MUTUM RODE with the anger of a man scorched. Riding under a sun that blazed its fury was enough to roast the sympathies out of anyone. He thought of his pimp. Well, she wasn’t exactly a pimp. The woman of his thoughts was the owner of the commercial motorcycle he was riding. He always thought of her as ‘The Pimp.’ She owned several motorcycles that she leased to different riders for commercial use. They all gave her daily returns based on agreements; what she called ‘remit.’ Mutum’s daily remit was five thousand naira. It was a figure whose sum was never meant to dance backward for The Pimp never listened to excuses. She once told the riders that she would not consider any reduction, not even if it was used on rescuing her daughter from the gates of hell!
At that moment, Mutum felt the sun’s heat like a door opened from hell. Though the breeze was meant to keep airing him as he rode, he was drenched in sweat. He had barely made a thousand Naira since morning. He knew the time had to be past noon. He subconsciously looked at his watch, an inheritance from his mother some ten years ago. The stillness of the hands of the watch that stood like an ‘I’ at six o’clock reminded him he had not saved enough to change the battery. He let out a long sigh and noticed a lady with huge buttocks furiously flagging him down. She had a child with her. He thought of her weight and the possibility of her flattening his tires. He thought of riding by but the flatness of his wallet forced his system to decelerate and glide towards her.
“Please, my son, I don’t have money. Can you take me to the market? God will bless you.”
He sized her up and gave her the evil eye. Who did she think she was? He hissed and applied his kick starter. He sped on till he came to the busy part of town. At that point, he saw a girl on the road and calculated that she would move on. So, he rode on. At the last instant, he had to brake as the figure seemed static. The screech was enough to make people around turn and stare. He had barely missed being hit by a car that swerved to the right and moved on. The driver immediately showed that his skills were not only in driving. He flung a curse at Mutum at the top of his voice:
“Idiot! Your father! Your nyarsh!!”
It came out in one breath but the car was soon out of sight. Mutum inhaled the insult and multiplied it by the frustration of the day in addition to the sun’s harsh whip. The sum left his face contorted in a demonic snarl. He opened his mouth to volley his fury at the girl who looked at him with watery eyes. Her eyes showed something he couldn’t decipher. Was it gratitude? Was it an apology? Was it both? He shook it away quickly as he had no time for any. His volley was at the tip of his tongue when she moved. Her steps were shortly measured, deeply impressed on her face in waves of worry that showed pain. Her somewhat disfigured legs were revealed as she tried to wobble across, leaving Mutum’s lane. The fury squeezed out of his face like in a cloth turned by a washer. Someone brought her crutches for her.
He looked at his legs, at his motorcycle.
There is much to be thankful for, he thought to himself.
She turned to look at him and he smiled at her.
“Go ahead,” he said, nodding gently.
It had taken thirty seconds at best but time had seemed to stretch for him. He remembered his situation and kicked his motorcycle to move on. As he stepped on his accelerator, he noticed, coming on the opposing lane and not so far away, a car that might have had a jet engine with the speed it flew with. Mutum turned in time to witness what hit his ears in a most thunderous sound: voooooooooooop!!!
He saw the crutches go up first, then the woman as her ‘JESUS!!’ rent the air. He felt the impact of the force as she smashed against the glass of the windscreen of the car. He absentmindedly echoed her cry as he heard ‘JESUS!’ issue from his mouth. The woman slid off the bonnet as the car sped off. At that moment another car came at full speed from the other direction. The impact of the first hit had left the woman on the lane of the incoming vehicle. Mutum put his hands on his head as the other car approached, its tyres set to crush the neck and what other part of the woman. Mutum closed his eyes. He opened them almost immediately and saw the car swerve away, only inches away from the woman’s neck and head, still at its speed. The driver didn’t stop either but drove at a maddened pace.
“Allahamdullilai! Allahamdullilai! Allahu akbar!” he muttered in quick succession, breathing words of gratitude to the Almighty, as he changed course back to the scene of the accident. In the few seconds a crowd had converged around.
He noticed a woman trying to talk to the bloodied victim on the road. The talking woman was trying to make some calls. Mutum was shocked to see that the lady who had been hit was still alive: “Allahu akbar!” he repeated again and again. People tried flagging vehicles to carry the lady but each vehicle sped on. Mutum looked at her and noticed a chaplet on her neck. He thought again of the balance he had not made. He thought of The Pimp, then remembered what he had just seen. What would have happened to time, life and everything else if he was the one from whose scalp blood gushed like a river? The woman on the phone was shouting for help from everyone. Mutum looked at the face of the woman on the ground. She seemed to have pleasant thoughts in her heart for a smile played at her lips. It was a small smile. He made a decision at the moment, even if it was the last thing he was going to do; to fight for her life.
“Make way!” he shouted, as he edged to her side.
Her smile brightened and broadened fully. And in the midst of the sun’s fury, the heavens opened and washed the earth.