|Название||The Bata Dancer|
|Автор произведения||Rotimi Ogunjobi|
The rest of the journey was thankfully concluded without further incident.
“Where can I find a hotel in this town?” Yomi asked someone along the wide highway which bisected the small town. He indeed knew he had left two hotels behind, both less than five kilometres from town; both with rates higher than what he could afford to pay. And so he wisely moved on. The helpful lad finally directed him to a place called Jolly Guest House which was further up, and near the centre of the town.
Yomi had never liked hotels. He liked this one even a lot less. The room he was offered was cramped and scantily equipped and had a single blue light bulb dangling from the ceiling , giving a suggestion of what sinister activities this accommodation was prepared to cater to most nights and possibly in the daytime too. His imagination served him images of brief sexual trysts; a more decent inner prodding however told him that such a nice and peaceful little town was unlikely to accommodate that much iniquity, at least not on a regular basis.
The room was cheap though, which was all he presently cared about. Nevertheless, he knew he couldn’t stay here for long. First, because he did not like sleeping in hotel beds, secondly because he just couldn’t afford to stay in the hotel for more than a few days. The next step of his plan was to urgently rent a flat for himself as soon as possible.
Yomi was tired and slept soundly. He woke up feeling so weak next morning. There was no running water from the shower of his en-suite room. He washed himself with water brought for him in a metal bucket. Feeling livelier, he went to the reception. The person he found there was, a neatly-dressed young man who didn’t appear to have lost any sleep during the night.
“Where can I get a bottle of tonic water?” Yomi asked, hoping to be able to find a drink to pep himself up with. The night-shift receptionist looked for a while confused.
“The medicine store is not yet opened”, the receptionist finally replied, quite confidently. Yomi smiled, thankful he had not asked for soda water. Thankful that he would probably have been, consequently served a bowl of water with a bar of laundry soap inside it.
Outside, the air was fresh, more invigorating than he had experienced for many years. He felt renewed; he felt accomplished. It was relatively unpolluted with effluents either from vehicles or from machinery. In his mind, Yomi felt like a freshly released convict, wishing to do joyful cartwheels, but mindful that the saner world would not approve. Far away he could see towering hills, completely covered with green flora and faintly enshrouded by a grey morning mist. People said those hills were inhabited by monkeys of nearly every type, but he neither saw nor heard one.
Yomi went on a hopeful stroll down the street. It was around eight in the morning but there was little traffic on the roads, and nobody seemed yet in a hurry to get any work done at all; today was Saturday. A few scantily stocked grocery kiosks were open; most offered no more than small stacks of bread on decrepit wooden tables outside and in front. He was by his nose drawn further down the road, where a portly woman fried akara in red palm oil. He bought four of the fried bean cakes together with small loaf of soft bread. He also bought a can of Coca Cola from another shop as he returned to his hotel room. The akara did an excellent job of completely waking him up. It contained whole finger of red hot chillies, which had him whistling as the pepper exploded in his mouth. Later, his breakfast concluded, he returned to the reception, which was now occupied by a hard-faced young lady, freshly resumed for the morning shift.
“Where can I find an estate agent in this town?” Yomi pleasantly enquired. The young lady appeared as nonplussed as the night-shift person; and for a long minute struggled for an appropriate response to the question. The situation was saved by the erstwhile night duty person who again emerged from a back office on his way home. He halted for a moment to ask what the conversation was all about. Yomi repeated his question for the young man”s benefit: he wanted to know where to find a real estate agent
“Why are you looking for an estate agent?” the lad asked, needlessly suspicious.
“I want to rent a small flat, or room”, Yomi explained.
The young man and the lady exchanged anxious glances. They both seemed torn between loyalty to an employer and the more desirable duty of giving a stranger a helping hand. Good breeding won.
“There is one on the main road, if you come with me, I will show you where it is”, he offered.
Yomi was quite happy to go along with him. He took the man in his car and they were there in a few minutes; after which the young man departed on his own way.
The estate agent’s office was nothing more than one of a row of shops in a thirty foot long unpainted block. His was the only shop that had a glass front, and it stood out amongst the other battened-up fronts. In front of the shop was a tripod-mounted notice board upon which some sheets of paper were tacked. Each typed sheet, Yomi would find, indicated homes listed, either for sale or for rent. The shop keeper girl he found inside made him to know that it might take some time for her boss to come. It was a little after ten; Yomi chose to wait and was given a metal chair to sit on. The shop keeper placed a call to the owner of the business to inform that a possible customer was waiting in the office. Yomi also used the opportunity to call his friend Debola, to assure him that he arrived safely at his destination. The noise of traffic, gradually built up outside as the other shops were one after the other opened.
A sweaty middle-age man arrived about forty-five minutes later, full of apologies. His name was Falana. He listened patiently as Yomi described his requirement.
“I am looking for an inexpensive accommodation – a room or a small flat.” Yomi explained to Falana.
“Where are you from?” Falana wanted to know. It was a question which Yomi did not think was unreasonable.
“I am from Ibadan and I have come to do some work here. I have just got a job to teach at a school in this town. I don’t know how long I am going to be here for, but it certainly will be for at least six months “, Yomi replied.
Falana sat with hands splayed over his face, and appeared for a long minute deep in thought, digesting the information before him. .
“I may have something for you but you will not be able to view it till tomorrow. However, before then you need to pay three thousand Naira as consultation fees”, Falana finally said. Yomi knew about these illegal fees. You had the choice of refusing to pay, and which translated to your being unable to find a place to rent.
“I will bring the money to you tomorrow, or whenever you are ready to take me to see the house”, Yomi offered. Falana seemed discomfited by this suggestion.
“I may even be able to let you see the house by this evening, if I can get the keys from the owner this afternoon”, he quickly said.
“In that case, I will bring the money this evening”, Yomi told him.
Yomi took Falana’s phone number and give him his own too, happy that Falana promised to give him a call before five in the evening. Till then he had nothing to do but explore the little town.
He drove aimlessly around the town .and even travelled as far to the nearby bigger town of Ilesha. He drove back again through Ijebu-jesha and took another turn westward down to Esa Oke where there was a small Polytechnic. The lonely road, which passed through pristine subsistence farmlands, flooded his mind with peace.
Yomi believed that Coming of the Drummer was the best play he wrote at the Heritage Theater. It was subsequently recorded for television. The fictional story was adapted from Yoruba traditional folklore about how drums and drummers came to be. Both stage play and film were so well praised that he was encouraged to do something similar.
It was shortly after, that he met Lamidi Ojedeji, whose Osumare