Kunle stepped out his car, exhausted. He had had a completely exhausting day. From the very moment he opened his eyes in the morning, it had been stress all the way. Or more likely, from the various moments he opened his eyes through the night when his two month old baby decided to start bawling for a new reason neither he nor his wife, Funke could fathom till, on his own, the baby would just shut up and go to sleep. Only to resume crying the moment Kunle’s eyes started drooping. By daybreak, Kunle had decided the boy needed deliverance.
Then work. A different story entirely. It had been one task after
another. Tasks that took him from floor to floor of the company’s 15
storey building. On a day both elevators were out of order. By early
evening, Kunle was sure he had the most muscular thighs on earth. That
needed a good and proper massage from anybody but Funke’s hands that
felt like reinforced concrete. But if Funke saw any other woman lay her
hands on her husband – any other person for that matter – he wouldn’t be
needing a massage but a hospital bed. He groaned at the thought.
He looked up at the three storey building he called home and the first thing that struck him was the darkness. No light.
Normally, Kunle would have sighed and started contemplating how he
would battle the heat and mosquitoes all through the night, seeing as
the mosquitoes in his flat seemed to have developed an uncanny
resistance to the effects of all the popular insecticide brands. Like
they were wearing gas masks. But today, he smiled to himself. The past
three hours he had spent on a queue at the petrol station were totally
worth it. Some of his most committed driving in the midst of
[i]danfo[/i] drivers and [i]okada[/i] riders meant he managed to get to
one of the fuel pumps, fill his car’s fuel tank and a 50 litre jerry
can. And to make his “victory” even sweeter, the attendants had decided
to stop selling just after he paid for his purchase. At least on one
thing today, God was on his side.
But there was a problem, Kunle realized as he made to take the keg
out of the car boot. Getting the keg from car to flat without being
spotted. His neighbours were like fuel zombies; especially Mr. Adesola
who seemed to be able to smell fuel from his flat at the top floor. If
any of them knew he had fuel anywhere, he was in trouble.
Two days ago, Eze had raised an alarm when he went to check why his
generator at the back of the building went off suddenly. Apparently, he
had filled his tank to the brim that morning before leaving for work.
Only for his generator to go off less than five minutes after being
switched on. It was only on checking the fuel guage that he realized
that his fuel tank was completely empty. Opening the fuel tank and
peering in with a flashlight revealed that it was so empty that the fuel
thief must have turned the generator over to ensure he/she extracted
every drop of fuel.
The curses that were rained that night were enough
to make a tout blush.
Last week, Kunle had battled touts, angry men and cursing women to
secure a twenty five litre keg of fuel at the fueling station.
Congratulating himself on the amazing feat, he got home and had stopped
at the compound gate to rest a bit when he was accosted by Mr. Adesola.
“Ah, neighbor. Good evening.”
Kunle was in no mood for a conversation but he had been raised better than to ignore a friendly greeting.
“Good evening. How are you? And the family?”
“I’m fine o. We’re all fine,” Mister Adesola replied, eyeing the keg.
“It’s just this heat. The weather has been warm for a while, you know.
And we haen’t been able to switch on our generator. You know, this
scarcity is really bad…”
“Yes o, really terrible.” Kunle responded, eager for the conversation to end. “I…”
“My brother, things in this country are just too hard. I have looked
for fuel everywhere to no avail. Me, I can survive on my own but, you
know, the children and the wife…”
“This scarcity should just end.” Kunle interjected, not liking where
the conversation was going. “It’s making things difficult for ALL of
“Really difficult. MY last born cries every night from the heat. Has started developing these nasty rashes too….”
“I’m really sorry about that.”
“Thank you, thank you. I just wish I could get fuel somewhere. Even
the wife is sick now and this heat wouldn’t do her any good. And the
Kunle began regretting his decision to rest at the gate. Why didn’t he just get into his flat first before resting?
“My phone battery is so low now. And my oga at the office sometimes
calls at odd hours to confirm certain things. If he can’t reach me, it
might be a problem. I just don’t know…”
Kunle sighed, annoyed at the words he was about to utter.
“I could let you have some fuel…” Kunle murmured.
“Ehn?” Mr. Adesola responded. Kunle’s heart leapt at the thought that
the man hadn’t heard his offer and was going to retract it. “Thank you
so much!” Kunle’s heart and face fell. “God bless you. May your keg
never run dry. May you never lack anything. Thank you so much!” Mr.
Adesola disappeared into the building and emerged almost immediately
with a twenty five litre keg of his own, like he had kept it there,
expecting he would receive fuel. Kunle found himself parting with ten
litres of fuel and his happiness for the night.
So he wasn’t going to take chances this time. He peered around
carefully. Nobody was in sight. He stepped outside the compound gate and
looked down the street both ways. Nobody was approaching. He ran back
to his car, opened the boot and began lifting out the the keg…
Kunle dropped the keg back in the boot.
“Mr. Adesola! Good evening!” He slammed the boot shut, wondering how
the man that was approaching him from the side of the building had
manifested “How are things?”
“Fine o, neighbour. Would have been much better if the power supply were better. Or one could find where to get fuel.”
Kunle began to wonder if there was some form of witchcraft the man possessed.
“My brother, i tire o!” Kunle replied, leaning against the car. “I drove all the way to Berger to look for fuel, without luck.”
“Ehnn..” Clearly his story wasn’t being bought. “No wonder you’re back so late.”
“Things are just so hard in this country. How can an oil producing
country still be importing fuel? And the marketers are just holding the
entire country to ransom…”
Kunle groaned inwardly. He would have to leave the fuel in the boot
for now and come back to get it much later in the night. For now, he had
to endure a conversation with a Mr. Adesola that continued his
political rant while stealing glances at Kunle’s boot.
And endure he did. For close to an hour, Kunle leaned against his car
while being lectured on Nigeria’s political troubles and the need for
the common man to band together and help each other in times of need
because the government wasn’t going to help. A lecture that would have
gone on for much longer if Funke hadn’t called to find out where he was.
Kunle had never been so relieved at his wife’s call.
He spent the next to hours like a SWAT operative. Constant glances
out of the window revealed that Mr. Adesola remained outside for thirty
minutes after they parted before disappearing into the building. Kunle
gave an axtra hour and thirty mintes to make sure Mr. Adesola had gone
to his flat and slept. Finally by a few minutes past midnight, Kunle
carefully unlocked his door, tiptoed downstairs to his car, quietly
unlocked the boot, lifted out the keg, lifted out the keg and
practically sprinted back to his flat, stopping to put the keg down so
he could open the door. No sooner had he touched the door handle than he
heard a sound that chilled him to his bones.