a miserable blow. I did not need a prophet to tell me that my very survival depended on how I could maneuver my young fist. My blows I delivered did not betray me, for the devil almost lost his balance. As he regained his footing, he clenched his fist and flashed a menacing smile at me, as if my effort to retaliate were an abomination. The cruel creature charged me, his bulk like a battering ram. Before I could snatch a breath from the wings of the morning, he descended upon me. I fought valiantly, but the interloper got the upper hand as we traded punches. But the vigorous blows he dispensed, none would prevail. So when it dawned on me that my adversary would spare me not a breath – his blows tossed me about like a windblown rain – I decided to feign death. I collapsed on the floor like an antelope silenced by the frenzied attack of a predator. My attacker grabbed one of my legs and suspended me in mid-air. He examined me as if taking inventory of his stock. When he was convinced I was lifeless, he threw me against the wall. The monster rubbed his hands gleefully; his face gleamed with pleasure that he had finally snuffed the life out of me. As he roared violently and beat his hairy chest, a whirlwind came out of the ground and carried him away through the back door. Now the air was still, and Lady Tranquility returned to her esteemed seat in my little house. Still not recovered from the assault, I heard a faint knock on my door. I was not expecting anyone except my co-worker, who had promised, some nights ago, to pay me a visit. I battled to pull myself to my feet, but my legs betrayed me and I fell to my knees. Still the knock persisted, harder than ever. As I considered the possibility that the devil had returned to cause me more pain, I was afraid, and my heart of hearts died within me. So I quelled my impulse to open the door and crawled to my armchair to rest, for it is only natural to retreat when one does not have what it takes to confront his adversary. As the knock continued, a second thought flew into my head: If it were the devil, he surely would not bother to knock at my door; he would burst in, just as he had a while ago, to wreak his havoc. I took a deep breath. Was I that man who has bitten more than he can chew and lost control over his own life? I summoned my courage, subverted my ugly predicament, and staggered to the door. “Who’s there?’ I asked as soft as the morning breeze. A baritone voice responded from the other side: “It’s I, Yomi Badore.” My fear and sadness flew away in an instant as I realized my childhood friend stood outside the door to the shabby place I call home. I cast my calamity behind me and opened the door. A broad smile sat comfortably upon my face. “Yomi! Yomi! Where have you been all these years? I have tried to get in touch with you a million times, but all my attempts met a brick wall,” I said as I embraced him. “After we left school,” Yomi disclosed, “I was offered a scholarship to study in London. A few weeks after I left, my father wrote me that he was relocated to another town. So that is how we lost contact, Taiwo. Because you never knew that we moved away.” “You are right,” I replied. I took a deep breath, as if tomorrow might never come. “I hope life has been fair to you, and your studies interesting. You know, the world is a beautiful place, but sometimes a change of environment does not bring the fortune we desire.” He stared at me in astonishment. “Oh yes,” he said. “But I know enough of the world now. Our part in life is to persevere and to learn as quickly as we can, for our victory depends upon our perception of the world. The study was interesting but not stress-free, as I anticipated. Nevertheless, as I’m sure you can see, it has made me a better man.” He smiled and stood like a majestic mountain. “Thank God, your journey abroad has made you a better fellow,” I told my truest friend. “It is all over you, and surely you will be a blessing to the society that brought you up!” “It is only human to be kind to others,” he said. “And we will surely be better for it if we do not create problems for ourselves as we trade, with heart flowing, the milk of human kindness,” he predicted. Without further delay, I led this beautiful fellow with a large chin, a little nose and full lips inside my humble home. My pain had now abated and my joy stood taller than the pair of legs that carried me. Reminiscing, as old friends will, I reminded my guest what he’d done in the ‘good old days’. “Do you remember how you threw the entire school into pandemonium?” I prompted him. “Hmm… My particular madness is like the wind that blows with a vengeance,” he said. “It is like the sand at the bottom of the sea. Back then many thought I was under the influence of a wicked spirit, or that I shared in the misfortune that excess liquor gives her lovers. What particular event are you talking about, Taiwo?” “The dormitory nightmare!” “Ah, yes, I remember!” he exclaimed and paraded a smile over his face.
