UNFORGIVEN XI

…continued from UNFORGIVEN X

unforgiven

She needed to convince him that she was for real. She gave him a demure smile as she let him in; he perused her body with hungry lust and didn’t say a word as he made a dive for her and began to kiss her.

And for the first time ever, Ethel felt nauseous. That was when it dawned on her that his hold over her was broken. She could never let him touch her again.

“Easy, champion,” she chided as she pulled away, not wanting to show resistance.

“God, you look so sexy!” he mumbled, running his hand over her breasts.

She stiffened in disgust which he mistook for desire because with one hand he drew her to him, nuzzling.

“Look, I have something special planned for you. Something you’d like,” she winked at him, pecking him lightly on the lips.

“What made you change your mind, Thelia?” he asked, breathing in the scent of her skin. Good thing she’d dabbed perfume on her body before he arrived.

“I realised how much I missed you,” she purred. “Besides if we do this, you stop hounding me, so come…follow me.”

“I want you here. Let’s do it here, then we…”

“No,” the single word rang out like a threat. Ethel felt her façade begin to slip. “I mean…I want you to see what I had in mind. It’s exactly what you used to like.”

Fall for it, you idiot!

“Can’t we do that later? You’re so hot I think I’m gonna burst in my pants,” he groaned, pressing her to himself.

By all means, do.

“No, it has to be my way, honey. I promise you’ll like it. I haven’t forgotten how to take care of you; she disentangled from him and began leading him to the bedroom.

“This better be good. I could eat you, you know,” his eyes were burning with a passion she’d once shared but not anymore.

He followed her this time, touching her at every opportunity he got.

The cuffs were in plain sight and caught his eyes like she knew they would. He stared at her like a puppy that’d just been told he could have the largest bone.

“Really? That’s what you have in mind? To…play?” his eyes shone.

“Yes. I’ve missed it,” she said, casually picking up the cuffs.

“How do you want it? You want to…should I cuff you?”

“I was thinking I could cuff you first. Later, you can do me,” this was the part she needed to really put her acting skills to practice.

Charles might be horny but he wasn’t stupid. Any false step and he might smell a trap.

“Wow. You sure are in the mood. Didn’t think getting you into bed would be this…” he smirked.

He’d wanted to say ‘easy’. She could bet her last breath on it.

“Get into bed Charlie. It’s play time,” that was the phrase they used whenever they wanted to go kinky.

He obeyed, pausing for a second to unzip his fly.

Her revenge was so close she could taste it. She didn’t realise she was sweating as she cuffed his hands to the bedposts.

“What next?”

“I will take off your pants and do with you as I please,” she promptly replied.

He nodded.

And take off his pants she did. She stripped him to the very last until she bared his bulk. Looking at it, she recalled times that she’d lived for the pleasure it brought her. Not today. Not anymore.

Smiling, she walked over to her wardrobe and took out her camera.

“What…what are you doing?” he asked as he saw the camera trained on him.

“I want to see the look on your face as I strip you of the thing that makes you a man,” she spoke in a cold voice.

“What? What is this? What are you talking about? Put away the camera Ethel. This wasn’t the plan. No tapes…”

“Shut up! Shut up you murderer! You thought you would get away with it, right? You thought you’d kill my babies and go scot free?”

“What? What is this…God, what is this?” he was beginning to shake. This wasn’t just kinky sex anymore, he gathered. “Please, for God’s sake just put away the damn camera and let’s talk about this. And please uncuff me.”

“You didn’t think about God when you took away my babies. You didn’t think about me when you drugged me time and time again, you bastard! You know what? Say cheese to the camera and let’s catch your pretty face. We will show this to your precious daughters when you’re gone.”

“Ethel please, please don’t do this. Please let’s talk about this!”

“Yes, beg me. Cry. I wanna see it,” she grinned as she clicked away on the camera.

He wasn’t crying yet but she was pretty sure he soon would. She went to her wardrobe again and this time took out the kitchen knife.

“See, isn’t it beautiful?”

“Blood of Jesus!”

“His blood didn’t save you before. It won’t now. Any last words, honey?” she stroked the shiny blade with an insane glint in her eyes.

“You’re mad. Ethel you’re not well. You want to kill me? You will go to hell! You will go to prison! Ethel, think about it! Are you ready to have my blood on your hands?”

“How did you live with the blood of our babies on your hands all these years?”

“I am sorry! I didn’t mean to! Please! It was…”

“Don’t you dare blame the devil for this! This was you!”

“Forgive please!” he was blubbering now as he struggled to move, to cover his nakedness.

His erection was still there. The treacherous thing hadn’t given up even at the sight of the knife.

“I want you to call your daughters and tell them everything.”

