It was Monday, the first working day of the week, Nazaretha had to remain in Mighty Joe’s house. Mighty Joe left for work before 7.30am, after giving the key to the door of the living room to Nazaretha but didn’t drop his bedroom’s key; he always kept it close to himself, Nazaretha suspected that he was hiding something there or maybe he didn’t just like sharing his room with anybody.
Nazaretha got out of the house by 8.30am to join his friends at the site where they were working with the bricklayers, doing the ‘labour work’ and sometime mixing the mortar used to bind building blocks or even the course aggregates.
He walked straight down the street, his destination was Efinga, two streets after his. He remembered his discussion with his friends the last night as he passed the front of Tayonet Cyber Cafe. They had asked him about his discussion with Ibukun and he suddenly became dumbfounded. His friends knew he had failed again and immediately began to throw jabs at him until Mighty Joe came to his rescue.
“Make una shut up jare!” Mighty Joe had cut into their conversation. “Una no expect say make hin dey think about girl when him papa get problem na.” That had been Nazaretha’s saving grace, the guilt he saw on Sunday and Chinko’s faces suggested to him that they’ll never ask him about Ibukun or try to make fun of him in Mighty Joe’s presence again.
Nazaretha decided to clear off all thoughts about Ibukun and resume them after his father returned home that day, he was sure that was going to happen as he prayed very hard that morning and believed that God would help to prove his father’s innocence.
Thirty minutes past nine, the work at the site began. Nazaretha and his three close friends were working with four other boys of the same age range as theirs, the boys were from that street, Efinga. The team of workers was led by two senior bricklayers who were both friends and partners, they lived at the same street with Nazaretha and his friends, one of the bricklayers lived with his family in the same building with Chinko but different apartments, and that was how he told Chinko of the job, then Chinko in turn told his other friends.
“Oya na, fast fast,” Baba Paulo, one of the bricklayers hurried up the boys mixing the coarse aggregate meant to be used for the columns of the three bedroom flat which they were building. The house had gotten to lintel level already and the carpenters had done their parts of job, constructing the side woods that would act as the support and shapen the concrete. The welders had also binded the reinforcement steels together, only the bricklayers’ job was left.
Chinko and Charly were mixing the coarse aggregate on one side of the place while Sunday and one of the boys from Efinga were mixing at the other side. Nazaretha was part of the four boys which were split into two groups and were carrying the mixture to the two bricklayers who were working at the opposite ends of the building. The bricklayers had chosen to work on different sides to make the job faster and easier.
Three hours after working tirelessly, the workers decided it was time for a break but each group made sure their mixture was used up before pausing work.
“Iya Afusa no come today o, wetin we go do?” Baba Paulo said aloud but to no one in particular. Iya Afusa was the food seller who always hawked food on a tray to their sites.
“Make I call am,” Baba Paulo’s partner said taking out his phone. “Her phone dey switched off,” he announced after trying for a minute.
“Make all of us go chop for outside na, we go come back before 2 o’Clock, una hear?” Baba Paulo said.
“We don hear,” all the boys replied in unison. The groups broke to form another. The boys from Efinga clinged together while Nazaretha and his friends also clinged together.
“Shey una sabi where to chop for this area?” One of the boys at the other side asked Nazaretha and his group.
“No worry, we go find.” Chinko replied sharply like the leader of the group. The both groups went their separate ways, Chinko led his friends to a not too far place where they filled their bellies with “Ewa agonyi” and bread.
They returned fifteen minutes before 2 o’clock, Baba Paulo was the only one they met at the site, even the women and younger kids who were fetching water for them were not back yet. They decided to sit at a corner and gist before the rest of the workers returned. In five minutes time, most of the other workers returned except for the boys from Efinga.
“E be like say some boys dey fight for front,” Baba Paulo’s second said to him, resting on the neatly arranged six inches blocks.
“Ehen, wetin do them na?” Baba Paulo asked with very little interest.
“I no know jare, na them sabi.”
Five minutes later, two of the boys from Efinga returned to the site. They were panting and they looked very worried.
“Wetin happen and where the rest two?” Baba Paulo asked with a scrutinizing look.
“Baba Paulo, gbege don shele o.” One of the boys said.
“Wetin be that?” Baba Paulo asked.
“Wait! Shey no be from Monibow una come?”
“Yes, na from Monibow o.”
“Make una better dey run go now cos na person from una side go press or our area presido wife brea$t and yan*sh.”
“Ah!” Baba Paulo exclaimed.
“Make una dey go o, dem go soon reach down here o,” the boy said in a warning tone to all of them who caree to listen. He turned to Chinko and his friends. “Wait! No be una go chop beans and bread for Iya elewa place?”
“Yes,” Chinko replied, shocked about how the guy got to know.
“Them don see una o, I hear them dey talk about you,” he said specifically pointing to Chinko. “Them talk say that yellow boy wey look like Chinese dey chop bread and beans and them know say you be from Monibow….”
The boy had not finished talking when Nazaretha and his friends began to pack their clothes, they didn’t bother to put the clothes on or even clean the cement dust infested bodies.
Chinko was always the problem amongst them, most times he was also the source of blessing too. He was his friend’s unique identification. For example, when a person in Monibow or its environs wanted to describe Sunday to another, they would describe him as that short boy wey dey follow Chinko, or that short boy wey dey waka with Oyinbo. So there was no way they weren’t going to be identified as people from Monibow.
As they rushed to get out through the gate of the site, they began to hear the noises drifting near. As they stepped out from the gate together, they saw some boys several metres away, holding whips and broken bottles, at the front of Iya elewa’s shop.
“… which site dem come from na?” They could hear one of the angry boys shout. And within a twinkle of an eye, the angry boys were looking towards Chinko and his friends.
“Na that Oyinbo be that,” one of the boys shouted angrily and that surged forward towards them.
For the first time in their lives, the four boys had to go their separate ways; each running in a direction he thought he could find safety.
…to be continued