“You dey craze? My money na Two Hundred Naira”
“Two hundred naira, from that junction?”
“Madam na wetin dem dey pay, ask anybody around here”
“You be thief; na Fifty Naira I go give you”
Dino watched the taxi driver argue with the fat woman. She was very dark and looked dirty; the sole of her feet, which could be seen from the raggedy sandals she had on, was cracked; her toe nails were black and her big breast kept bouncing up and down as she argued with the taxi driver.
It was very early in the morning, Dino was very hungry and tired. He decided to scout for food, maybe he will find a kind shop owner in the park who could help him with some snacks. After some minutes, he was frustrated.
“My ears o! this woman na witch”
“Come na, foolish old man”
“Walahi talahi I go cure your crase”
Dino’s attention went back to the taxi driver who was already bleeding, the woman had bitten off his ears. People gathered; some were sympathizing with the taxi driver while others blamed him for being greedy.
“What is happening there?” one boy asked Dino. Dino briefly narrated the story to him and they both laughed. It suddenly became funny to Dino as he had felt less concerned about the incident earlier.
“Where can I buy onion around?” the boy asked again.
“I don’t know; I am new here” Dino replied. He then briefed his story to the boy who listened attentively.
“Well, I am Ekene” The boy said, smiling. He should be of the same age with Dino, but a bit taller. He was slim but not as Dino who was much slimmer.
“I am Dino”
“We live in Enugu, I came for an exam yesterday and will be going back today” The boy continued.
“What are you then doing with the onions? You want to cook?” Dino asked
Ekene laughed. “I heard its cheaper in the north”
“So this place is the north?” Dino asked like he wanted to have the whole knowledge in a minute.
“I have some money with me, I am sure it will be enough to take the both of us to Enugu” Ekene offered to help. “Maybe my father will help you go back to your town or to Britain to find your father”.
Dino didn’t take long to be convinced. He already felt he could trust Ekene.
That early morning, they both went to the park; Ekene bought tickets for the two of them. In the bus, they sat directly behind the driver’s seat. The driver asked everyone to write their name on the book provided. Dino sat close to the window behind the driver while his new friend sat beside him. A woman who was carrying her baby sat close to Ekene. Immediately Dino’s attention went to the cute baby boy, he had to beg Ekene to switch positions with him for easy access to the baby. Ekene was careful about his spending, as he did not have much money so he had to buy boiled groundnuts for the both of them to satisfy their hunger.
When the bus was about to leave, the bus driver asked those sitting in same row with Dino & Ekene to create a space where he could put the remaining luggage. This resulted in an outburst of complaints by the affected passengers, especially one fat lady at the extreme, but the driver paid deaf ears to them. The woman kept on complaining even when they left the park, she would complain of reckless driving, the driver’s bad manner of approach, the condition of the vehicle; she complained about everything till she slept off.
Ekene gave Dino updates about their location, even though he did not have much knowledge, it was his first time travelling to Zaria, but with the help of sign posts, he could tell their location; Kaduna, Ibrahim Taiwo road, Bashama road. Dino saw a store on the right with the name “B. Mai Yashi Medicine Store”.
“What is the meaning of Mai Yashi?” he asked
“Hey, I’m Igbo. I really don’t know” Ekene replied.
Dino wanted to push the question, but an afterthought suggested that he let the matter die. They passed the Salamat mosque, then they entered Abuja road. Ekene told him about Abuja being the capital city of Nigeria.
“So does it mean everyone in Abuja is rich?”, Dino asked out of excitement.
“I can’t really say”, Ekene replied “but I think so. I have never been there”
The baby began to cry as his mother tried to calm him. This made Dino more uncomfortable.
“I think the heat is affecting him” he managed to say to the baby’s mother.
He offered to carry the baby, the mother jokingly said no but after much persuasion from Dino, the woman allowed him to carry the baby. Ekene gave him the are-you-crazy? look but he ignored. He tried to make the baby smile but the baby kept on crying, he raised the baby up and immediately, the baby threw up on him. A man behind offered him a handkerchief to clean up. People in the bus sympathized with him, especially the mother of the baby. Ekene tried to join the sympathy trend but laughter did not let him.
“Driver take it easy, you no see say person vomit” The fat lady at the extreme attacked the driver.
“Madam leave driver na make him concentrate” A man from the back shouted.
“You must be very stupid” the woman replied “your type cannot feed a family”
“That’s all you know; food, food, food. See how fat you are”
“Is it your business? See how thin you are, hungry man.”
“Your type will always remain single, troublesome woman”
“Oga, I am disappointed that a grown man like you will be exchanging words with a woman” A young boy who sat close to the man tried to call him out.
The man without warning landed a back hand slap on the guy’s cheek. The slap startled everyone. “Do I look like your age mate?”
There was an uproar in the bus; some begged the driver to stop but he refused. The conflict continued. In a twinkle of an eye, everyone in the bus got involved that no one noticed when the driver stopped at an army checkpoint.
“Why the noise?” the soldier queried and there was silence. “Everybody, come down!!”
They all came down from the bus. The soldier commanded all the men to sit on the air. The boy who was slapped then let the devil use him.
“This is injustice” He murmured but loud enough for the soldier to hear.
“Who said that?” shouted another soldier
There was no reply. The soldier repeated the question but no answer was given. In annoyance, he slapped Dino who was directly beside him. Dino could swear that the slap took his soul off his body
“For your mind I come here come play” he said sternly at Dino, his eyes were pure red as if stained with blood.
He threatened to lock them up if no one answered his question, the fat lady immediately pointed at the boy. The soldier ordered the boy to lie on the floor while the others continued with their journey. Just then, another boy’s phone rang and as soon as he was about to pick his call, the first soldier forcefully took the phone from his hand and smashed it on the floor. Everyone was startled, no one said a word.
“Oya go before I change my mind” the soldier ordered
They continued their journey without the boy who had murmured “injustice”. There was absolute silence in the bus.
When they got to lokoja, Dino was so excited to see the bridge. Ekene explained the history of river Niger and Benue, then their meeting at the confluence state. He had never seen any of the rivers but he could tell of them from what he learnt in school. This was the first time his parents allowed him to travel far.
Few miles away from the bridge, the driver stopped the car, and came down. The passengers tried to find out why he stopped but he said nothing. This time, it was not just the fat lady but everyone was against the driver who seemed less concerned. He opened the bonnet and sluggishly tried to fix something, then he walked a few miles away from the bus to make a call, he will always look around as if he was trying to ensure that no one was listening to his conversation. Thirty minutes later, two men on a motorbike arrived, they both had sun shades.