“What? I can’t do that! You will have to kill me first!” he spat.

“Watch me,” she moved closer to him and lashed out with the knife.

It was his face she aimed for. That handsome face that had charmed so many a woman. She dragged the knife deftly over his face watching the blood ooze out with satisfaction as he twisted from side to side.

“Please. No…please…” he was crying now and bleeding. A bad combination as the salty tears fell into the open cut.

“Will you call them now?” she asked again.

“I…can’t. They’re my life. Please…don’t…do…this. God, no.”

“Why am I asking? I can easily get your phone and send the pictures to your precious daughters. That would be good huh?” she slashed his face again, anger boiling within her.

This man that’d damaged her! He deserved this!

“Nooo!” he screamed.

“Then make the call. Or I go to your balls. How would you feel if I cut that off, huh?”

“Jesus Christ!” he was weeping profusely now, tired of struggling.

“Make the call,” she moved away and began searching the pockets of his discarded trouser.

“Bingo!” she smiled, waving it in the air, “Now, what’s the name of the older one? And don’t mess with me Charlie. I still have my friend here,” she used the knife to poke his bulk.

“Please forgive me. Don’t do this. Please…I will do anything.”

“Oh. Can you bring back my babies? Or make me pregnant again? The name, Charlie! Don’t waste my time!”

“Sh…Sh..Sheila. Please don’t.”

“Ah Sheila. What a beautiful name. It would’ve been lovely for our daughter, don’t you think?”

“N…No…I mean…Y…Yes,”

“Why, Charles? Why did you do it? Wasn’t I good enough?” she couldn’t hold back her tears any longer.

“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. You…you were the best thing that happened to me…I…”

“Don’t. Don’t lie any more. It would only make your situation worse. Besides we have a phone call to make to Sheila honey.”

She punched in the letters and the name popped up.

And then she dialled.

to be continued next week…

by Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN II

Continued from Unforgiven I

unforgiven

She heard the voices around her as she began to regain consciousness. She recognized Pastor Tim and his wife Mrs Adeleke’s voice. And then the other voice. Charles’.

She didn’t want to open her eyes; she wished she could stay like that forever. She thought she’d left her past behind her… why had it come back to haunt her when she was just picking up the pieces of her life back?

“Maybe she wasn’t feeling too well,” Mrs Adeleke was saying.

“She attended service today and…anyway, let’s give her some space. I’ve prayed for her, she’ll be okay,” Pastor Tim’s voice sounded soothing.

“How long has she been in your church?” It was Charles.

She didn’t want any conversation going on about her, especially not with Charles involved. Her eyes sprang open immediately.

“She’s awake. Ethel, how do you feel now?” Mrs Adeleke leaned over her, touching her head.

“Fine. I’m okay. I guess I was just tired ma,” she sat up on the couch, her eyes avoiding Charles.

Oya come, let me put you in a cab so you can go home and rest,” Mrs Adeleke helped her to her feet.

Ethel wasn’t sure how to feel about leaving Charles alone with her Pastor. Only God knew what he would say.

“Are you sure you’re better now?” his voice filtered into her ears.

She thought she could detect a tinge of concern in it. Concern indeedCharles doesn’t care about anyone except himself. Remember that Ethel.

“Maybe someone should take her home. She might not be coherent enough in a cab,” he continued, “Tim, what do you think? I know you people have had a stressful day so you need to go home and rest. Let me take her home instead. I have my car here.”

What?? “No!” her single shout rent the air. She straightened herself, pulling away from the support of Pastor’s wife. “I’m okay. I’ll be fine in a cab sir, ma.”

She’d successfully avoided looking at Charles. Hang on Ethel. Only a few more seconds and you’d be out of here.

“Okay dear. Let’s get you a cab,” this time Mrs Adeleke led her firmly out.

She didn’t breathe easy until she was seated in the cab and on her way home. And then the tears came. The pent up emotions she’d kept for three years. The tears she’d failed to release when Charles had left her without a word.

She momentarily forgot that the cab didn’t contain just her because she let out sobs that racked her body uncontrollably.

Why now? Why this coincidence? Pastor’s brother? Charles! God!

“Madam wetin happen?” the cab man peered at her through the mirror.

She was after all; a pretty lady. It wasn’t all the time fine girls cried in his taxi. Although she hardly qualified as a girl. Woman, more likely.

She didn’t reply. Instead all he heard were sniffles and it was as though he hadn’t spoken.

Three years it’d taken her, to get what she called a semblance of her life back and now he was here to destroy it. Just like he did; all those years ago.

Not like it was entirely his fault. A voice reminded her. You weren’t exactly blameless.

Where are you at times like this Jesus? Why don’t you just strike some people dead so they don’t have to ruin other people’s lives? She wondered.

