Mummy Samson was my next door neighbour. I always wondered how she got to live in the Corper’s quarters where I stayed. Every afternoon when I returned from the primary school where I was posted to teach, I would always find her stationed in front of the building, on her full on vigilante mode. This afternoon was just like the rest, she was outside as usual. Samson was wrapped at her back; the first things I could see his legs hanging lazily from the ends of the wrapper that held him captive against his mother’s spine. Then his face came into view; his small round face with a head full of dreads. There were two things I could not understand; why Mummy Samson insisted on carrying her son at her back even though he was a little over 6 years old and then, the significance of his dread locks. Was that because of his mother’s white garment faith or was to imitate the actual biblical Samson, with the rapunzel hair? Rumor had it that the latter was the case. Mummy Samson claimed that before she was able to conceive, the prophet made her vow not to cut the child’s hair till he was 30. Any blade to his hair would mean death. Really? A blade to his hair, not his throat?
All these thoughts were swimming inside my head and I almost forgot to greet her. It would have been serious trouble for me, in this Ogun state, where refusing to greet elders reduces their life span. “Mummy Samson, good afternoon”, I was able to mutter just in time. “Omo yibo, bawo ni?” I’ve stayed long enough to understand what she meant but I wasn’t about to rack my head for the reply. I just chuckled and kept walking, I hoped that would suffice. I entered my one room apartment and collapsed on my bed. The bed frame creaked as if it was sympathising with me. I sighed; a deep heart breaking, toe curling sigh. I was exhausted, my body ached all over and my teeth even ached from the gum I had been chewing since break time at school. I removed the gum and stuck it to my bedpost. I counted to three and lifted myself from the bed, headed to my cupboard. There was nothing edible in it, save for a wall gecko that found its way inside somehow. My stomach was not about to have that, it growled at me, urging me to do something and do it fast. I searched the pockets of my khaki and found a crumpled up 100 naira note. It felt like winning the lottery. I lay on my bed thinking of what to eat, I could think up many things to eat but the real question was what could 100 naira get me? The logical answer was for me to drink garri, ijebu garri. That settled it then.
I tried to lift myself from the bed again but my strength failed me. I guess I was weaker than I thought I was. After a few more attempts to no avail, I just lay their staring at the plywood ceiling, praying that help would come from above. I was about drifting off to a hunger induced sleep when I heard the sound of little feet running down the passage. I stopped and listened and it headed for my door and opened it. I turned my neck and I was staring at Samson smiling at me. Did I mention that he had taking a liking to me recently? Mostly because I would come back from the school with treats for him when I was financially inclined. He would patiently wait for his mother to let him down from her back and then head straight for my room. Poor Samson, if only he knew the crayfish bending condition I was in today. Suddenly a thought occurred to me, Samson was the help from above! I beckoned for him to come closer and I asked if he could make it to the shop in front of the house to which he answered in the affirmative. I wanted to write a list of things to buy, but I wasn’t sure if either he or the store owner could read it. So I decided to make a mantra for him to recite: 1 garri, 2 sugar, 2 epa (groundnut), 1 pure water. Again: 1 garri, 2 sugar, 2 epa (groundnut), 1 pure water. Again: 1 garri, 2 sugar, 2 epa (groundnut), 1 pure water.
Heh, I guess the teacher thing was really getting to me.
It didn’t take long before Samson got back, honestly it was faster than I thought. Judging from the way his mother always carried him like you would think he was crippled. I hastily stood from the bed, I had no idea where the strength came from; hunger can make you do things, you know. I grabbed a cup and emptied the contents into it. He got everything right too, I was impressed. His mother should really stop making him seem like a helpless glass egg. I started consuming the whole thing and colour was returning to my eyes, everything was in black and white before. Samson on his own made himself comfortable on my bed, all the while staring at me, compelling me to remember that he was a co-heir to the garri I was drinking. I noticed him and made a quick mental note to leave some for him to drink. When I felt the contents were manageable enough for him to take over, I handed him the cup. As he propped himself up from the bed to receive the cup, I noticed there was a string following his head. It was the chewing gum! The one I placed on my bedpost! Of all the places to lay his head it was on that part of the bed post he chose to rest. I guess he wasn’t as bright as I thought after all. I snapped out of panic mode and decided to do something. Samson’s face was distorted, I knew he was about to cry. I went straight for my makeup purse and got a razor blade. The only thing left to do was cut the part of his dread that was stuck to the gum. The locks were all identical so no one would notice, right? I didn’t think, I just took to sawing his dreads off.
Fast forward to 30 minutes and one cup of garri later, the whole compound shook from the sound of Mummy Samson’s scream. We all ran out to the front yard to find out what had happened. Samson was on the cold cement floor, white foam gushing out of his mouth, I have never seen anyone shake so violently before. His head was touching his knee and coming right back up. His hands were flailing so fast, it was a blur. His eyes were white, as white as the garment his mother wore to church. Mummy Samson was inconsolable, all she could do was cry and scream,
Ta lo ge irun Samson (Who cut samson’s hair)?!
Ta lo ge irun omo mi (Who cut my son’s hair)?!
I was mortified; so the rumours were true after all! I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk; I just stood there frozen solid.