The story of fate and destiny Chapter 8 The Mother Writing in progress. If you
“Being drunk is the fool’s anesthetic. It puts the primitive self in command when it is the worst captain of all”
Danjuma drank like a child who hadn’t seen water for a week. But this was no child, and it certainly wasn’t water he was drinking. With each gulp his Adam’s apple bobbed violently and the liquor drizzled from both sides of his oversized lips and down his chin as he tried to avoid full contact with the rim of the glass cup that had the scents of the last drinker. Sometimes he cleaned his chin with the inside of his right arm in a swift routine move and at other times, he just let it dry off.
He liked the smell of alcohol when it dried on his skin, so that when he was in bed at night, he could roll his lips over the dried liquor. It sort of reminded him of the pleasure lurking behind the bottles and gave him something to look forward to the next day.
Sitting across at the other end of the table was his longtime friend, Jered, who poured himself another foamy glassful by tilting the glass cup on its bottom to fill it to the brim.
He wore a satisfied look as he rolled the now empty glass bottle on its side, next to the others under the bench. Not only did he like the sound of the bottles clinking loudly as though serving out a crude punishment, he also only respected a bottle when it wasn’t empty by gifting it a spot on the drinking table. It was considered rude not to.
They were the drinking duo and proudly so!
They called each other on phone to meet at different spots everyday, especially in the evening when the sun hid behind the clouds.
There weren’t many drinking spots in Lagelu village, but they managed to never stay a consecutive day at the same bar.
They also didn’t fancy women, neither were they into cigarette or “smoke”- the local parlance for cannabis in the village, they simply reveled in the bliss that alcohol offered. Their social relevance started and ended at the bar.
Both were unrepentant drunks who didn’t need an excuse to drink. They drank when the sun was up, when it rained, when they were bored or damn too tired after the day’s job to think.
What day job you ask? Teaching!
They were “corps members” conscripted into the National Service Scheme for a period of one full year. They had met during the 3-week long military drill and camping period and became best of buddies ever since.
No matter how hard they drank, they always found their way to the “Corper’s lodge” which was only a few meters away. They shared with Tokunbo another teacher in the village school.
That evening, they sat outside a local bar, on makeshift wooden benches that creaked and rocked whenever they moved, right under the umbrella tree canopy that filtered sunlight to a perfect dapple.
The only time they saw the brown earth around their feet was after the finger-stained glass cup had been emptied or when Jered rolled up an empty bottle under the table.
Today, their conversation was about Tokunbo. They simply couldn’t understand how a grown man would deny himself the pleasure of alcohol. They considered it unthinkable, unreasonable, foolish, and ridiculous. The two friends traded words to describe Tokunbo until their drunken brains produced blanks.
Just then, Tokunbo turned the corner from the lodge and walked towards the boys. His pace was business-like and brisk. He had just returned from the extra-mural class he organized for one of his students, where he earned extra bucks to complement his savings towards his planned wedding the coming year.
“I wonder what he uses his money for” Jered mouthed as Tokunbo edged closer to the makeshift bar.
“I don’t care, he should come buy us some beer”
Tokunbo joined the two friends on the bench after extending his arm to shake both men firmly as though they didn’t wake from the same lodge earlier that morning.
“Tokunbo, today you must drink o, you have been stylishly avoiding our invitation for weeks. Now that you are here, you should take a swig from the famous palm wine calabash or down a bottle of beer with us. No excuses please”
“My answer is always the same Danjuma. I don’t take alcohol. But I don’t mind paying for a bottle of beer for both of you in the spirit of the day”
“Yay!” The friends yelled excitedly tipsy from the alcohol that filled their belly, as they gorged their mouth full of more liquor.
And so, the evening started.
Everyone raved about Uncle Alabi’s visit to Nigeria months before he was billed to arrive the country. He had been away in the United Kingdom for over a decade and the excitement was palpable with every member of the family, except the two little boys – Mide, who was only three years older than Tokunbo. They had never heard his name until a few weeks earlier and wondered what the fuss was about his visit.
Their Dad had changed the fabric 4-set settee in the living room to a stylish leather equivalent and installed a spanking new air-condition unit in the living and the guest room downstairs. The old clanker in the living room was relocated to the boys’ room to serve out the rest of its noisy life in abject servitude.
His father ran a successful law practice and could easily afford the sprawling twin-duplex that sat on 3full plots of land in the heart of GRA. The property even had a short driveway bounded by heavy metal gates to fence off prying neighbors. The lawns wore a fresh cut, and the fence adorned a new coat of paint.
One would easily imagine that a President was visiting with the way the house was decorated. On the day of his arrival, Tokunbo’s dad waited at the airport lobby for hours until his plane arrived late that evening.
Tokunbo was a tad disappointed that the diminutive man who arrived their palatial house that evening to the warm embrace of his mother and younger uncles and aunts was the reason for all the fuss. He wore his head bald safe for a patch of scrunchie looking hair that circled it at the wings. He looked much older than Tokunbo had expected and had that look about him; the look of a life well lived. Though he had a slight hunch in his gait, his energy was boundless.
