The beginning here
"Where are you going?", my dad asks.
I freeze in shock. I look at the school uniform I'm wearing; it's clean and pressed. I look around the living room; no one else besides us.
"I say where are you going?!"
"To school, sir."
He looks ar me, then at the cabinet in front of him, then at the window behind me, and finally back at me. He frowns.
"Today is June 12. Go back inside and take off your school uniform. Get a rag and fill a small bucket with soapy water. Today you will clean those louvres and the cabinet over there."
June 12 is a public holiday.
My hope of becoming the newest celebrity at school has been dashed. By tomorrow, no one will remember the goal I saved. No one will even remember the football match.
But I am not sad. Today reminds me of last year's June 12, a day I will never forget. The memory of it brings a big smile to my face. It was a day I became a superhero; I saved a damsel in distress (DID) and two lost boys. That day, all my superheroes became human; Superman, Robin hood, Batman..., and becoming like them suddenly seemed possible.
In fact, I became one.
That day, dad went to work as usual and mum traveled for the burial of her friend's dad. Both won't be back till late in the night, and I knew that. I made up my mind to make the most of that day, to do the most daring thing I could think of.
I paced round the house, thinking of what to do. Then an idea struck me; I ran to Saheed's house, the next house on the left. I bumped into Mariam at the entrance; I asked her about Saheed, and just as she was about to give me a lengthy reply, I saw Saheed. I ran to him, screaming his name. He was amazed. When I finally caught my breath, I asked him if I could follow him today, when he goes to hawk his mother's home made fish pies. He was happy too and said yes.
I had heard Saheed talk about his adventures while hawking, and it created a longing within me for a similar experience.
That noon, I locked the house and took my siblings to a neighbour's house, then followed Saheed on his hawking expediture. We walked to a town I was sure to not bump into anyone that knew my parents. We went round the streets of the town, screaming - "Buy fish pie! Sweet fish pie!!" And in every street we caused little children to cry and pester their mothers for fish pie.
There was a seamstress shop we got in front of, the woman's three children cried and pulled at their mother's dress. They wanted fish pie. Saheed and I stayed in front of her shop, hoping she would yield and buy 3 fish pies. But when she looked up and saw us standing in front of her shop, she gave us the chase of our lives and cursed us.
After walking for over 3 hours, we saw some boys resting under a mango tree. They were also hawkers. We joined them under the tree. I was tired and hungry. Saheed wasn't tired and wanted us to go to the market two streets away. He said all the adventures were in the market. I prevailed on him to let us rest for some minutes before heading to the market.
One of the boys had a tray of roast groundnuts beside him. I asked Saheed to borrow me 20 naira to buy some groundnuts. The boy overheard me and gave me the 20 naira's worth of groundnut. He told me not to bother paying. I was surprised and asked if his mother wouldn't kill him for that. He laughed and told me his name is Lanre. Saheed placed a 20 naira note in my hand; I offered it to Lanre. He refused to accept the money, and told me that the groundnuts were his and that his mother works for him. He saw the expression of shock on my my face and began telling me his story.
His father is a truck driver and only comes home when he is broke. His mother used to own a small grocery store, but the year before, she lost everything in the store to a fire that started in the tailor's shop next to hers. The tailor was working late into the night that fateful day, and was working by the light of a candle. He slept off, and the candle set the table it was placed on aflame. Soon nearby clothes caught the flame, the entire shop was aflame. When he was awaken by the heat and sting of the flames, it was too late. He saved only himself. The flame was feeding heavily on the clothes in his shop; the wooden wall separating his shop from that of Lanre's mom also caught fire. Soon the other shop was burning as furiously as his, the fire was feeding on the paper cartons and grocery wrappings in the other shop. The few people who cared enough to come out at midnight couldn't help, they only watched and consoled the tailor. The next day Lanre's mom was devastated, she wanted to take her own life. She couldn't get over it and wouldn't start another business. Lanre took some of the money kind neighbours had given them, stopped schooling and began selling roast groundnuts. His mother would roast the groundnuts every evening. Lanre would supply grocery stores nearly by with bottled ones and hawk the remainder.
I asked him his age. He was 13 years old, just a year older than Saheed and me. And he's already the man and breadwinner of his family.
