The highlight of my week was telling Vivian, Fredrick’s fiancée, about his plot to leave the country when he had just turned twenty. His initial arrangement was to travel to Malaysia, spend some time there and then, relocate permanently to Germany.
After the video of a thirteen-year-old schoolboy whose ears were cut off for shoplifting in a German supermarket sparked off varied emotions on the internet for days, Fredrick changed his mind.
Fredrick had two close friends, Dave the third son of a Senator and Tim a reserved boy whose parents I never got to meet. They had two things in common: an excessive greed for money and a strong passion for football.
They convinced Dave’s father who was the patron of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and one of Super Eagles’ biggest sponsors, to prevail on the Coach to allow them travel with the team to Germany for the world cup. Eventually, the coach gave his approval and signed them up as bench players. Although unethical, that was the only way to let the boys in.
Fredrick was naturally the leader of his ring because he had watched enough foreign movies to perfect a fake European accent and mastered the art of cleverly wriggling himself out of any tough situation. They were staunch believers of his ability to make decisions that serve their best interest.
One day, Fredrick returned from God-knows-where and told me he was moving into Dave’s condo. I hadn’t even had time to give him a reply when I saw him pulling out his luggage from the room and giving orders to the driver to load them into the boot of the Mercedes.
I didn’t say a word because I knew they would run out of money and he would come begging. Anu ofia! I was right because five days later, the three fools came to ask me if I wanted them to do anything for me.
Well, I looked at them from head to toe and said ‘yes’. I ordered them to follow me to the garage, which I had turned into a mini car parts store and told them to clean it up. It took them the whole day to be done with it. So when they had finished, I called them into the sitting room and asked them to make their request. They never did a chore for free.
It took them long to break the silence. It was Tim who spoke first. He said that they had no money to buy food and pleaded with me to help them. I cleared my throat and said that I was only going to give them lunch and dinner.
However, if they wanted to also have breakfast, they would move in as domestic servants. Fredrick couldn’t believe his ears when I said that. They thought it was best to have only lunch and dinner at my place and I okayed it.
Three weeks later, I was trying to have my siesta when I heard voices in the verandah. The more I tried to force myself to sleep, the more heightened the voices became. I decided to check out the source of the chaos.
I had barely stepped into the sitting room when I heard Dave mention ‘Soothsayer’ and my ears widened. So, I listened more closely. They must have thought I had slept to be discussing such obscene things in my house.
I tiptoed to the window, pushed aside the silk curtain and listened to their conversation. Fredrick suggested they pay a visit to the soothsayer at Amachara first thing the next morning. They would leave very early so as to return before the first cockcrow.
Were they so dumb not to know that the first cock crowed at midnight? I almost laughed but I held it in. I didn’t want to blow my cover. Almost immediately, Tim stood up and placing both hands on his hips, declared his intention to discontinue with the plan.
Fredrick leaned back on his seat and just stared at him while Dave gave him the are-you-crazy look. Tim stated that he would go home to his parents at Awka and man their electronic shop, where he was sure to make some good fortune.
Dave pulled him down to his seat and asked, looking him straight in the eye, ‘have you gone crazy?’ ‘Of course not,’ Tim replied, staring at his toes as if to study them. No one said a word until Tim stood up and said with a note of finalization that he had to leave.
Fredrick and Dave knew his mind was already made up. They watched him walk down the stairs and into the street until he had disappeared completely from their sight.
Dave shook hands with Fredrick and said he wanted to go to the gym but would be back for dinner. Fredrick slapped his back and warned him not to mention what they had discussed to anybody. On hearing this, my jaw dropped and I noiselessly drew back the curtain and entered my bedroom.
That night, Dave did not pick his calls neither did he show up for dinner and Fredrick, who looked anxious, barely touched his food. He kept tapping his feet on the floor. When I asked him if he was okay, he glanced at me and shook his head sideways. I tried forcing him to talk to me but he stood up, walked into his bedroom and shut the door.
Surprised by his action, I listened for signs of movement but heard none and assumed he had fallen asleep. I turned his food into my plate and ate all of it together with his meat and went to bed. Whatever was wrong with him wasn’t worth losing my sleep over.
I woke up at exactly 6:00 the next morning and switched off the air conditioner which had almost turned my fingers paper white and headed down the hallway into Fredrick’s room. I gently turned the door knob and was shocked to find it unlocked. I peeped in and saw the two clowns, Fredrick and Dave still fast asleep. It turned out that Dave, who had stolen in at midnight, fell asleep while waiting for Fredrick, who eventually joined him to have a second round of sleep, to dress up.
I burst out laughing and this startled the two boys. Fredrick reached in to his closet and pulled out a denim jacket which he flung onto his shoulders. Dave muttered a shallow ‘good morning’ and they fled out of the bedroom into the sitting room, down the staircase and out of the gate. At this point, I couldn’t hold myself from laughing. The odds were definitely not in their favour.
An hour later, they barged into the room asking for a pink bird. If not that I knew what they knew, I would have asked them to explain what they needed a pink bird for. Well, I played along. I told him to check in one of the kitchen cabinets. It was a toy bird I had gotten years back as a piggybank but I soon converted to an object that scared rats away from feasting on our foodstuff.
They rushed out holding the toy like a precious pearl and yelled a ‘thank you’ at me. By noon, I heard the gate open and Fredrick walked in. I almost thought my son was attacked when I saw him coming back.
It had rained that morning and so, he staggered like a wet chicken. Still on his wet clothes, he sat beside me and said, ‘he finished us.’
When I asked who had finished them, he replied that the Soothsayer finished them. ‘In what way?’ I queried again. ‘He said that we will be fished out and sent out of Germany as easily as we had found the fake toy bird. He should have told us straightaway rather than wait until he had taken our last penny to tell us that.’
I could see the wave of disappointment glide all over his face but afterwards, that deterred him from playing any more silly games. ‘Nice story,’ Vivian admitted. I concurred and added that it was necessary for children to discard the fallacious idea that their parents were old school.
What you, the reader, and I now know (because y’all are my favourites😊) is that I had paid off the Soothsayer and we agreed on how to swindle the boys of their money. How else would he have known that we had a pink bird? You think they’re that smart? Come off it, please. Even Soothsayers hustle.