Cadet life on the flip side

By Bolaji Akinola

The rain stopped as Jude turned into the road that went up through the football field; coming out on to a narrow street.

There was the bungalow, better still the face-me-I-face you house with the faded painting on its wall and zinc roof. 

As Jude entered into the narrow passage, passing by stoves, woods, buckets and all manners of household items, he almost choked from nausea.

Three rooms down to his left, he tapped on the door gently.

“Well, Jude,” Kura said as he opened the door.

“Hey man. How you day?” Jude said, moving into the room.

They shook hands and embraced each other. 

“It’s cold and dry today. Not my kind of weather,” Jude said.

“It’s the harmattan wind. It’ll blow like that for a few days,” Kura said.

“Is your dad in?” Jude asked.

“No. He has gone to his shop. Come on sit.”

Jude sits on a section of the only three-seater in the room. The chair has seen better days.

“Do you have a drink,” he said.

Kurt went out to the kitchen and came back with two glasses and a bottle of local gin popularly called ogogoro.

“Is this alright?” He asked.

“Very good,” Jude said.

Kura placed the drink and glasses on the table standing between the three-seater and the bed, sitting across Jude on the bed. They drank.

Jude stretched out his legs on the centre table.

“Better take your shoes off,” Kura said.

“It’s cold and I’m not wearing any socks.”

“Well, you can’t put your shoes on the table. My parents eat on this table.”

“Can you turn the TV on,” Jude said.

“No light,” Kura said.

“Got anything to read?” he asked.

“Only an old sports newspaper.”  

“I’m not celebrating José Mourinho’s sack. I think it will affect Chelsea’s fortunes,” Jude said.

“The chosen one had to go,” Kura said.

“No one is perfect. He had his flaws but he’s still one of the best in the world,” Jude said.

“His ill-judged and inexcusable attack on the medical team after and opening draw with Swansea offered the first indication that he was losing control,” Kura said.

“I heard he left Stamford Bridge cursing. That’s not good for the team,” Jude said.

“Some said he left weeping. Anyhow, it’s not his first sack. Who knows, he might be back again someday.”

“If Man U does not snatch him.”

“They may have already known that Pep Guardiola was heading for Manchester City but now that football’s worst-kept secret is out, Manchester United have a serious question to answer in terms of their response to their noisy neighbours’ major coup.”

“Now is the time to swallow their pride and hand Jose Mourinho the job he’s been longing for.”

“But how can Man U fans who hated him at Chelsea now so desperately want him to be their next manager?’

Kura reached down the local gin bottle. His big hand went all the way around it. He poured into the glass Nick held out.

“Let’s get drunk.”

“All right,” Jude agreed.

“My old man won’t care,” Kura said.

“Are you sure?” Nick said.

“I know it,” Kura said.

“I’m a little drunk now,” Jude said.

He drained his glass. Got up and stretched like a wild cat. He held out his glass. Kura filled it.

“There’s just one more shot,” he said.

“Got any more?” Jude asked.

“There’s plenty more but dad only likes me to drink what’s open.”

“Sure,” Jude said.

“He says opening bottles is what makes drunkards,” Kura explained.

“That’s right,” said Jude. He was impressed. He had never thought of that before. He had always thought it was solitary drinking that made drunkards.

“How’s your dad?” he asked respectfully.

“He’s all right,” Kura said. He gets a little wild sometimes.”

“He’s a swell guy,” Jude said. He poured the last shot of gin into Kura’s empty glass.

“You bet your life he is,” Kura said.

“My old man’s all right,” Jude said.

“You’re damn right he is,” said Kura.

“He claims he’s never taken a drink in his life,” Jude said, as though announcing a scientific fact.

“Well, he’s a civil servant. A public officer. A court clerk at that. My old man’s a carpenter. That’s different.”

“He’s missed a lot,” Jude said sadly.

“You can’t tell,” Kura said. “Everything’s got its compensations.”

“He says he’s missed a lot himself. He’s spent all his life working for government,” Jude confessed.

“Well, my dad has had a tough time,” Kura said.

“It all evens up,” Jude said.

Kura brought another bottle of whisky. They sat drinking and talking some more.

“I really wish I could go back to school,” Kura said.

“I wish I could too. But we can’t,” Jude said.

“They won’t admit us to complete our training until we acquire seatime experience,” said Kura.

“But how do we acquire seatime experience when there are no ships for training or ships owned by Nigerians?” asked Jude.

“For the past five years since after my ND and that I’ve been at home, I’ve asked the same question everyday,” said Kura.

“You’re lucky. I finished my ND seven years ago. Can’t get a job. Can’t get a ship to do mandatory seatime. Can’t go back to school. Tough luck,” Jude said.

“Our counterparts in other parts of the world are already neck deep into their careers; making a living and supporting their families. We have to make it too. Any how. Any way,” Kura said as he got up slowly. He opened a small cupboard not far from the window. He brought out two locally made pistols neatly concealed in a brown ankara wrapper. He was now quite drunk but his head was clear. He could think clearly.

“How do you feel?” Jude asked, feeling quite drunk himself.

“Swell. I’ve just got a good edge on,” Kura said, buttoning his shirt.

“It’s good to be drunk,” said Jude.

“You can say that again,” Kura said as he downed the last shot from his glass. He handed one of the pistols to Jude who tucked it neatly into the back of his trouser.

“Now we need to go outdoors and make a living,” Jude said.

“Sure sure. Where today?” asked Kura.

“The traffic should be building on Eko Bridge by now,” Jude said.

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