Her clothes smudged with dirt, and a hair awry as the chewed mango on her juicy palms. Lying face down on her milk thighs is her baby, Tema, who just left brother Femi’s hands for a napkin change. The moment little Tema escapes Femi’s arms into hers she broke into a shrill cry. The baby seems to prefer Femi’s hands more than her mother’s, perhaps, Femi’s hands seem to fry baby tears dry. Often times, while the mother sell her goods, Femi helps in baby sitting Tema. Never did he lay a complaint. “I love children,” he’ll often say. Not just Tema, the other little children in the neighbourhood love him too. He routinely gifts them little gifts and help tutor them.
By default humans love freedom. Tema’s mother wanting to be free, bundles the crying baby back to Femi after feeding the child. “Brother Femi, please help me hold your baby for awhile.” As usual, he didn’t voice any complain, rather beams a smile as the crying baby nestles into his arm. He disappears into his room with Tema cradled. Within seconds the baby ceases to cry. Moments later, in the disquiet, someone draws the mother’s attention to Femi’s open window. There, in the dimly lit room the vague form of a broad shouldered, shirtless six feet man is giving a three months baby cunnilingus. The first thing that escapes her lips is “Jesus!” followed by “neighbours, make una come see o.”
Femi jerks upright at the roar of the cry outside. He waited a while longer before coming out with the baby as the threats on his door intensified. Upon stepping out of his room in his briefs, his eyes bulges on seeing the teeming crowd at the door step buzzing like the murmuring of innumerable bees. Someone snatches the baby from his hands, and goes to inspect the child like she has caught the Ebola virus. The crowd is already going loose, in fact they are going nuts. Femi knows this crowd too well, that they come readily to the point of lynching, as evident on the clubs and sticks in their carriage. Last week, they beat a 14 year old boy into coma and beat him out of coma for stealing roast corn. The week before, an hungry widow was burned alive for stealing a sack of maize. Knowing the likely mob actions, Femi tries to escape, someone stops his advance with a bear hug. He wriggles out, because adrenaline. He makes a dashing run through the crowd, evading blows but is humbly halted in his tracks by a whack to his midsection, sending him tumbling to the ground. The unforgiving and volatile crowd briefly listens to the anecdotes about his business with little Tema, analogies that are laugh out loud hilarious.
His next door neighbor wisely goes to make an entry in the police station as the crowd issue various degree of beatings. The police arrives, they put a distance between the crowd and Femi then turn to ask the suspect thesis defence questions. Inspector Ojo batons Femi’s mouth so he could explain further what he meant by “I licked her to shut her up.” Femi’s health situation is approaching critical levels but the police continues dishing beatings, as if it would make any difference. The elders in the community begs the police to charge Femi to court as the continuous beating serves no purpose to anyone. Even Tema’s mum is pleading for Femi’s life to be spared. Nobody wants to shoulder the reason someone else died.
Femi is charged and sent to cool off in prison for three years. But his stay behind bars is just for awhile because Femi knows people that people knows people in higher places, so he is out of the prison after just six months. He moves out of the neighborhood to a neighbouring neighborhood. There his story of a pedophilia begin to gain some serious legs, spreading to all reaches. But he promises everyone who cares to listen that he won’t indulge in such act again, that he has overcome his devils and freed himself from such beastly acts. No one appears to give him complimentary remarks, his reputation is at an all time low, even gutter rats score higher.
A cluster of leaves ruffles under foot. Someone is counting the strings of a guitar, slow and unhurried notes chew into the atmosphere, a dreamy, soulful soundtrack perfect for the encroaching dusk. Kainene listen without intent as she strut about walking down the untrammeled bed of green grass, almost hugging the cool shades of the deciduous trees in her rainbow colour coat and biker shorts like a peacock, paying a grain worth of attention to the music. The shadows are getting longer, the evening is quite windy. Soft caressing of the breeze on her skin millipede down her spine, soothing and tingling, dredging memories of lovers who have said their goodbyes. She is taking unchaperoned walks through the neighborhood’s colourful motifs in these gentle seasons of fair weather despite the torrential downpour when she meets two of her favourite pupils having skirmishes.
The older of the two, Naebili, is dishing out series of slaps to her younger brother, Ken, who is but 4. Ignoring the kids isn’t in her remit. Aunt Kainene walks up and interrupts the head knockings. She enquires from them what the fight is about. Ken is to speak first from behind a curtain of tears, citing that his sister demands milk from, something he doesn’t have to give. A statement Naebili snaps back at, vehemently angry. “Aunty, Ken is lying,” she says with tears now clogging on her eyes too.
