Growing up, my brothers and I often fantasized about having our own rooms with beds and other fine things we saw children in movies with. I always imagined myself sleeping in a room where my panties would not find themselves in my brothers’ shoes or having to search for stuff on days on end- sometimes never finding them. To me, luxury was not having to tread over my brothers as they slept. Every night, we bundled ourselves on a wide multicoloured rubber mat which doubled as carpet since we were too lazy to roll it in the morning. My parents; my father especially, detested it but that was one thing he couldn’t beat out of us; habit always won over punishment. My brothers were natural acrobats and contortionists when sleeping. They could twist, turn and bend into several forms making one wonder if they were truly asleep. Not a morning passed without them finding parts of or their whole bodies under the bed, chair or anything with space under it. Waking up before them meant having to make my way across them. Making it from one end of the room to the other without tripping was practically impossible as they were perpetual nomads in sleep. I yearned for a time when I would be free of this morning ritual and this usually made me hate my dwelling.
The arrival of a woman and her family forced me to be content with my humble abode. A few metres from our house stood a lotto kiosk that belonged to a family friend(Aunt Sarah) who was a lottery agent. To stop thieves from burgling the kiosk and taking her long stools, she allowed the woman who she had employed to help her sleep in the kiosk. This woman moved in with her twenty-something-year-old daughter, a teenage daughter, and son. The first night I saw them preparing to sleep in there, I was awed and kept measuring each person’s sleep space in my head. I hit blanks because try as I did, no pie chart my little math brain drew could apportion enough space for them to fit. The kiosk, even though it was bigger than regular ones had enough room for two midgets or children to sleep in whilst bending their knees. This did not stop her lover(maybe husband) from coming and staying over also. To my surprise, all five of them managed to arrange themselves to fit in that box. Even with the door of the kiosk open, I was still fascinated by this feat.
Gradually, these people started asking us for things. They began with little things like salt, fire, broom, etc. Before one could say hey, they were taking baths in our house. My mother being the ‘Dorcas’ she was started giving them food as well. She was someone who enjoyed sharing food so she never complained when they ate almost every food they saw. My younger brother and I were however not enthused about this intrusion on our meals. When food went bad, this woman with her children was there to collect it. She even took ones that could not be salvaged and proceeded to reverse them back to their fresh state. I knew food that had gone half bad could be cooked till it came back to good when it was boiled with charcoal in it because it was a practice that was common in our home. But this woman took that method to a different stratosphere of weird. She put huge chunks of charcoal in soup that had gone so bad that mold had formed on top of it and boil for hours on end. I marveled at her ability to salvage almost any spoilt food she came in contact with. We called her the soup repairer. It was an inside joke that she could boil anything back to life.
One evening, as she was in her usual metier of ‘repairing’ soup in front of the kiosk, her partner came along and they went for a stroll. Unfortunately, she left the soup on the fire and left. I was the only one around and had seen them leave but since she didn’t ask me to keep an eye on the soup, I didn’t. About an hour later, when I was fully engrossed in a battle of ‘messings'(teasing) with my brothers, I heard my parents call me. I ran out with my brothers close at my heels only to be queried on the location of the soup. Since I was the last person seen around, I was automatically a suspect in the absence of the soup. Someone had taken both the soup she was boiling and the coal pot full of fire in it away. Obviously, he thought the soup wasn’t ready so he carried the fire along to finish cooking it in transit. She lamented that she had gone to buy kenkey to eat with the soup but on her return, it was gone. The thief in his search for something to protect his hands from the heat had taken her piece of cloth as well. She was more concerned about the soup than our missing coal pot and kept uttering curses on the thief. My parents were ambivalent about the theft but I was elated and didn’t fail to show it. “If I were the soup, I would have run away too.” I remarked and this was followed by a hard knock on my head. I don’t know if my father had predicted my speech and was ready to hit me or my snorty laugh was what attracted the knock or perhaps because I was closest to him. I feel since a crime had been committed, punishment had to be meted out but since the culprit wasn’t around, I was the best port of call for such punishment. Wherever the thief was, I hoped the coal pot was enough consolation for the heat he endured; because the soup was beyond repair.
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