And yet she knew He wouldn’t do that. No, God was far too kind to strike Charles dead.

And what about me?

The taxi rolled to a stop and it wasn’t until the driver honked three times that she realized she was home.

She fumbled in her bag for her wallet, tears and catarrh dripping from everywhere possible on her face. She didn’t bother to wipe them off as she rummaged her bag.

“How much is it?” she asked.

“No worry. Dat other madam don pay,” he replied, watching her curiously.

Ah. Pastor’s wife. Such a kind soul. Everyone was kind in Harvest of Hope church. Perhaps that’s why she found solace there; hoping that a little of the kindness would rub off on her and make her kind too. She sure needed to do some kind acts to atone for her past.

She stumbled out of the cab, clutching her bag in one hand and her high heels in the other.

Walk bare feet. Who cares? After all, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.

What does that have to do with anything? Jesus isn’t going to wash my feet no matter how filthy they are.

The conversation in her head made little sense to Ethel as she walked up to her doorstep; yet she welcomed it. She’d taken refuge in those imaginary conversations when she was younger; when Mum was busy with another client. They kept her company, sometimes the voices were witty and sometimes they were cruel. To her and to others.

But they were all she had when there was no one to talk to.

She unlocked the door to her one room apartment and stepped in. Home; sweet home. More like home, sour home. This used to be the other place she liked being, apart from church. But right now, it felt like the last place she wanted to be.

Maybe the morgue would have been better. No trouble there.

She wanted to cry some more, to make herself feel better but she realised she was closing up again. The self-protective wall was coming up again; making it impossible for her to shed more tears.

Slowly, she walked to the bathroom and peeled off her clothes. A shower was the next thing on her mind. It would make her feel better, cleaner.

But it won’t make her forget the fact that Charles was back. In town. At least not in her life. He would never get that part of her again. So why was she afraid? He was over and done with. Her past was past…she was born again now.

So why don’t I feel like it? Why don’t I feel new? Why don’t I feel forgiven?

The pattering of the water drops on her body did nothing to answer those questions. She showered in silence, no humming and no voices.

It didn’t take long for her to fall asleep on the couch in the living room. It was when she woke up five hours later that she realized how exhausted she was.

The doorbell began ringing the exact moment she woke. She glanced at the clock; 7:06pm. Who could that be? A neighbour?

“Who is it?” she asked.

“Maria!”

Just as she thoughtHer neighbour.

“Okay. I’m coming.”

“So what do you want…” the words died on her lips as she opened the door. It was Maria all right; but right behind her, stood Charles.

 

…to be continued next week

 

By Mimi Adebayo

 

The Medallion – Found.

…continued from The Medallion V

They had found it; they had found The Medallion.

medallion04

The man who Simon had identified as Joseph of Arimathea spread out a length of white linen on the floor with which he wrapped up the body of Jesus. Mary and the other woman put the handkerchief containing the blood-drenched soil – and unknown to them, The Medallion – in with the corpse just before it was wrapped. The corpse was placed in a pulled cart and the procession, soldiers inclusive, headed west of the city where the sepulchers were located. Rufus and Simon followed.

They reached a tomb which from the looks of it had been freshly dug. Joseph led the way in and they laid the wrapped corpse in the tomb. The women dragged Mary away who was still weeping uncontrollably and all the men present combined strength to roll a heavy stone across the mouth of the tomb. The centurion ordered four of the soldiers to stand guard at the tomb while he retired towards the city with the rest of his men. The young man who had been at the foot of the cross of Jesus with Mary persuaded her to come away with him; the weeping women of Jerusalem followed, most of them dry-eyed with exhaustion. Joseph of Arimathea and Nichodemus brought up the rear.

There was not much that Rufus could do; even if he somehow overpowered the four soldiers standing guard, he had no means to get past the massive stone which had taken the combined strength of over a dozen men to roll over the mouth of the tomb. Also Simon was anxious to return to their sons whom they had left asleep at Golgotha. With one last look at the sealed tomb, Rufus turned and left with Simon.

He would be back.

*** *** ***

“Eleazer, douse your light quickly!”

The boy obeyed. Rufus put a hand to his lips and stealthily, crawled closer behind a prominent rock from where the mouth of the tomb was clearly visible. Eleazer followed suit. The tomb was a little bee-hive of activity; the soldiers on guard duty had positioned lit torches at strategic corners lending more visibility to the already moonlit night and they sat around dozing, playing games, eating, drinking and jesting.

It was almost midnight on Sabbath day and well into the Feast of Unleavened bread. After they departed the tomb the day before, Rufus had left with Simon to the latter’s house where he had heard the whole story of this Jesus who was called the Christ. Rufus was intrigued by the stories of healings, resurrections, exhortations and miracles which Simon regaled him with about this man.

