Monday, 4 February 2019

The Plan (pt. 1)

“You are not paying attention!” his uncle’s harsh voice brought Ikenna back to reality, away from his fantasy about food. It was not his fault that he wasn’t concentrating on what Uncle Chudi was telling him; it was the fault of his complaining stomach and the aroma of fish stew that drifted from the rickety canteen nearby.

Nevertheless, he lied, “I’m paying attention, Uncle.”

His uncle’s narrowed eyes told him that he didn’t buy that lie and his next statement proved it, “If you have been listening, what did I say last?”

Ehnuhm,” Ikenna mumbled, trying to think of something to say.

“Shut up there!” his uncle yelled, lapsing temporarily from the Igbo they had been conversing in to English. Ikenna cringed, but was thankful that the shout wasn’t followed with a knock on the head. Uncle Chudi had a short temper and was always quick to strike out in anger. “I’ll go over the plan again, and you better pay close attention this time or I swear…”

Ikenna had come to the city to stay with his uncle three days ago, enticed by promises of being sent to school while learning a trade that would fetch him money. The idea of the burden of his school fees being taken on by someone else had made his parents all too happy to let him go. But here he was in the big city with his uncle, all the wonderful things he had been promised still far from happening.

“Let’s leave school for now,” Uncle Chudi told him on his second day in the city. “Let me show you how to make money first. That is the most important thing, you know. Money. In this life, without money you are nothing. Many people have been to school but have no money, so what’s the point of going to school if you cannot learn how to make money fast?”

“When will you show me how to make money?” Ikenna had questioned. Disappointed about not going to school as he had been, he was still excited about the thought of making it big in the city.

“Tomorrow afternoon, I will show you,” Uncle Chudi had promised him.

Now they were out on the street, about to make money. It was nothing like Ikenna had expected, though. He had thought Uncle Chudi would take him to a place at which he could learn a trade or craft, not out here in the scorching sun with a ‘plan’ that wasn’t too clear; a plan which he was still struggling to understand. It did not help matters any that he hadn’t had any breakfast. Uncle Chudi had said they would not eat till they had made some money.

“Like I said before,” his uncle continued. “I will choose a woman in the crowd. When I point to her, you go over to her, looking as pitiful as you can. Then you tell her that you are lost…”

“But why? I am not lost…” Ikenna broke in.

Uncle Chudi’s face went dark with anger. He looked like he was about to smack him hard, but did not. “Ask me another stupid question and you will see what I would do to you,” he threatened instead. “Just listen to what I’m saying and do exactly what I ask you to do. When she asks you where you stay, tell her you don’t know as you came from the village to stay with relatives. Then add that you know it is close to a cinema but don’t know how to find your way there. She might offer to take you there, and once she does, go with her. When you are close to the cinema, tell her that now you can recall better, and that you are certain the alley beside the cinema leads to the street at which your relatives reside. Do your best, cry if you have to, to make her go into the alley with you. And that’s it. That’s all you have to do.”

That was the plan? Ikenna was stumped. He couldn’t imagine how a plan like that could fetch them money, but knew better than to question his uncle again. He had had two close shaves already and was certain that upon the third provocation, his uncle would not hesitate to hit him. Uncle Chudi was his father’s youngest brother, and like his father, he was a short, thickset man with strong hands—hands whose strength Ikenna had felt twice since coming to stay with him.

“Do you understand all I have said?” Uncle Chudi was asking.

He nodded.

“Good. Now, just wait till I point someone out to you. And you better not mess up. If you don’t carry out this assignment successfully, no food for you o. Ehn ehn,” Uncle Chudi informed him. “As they say, no food for lazy man and you are a man now, Ikenna, no more a child. You see, in this city, one has to be smart to make money; if you are not smart, you will remain poor forever. Count yourself lucky that you have an uncle like me to teach you smartness.”

The Story Continues>>> Click Here for Part 2

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