Meshack and Suzy have shared their love with the entire community since they were nine. Shadrack saw them walking from Suzy’s house, hand in hand, laughing over nothing, taking each step like a sip of wine. Even from this range, their bliss floated across like wind borne pollen grains.
Folks considered them hilarious little children four years ago. Now, the entire community was praying for the romance to bloom. It would be like watching two drops of water grow into an ocean.
But why does Suzy look up at Meshack? What difference does it make?
As in the past, the street paused because Suzy was walking towards House 13. Peace Street was just another forsaken jungle, but they had to have their own queen. And they chose one with beautiful eyes that couldn’t see.
When Suzy smiled, they all felt warmth in their hearts. When she ran, they held their breaths every rapid stride. Suzy’s fast and unwavering strides were breath-taking in those days. But she had not had a run in the last four years.
He remembered the last day he saw her run.
Suzy had said, ‘See you later,’ to Shadrack and taken off towards her green house.
The street held its breath as usual. As she sped past Aholo’s house, the wind blew in the scent of freshly hewn wood.
Truck Pusher, in his dirty shorts, emerged from Uyi Street with the highest stack of logs he ever brought home. The torso-bare bruiser needed enough torque to coast over a recent hunch on the road. He had to push from the blind side to achieve sufficient force. Sweating, his muscles screamed to make the cart surge over the hunch. He was behind the logs for only a moment.
Truck Pusher had the strength to rein the cart back to his usual slow push. He was on the verge of gaining full control of the surge when Suzy’s dog bit his calf. The handle slipped from his grip. For less than two seconds. And the top logs jerk forward.
He roared, ignored the second bite, and contained the tilt. But four logs were already in motion. His uncanny exertion restrained the straight flight of the logs. Rather than lunge forth, they clashed and tumbled from the top of the stack. Shadrack saw tragedy brewing outside his range. He raced towards the evolving scenario.
The street rose in one concerted shout of alarm. Everyone moved in one accord.
Shadrack saw Suzy trying to cut her speed in reaction to the smell of wood and the screams, but she was at the peak of her dash. Truck Pusher was blind to her desperate attempt to evade an impact.
Suzy’s dog, Tiger, had read the situation differently from its the neighbours. And had opted for biting Truck Pusher’s legs. Not accustomed to this suddenness, Suzy’s arms waved in despair. Out of nowhere, came Surplus bouncing into the scene. She swept Suzy out of the zigzag path of the logs.
It took a while to add things up. Surplus had landed on her back. She had uprooted the Jasmine hedge. Suzy was lying on Surplus and Surplus lay panting on top of the yanked hedge.
Shadrack and Zaki were first to arrive. Followed by Baggy Blue. They helped the ruffled girl to her feet. When Baggy Blue and others tried to help Surplus up, she snarled,
‘Don’t touch me, you, Witches of Peace Street!’
Surplus got off the uprooted shrub and limped home without another word.
For the first time since she moved in from Chicago, folks felt a fleeting fondness for Surplus.
Suzy was fine. For the first time, Shadrack saw Suzy behave like a normal blind girl. She groped for the wall and was feeling for the windows and working out where the door was. Nobody reached out to help her, but their eyes were teary.
Shadrack held her hand.
‘Thank you, Shadrack. I lost my bearing for a while. Thanks.’
Meshack ran into the scene and held her in a tight embrace. Teardrops slipped from her pretty eyes.
‘Thank you, Everyone.’ Her face was calm once more. ‘Thank you for your love.’
Meshack and Suzy entered the green house.
The crowd swooped down on Truck Pusher like a swarm of bees. The bleeding ebony hulk did not try to flex his muscles, but lay on his face, shouting,
‘Please, forgive me. Wa loho! Yabomwen!’
The elders came by and urged the neighbours to allow him take his cart and fallen logs off the street. Looking like a man who fought a glaring of cats, he nudged his overloaded cart to Aholo’s compound. He sat on the tyre and endured curses and insults till nightfall. It took over a week to resolve the near miss.
