He missed the bus because of the stone in his shoe.
The vehicle whizzed past him and he skipped quickly to the side to avoid being run down, swinging the long plank in his hands at the same time. It hit the side of the bus with a resounding bang as the driver grindingly shifted into a higher gear and sped off.
Corporal Samson cursed under his breath, blinking salty sweat away. Sharp man, he thought wryly, if oga had seen what was in the boot…
“Samson!” came the sudden yell behind him. Speak of the devil, the corporal thought to himself, before he turned and snapped to attention, all in one motion, “Sir!”
The sergeant waddled towards him, struggling to buckle his belt over a protruding stomach. Samson knew the senior officer had just finished taking a dump and silently thanked heaven that his lower rank almost ensured that he wouldn’t have to shake those sweaty hands which had probably been wielding a shitty leaf or two some minutes ago.
The man stopped before him, his piggy eyes peering after the fleeing bus, “Ah! Why you let am escape? I sure say him carry better something. Kai!”, he said, biting his lower lip greedily for a moment, then favored the younger officer with a frown.
“Oga, I mark am,” Samson said hastily, holding back a wince as he felt the stone in his shoe slip through the hole in his sock, “When him pass again, I go catch am.”
The senior officer hissed venomously and snapped his fingers at Samson, who hurriedly emptied his pockets, depositing the crumpled contents into the sergeant’s hands.
Frowning in concentration, the pot-bellied officer painstakingly unfolded each note, counting laboriously. Samson allowed himself an unguarded moment, and imagined taking all that money home for himself. A new pair of socks at least, he thought wistfully, and maybe a pair of sandals for his daughter, God knows she needed….
“Na all the roger wey you don collect today be this?”, the other man snapped, “You never reach half of daily quota sef.”
Samson grinned ruefully, “Ah, Oga, day still long na.”
The man waved him away, walking back to the parked police van, “Go, work dey pass you.”
Samson grumpily moved back towards the Badagry expressway, just in time to flag down a commercial bus which had just reached the checkpoint.
The bus slid to a jerky stop, and the driver hailed him loudly, his eyes betraying his nervousness. Samson let his eyes rove over the passengers and beneath the seats as he walked slowly along the side of the bus. His sharp eyes fell on a protruding sack of rice, and he raised his gaze to meet the driver’s. The mute appeal in the man’s bloodshot eyes was something he saw and ignored everyday. And yet, today….
“Wetin you dey wait? Do the normal thing.”, he said gruffly, looking away from the sack of contraband rice, from which he could have gotten enough money to cover the entire days work.
The driver hastily proffered the folded up money, and as Samson palmed it, he heard one of the passengers hiss, “Dem no dey shame!”
He felt anger spurt through him. Anger at the judgmental passenger; at his bosses, sitting in air-conditioned offices; at himself, for doing what he must to survive…
Curtly, he waved the bus on, slipped the fifty naira note into his pocket and walked over to sit on a fairly clean stone, where he pulled off his shoe and fished the offending pebble out of his sock. One problem at a time, he thought, squinting down the sunny stretch of road at the next approaching bus. One problem at a time.