“Brother Femi gives me milk from his pee-pee but Ken has refused to give me milk.”
She further explains on inquest how she goes to Brother Femi’s house every evening to sell oranges. He buys all on the tray and gives her money and milk but repeatedly she sucks Ken’s pee-pee but it doesn’t bring forth milk. Even after she gift him the meat from her lunch he decides to withhold the flow of milk. Kainene’s legs suddenly feel like Jelly; the words that spilt out of Naebili’s lips are like a whiplash across her knee, drawing strength off them. She pats the kids on their heads, promises Naebili milk if she will repeat her confessions before a larger audience. The little girl of 6 obliges.
The kids lead the way home, arriving at their plywood and tarpaulin covered house that has the looks of an 80’s ghetto scene in grey scale. Their mother is at home, her friends are visiting too, some group of men are at the sides playing draught in turns. The number of persons available is enough to hold a mini album listening party. Kainene goes to excuse the men for a minute, they arrive at the scene where Naebili is to repeat herself, grumbling. Their grumbling faces turns thunder at the end of the girl’s confession. A dispatch is sent to get the children’s father while the men in swift steps brings the little girl before Femi’s door.
Brother Femi is wearing his cap back to front and in folded white sleeves and distressed denim shorts like a music star. His face still bears the scar of the previous incident but he now grows a beard to cover it. He raises a hand to caress his shiny soft beards, flexes his muscles about while greeting his neighbors, not knowing the seriousness of the matter at hand. A meltdown bigger than Brexit brews in the brewery but brother Femi is not aware of the cold beer about to be served. A man offers Femi’s cheek a slap, giving him a hint of the type of beat that he’ll dance to before Naebili is to repeat the music she has been singing. At her confession Femi is now in full retreat. Retreat to where exactly? There’s no escaping this, a crowd like a cathedral is already congregating and lips are now passing the news like an Adele’s album, bringing more people to the scene.
The father of the kids, a mountain of a man, gin-instilled, with the name Temperance but known around as Annoyance, spears a plank at Femi, from the crowd, it barely grazes his skull and thuds at the wall behind. His attempt to charge at the suspect duly comes to halt and for a moment he brings his anger to a low ebb. Temperance was in a shebeen drinking with friends. He was on his sixth tot of locally brewed gin when the messenger greeted him with the news. He staggered out and sprints into a race in the direction of the scene, his frame piercing through the air like a fighter jet, stopping briefly to find a suitable wood as weapon.
Brother Femi commits himself to continue weaving yarns in fallen syllables, talking this and that irrelevant thing, how he only showed her his penis, how he had boils growing on it and begged her to smoothen the boils with warm water solution but she ended up sucking his pipe. How he still has the balls to actually string sentences baffles everyone. His arguments are running around, chasing his own tail, prompting some persons in the crowd to wonder which of the rocks might have provided the roof of his domicile. He takes to spouting so many obscenities as truth until the people couldn’t stomach the dross anymore. Temperance aka Annoyance, from the crowd successfully connects a stone this time, splitting Femi’s head open. Blood trickles down his mane in rails and soon by Temperance doing his nose ran blood like the neighborhood’s twin taps. Brother Femi is having a blood party and everyone is invited to throw in a fist, seriatim. Even the most pious of men and women didn’t resist the urge to throw in an elbow at least. The scene later turns into a brawl between those who wants to save Femi from severely getting beat and those who wants to rip the lungs off his rib cage. Stones, fists, planks and other unidentified flying objects circulates the scene. It’s like a WWE tag team tables, ladders and chairs match, only lacking a ringside colour commentary, but there is no shortage of camera action from the paparazzi. Someone flips their phone and invites the police to come to this party with no drinks nor Jollof rice.
The police arrive with their guns cocked and primed, ready to kick asses but no one affords them any attention though, the mob continues their business of dishing out beatings. The police issues a threat but the angry crowd didn’t seem to hear anybody, actually they don’t want to listen to nobody, including…yes, the police. Some members of the public prepare to use their bodies as human barricades to shield the police from entering the scene, others readying stones and Molotov cocktails to pelt at the arriving van. It is a textbook riot scene from the middle east. The police teargassed the area, fire a few rubber bullets and swoop in, the mouth of their guns trained at anyone attempting to resist in any form. The crowd disperses while they collect bloodied brother Femi and wheel him to their station. The crowd reassembles again, angry and frothing. Knowing the police and their brutal killings of suspect, a few good men and women elects themselves to visit the police station so they could talk about charging brother Femi to court. They never made it in time. At the police station the policemen keep to flogging brother Femi’s device until it becomes erect due to nerve dysfunction, then dies. After his device died, he died.