Rufus could not however, fathom why a man with such powers could not have saved himself from the shameful death he had died. In his shoes, Rufus fantasized over the numerous ways in which he would have ensured the painful demise of his attackers – a snap of his fingers and a man would lose his arm, one smile and all the teeth in one soldier’s mouth would dissolve into red-hot molten metal, one arched brow and the ground would open up to swallow that fat Pilate with his shiny basin of water. The deeds of this Jesus as Simon had told them – and Rufus had confirmed from a good number of people – certainly put any of these retributions within the man’s capacity. Yet he had meekly followed his captors, like a lamb to the slaughter, to death on the cross.

In his quest for answers, Rufus accompanied Simon to the temple on the Sabbath day; the look on Eleazer’s face said volumes about how often his father visited such premises. But Rufus was a man seeking answers. He was disappointed though. The temple was over-run by the ‘pricks’ as the followers of the dead Jesus had all disappeared. The entire Sabbath day was dedicated to denigrating what was left of the memory of the man crucified the day before. One by one, the priests rose and spewed a litany of offences Jesus had been guilty of: he had cured Alphonso’s withered hand on a Sabbath day, he had dared to heal Ebenezer, a leper, neither he nor his disciples were ever seen fasting with ash on their heads or anguish on their faces, he even mustered the audacity to quench a storm sent by the Almighty,God of Moses.

Rufus could scarcely believe the sheer blasphemy and sycophancy that played out before him. He did learn one interesting piece of news though – Jesus had said that after he died, he would rise on the third day. If there was any truth to this – the man had quite a reputation for keeping to his word – Rufus felt deep within him that something of some significance would indeed happen at that tomb on the prophesied day. He hadn’t told Simon of his plan to return to the tomb because they had both agreed that The Medallion was a lost cause. But he had known he would be going there.

Rufus was unsure what drew him to the tomb – was it The Medallion which had been buried with the man or the man who had been buried with The Medallion? Whichever, it was strong enough to pull him after he left Simon’s with Eleazer in tow, westwards towards the guarded tomb rather than eastwards towards Bethany. They had hung around dozing and munching on strips of unleavened bread while waiting for darkness to fall. Now it was dark and they crouched behind a rock few meters away from the soldiers and the tomb. What next, Rufus had no idea.

As the city bells clung midnight, the earth reverberated soundly. Rufus thought he had imagined it until he saw the look on Eleazer’s face. Then the ground shook again, this time with a ferocity that made the quake of the crucifixion day feel like child’s play. Rufus anchored himself firmly to the rock while holding on to Eleazer with his spare arm. The soldiers’ noises quieted down in an instant as they looked about with terrified eyes each struggling to maintain balance.

Suddenly, a wraith appeared in a halo of white light so bright that Rufus inadvertently let go of Eleazer to shield his eyes. This form gradually grew in visibility till it took the form of a big man in a flowing white robe cinched at the waist by a wide glistening belt. From the belt hung a sword with a glistening handle that crackled with charges; the man’s entire ensemble gave off a pristine glow, calm and white. Thunder rolled and perpetual lines of lightning divided the midnight sky.

The glowing man glided – for that was the only word for the way he moved – over to the stone that sealed the tomb and Rufus saw then that he had two massive wings. The wings were like those of a giant-sized eagle, a snow-white giant eagle with feathers which looked to be as soft as wool from Shechem. They flapped once, the wings, sending everything – man, beast and thing – in the vicinity flying off in a gale of strong wind.

Rufus felt certain that the vision before him must be God and from a distant childhood memory, he remembered the saying that no one ever saw God and lived to tell the tale. So he quickly put his hands over Eleazer’s eyes and cursed the fatal fate that had seen him come across this Christ.

The vision raised one glowing hand and the stone over the tomb’s entrance started to roll away. In his amazement, Rufus’ jaw dropped down and his hands fell away from Eleazer’s eyes. He had seen a dozen men roll that stone across the tomb’s entrance, huffing and puffing to the brinks of their very lives’ breaths. But before him, the same stone now rolled, as if on oiled wheels away from the mouth of the tomb. As it rolled away, the tomb’s entrance peeped through as a crack through which light – a white light brighter than the glow of the winged vision, if such a thing was possible – shimmered.

The farther away the stone rolled, the wider the crack grew and the more of this brighter incandescence it oozed. The illumination that poured out of the mouth of the tomb after it was fully opened was glory in itself; it glided over one’s skin with the warmth of a soothing balm, white and blinding but indeed calming to the eye. It flooding the entire hillside and the skies above with a luminescence so bright that the air shimmered like a pristine veil over the grasses which glittered like transparent glass.

