The Beginning here
Today, breakfast is beans and pap, a combination of my most disliked foods. If it was Akara and pap, I will gladly do with the Akara alone. Now I have to skip breakfast. Fortunately, the midnight meal I had is yet to fully digest. And mum isn't going to notice, she is in her usual Sunday morning frenzy, hurrying us all to be ready for church on time. The only day she succeeded in getting us to church early was a year ago, and that Sunday, unknown to us, service had been shifted to evening because all the church leaders had gone for an emergency meeting at the national headquarters the day before. Though, we, for once, got to church before start of service, we missed the entire service because my dad, out of annoyance, made us all go back home immediately. That Sunday has been one of my best.
Today, I plan to stay at home. I really don't feel like going to church. I am already forfeiting my breakfast and going to church will completely ruin my day. The issue is, our church is over 10 streets away and the service is five hours long. Even after we are lucky to reach the church 1 hour late, we still have four gruesome hours to spend there. I am forced to stay at the youth church, and treated like a six year old by the youth church leaders who keep referring to everyone as children and never stop telling us what not to do - do not steal, do not lie, do not fight, do not shout, do not look sideways... For the over five years I have been there, none of them has ever considered telling us what to do with our lives. The only silver lining is that all the leaders like me, they consider me to be the ideal child - not even a bit troublesome, intelligent and godly. So, I always get to represent the church at all youth inter-church quiz competitions. But I am not more godly that the ever troublesome Chuks or more intelligent than every other kid. I am just naturally quiet and extremely quiet when unhappy, which makes me an angel when compared with the other kids. Truly I am intelligent, but Tinu is much more intelligent, the words that come out of her mouth never cease to amaze me. She can recite memory verses after reading them once. If not that she ruins the whole effect by not knowing when to stop talking, it would have been obvious that I am less intelligent. Here, silence is truly golden. Tinu is always my partner at all the two-man team quiz competitions, and she always answers more questions than me. But I have developed a marvelous trick that makes everyone believe I actually tell her every answer she gives. At the very moment she cocks her head in readiness to give the answer, I nudge her and ask her if she's sure, than I nod my heard vigorously to assure her that it's the correct answer. But the effect I create on the audience is that of me telling her the answer and nodding to assure her that I'm very sure of its correctness. And on more than one occasion, the compere awarding the prize shook my hand vigorously and patted my back with his left hand as a way of showing that he saw me give Tinu all the answers. But these fun times hardly come more than thrice a year.
I am not in a mood to walk to church this morning, in fact, until last month I hated the fact that my parents chose a church that is more than ten streets away. It was what Mrs Helen said that changed my mind. I had come home at noon like every other Fridays, schools close much earlier on Fridays. But this Friday, I was surprised to meet my mum at home. Soon I became sad, the rest of the day was now ruined as I wouldn't be able to get out of the house to visit my friends. She was not alone in the living room, there was Mrs Helen discussing with her. My mum and Mrs Helen had suddenly become friends three weeks ago, when Mrs Helen lost her father. She wanted my mum to supply the laced clothes she would sell to everyone attending the burial. That day my mum was showing her all the designs she had. As I walked in, she had just chosen the one she preferred and was discussing the price with my mum. Since her father died, she seemed to me to have never been happier. In fact, I was beginning to doubt it until I asked Mariam. Mariam's mum is infamously known as the community radio, the only radio that runs on blood and not batteries. She goes from house to house and dawn to dusk discussing the latest happenings in the neighbourhood. And the frightful truth is that her health depends on it. There was a time, some of her husband's friends in the neighbourhood complained bitterly to him about this full-time vocation of his wife, and one, actually, ridiculed him. He, in turn, threatened to withdraw his wife's daily stipend if she doesn't put an end to this infamous act of hers. Two days later, she fell critically ill. It was so bad the landlord was bothered, and begged all the other tenants to take turn in visiting her and telling her about the recent happenings in the neighbourhood. Then, she recuperated fully in two days. But Mariam knows much more than her mother. She debriefs her mum every night and gleans extra information from other children in the neighbourhood. So I had to ask Mariam for the inside story of Mrs Helen's new circumstance. But to my disappointment, Mariam confirmed that Mrs Helen recently lost her 67 years old father and that she is the fourth child by his third wife.
So, after I walked in and saw her, I decided to remain in the living room and eavesdrop on her conversation with my mum, perhaps, I will get the clue to unraveling the mystery behind her unusal happiness. She noticed I was still in the room as my mum was about to tell her the maximum discount she would give her, she interjected and changed the discussion to something entirely different.
"Mama Akin, I want to change my church. I hear your church is on John Martins street. Can you take me and my husband along on Sunday?"
"Really? But why?", asked my mum
Then she proceeded to narrate the story that changed my mind.
"You know the church at the end of this street, beside Mama Julie's house?" My mum nodded in the affirmative. "That's the church I go, and have been going since I moved into this neighbourhood eight months ago. The problem is, ever since the other church members found out that I sell notebooks, pens and other school materials, they have getting them from me, for their children, without honoring their promise to pay."
"Then stop selling to them on credit!", interjected, my mum.
"Exactly! That is what I have been doing for two months now. Well, as you know, schools just resumed a new academic term two weeks ago. This past Sunday, the Pastor called me aside after church service and told me that he wants me to supply the church 100 notebooks, 100 pens, 50 Mathematics textbook spanning all the primary school classes and 50 English textbooks spanning all the primary school classes. I asked him what the church needed Mathematics and English textbooks for, and he told me that it is to help the needy in the church. So, I summed the total cost and wrote it on a paper for him. He looked at it and said that I should go bring the books and pens today, and that he will pay me next Sunday. Imagine that!"
"So did you give him the books?"
"Me?! God forbid! I thanked him and promised to bring them in the evening. There and then, I made up my mind to never go back to that church. Mama Akin, you are lucky that your church is not on the same street as your house. Or by now, you will be bankrupt. Never sell on credit to your fellow church member!"
So that day on, I considered it a good thing that our church is far from our house and that our church members live too far off to consider buying anything from my mum. It was reinforced by the fact that Mrs Helen ended up reselling the clothes at more than double the price she got it from my mum and is yet to pay my mum for the clothes. Eventually, I found out the mystery of her sudden happiness, it was because of the huge gain she was going to make off the burial ceremony of her father. If only my mum had learned from her church story - never to sell on credit to your fellow (or aspiring) church member.