My mama used to say, “don’t pick money from the floor, you’ll turn to stone or disappear.” One day, I picked up a N5 note I saw on the floor, I didn’t disappear or turn to stone so I went on to brag to mama.
It was around 3PM, I had just arrived home from school. I pushed our red gate open slowly because I was tired from walking miles home. As the bolt at the bottom of the gate made a mark on the sand filled compound, the sun behind me shone bright and clearly on a N5 note.
It was like God wanted me to see the money. I stopped pushing the gate open midway, squeezed in between the open space quite conveniently and looked around. The compound was quiet. Not even “daddy wa” our Landlord was on his semi permanent post on his balcony high chair.
Standing over the N5 note, I heard mama’s voice clearly, “don’t pick money from the floor, you’ll disappear or turn to a stone”. I looked around the picked a fairly heavy stone, careful not to touch the money with any part of my body, I dropped the stone on the N5 note, then I went from door to door. First stop, Baba Ngozi’s flat.Mama Ngozi came to the door “Nma guraftun.” “Welcome” Said Mama Ngozi as she stood away from the door, expecting me to walk in and get comfortable. I didn’t enter. I had things to do, I wasn’t there to eat Abacha.
I said, “Nma, are you looking for any money?” She turned around, unfolded her wrapper, untied the knot at the edge where she normally kept her money then counted quickly. Mama Ngozi tied her money back in a fresh knot, folded the wrapper around her securely and looked at me suspiciously as she shook her head, “Mba. Why? Did you see any money?” Yea right! Who’s a fool? “ No Nma. I didn’t see any money, I’m coming.” I shut her door and off to Mama Tutu’s flat I went. Her door was opened but the door net was a barrier.
Unlike other flats, I couldn’t barge into Mama Tutu’s. So I called out, hoping she’d hear me through the net. “Good afternoon ma,” I saw mama Tutu poke her head out of the kitchen. “Ehen what is it? Will you go upstairs and change your uniform my friend!”
As expected, she wasn’t the most friendly. “I’m going upstairs now ma. But I want to know, are you looking for your money?” I asked meekly. “Which money are you looking for? No jor!” Mama Tutu dismissed me and disappeared into her kitchen. Two down! One more to go.
Off to Sisi Mi’s flat I went. Sisi mi was our landlady, she and “Daddy wa” were almost always home and their door was always open. I walked in straight to Sisi mi’s room as no one was in the living room. “E ka san ma” I greeted Sisi mi, bending my knees in the process.
“Ehen jare. Ka bo. How was school?” She was folding clothes and whistling happily. She didn’t look like she had lost any money but to be safe, I had to ask. “Fine ma. Sisi mi, are you looking for your money?” I asked, impatiently shifting from one foot to the other.
Even though my miracle N5 was hiding safely under the stone, I didn’t trust the compound children not to find it. We were professional scavengers, us kids. “Iro o. Mi o so’wo nu (No. I haven’t lost any money)” said Sisi mi, “Did you find any money?” She paused to ask.
I was out the door at that time. I gave her no response. I rushed back downstairs, spit on my hand, did the sign of the cross, rolled the stone away and as I picked the N5, I whispered to our Lord Jesus, “Holy Ghost fire”. I felt good knowing the money didn’t belong to anyone in the compound and because there I was, alive, breathing and present. I put the money in my school bag and proceeded to our flat. Mama was home. Quick salutations and I was off to shower and change. It was while I ate yam and garden egg sauce for lunch that Mama asked me,
“Mama Tutu said you stopped by to ask if she’s looking for money. Why? Did you see any money?” Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Why always Mama Tutu? That woman was so loyal to my mum, I disliked her for it. The sweet garden egg sauce immediately turned sour in my mouth. I took a deep breath…
“Ah, yes I saw N5 on the floor o, by the gate. I spit on my hand and prayed on it and I didn’t disappear”. I secretly wished my mum would be happy for me but no! Then the shocker! “Who told you you’re not disappearing? As we’re talking now, I can’t see your legs. No wonderrrrr”
I smirked at mama, looked at my legs, they were strong and present. I laughed and continued to eat my lunch. “Ah. Now I can’t see your hands. Yeepa! Your head is gone! Ahhhh. Ife!!! Mama Tutu! Mama Ngozi! Sisi mi! please come oooooo, yeeeeeeeeee” Mama rushed to the kitchen balcony while she called these women.
In my mind I was wondering and laughing “So dramatic this woman. I won’t fall for it” Some minutes later, the other three witches appeared at the balcony, mama dragged them in and announced, “Ah. Help me. Ife picked money from the floor, now we can’t find her. She has disappeared”. I thought it was a joke until Sisi mi looked past me, poked her head under the chair I was seated and said “Ahhhh….I can’t find her too o. Ah! Awon omo yi!”
She continued to search frantically as Mama Tutu said wickedly, “Don’t look for her Sisi Mi, let her disappear for a while so she’ll learn her lesson”. It was then I believed, I was no more of this world. My heartbeat increased, I began to cry. “I’m here, mummy I’m here. Sisi Mi, see me here. Mummmyyyyy” “Chai! These children! Ehn! Why will she do this to us now?” Said Mama Ngozi as she walked past me to look for me in my room. I was transfixed, I couldn’t move, I cried and called to mum but she was busy looking for me in the kitchen drawers, opening and closing them repeatedly.
My eyes had become blurry, for a second, it truly looked like they too, were disappearing. I quickly wiped my tears but they kept coming, the tears. I couldn’t stop sobbing. “Ife if you can hear me, please return the money so you can join us in the world again,” Sisi mi said as she ran to the balcony to repeat herself loudly. “But Sisi mi I’m here” I cried louder. The adults looked through me.
I ran inside, took the N5 from my school bag and ran to the gate to put the money back where I found it. I shouted from downstairs, sobbing loudly, “Sisi mi, I put the money back, can you see me now?”. She took her time. Then her face lit up as she called out to my mum “Mama Bimbo, Mama Bimbo, I can see her, she has joined us again”. I ran upstairs, hugged Mama tightly as I sobbed. I was so happy to join the living again.
Mama looked happy to see me as did Sisi Mi and Mama Ngozi. This happened when I was 10. I told the story to everyone who cared to listen, warning them of the danger of picking money from the floor. It was at 15, that mama told me, I was pranked!