In the midst of all this resplendence, Jesus emerged from the tomb, flying without wings. The white linen in which he had been wrapped hung over him loosely hooked over his shoulder; it twinkled with stars and even more light poured out of the holes which the nails had made in his hands and feet. The expression on his face was of peace, a calm dignified peace and royalty. A halo of warm gold encircled his head and the tips of his beard seemed to be on fire – it was like looking into the sun from just ten paces away.

Suddenly his eyes, burning a triumphant yellow, settled on Rufus where he stood dazed. A thrill, akin to the one he had felt when Jesus looked at him from atop the cross at Golgotha, raced through his marrows and settled like a warm pool in feet Rufus could barely feel. Staring up into the face of the resurrected Jesus, Rufus knew he was a dead man.

Slowly, Jesus began to rise up into the skies, his stately face and arms raised up to the night sky awash with heavenly splendor. The winged vision from earlier fell down on one knee, clasped his hands together as if in prayer and bowed his head; his massive snow-white wings came together at his back with their glowing tips pointing downwards. Had Rufus been thinking, he would have fallen on his knees too but he was lost to the luxury of human though. A warm heady feeling coursed through his veins like warm honey, and as the resurrected Jesus vanished from sight, and with him the phenomenal light and vision, he felt a lightness take its place, a sweet friendly lightness. Like a second chance.

Darkness resettled quickly upon the entire hillside; the wind howled, its noise given a hollow timbre by the open deeps of the now-empty tomb. Crickets chirped, their music given a mournful tinge by the emptiness left behind by the departed light. Rufus stood with Eleazer, oblivious of the scampering soldiers, staring upwards into the dark of the now moonless night.

A series of tugs on his sleeve woke Rufus from his shocked state. He stared down at Eleazer and could not believe that they both were still alive.

“We should go, Father”

The boy’s eyes gave away nothing. It was almost as though he hadn’t just seen God rise from the dead; yes, he was God, Rufus admitted. There was indeed a God and Rufus had just watched Him defeat the great power of death without uttering a word. A God of light; no noise, just light and love.

Another pull on his arm, this time leading, shook Rufus back to his surroundings. Eleazer had taken his hand and was pulling them both towards the city gates – the trip to Bethany was definitely cancelled for the night.

Rufus was amazed to find that his legs worked. Totter by totter, he followed his son across the rock-strewn hillside still dazed. The lightness he felt in his bones was slightly dizzying, and he hadn’t realized it but his throat was parched shut with a thirsty dryness. Signaling to Eleazer to hold on, Rufus reached into his robe for his water flask.

He felt something else in the pocket, something he hadn’t put there. Not knowing what to expect, Rufus pulled it out; it was a small bundle wrapped in a spotless white cloth, the finest piece of silk he had ever seen.

His breath hitching, fingers quivering, unbelieving, Rufus unwrapped the bundle. And it was right there, staring him in the face.

The Medallion.

 

***THE END***

I apologize for the tardiness on delivery of this piece. It has been a great experience walking you through the path of Rufus’ journey in the hunt for The Medallion. May His encounter with the risen Christ replicate itself in various ways in our individual lives, Amen.

HAVE A VERY MERRY EASTER!

Winners of The Medallion prediction and ‘first-to-comment’ prizes will be announced soon.

The Medallion – IV

…continued from The Medallion – III

“His mother, Mary” he answered.

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Under the barrage of spittle, stones and lashes, the man rose again. Rufus didn’t understand why he didn’t just stay down – he stood and hoisted the cross higher onto his shoulder, teeth chattering, knees locked together at a very unnatural angle and quaking uncontrollably. He rested his head very briefly against the brutish wood of the cross for a minute and as Rufus watched, two trails of tears escaped from beneath his shut lids. A moment passed, two moments, and the eye lids quivered open again.

Rufus could understand pain, he didn’t spend all those years in the colony without knowing suffering. But what astounded him in the scene unfolding before him was the acceptance in the eyes of the condemned man. It wasn’t a bitter resignation to a doomed fate, nor was it a grudging acquiescence brimming with hate and a hunger for revenge. It was acceptance, peace and a forgiveness that shone through the sheen of tears in his eyes upon the raving crowd. A look that – incredible as the mere thought of it was – looked very much like love.

The last time Rufus saw that look in the eyes of a suffering man, Eli had his head on the cleaver’s slab and his eyes on his wife of a half moon, her belly rounded like the full moon. All those years ago in the clan, Eli had paid the ultimate price for his wife’s carelessness; he loved her, he had said, and would die to save her life. Rufus had thought – and still did – it a foolish price to pay for a woman; maybe for a child, a worthy and only child, but not for a woman or any other human.