I gave back the 20 naira note to Saheed, who kept staring at his rubber wristwatch and frowning. I told Lanre that my name is Akin and bade him farewell. Saheed's face suddenly brightened, he stood up and we began our journey to the market.
I have gone to the market before, but always with my mum. This time it was a totally new experience. I didn't have to keep up with anyone, no heavy bag to carry, and no one constantly shouting at me. I could stop to look at whatever caught my fancy, and did so frequently.
Saheed told me the market is new and has changed a lot since the last time he hawked there. We entered through the meat sellers stand, next was the tomato and pepper section. I had never seen that much tomatoes in my life. Stores were piled full with Tomatoes, I wondered if they would be sold out before they begin rotting. Next was the rice section, then the vegetables section. Saheed looked at his rubber wristwatch and said we should start heading back home. We didn't sell any fish pie in the market, there was so much noise and movement that no one noticed what we were selling. But Saheed said he knew the very place to sell the remaining fish pie, the mosque on our street.
After one hour, we found ourselves at a saw mill. We were lost. Saheed began sobbing. I went up to one of the men there and asked for directions. He asked me where we were going to. I told him Ahmadiyya Mosque, the mosque on our street. He took a piece of paper, and the pencil hanging over his right ear, and then drew out the directions. I nearly screamed for joy. It was just 4 streets away! I showed the paper to Saheed and helped him dry his tears.
We resumed our journey home.
On the second street, Saheed showed me a house he had once sold his entire stock of fish pie to an old woman. The she bought them for the children playing football in front of the house. I could see the joy on Saheed's face as he described the look on his mother's face when she saw him come back with an empty tray, just 1 hour after leaving home.
As we turned to the third street, we saw Amina who lives with her aunt in the same building Saheed and his mum live in. Amina hawks moi-moi every evening. Seeing her reminded me of that year's valentine day. We played a game that day. Every boy's name was written on a piece of paper and crumbled. The girls picked a paper each from the pile of crumbled papers. Whoever they picked became their valentine. The paper Amina picked had my name on it. Mary wasn't happy about it and hates Amina since that day.
We saw Amina sitting besides her bowl of moi-moi and crying. She looked beautiful while sobbing. Saheed moved close to her and asked what the issue was. I just stood and watched; now I know why Mary was jealous.
She sold 50 naira worth of moimoi to a man living in the house across. The man told her to come back later in the day for the money, and when she went back, he denied buying moi-moi from her.
I drew Saheed aside and asked him to borrow me 50 naira, he was hesitant. I threatened to tell everyone, especially Mariam that he cried today. He grumbled and gave me a 50 naira note.
I knelt besides Amina, put the 50 naira note in her hand and wiped her tears with the edge of my shirt. She froze. I stood up and told Saheed we should get going if he still wanted to sell his remaining fish pies at the mosque.
Soon, we got to the mosque. Luck was on our side and Saheed sold all the fish pies left. I couldn't wait to get home, it was getting dark.
When we got to the front of my house, Saheed asked me for the 50 naira. I told him to wait outside, while I go in and get him the 50 naira. I went straight to the laundry basket, and checked the pockets of the trousers in it. Nothing.
I lit a candle, went into the room I share with my siblings and checked the pockets of very shirt and trouser I could find. Nothing.
I looked under the bed. Nothing.
My heart began pounding furiously. I sat at the edge of the bed and tears welled up in my eyes. After a while, I stood up, picked the candle off the ground, and walked to my dad's room. I turned the door knob, and to my surprise, it opened. I went in. I checked under his pillow. Nothing.
I checked the edge of the windows. Nothing.
I began sobbing.
I got on my knees and looked under the bed; I saw two naira notes. I picked them up. Alas! They were two 50 naira notes! I took one and returned the other. I hastily walked out of the room, gently closed the door, placed the candle on the floor, and dashed out of the house. I gave Saheed the 50 naira note. He heaved a sigh of relief.
I got my siblings from the neighbour's house. I made supper and forced them to eat before mum or dad returned.
That night I couldn't sleep. Partly out of the recurring flashback of the day's event, and partly out of the joyful feeling I had.
I saved two lost boys and a damsel in distress. I felt like Superman and Robinhood combined in one.
But today isn't going to be spectacular. Mum isn't going anywhere today. I intend to spend today reading Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. I have already read it twice.