The guys’ room was bustling with activity as usual. Ekong, who was the ‘landlord’, squatting five people in the room he had initially imagined would house him alone, lay flat on his back on the king-size mattress, the only one they shared. He had just returned from the Qua Iboe Terminal (QIT) of the Exxon Mobil where he worked in the Accounts Payable department as a contract staff, and in his usual manner of unwinding after the day’s job, lay quietly, allowing the guys do most of the talking.
Ekong was a quiet unassuming, average height guy. When he’d paid for the room, he had accepted Ini to come live with him for a brief period while the latter got himself a job at QIT. Ini who had just finished his Youth Corps with the oil company was hovering around, hoping something good will result from the promises his boss made him at his Purchasing department.
Ini’s friend, Timi had tagged along. Timi had done his own service year with a public primary school within Eket and had gotten the goodwill of Ekong through Ini, to stay in the room. Three other guys were there as well - Justin, who was doing a three-month industrial attachment in Ekong’s office, Richard, an old school friend of Ekong’s who worked as a Graduate-Assistant at the University of Uyo and was holidaying for two weeks and Victor, a missionary Ekong’s pastor asked him to help with accommodation. Ekong’s plan was to get a room for Victor but till then, the guy had to make do.
However, within a few days of having a full house, the guys lived like one big happy family.
Ini, an artist sat on a low stool and worked on a canvas. Timi packed his bag as he recounted his ordeal with a white-garment lady. Victor stood just outside the back door and turned ‘concoction’ rice on the fire, and Richard browsed through a John Grisham novel, The Brethren.
“Why is this event so hard for me to accept?” Ini said, his left hand moving briskly over the oil paint canvas, undistracted.
“Because you are an atheist,” Victor said from outside. He added some crayfish to the sweet-smelling dish and turned to look at Ini.
“You’ll meet me in heaven, I assure you. If you make it there,” Ini replied and Richard smiled.
“You can believe it or not. It happened. The traffic was light, in a split second, she was there beside me and then she disappeared before she reached the other side of the road,” Timi said shoving things in his bag. He was leaving Eket. That was the word.
“I have heard of such occurrences,” Richard said, “If I am not as antagonistic as the old judges in this novel.”
“What’s the novel about?” Ini changed the topic tartly.
“It’s about three old judges in prison…”
“Who never had one single encounter with God but called themselves the brethren,” Ekong muttered and closed his eyes. Richard had gotten the book from his small collection of Grisham’s works.
“Sounds like Ini’s dream come true.” Victor hit back and laughed. Timi joined in.
“Joke’s on me, buddy,” Ini said. He gave a brief stroke of his brush across the board and stretched. “Enough for one day.” He yawned. “So, you are leaving town because of the ‘angel’” He raised his index fingers in the air and drew inverted commas. “Dressed in a flowing white-garment,” he said mockingly.
“I know what I saw. I was about to cross the road. She walked up to me, looked into my eyes and told me to leave town,” Timi said. “You’ll be hearing from me.”
“I like your faith, brother,” Victor said. He picked up a bottle on the floor beside their cooking table, and emptied the small content into the pot of boiling rice. The bubbling liquid of water mixed with ingredients spilling on to the hot stove.
There was a loud wail as Victor jumped back and covered his face. The men ran into action, controlling the fire that broke out. Ekong rushed off to the hospital with Victor whose face was badly burnt. When all the confusion settled, they looked round for what had caused the explosion.
Victor had poured fuel into the rice, thinking it was oil. It was the fuel Ini kept to make his evostick with.
Be attentive to details. It is important. It can help you beyond your imagination and save you from countless unnecessary troubles. Many people get carried away at the most important moments of their lives and lose concentration. Watch and Pray, and this is what works. If you pray alone, you can fall into the pit. If you watch alone, you’ll not get divine help. So be attentive to detail alongside every other thing you do.