First, the chemist locked up his shop. Ene gave him bandage and antiseptic and retired to her room to pray. Obzava gave him a pail of water and that was too much already.
Sergeant Major brought home two lorries of firewood. An army truck came twice to Peace Street, loaded with logs, and everyone was welcomed to free firewood.
‘Bagasse. Next week, I will bring ten lorries loaded with firewood,’ Sergeant Major boasted. ‘And you, Bloody Civilian, they say you’re a strong man. That you can even lift your truck with your penis. That is good. If you know you have seven heads, dare push that bloody truck one inch from where it is. I dare you to sell one single broomstick from the truck. Then I will show you this my green khaki is not like vegetables which you can buy from Ekiosa.’
Truck Pusher didn’t respond. He was waiting out the worst challenge since he left Ghana.
‘Am I not talking to you?’
‘Please, forgive me, sir.’
‘Maybe the bagasse should spend one night in the guardroom?’ Ay Sargi bellowed.
‘Let him touch even the dust on the tyre of that truck, I will shoot the bagasse. Ratata, ratatata, that’s all. Bagasse!’
For once, his military arrogance got nods of approval from his neighbours.
Truck Pusher showed more penitence than the people of Nineveh. He had been living atop his stacked cart since the near miss.
Saturday night, without any sackcloth, he slept under the stars, on top of his wood. On Sunday, under the sun, he lay there in his dirty shorts while folks went to church. When they returned and all through the football matches at the Pool of Sand, Truck Pusher waited for mercy to flow from the hearts of his neighbours. But no one wanted to be first to forgive him. His dark rippling muscles weighed heavily against him.
Ene smuggled him a meal wrapped in green leaves in the dead of night. Shadrack didn’t support the mission, but trust Meshack to always side with foolishness.
Neigbours who used to duel like cats and rats were in perfect harmony over the issue. Truck Pusher spent a third night under the sky.
The elders sued for peace. Truck Pusher moved the offending stack of wood to the Pool of Sand and gave out a free log to every compound. This was after over one sweaty hour of juggling the logs and lifting his cart to entertain.
By the next day, the rumour emerged that he killed someone with his bare hands in Ghana. A version of it said he killed an entire family. Yet another version said the people he strangled were his own family. Something creeps into his skull once in a while and he goes berserk, it was said.
Truck Pusher had to escape for three days. The people only called off the siege when Suzy recovered from her shock and pleaded on Truck Pusher’s behalf.
‘My Mothers, all of you who are happy I’m alive. Let’s celebrate my life and your great love for me, by forgiving this man, Mr Kumi Adofo.”
Nobody knew who Kumi Adofo was. There was a murmur about the strange name. After a brief buzz, the dead hush returned. Their queen was alone on the Pool of Sand. They went back to full attention.
Truck Pusher emerged from Owere’s main door in kente and white shoes.
‘Please, My Fathers, My Brothers and Sisters. For the love I so appreciate. Celebrate my life today, please. Can’t you see I died and came back to life?”
She spoke softly. But the street was quiet.
They insisted the Ghanaian must never stack his cart so high again and gave him several rules to abide by. Haggling was part of the culture, they insisted. Truck Pusher accepted all the terms and conditions for peace…
These memories now seemed so long ago, but Suzy never found the confidence to run again.
Shadrack ran forward to meet his twin brother and his queen.
‘Let’s do it today,’ he said.
‘Do what?’ his brother asked.
‘Happy Saint Valentine’s Day, Shadrack,’ Suzy smiled.
‘Of course, you can. You’ve got to run again. At least, once. Make it Valentine gift to Peace Street.’
‘I can’t,’ she said again.
‘I’ll run beside you,’ Meshack whispered.
‘Give me a chance to beat the two of you together,’ Shadrack said.
‘You can’t,’ she shouted, and sped towards the Pool of Sand.
The street lit up like a bonfire. Meshack and Shadrack were caught off guard. They pursued her and the entire street roared, cheering Suzy. It was like the Olympics had come to Peace Street.
— Excerpts from Brink of Manhood by Aoiri Obaigbo