Ukeme’s head was not in the game. He lost round after round as they played and he opted to sit and watch the others play.
“Wetin dey do you na, Ukeme?” Soji asked him.
“Plenty things just dey my mind but even as I lose this game you know say I still be una champion for card, abi?” Ukeme answered.
“Make I hear word jor. Which champion! Go sidon jor, I play pass yu,” Usoji countered.
The boys bantered playfully but Ukeme did not join the game. They spoke of different topics and they tried to get Ukeme to laugh but his smile was stiff. The sun was high in the sky when Ukeme stood up to stretch his legs. His skinny legs were white with line marks from the places he had scratched his pockmarked skin. He walked along till he got to the gate of the Yard so lost in thought.
One of the Yard boys had mentioned that his uncle had travelled abroad going through the Sahara. Ukeme stood thinking about a way to get more information about this. Perhaps, he could help his mother and siblings. The conditions were too poor and now he was not on speaking terms with his mother. He found it hard to accept anything from he not because he was proud but because he felt that her means of livelihood would kill her and he will be left with the care of his siblings. Ukeme shook his head. he was too young to take on that responsibility. His mates were out on the streets hustling but with the government laws abut clamping down on street trading, he did not stand a chance.
He saw Vincent walk past him without sparing him a glance. Vincent wore dark shades that looked expensive and it flashed past Ukeme’s mind that Vincent was hiding something. He did not know of any student who went to the university and came back home with money. He decided to follow him slowly.
Vincent entered into a shortcut some houses away from the Yard and ket going. He was unaware that he was been followed. His phone was pressed to his ear and again, he was receiving another mystery call that he would not divulge its details. Ukeme knew it was not a girl with the way Vincent looked grim after each call. He meandered through the buildings like Vincent and walked past the path Vincent took to avoid detection. Some of the sound filtered through to him and he did not understand much from the snatches of conversation he heard.
“…hit them where it hurts. They have messed with us!”
“It is a lack of respect for us. We have to treat their disrespect. That is blatant nonsense!”
“We will show them who the boss is.”
“What do we do now? How do we proceed?”
“We will stage an attack against them. The goup from school called me and that is why I called this meeting urgently so that we can get things ready.”
“But we don’t have anything here. Our weapons are in school. The police can get us if we travel with weapons.”
“Except if there’s a snitch here. I know how to get weapons so we have t meet by tonight. We will surprise them with an attack early in the morning and we will get ready.”
“I know one baba who can help us. We will get ayeta.”
“Good idea. No problem.”
Ukeme started to head back the way he had come. He was now sure that Vincent was up to no good but he did not know what to do to help him. He had heard mention of weapons but it was too dangerous to get involved. He had to look for another way to get money. There was no easy way to make money and if he had to be a traffic hawker to help out around the house, that was his destiny.
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