LEFT TO CHANCE

He bought his car when I was less than 10 years old. I am now 15 and he still drives that old, rickety vehicle. The car is a small Toyota, with old, torn seats and worn-out paint. The headlights are broken and the car bounces like a beach ball when it hits a hilly road. Dad says the engine is still working perfectly even after 7 years! “At least, our car can overtake some other cars”, he said after he slowly sped past a truck. He bought the car at a giveaway price.

Dad left home before breakfast was ready. He told me to bring him breakfast at work and I did. I don’t like going to his office because I don’t have the right clothes to wear but when I go, I spend time in the library. Today, I stayed in the library and read quite a number of books. Dad walked into the library just after I had finished reading a comic book. He wanted to introduce me to his colleagues. He said “Come, let me take you to see somebody”.

I reluctantly followed him and knew I had to maintain a neutral look whenever any of his colleagues patted my back or held my cheeks to marvel at how mature I was since the last time they saw me was when I was trying to crawl. I hate how those old ladies with overly loud make-up and ugly ko-ko shoes pretended like they cared and feigned surprise, saying “Aah! brilliant little child” whenever dad told them that I had just passed my University entrance exam. He was always happy to announce that he had a brilliant child.

After he had introduced me to all his colleagues, it was time to go home for lunch. I feel guilty that I was ashamed of daddy’s old car but I do wish he could change the car.

Before I left home, mum had no idea what we would have for lunch. Dad knew this and decided to make a little money with his car. The car was painted green because green is the official taxi colour in our state of residence. The original colour of the car when dad bought it was mettalic blue. I know this because I loved to wash the car every morning. I usually enjoy sitting in the front seat whenever dad decides to be a taxi driver. I love the breeze and I love taking in sights of beggars, traders, little children and especially the trees.

But I was not in the mood to follow dad today. I just wanted to go home and sleep. I knew that dad did not want to work as a taxi driver but he had no choice because he wanted the best for all of us. I decided to go with him; I had no choice any way. Dad picked up three passengers. He charged them twenty naira each to their destination. The three of them sat in the back while I sat in the front seat and dad drove off. Shortly before we got to the final bus stop, dad’s car started thinking for itself and decided to come to a halt. No matter how hard he tried, dad could not get the car to start and the passengers, who initially pretended to understand, started to get impatient. I silently prayed the car to start, oh I prayed. I did not want to push the car as that is usually the last resort when it stops the way it did.

Se o si?”, a passenger asked. Dad kept trying to get the car to start but try hard as he did, it still made that tucka-tucka sound.

Epo ti tan”, Dad said. He apologised to the passengers and attempted to refund their monies but they refused. I can imagine what was running through their minds. They must have pitied him because of me. Maybe they assumed that taxi driving was his only means of survival and since I was not well dressed and had not spoken a word, they would think I was not yet in a school. My joy knew no bounds when two of the passengers, who were men, offered to help push dad’s car to a nearby shade so that it would be safe. It was when they were pushing the car that the driver of the truck we overtook lost control.

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