“Eddie Iroh is a wonderful writer”, he said as he studied the cover design of the book. Ure Chokwe sat there, busy with cracking his nuts and didn’t look up to see my father stare down at him in recognition; a recognition that brought back memories, a tear drop, a sigh and a toothless grin.
“I’ve finished the book already”
“Really? The term hasn’t even started yet!”
I kept quiet. I didn’t want to tell him how many times I had read the book before the start of the new term. I didn’t want to tell him how many other books I had read before the start of the new term; he would scream, surely.
“Tell me about the book”
I was bewildered.
“I thought you must have read it. You just said Eddie Iroh is a wonderful writer!”
“Yes, referring to the writer, sir. I didn’t say anything about the book”
Well, true, I thought. He must have written other books other than Without A Silver Spoon.
I began to tell my father the story of Ure and Dede and their impoverished state and his school teacher and the distrust and the signed yam and the stolen money and false accusations and blotting paper and ink and the recovery of the stolen money and the happy ending.
In that thirty minutes it took me to sum the story for him, my father turned very pale and only smiled at the end. I asked what was wrong with him and he only smiled at me.
“You’ll never go through that my dear”, he said, patting my head, “because some people already went through that for you”.
Michael threw his arms and legs in all directions as he slipped back into consciousness. He realised what the splash of water in his dream was about now as he struggled to become fully alert in the early morning darkness, while he searched frantically for the raft he was on, which should not be too far away, by his calculations. He mumbled a silent prayer and almost immediately the moon appeared from behind the clouds and he could see the raft just a few yards away. Amazed by the quick answer, he looked up in gratitude before swimming towards the raft, which he gained in no time.
The raft was composed of six felled timber logs he had gotten for six weeks labour from a landowner, tied together with strong ropes. There were two Apoi men asleep on the raft; men who had engaged him to convey them to Lagos for a little fee. Michael quickly recovered the long stick that server as his oar and resumed his task of steering the raft to Lagos. He was grateful he fell into the river at the time he did, or he would not have made the right turn towards Lagos, where he would sell the timber at Ebute-Metta before proceeding into the streets of Lagos Island where he would sell the raffia mats and hand-made shoes he had worked on all holiday and were now neatly packaged on the raft.
The journey back home would be faster and he would be in time to meet the third week of school. He would be able to study hard and gain a scholarship and get a good job after that. He dreamt of working in a big company in Lagos where he would earn big money and drive a big car. He dreamt of making sure none of his children ever had to make this same journey from Ondo to Lagos on a raft in order to pay school fees.