Whatever cause it was this man had been condemned for – he was clearly no criminal – had him sunk like a holed up fisherman’s canoe. Jesus visibly wanted to carry the cross; it looked like he felt a compulsion to bear the travails, to see it to the end. Clenching his blood-lined teeth behind the quivering but determined line of his chapped lips, he took one slow step forward. Then another one, this time much slower and a tad bit shaky. Then another. Unsurprisingly and to the tumultuous glee of the crowd, he tumbled to the dust again, the gargantuan cross landing on him with an audible oomf! There was no cause, Rufus concluded, – living or dead – that is worth this much agony. It was plain foolishness.

Out of the corner of his eye, Rufus noticed a sudden movement and turned swiftly to spot Alexander in the process of running towards the fallen man. Simon was faster than Rufus to reach him but not too fast that the soldiers did not notice the boy’s action. One of them brandished a horsewhip and advanced towards the duo of Simon and Alexander; father slid in front of son completely shielding him while one hand stayed outstretched in mute supplication. The soldier reached them and flexed the whip. Unconsciously and without realizing why, Rufus started to step forward.

Oy! What do we have here?”

Rufus let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. An older soldier – the centurion, Rufus deciphered from the plumage that adorned his helmet – neared the trio.

“What do we have here?” he demanded again. The junior officer stuttered a spurious tale of how the little boy barely the height of a grown man’s waist had attempted to save Jesus from the midst of an army of soldiers.

The centurion quietly stared at his subordinate for a few moments, as if giving him time for the absurdity of his claims to sink in. Then he asked in that steely tone that only mastered authority could manage, “And you were going to do what with the whip, soldier?”

There was no reply.

The centurion released an exasperated sigh and turned his attention to Simon, the plume on his helmet waving in the air like a withered flag. “You’re the little one’s father?” Simon nodded, the nervous bob of his Adam’s apple visibly straining against his scrawny neck. He swallowed. Bob. Bob.

“What is your name, sire?”

“Simon” Bob. “Simon of Cyrene” Bob bob.

“Well, Simon of Cyrene,” the centurion drawled, “looks like your lad has got himself in a mighty load of trouble here” – he drawled the ‘mighty’ for the benefit of the nearby listening crowd who accordingly snickered while the young soldier burned red – “but you look like a reasonable man and I’m willing to work with you”

“Y-y-yes” Bob. Bob. “Y-yes, s-s-sir” Bob bob.

“Good man,” the centurion answered. “See we’re having a little problem getting the king of the Jews here up to Golgotha where his coronation ceremony awaits.” More snickers from the crowd. “You could help out by carrying his cross? Golgotha is only a few yards beyond the city gates; we’ll take over once we get there”

Bob. Bob. Simon turned slightly to look down at Alexander whose head was firmly wedged into his back, then at little Rufus standing a few meters behind looking lost and alone in the crowd. When he raised his face to the centurion, it was clear Simon intended to refuse. He opened his mouth to say the words.

“I’ll take them” Rufus heard himself say. Futuo! What?

“You will?” Simon asked him, suspicious furrows creasing his brow.

Yes, you will? Rufus queried himself.

He cursed some more beneath his breath. “Yes, I’ll bring your boys along” he said, and for good measure, stepped up and took the hand of little Rufus.

Simon looked him square in the eye for only a split second and for no reason Rufus could comprehend, trusted. He spoke a few inaudible words to Alexander then shooed him towards Rufus before straightening to face the centurion a determined look in his eyes. Simon walked towards the cross and hoisted it, he staggered a little then hoisted it higher and plunged towards the city gates, a tiny vein straining in the center of his forehead. The soldiers hustled up the totally battered Jesus and pushed him forward in Simon’s wake. The barrage of abuse continued from all sides.

There goes my shortcut to The Medallion, Rufus sighed. As displeased as he was with his newly acquired nanny role, Simon was his only hope of finding the treasure, especially considering the blood-craze that had enveloped just about everybody else. In Ninny’s beards – as his father would say – he had no choice.

Rufus hoisted Alexander onto his back, wrapped little Rufus – whose little face was already scrunched up, wailing nonstop – around the front of him and held Eleazer’s hand tight as the crowd thronged forward in the wake of the condemned man. Looking like a double-shelled turtle, Rufus waited for the entire crowd to go by then he brought up the rear. He patted the scroll where it was firmly lodged in the inner compartment of his robe. This was all that mattered to him, this treasure. And nothing else. No one else.

Rufus soon trailed far behind the excited crowd. He even stopped to rest on the way a couple of times. When he reached Golgotha, two men had already been crucified and hoisted up on the hill. The bigger cross to which Jesus was nailed was being hoisted between the two already crucified supported by a large boulder of rock, the largest in the vicinity. The inscription above the bowed head of Jesus read, “Behold, the king of the Jews”.

