When my great-grandfather was laid in state he had a sly smirk and a near-wink on his face. I mean…the man married nineteen women, acquired seven concubines, begat fifty-seven children, read Songs of Solomon every night before bed, and smoked probably mega tonnes of tobacco his entire lifetime. So whisper in his corpse’s ears why he should not spread a satisfied grin on his face. He had lived fast but died slowly, smiling his way to the pearly gates.
But he left me a lesson; ‘You’re only betrayed by friends you once trusted’. This axiom did not dawn on me suitably, until…
I remember when we were just boys. Osa was my best friend, and Elizabeth was my dream wife. Although an inch taller than I, Lizzy was a human plethora of intellect, ladyship and grandeur. Her skin glowed, her smile appeared carefully carved; thin, bubble-gum pink lips behind shiny dentures… and when she walked, she almost hopped; toes on ground, heels afloat. She flicked her braids frequently, and it killed me. Lizzy and I could walk and talk for minutes after school, with Osa trailing jealously behind, feeling like the second fiddle he actually was.
“I saw Lizzy first,” he would grumble. “But she spoke to me first,” I’d retort. My instincts cautioned that Osa was nursing something lethal inside.
The annual war was on. Our rival neighbourhood riff-raffs from Ola Balm had called our bluff. The war was a war of paints. The more warriors you drenched in paint, the closer you were to winning the war. Well, the previous year they had welled the eyes of my warriors with paint-bombs, captured a sizeable number and demanded an agreed ransom of a spanking new case-five football. We were determined to win the war this year.
We broke sweat every day after school; scaling walls, practising manoeuvres and paint-bomb throwing, with utmost precision. I mapped out our war strategy and surveyed the battle grounds; an uncompleted duplex house on a no-man’s land with several corners, long corridors and various escape routes. We were winning this war. Every one of my warriors beamed at the thought of winning the agreed ransom, which had been raised a notch higher. The captives were to pay for five tickets to the Christmas Kiddafest my parents could not afford. I had promised Lizzy I would take her to the kids festival, and then plant on her wrist the silvery bracelet I had stolen from my mother’s box. So we had to win this war, and the tickets.
A day prior to the battle, we carved assault rifles out of wood, made our paint-bombs, cut our ropes to size and set traps all over the battle-ground. As commander-in-chief, I mapped out the plan of the uncompleted duplex house on a wide sheet of brown paper, and marked areas my warriors could lay ambush and attack upon my signal. But I had a winning strategy only Osa knew about. It was long-range water-gun my mother had bought for me for Christmas. It could squirt paint many inches off. I had filled the barrel with ample paint, and planned to drench as many enemies as I could with this subtle water-gun, which I irrationally placed in Osa’s custody, as second in command.
“Pampanaa”, the battle cry was a poor shriek from a hungry orphan, but we heard it anyway and set off to lay ambush as planned. Our enemies from Ola Balm were bigger and fierce, and never missed when throwing paint-bombs. They had Rambo, a towering, robust and ruthless 13 year old I was so determined to capture with my water-gun. He would not have to see me. I would creep up to him so silently and generously spray him some paint before he could get time to react.
Osa and my water-gun were supposedly safeguarded at the North-eastern section of the battle grounds, waiting for Rambo to strut his muscles into the arena. I heard a few paint-bombs detonate, followed by hollering and chants of victory, but my eyes were so affixed on Rambo I had no time to probe further. As he tiptoed into the trap, I crept up to him from behind, but my water-gun was nowhere near where I had placed it, and Osa was at large. Has he been captured?
Suddenly, in a flash, the distance between me and the brawny Rambo was the width of human hair. He had me helpless in a deadly chokehold, as one of the enemy riff-raffs appeared with my water-gun, and copiously splashed a concoction of water and ground pepper in my eyes. I was blinded momentarily, and the pain I felt echoed through the duplex like a lost hiker on Mount Everest howling for help.
Later that evening I learnt Osa had betrayed the squadron for thirty cubes of ChocoMilo. Goodness! Thirty bloody cubes of ChocoMilo. The next morning en-route to Sunday school, I chanced upon Osa and Lizzy in her mother’s shop, spitefully chewing those chocolaty chunks of fun. Such a Judas!