by Kolo Kenneth Kadiri
“Tapgun Close (or die-a-gun alley as it was locally known), was hustler heaven; a place where you could “arrange” anything.“
The night was cold. It was not traditional, like all nights – natural and usual. It was already two weeks in to harmattan, but the heavens blew more wind this night. It was the biting type. The winds were gentle though, but the cold would seep through your skin and gnaw at your bones.
Weng lay in his covering, but still shuddered from the nibbling of the cold. It was very light – the covering, and had a couple of holes in it, which let in the cold. He donned layers of soiled sox, and his head wore an awesome afro, though very unkept. These he used as coverings for his feet and the head.
His stomach had not welcomed guests all day, and it protested in condescension. This made the cold even more difficult to keep out. It rippled a dour mood over him. His cardboard did enough for protection and warmth, but the passageways for rats and the actions of weevils had rendered its job imperfect. It was in an alley, very close to the very wall that formed the end of the road. The alley was called Tapgun Close by the Metropolitan Planning Authority, and had a garden and a bar on it.
The bar and the garden seemed like misfits on this alley, but there never could have been any site better for both. Very often, the youth (and some old folks) from the vicinity, and from around, would warm up to the steps of the bar, consume loads of liquor and then proceed to the garden to tangle in all manners.
Tapgun Close was notorious for lawlessness, and the city’s authorities were really finding it difficult to deal with its numerous crimes. Many a times, gunshots emanate from thence, and the victims either lay lifeless by dawn, or require the surgeon’s knife to rectify the damage made by hot spontaneous metal.
Drug dealing, harlotry, firearms peddling, hired guns to do the highest bidder’s bidding; Weng had seen it all as he lay inconspicuous, in his corner – just another homeless hobo.
Tapgun Close (or die-a-gun alley as it was locally known), was hustler heaven; a place where you could “arrange” anything.
Weng was almost drifting, part in agony of the cold, part in the looming need for sleep, when some sound brought him back to reality. It was a car. It was obviously coming in late, and would lack the best of liquor that sold at the bar. The glitter from the car pierced through the dark, and formed figurine outlines in the vast darkness.
But it was not parked by the bar. The driver had faced the car to the adjoining street, putting the rear in the clear view of Weng. It was parked close to the garden, and carried a government registrat?ion number. Another elite in the hood he thought. “How good was life on the elite side”, he wondered? He could see the silhouette of two men in the car. They seemed relaxed, and in a conversation.
Weng looked on in admiration, and wondered what the inside of the car felt like. The nice smell, the warmth, the comfort, and maybe a stereo played the DJ’s selection on bass boost woofers. He’d only heard music blasting from the speakers at the bar. All his life, he’d only sat in buses; and in trucks, when a few times, he’d been lucky to get a job to quarry sand. The car still glittered in the dark.
Then from the garden, a posse of men approached the car. It must be one of the daredevil gangs that lurk within these gardens at night. More like him, they are wont for money. He recognized one of the young men – the one who dropped some liquor and food by his side, about an hour ago. From the car, two well dressed men emerged. One of them had a briefcase. Money for drugs Weng thought. He’d seen this scene play out countless times, where influential men come begging in the alley for narcotics, to cool off their thumping addictions. The guys who sell the drugs to these elites, work for a cartel of barons who themselves live in Porsche houses and drive the latest cars, and drink the expensive wines.
A conversation ensued between both sides. Weng was beginning to drift back to sleep, this act no longer interesting. However, the act was one, longer than usual. He opened his eyes to find them still negotiating. Then fingers started pointing seemingly in his direction, followed by surreptitious glances. But sleep was coming on strong; he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes open.
A cold chill ran through his spine – a chill that had nothing to do with the cold – when he had the laughter, it was close to his ears. His eyes flew open as another chill was added to the equation; the unmistakable chill of cold steel on his neck.
Kolo Keneth Kadiri is a social media ninja analyst and marketer. A graduate of Geography and Planning from the University of Jos, Nigeria; he finds time to scribble poetry, essays and short stories. He tweets from @kolokennethk #AnyBodyCanWrite
30 Days, 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians from across the world to share their stories and experiences – creating a meeting point where our common humanity is explored.
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