One would think that these dogs would at least cover them with loincloths, Rufus spat. He turned Alexander’s head away from the crudeness – Eleazer was no stranger to such sights and little Rufus was by now snoring softly against his chest. Looking around, he quickly spotted Simon seated on a small rock some distance away, obviously spent by the tortuous climb beneath the weight of that cross. On sighting his father, Alexander pulled away and raced into Simon’s arms. Rufus made over to them, he laid the still sleeping Rufus on a small piece of cloth Eleazer took out of his bag. He drank some water, offered Simon some then sat down to catch his breath.

“Hold it!!!” Rufus bolted up, one hand automatically reaching for his dagger…

…to be continued

BANKY W’S VERSION OF WHAT HAPPENED ON THE INFAMOUS ARIK FLIGHT TO NEW YORK

 

The buzz has been on about this – Banky W’s version of waht happened on the NY-bound flight, between March 31st and April 1st, 2014. Here it is; I think he writes well for a ‘Nigerian’ artiste – pardon my justifiable (you must admit) subscription to stereotype. Enjoy!

Banky_w_passengers_arik

Recently, footage from a camera phone has surfaced online about the dire circumstances that passengers suffered prior to take-off, on board an Arik Air flight from Lagos to New York; I was one of the passengers. For anyone who has not seen the footage, it’s available on Youtube and various News Websites and Blogs. However, for purposes of this write-up, I will recount what happened.

The flight was scheduled to take off at about 11: 50 pm on March 31st 2014. Boarding was completed on time, and all the passengers settled in their seats and prepared for the flight to begin. However, there seemed to be a delay in operations because although the ground crew had exited the aircraft and the cabin doors were shut, we weren’t moving. The pilot announced that there was a small delay in the ground crew operations on the plane, and that we should be patient as the flight would depart “in a few minutes”.

The problem was, the air conditioning was not turned on. Midnight soon passed, and there was still no A/C, neither did it feel like we were going anywhere, anytime soon. Passengers were vigorously fanning themselves, asking for water and ice from the Crew, and doing whatever they could to stay cool and hydrated. The reality was that the heat in the plane was quite frankly unbearable. It’s hot enough in Nigeria these days, and then you couple that with a cabin whose doors have been shut, and a bunch of people locked inside that enclosed space… suffice it to say it escalated from bad to worse very quickly. The Captain made another announcement about how he’s “sorry for the delay, but it was due to the ground operations”, and that there was only one engine on and that was why the A/C could not be turned on yet. By now it was well past 12:30 and people were becoming extremely frustrated. Parents had begun taking the clothes off their children, children were crying, one lady looked like she would faint. Still, there was no further update on when we would take off and when the A/C would come on.

Almost an hour into this debacle, many passengers became justifiably irate. We were all drenched in sweat, burning hot, and it was hard to breathe properly. Now, let me interject here to say this… I believe that up till now, it was actually Arik’s policy to not turn on the A/C on their Aircrafts until take-off. I’m not sure why, but I’ve flown on many of their local routes within Nigeria and 100% of the time, this is always the case. The difference though is that usually, once boarding has been completed, it only takes a few minutes before take-off begins, and the A/C comes on pretty quickly, so while it’s unacceptable, it has been… tolerable. In this case however, we had been on board for well over an hour, and now passengers that had surged up front into my section actually said people were fainting, and more people were going to pass out. It was disastrous, to say the least.

Just before the passengers surged into my section up front (I was in seat 1A), I actually saw the pilots pull the one foreign air hostess into the cockpit and lock the door behind them. I suspect that either the A/C may have been on in the Cockpit, or that he was concerned for his and her safety because the shouting from the back indicated that people were in a state of panic and riot. Either way, I thought his actions came off as incredibly ignorant and prejudice against the Nigerian Staff (who were doing their absolute best to try and calm people down), and against the very Nigerian passengers who he was employed to take care of. As the people surged up front and started banging on the cockpit door, the Captain made yet another announcement that people should be patient for a few more minutes, and of course it had been well over an hour so none of the irate passengers were having it. He also said that if people did not go back to their assigned seats, he would have to call the police. Of course this did nothing but provide further incentive for people to be angry, frustrated, irate… you name it.
By this time, the entire section around my seat was filled with screaming passengers, banging on the cockpit door and yelling at the Nigerian Staff who were still pleading with us. I actually feared for the safety of the Air Hostesses, and for the equipment on the plane; the captain was not saying anything to calm people down, and would not dare show his face, and was not hearkening to the cries of people that he should open the cabin doors and let us out until they were actually ready to take off.

