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One day until the night

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The exchange was bitter but not shouted. Grandfather had no permit to cane the boy. If there is something he does out of order, they were to discuss it with him. They were to discuss with him why he did what he did. Would he do it again?

That was how his mother expected everyone in the household to deal with him. The last thing he expected them to do with him was to cane him.

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She had the power of money over her father and her brother. She traded to the waterside, the waters that led to Lagos and beyond. She sends them money as well as the two boys she left with them. It was not an easy life. To lose one’s husband with three children left behind to take care of without access to the wealth of farm and real estate created together was hell. If the older brother could finish his apprenticeship and take care of himself and his little brother, perhaps things would get better. But rather than things getting better, the older brother failed to qualify at whatever trade he was put to trial.

First, there was bricklaying. With Uncle Charity. Mother paid half the apprenticeship fee. It was bricklaying. Should be over in six months but the mother asked to take a year. After a year, he could not mix mortar to keep one brick over another. He did like bricklaying because it was back-breaking. He would learn bicycle repairing. The young and forward-looking were buying bicycles: Rudge bicycles, Raleigh bicycles, lady’s bicycles. One could always make a choice. So when Mama came home for Christmas that year she once more paid half the apprenticeship fee and big brother began another apprenticeship.

There was a fundamental problem that I did not understand until years later. Big Brother was a left-hand natural. Mother wanted her left alone using his left hand as his right hand. But once she was gone, they forced a bronze weight on his left wrist and he was incapable of doing anything.

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The younger boy was consuming books like pounded yam, reading them and casting them aside for new ones. He was so good his teacher wanted him to come and live with him. His mother refused. The younger one did the house chore for the two of them. If he went to live with some teacher, who will look after them? He thanked the teacher but no thanks.

The argument went on for years. He could go to help on Grandfather’s farm on Saturdays and other public holidays. On Sundays, he did not have to go to the farm.

Big Brother was not to give anyone anything with the left hand. One afternoon he gave a spanner number 6 to his Boss, he took the spanner and smashed it on his head. Blood gushed out and it was a hospital. My brother told me not to write to Mama about the head wound about which I had already written but told her not to come. He was not dying yet. It was a superficial, not a deep wound. For some time they took it easy on Big Brother. They descended on me, Oyinbo alawodudu, being ruined with the sparring of cane.

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My mother says no to going to the farm on Sundays. If you don’t go to the farm today, I don’t want to meet you in this house. This house belongs to all of us. You will know who owns the house when I come back and find you inside.

Ado-Ekiti is thirty miles from Akure. I had two friends, Biodun whose parents have relocated to Ado-Ekiti. The other friend was rather iffy, Osiun Ado, the Madman of Ado-Ekiti. Endless stories were told of him and I took him as my friend.

I smashed the earthenware ‘bank’ and pocketed the money. I went to the motor park. I said a brief goodbye to Ade Petrol and caught a lorry going to Ado-Ekiti. After the driver had threatened so many times we were finally on our way.

At Ukere Alakete, everybody came down. They had made it to their destination. Except for me who was going too far away Ado-Ekiti where my friends were waiting for me. Finally, the driver gave me half my money and took me to Ado garage. In no time at all, I found a lorry bound for Ado-Ekiti.

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I found Biodun’s house easily and I was rigorously questioned by his father. I told my side of the story but Biodun’s Dad was not satisfied. That night we ate and it was arranged that first thing in the morning I will set out with the road maintenance crew for Akure.

I had told my brother about the argument with my grandfather about not going to the farm on Sundays and how he said we would wear the same pair of trousers.

The road maintenance fellows kept handing me over until I could see our house at a distance. And I saw my mother and I dropped my bundle and ran to her. We cried together and she promised there would be no Sunday farming. And the second thing was that I would go to Ipalefa, to stay with my paternal grand-father at number 45 Bourdillon Road. It later became Oba Adesina Road. My cousins sold the land without sharing it with the rest of the family.

That would have been 1955. At the end of the year, I was taken to Isho where I entered St. Andrews Primary School. From there I took entrance examinations to Imade College, Owo. But not to Iju-Itaogbolu Grammar School going to be headed by Mr. Fashoranti. I took a late entrance to Oyemekun Grammar School and I was taken. My fees were paid for the year and I landed in the White House.

I already had a number of family members at the school. Hide was the senior of all of us. There was nothing he didn’t know how to do for money. He taught us how to carve rubber stamps. He could break a blade diagonally without cutting himself.

I remember the house on Bourdillon Road as spacious with two large rooms used to house us grand children, grandchildren scattered around the world.

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