At his mother’s prompt, he prostrated respectfully to the august visitor.
That evening, the family shared a large meal while enjoying music from his dad’s new speakers, along with loads of sparkling exotic drinks.
Everyone had a glass cup except the two boys. That didn’t go down well with Tokunbo. He had never seen such an array of exotic bottles. They had strange labels and he yearned badly to taste of it.
When his four-year old self asked his dad for some of the drink in his small plastic cup, his request was promptly declined with a stern warning not to go near the drinks at any time. He was literally shooed away like a lamb.
That angered Tokunbo.
Danjuma and Jered had ordered another set of drinks. Their conversation that evening spanned sports, politics, money and the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Their conversation sometimes got very animated as Danjuma gave the friends enough to laugh at whenever he mimicked a famous celebrity or politician.
“Why don’t you take just a sip of this beer” he teased Tokunbo. “It won’t hurt bro”
Tokunbo was having a bottle of maltina. It was his third since he sat with the two friends that evening. To accompany the drinks, they had ordered several plates of pepper soup and marinated meat. This kept their jaws busy during the times words eluded the party.
Soon enough, a tipsy Jered staggered towards Danjuma whispering into his ears. Tokunbo couldn’t make out the words because he covered his lips with his hands. They seemed to agree on something before breaking into an animated laughter. Tokunbo wondered what they found so funny until, in a flash, Jered walked right behind him locking his two arms with his and then forcing them behind him the moment he attempted to get off the bench.
Jered surprisingly had a firm grip for a drunk. He reeked of beer as he pulled Tokunbo up causing him to face Danjuma, who was pouring beer into his glass cup.
“Stop this nonsense guys” Tokunbo protested weakly thinking it was a sick joke taken too far. But his feeble attempt to wriggle himself out of Jered firm grip left him at Danjuma’s mercy.
“Stop” he ordered, his voice louder than before, but it seemed to only spur Danjuma on as he put the glass cup between his lips, forcing them open.
The next time he opened his lips in protest, his voice was drowned in the rush of cold foamy beer that gorged his mouth down to his throat.
This angered Tokunbo.
The house was now quiet. Tokunbo had barely slept since they were sent to bed at 11pm that night. He envied the adults who enjoyed the bliss of endless supply of fried meat and drinks. He knew he had to wait it out until they had all gone to bed. He buried his head in the pillow so he could shut out the laughter that echoed in the living room downstairs and the local music from Ebenezer Obey that serenaded the august guests.
His brother slept noisy next to him in their room while he waited.
Now the house was quiet. Everyone had gone to bed. Even the maid who was cleaning and sweeping the house appeared to have shut the door to her room. The creaking of the maid’s door was a familiar sound that Tokunbo could never miss. He waited a few minutes before getting off his bed.
He walked gingerly down the stairs looking through the dark for anyone lurking within the shadows. When he got downstairs, He paused the moment he heard a loud snort from the visitors’ room. This was immediately followed by a grunt and a loud snore.
Relieved, Tokunbo tiptoed to the refrigerator, that hummed noisily in the kitchen corner.
The grandfather clock ticked away- the time was 2.34am!
Stretching a few inches, he grabbed the refrigerator door handle and yanked it open. His eyes strained under the sudden brightness of the inner lights in the dark, but it paled in significance to the excitement of what he was about to do.
His eyes scanned the rows of drinks until he found that one exotic drink he had requested for earlier that evening.
He pulled it out of the refrigerator to read the label emblazoned across the neck of the bottle.
The bottle was half empty when he picked it up from the refrigerator.
He quickly removed the cock before raising the bottle into his open mouth emptying its content greedily as he paused intermittently to swallow each gulp. He didn’t stop until the bottle was empty.
The maid found him passed out at dawn when she woke to start the house chores. That moment her scream woke the household up before throwing the entire household into a frenzied panic. The evidence of the mishap was there for everyone to see, the empty bottle of PASTIS was still within the clasp of his small hands.
Everyone thought he had died.
He woke up with only one barely healthy kidney several weeks after he had slipped into a coma. The drink had 45% alcohol content and had damaged his entire digestive track including his liver, kidneys, and stomach. It was a major crisis.
He lost a school year while he recuperated on the hospital bed in the specialist hospital where series of surgery, intervention and treatments were carried out to salvage what was left of his liver and his only good kidney. It was a harrowing experience for his family and everyone who had shared in the celebration of the returnee.
When he recovered, he was warned, never to taste alcohol amongst other foods, or it would be the end of him.
Tokunbo tried to fight the boys, but they emptied the second glass cup into his protesting mouth just as he tried to spit the liquor out. It tasted strangely familiar and it took him back to the year when he was only 4. The year he got a second chance at life.
The same life that was about to be snuffed from him.
It was too much for his weakened kidney to bear after the third glass cup was emptied into his throat. He slumped, face forward, into the benches and bottles on the table and the ground. It was a bad fall. A really bad fall.
The two friends took to their heels the moment they saw him collapse into a heap with his eyes open. They scrambled away so fast that no one was left in doubt how fatal the situation was.
And so the evening ended!
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