Donald listened ardently as Ikenna taught him the rules of grammar from his English text book, he was now twelve years old. Gone was the skinny dirty looking boy that played with lizards and frogs by the gutter side, he had filled up a bit thanks to the free meals he got from Ikenna’s mum who owned a beer parlor under the bridge near the shanty he called home.
He spent his days helping out Ikenna’s mum as she prepared for her customers who stopped by in the evening. They would prepare meat pepper soup and mix up delicacies that the customers would take with their beer in the evenings, later in the day Ikenna would bring his school books and they would do his assignments together.
Going to school was out of the question for Donald, his mother did not care for education,
“The devil’s playground” she had called it one day, spitting out the words with venom when he mentioned that he wanted to go to school.
“Everything you want to know about Life, I will teach you jare. Those agents of darkness will poison your mind against me.”
Donald did not bring it up again, he knew the next time he did would get him a serious whooping, his mother was wary about everything formal,
“dem start Church to poison us against our ancestors “ she would say in pidgin,
“hospitals na weapon of death by government to kill us and control southerners” She did not even allow him watch television, even though they could not afford one, “That box na devil phone, it will make us run mad” she would announce, dragging him off screaming and wailing from the market place when she got wind that he perched on the side of the road to watch television from the few stalls that sold them.
So instead he picked up what he knew from Ikenna, he learnt how to read and write, using a candle to go over Ikenna’ s old text books when they closed for the day, and repeating English sentences until he could speak passable English unlike the pidgin English that was common with children in the shanties.
If Sheila had issues with his relationship with Ikenna and his family thankfully she never mentioned it, these days she could barely form comprehensible sentences, she indulged more in taking “Rizzla” a concoction of cocaine and marijuana that left the user disoriented, aggressive and senile.
He could go for days without seeing his mother return home, she had literally washed her hands of taking care of him, he knew that he had to fend for himself like countless kids on the streets just like him but he swore he would do better. He would not end up being an ordinary street urchin “Agbero” he had bigger plans.
He was surprised one day to meet Sheila in high spirits at the shanty when he decided to stop over to change his slippers early in the afternoon, she was hardly ever home these days, she was with a man but this one appeared a little different from her regular customers. His clothes looked more expensive but his face appeared more hardened. He had a deep scar on the side of his face and he was built like one of those bouncers he saw at the doors in the motels around town. As he was trained he bolted out of the room but his mum called him back.
“Donald come here!” he was shocked, she never allowed him come in when she was entertaining me. “come jare where you wan run go?” “come sidon”
Reluctantly he came in, he knew his mother was a prostitute and he hated the men she slept with.he wondered what had changed with this one.
“Okiri na the boy be dis?” Sheila offered by way of introduction smiling from ear to ear.
“wetin be your name!” the man barked, his voice was rougher than his looks, Donald almost jumped with fright.
“Donald sir, my name is Donald”
“Shuo Sheila this one dey speak grammar o” “you send am go school ni?”
“School ke, God forbid, na sharp boy, I no tell you say na sharp boy.”
“erm Donald” “Oya come show your papa that book wey you dey read?”
“Papa ke?” Donald queried, shock written all over his face.
“I don warn you no dey ask me too much question, bring the book come jor”
That was the end of that conversation, Donald did as he was told, bringing a slightly torn English text book that Ikenna gave him, he read out a few paragraphs and spied at his so called Father under his breath.
The man his mother called Okiri remained expressionless, he kept on staring at Donald as if sizing him up for something, when he was done Sheila sent him back out and he sat outside their shanty bewildered.
“so this was his father?” he queried, he had so many questions but he knew Sheila would not entertain his curiosity and from the look of his father he may be worse in temperament than his mother.
Three hours later his so called parents came out of the shanty, Okiri adjusted his buckle making it extremely clear what he had been doing inside with his mother, she on the other hand was the happiest he had ever seen her in years.
“Donald!” the man barked, giving him that scary look,
“make we waka go bus stop”
He obeyed timidly, a thousand questions burning through his mind, his giant of a father seemed to take up all the space as they walked and people crossed the other way when they saw him coming,he exuded a fierceness that even the roughest agbero's in his neighborhood did not possess.
After about five minutes of walking in silence his father finally spoke.
“Sheila for send you go school now, you no book well well ” the comment did not require a response and he didn’t offer any,
“wetin be your age sef?”
“I just turn twelve sir” he responded,
“Twelve eh, you don big o”
“This English wey you dey learn you go learn am well, very soon I go come carry you, your mama no well na only smokes she know”
They got to the bus stop and he saw three huge looking men standing by a Toyota Camry waiting for his father , suddenly he became excited ,his father must be a rich man if he had a car, he had never known anyone that had a car before.
Okiri turned and looked him up and down, for the first time sharing a smile,
“You resemble my papa small this boy, but this your name you go change am. think of name you go answer before I come back.”
" Yes Sir" he responded hapilly,with one quick tap on the shoulder his father was gone.
That was the last thing his father said as he left him standing at the bus stop, suddenly he felt something stir within him, hope that this hard life he had only known would get better, he would find a name and soon.