I feared that more drastic measures were going to be taken by the irate passengers, which is why I stood up at that point to try and calm them down. My reasoning was that I’d been on enough Arik flights to know that this was their policy, so I didn’t feel like the plane was not fit to fly. I suggested that seeing as we’d already waited that long, we give them another 5-10 minutes, because if we disrupted the flight or caused damage, they would have to kick us off and begin the entire process from start. Some of the passengers calmed down after I spoke, while some were just intent on fighting or doing something drastic to express their displeasure… (one very short angry man actually tried to take out his anger on me, but I felt bad for him so I didn’t let that escalate).

In any case, soon after that, the Captain announced he was beginning take-off procedures, and I felt the A/C come on. This further helped me make my case to the passengers, and most of the people started going back to their seats. What further shocked me at this point was that the Captain actually started taxiing the plane on the runway, while people were still making their way back to their seats. This seemed to be both dangerous AND illegal, in my opinion. To be fair though, it did motivate people to quickly rush back to their seats. Including our short and irate friend who at this time was screaming at the top of his lungs, and topless. After this though, the rest of the flight went on incident free, thank God.

Many news agencies, upon seeing me in the footage online, have contacted me asking for details of what happened, and my opinion on the incident. My thoughts are as follows: it was an avoidable disaster, and one that could have ended up much worse for the staff and equipment of Arik Air. This policy of enclosing passengers within a cabin with no A/C is senseless; I suspect that it saves them some money because they don’t need to rent/buy ground power units to power the planes while they finish their operations, but it is unfair, cruel and inhumane to the clients of the airline to subject their comfort and even health to such conditions, all in the name of cutting costs.

A few years ago, I took this flight route on Arik Air for the first time, primarily because I needed to be in NYC as quickly as possible on business, and they were the only carrier that went directly with no layovers. I was very impressed by pretty much every aspect of the flight. It was convenient and clean; the seats were big and comfortable; the staff was friendly and courteous; I was so impressed that for a short while, I stopped using my usual international Carriers. The one downside at the time, was that the food wasn’t quite the best, and there was no frequent flier mileage program. I remember filling out a suggestion form at the time, along with some other passengers, and we all commented that the food could be better. Shortly after that, I was beyond impressed to find that they had changed their menu and food supplier, and stepped up the quality to the point that it was as good, or better than most other carriers. It felt like they were really responding to the needs and expectations of their patrons, and I thought this was a great start for the Airline.

I’m a proud Nigerian… and I’m a fan of all things good that are Nigerian. We have many issues as a country, but I’ve always been of the opinion that we have to fix ourselves. We have to police ourselves, and play our part in changing Nigeria and making Her better. As such, whenever possible, I try to support Nigerian owned businesses. My suits, for instance, are made by Mai Atafo; he has impressed me so much that I now refuse to buy suits from anywhere else in the world, because of the quality of his craftsmanship; and it is a source of pride for me when I’m asked by colleagues, clients and fans around the world where I got my suit from, and I’m able to tell them that it was made by a Nigerian Designer.

Arik is currently our only airline that flies to international cities like London and New York; however instead of being a source of pride, they’ve allowed their standards to drop over time. There are 24 seats in my section, about 10 of them are not functional and have not been in months. The entertainment system is a joke; there are only a handful of tv shows and films available for viewing, and they are the same exact films/shows that were available years ago when they started flying to NYC. They literally have not changed the movies in YEARS. They just flat out refuse to upgrade what they have, and seem content to let it deteriorate. There is still no frequent flier program, even though for years they told passengers to hold on to their boarding passes, as it would soon commence. “Soon” has taken an eternity with no end in sight. Attention to detail is crucial, and very often, it is the difference between greatness and mediocrity; between growth and decline, success and failure.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out some of the positives that the airline still has. For one, I’ve found their Nigerian staff to be very polite, courteous and helpful. The food quality is still great – I have no complaints on anything I’ve tasted so far, other than the fish peppersoup – yuck! The duck however, was fantastic, as well as everything else I’ve eaten on board. Generally speaking, their cleanliness standards have not dropped either, thank God. And lastly, the direct flight to NYC remains as convenient as it gets for someone like me who sometimes needs to save time spent in European layovers.

I’ve witnessed them make positive changes before due to the suggestion surveys passengers filled out; my hope, in writing this, is that they do the same again, fix the issues and give us a Nigerian Airline that will be a source of pride, not pain.

 Banky W.

PS: Not everyone needs to be in NYC like myself; I suggest to the powers that be, to try and partner with an American carrier, so that once you touch down in NY, you can easily transition to a local flight to take you to your final destination.

PPS: I apologize for the extremely long article. I have even more to say but this will have to do.