Hello people, @me_ablad has something for us. Please read, enjoy and drop your thoughts to encourage. Thanks and have a wonderful time…
The instant the car window was rolled down, there was an exchange. While the woman at the steering felt the rush of warm air into the car, the boy holding out his hand for the alms felt the artificial coolness of the air-conditioner of the SUV caress his face. He was not satisfied with the cool air however, it never filled empty stomachs. He wanted money, and today that his benefactor had come again, he enjoyed the breeze for as long as it took her to pass the money across to him.
It usually did not take long before she gave him money or other stuff she brought; in fact it was always less than a minute. It seemed to him that she knew he was waiting, always waiting, for her to come, so she had always prepared for him, always ready to give him gifts. She would look at him as he said thanks; she would briefly look at the other side of the street, and then join the busy highway again.
She lived very close, very close to where he stayed everyday for alms. He knew her well, knew the colour, type and number of all her five cars. She was beautiful, old, around fifty years. He wondered where her children were. They would be old, he concluded, the boys would be handsome and the girls would be exactly like her, pretty, with a face that shone with the dimmest of lights. But he never saw them.
“Maybe they live abroad”, he wondered, “or she has no children”.
He only saw her dog in the car; it usually stood against the back window, its tongue stuck out and its denture, a well-arranged set that made him envious. He wished he could touch the teeth. Maybe they wash the teeth with brush and soap, the kind he saw people use to wash their mouths.
“What if it did, what if it stayed in the air conditioner all the time? Will it fill an empty stomach?”
The question rang in his head, like a chapel bell, the one he had seen severally.
When he got back to the home, one everyone calls ‘The Keeper’s Orphanage’, a glorified beggars’ abode that it was, The Keeper would go into her fit of ranting again. She would complain about having so little funds and so many mouths to cater for, many empty stomachs to fill.
“The government doesn’t care”, she would say, “anytime you go out begging, say thanks to your benefactors. You might find someone who loves you, you might end up going to school and be like those kids in shorts and shirts”.
He could not blame The Keeper, the poor old woman who used her late husband’s house as an orphanage. She had a large heart, she had no children; no family member ever visited her except some strangers who brought used clothes and foodstuff. He had heard the strangers refer to them as “orphans” before.
The woman was not in a hurry to give him gifts today. She had looked at him and smiled, a smile that grew wrinkles from the corners of her eyes. She had brought out a book with a colourful back cover. It had the pictures attached to the English Alphabets, he knew them. The Keeper had taken her time to teach him and other ‘orphans’ the alphabets and numbers. They could spell some words and write their own names.
The woman came out and asked him what his name was. “Frederick”, he said with a hidden pride and according to the story he was told by The Keeper, though he hated the mother who dropped the name tag in the basket she used to dump him after birth, he appreciated her, because as he was told, a Frederick once ruled Nigeria in the colonial era, and The Keeper said he could be another Nigerian ruler.
The woman hugged him, he felt loved because the woman didn’t mind the dirt on him and the offensive odour from his mouth, a smell he himself could perceive. Instead, the woman asked to be taken to his keeper. He readily agreed and waited for the woman to press a button on the key she held, he heard a sound from the car, he didn’t understand why the car sounded, but he was too anxious, too happy to think about it.
The Keeper asked Frederick to take his leave as she discussed with the visitor. When he was called to come back inside, he met a solemn atmosphere, an air of seriousness. The Keeper spoke, and from her mouth came the best news he had ever heard.
“Mummy will come take you to her house tomorrow”, The Keeper said. His heart almost blew off. “You will live there, you will go to school and be great in future”, The Keeper said.
“Thank you ma. God bless you. I will go for the papers before you come tomorrow evening”, The Keeper said to the woman as she hugged Frederick and went out.
That night, Frederick could not contain his joy. He spent the night awake in the midst of other orphans, thinking about his new life and what lay ahead.
He hugged his housemates when the woman came in the evening of the second day. The Keeper hugged him tight and whispered into his ears “be a good child to Mummy”. He nodded and hurriedly ran off to the woman who threw her arms around him and hugged him the way she did the day before. His benefactor gave The Keeper some naira notes and promised recurring visits as they took their leave.
In the car, he did not see the dog, his benefactor’s regular companion.
“What about your dog?”
“It is at home”
He could not wait to see the dog whose grooming he so admired. There was something else he could not wait to know however, and he asked without hesitation.
“Are your children home too?”
She matched the brake, and cleared off the road. She then reached out and rubbed his head.
“You will be my child. I don’t have any child apart from you”.
He felt sorry for her and spoke again.
“I don’t have a mother too. Grandma said I was seen in a blue basket tagged FREDERICK”. The woman looked at him and sobbed.
“Don’t cry for me ma. I will be your child if you will be my mother”. She looked at the boy – how intelligently he spoke, how comforting his speech was, how good his voice sounded, and the tears flowed the more.
She was not crying because of the agony of a barrenness, she cried because she remembered what The Keeper had told her and what the boy just said. She had been forced to remember once again, that night, seven years ago, when she chose prostitution over responsibility, when she had dropped the blue basket and the name tag by the gutter where she usually gave Frederick alms. She was the more pained that she would forever keep both The Keeper and the kid out of the secret.