On a day that the sun was unusually hot, tormenting the earth as if there was no tomorrow, Yomi had run into the dormitory shouting. “Hey! Hey! The Headmistress is dancing outside her office. She is inviting everyone to join her. Come quickly and have fun!” The students ran to the office to catch a glimpse of the excitement. Some were trampled underfoot in the ensuing disorderliness. The forest of legs reminded me of triumphant warlords, whose feet wrote frustration on the face of the old earth as they returned from battle with an enemy.
However, the students received a rude shock when they found out it was not true. The Headmistress had just set foot out of her office and was about to enter her car to attend a meeting. “What is the problem? What’s chasing you?” she shouted angrily. No response came from the bamboozled students who stood like monuments in a vast land. Before the headmistress could blink, they turned their faces towards the dormitory and made the best use of their legs to their classes. “This is ridiculous! Someone must have initiated this,” said Mr. Jamiu, the Headmistress’s personal assistant, as he wagged his head in dismay. “Yes, I think so,” said Mrs. Akintomide. “Moreover, it would have been an embarrassing situation if the inspectors had been here. It appears that the instigator is not alive to his responsibilities! Tell the head boy I want to see him in my office, right now!” she ordered and went back to her paperwork. Not long after, Tolu, the head boy, appeared, drowning in fear. He was panting like a terrified lizard. The old woman sat forward and looked out over her bifocals. “Tolu,” she began harshly, “have I not warned you to never allow the pupils to roam the school premises when they are not on break?” “Yes, you have. A boy in Class Four ran into the dormitory, shouting that you were dancing in front of your office!” Tolu replied, and lowered his head. “What!” she exclaimed, banging her table. “Who is the foolish cricket?” “Yomi Badore!” She took off her lenses, placed them on the table and sat back in her chair. “The school is a small world. I will make an example of him. Go and fetch him for me!” Tolu made the best use of his legs to reach the dormitory with speed and dispatch. But before the proverbial dust had settled, Yomi had snuck out of the school and dashed home! A few days later, as I was struggling to adjust to a life without Yomi, I noticed a generously proportioned man walking briskly into the school. Now little more than a shadow of himself, and looking sober as if he’d drowned his ugly past and turned a new leaf, Yomi ran to catch up with the old feet of his father. It was easy to tell what had transpired for Yomi in the office of the Headmistress, for he returned to the classroom with a broad grin on his face after serving his punishment. “That was an old chapter, now gone forever,” said Yomi, yawning. “I am not trying to say I can no longer fall into delusion; however, if you study my face and read my lips, you will see that things have changed. You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to see that man does not have total control over his own life.” “You are right. Only change is constant. It would have been a disaster if you were still married to your old life!” I chuckled and threw myself on my feet. “Let me get you something to start your day,” I said. “Then we shall roll out the drums.” He nodded with a smile and made himself comfortable on my old wooden furniture. As I stepped toward the back door, he cleared his throat to command my attention. “Taiwo, I notice something,” he said. He raised an eyebrow that gave birth to a furrow on his forehead. “What’s that?” I inquired. I turned toward him. “Your legs are not coordinated. You look like a man that life has dealt a miserable blow.” I took a deep breath. “You are right, but it is not my fault. Ever since my landlady approached me for a love affair and I declined, my life has been kissed by a nightmare whose manipulation is more tempestuous than a cold rushing wind. I find myself battling against all odds,” I said. “A determined spirit can conquer all frontiers, so do not feel badly,” he advised. “You are free to advise me, Yomi,” I allowed. “ A man can achieve little in isolation.” “You have taken the right decision, Taiwo. If you fall to her seductive charms, she will ruin you. The smile of a coquette is like the highway to hell, and it is evil to live with what is not yours.” He spoke gravely and coughed. “Yes, I have decided to seek God’s intervention.” “Go and prepare what you have for us,” he said. I nodded and moved into a shadow.
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