Edwin Mamman is a sonographer and writer. He has work published on KAFART’s The Revue, African Writers Space, Tidings of Magpies magazine, Punocracy, and forthcoming elsewhere. 

Riding the Waves of Hard Times

A yellow and black striped polythene bag dances in the air before settling on the ground in front of you. You mumble under your breath, cussing the dust-filled air at the bus stop where you and Shedrach are standing, waiting for a keke; It is a cold first week of January. It is also a week of consecration in church. If it weren’t for the hiked-up fuel prices you’d be cruising in Shedrach’s car jamming to Lecrae. But Shedrach is saving the little fuel in his car. He will queue very early tomorrow morning to buy fuel at the station selling for 300 Naira per litre. So today, you both pool together 400 Naira for your transport to church and back.

The first keke stops.

“how much to Ungwan Mu’azu?” you ask.

“150 oga” replies the rider.

“Haba boss 100 naira now” Shedrach chips in.

“sorry oga, fuel don cost” replies the rider.

This goes on for a while, with several other keke riders. You’ve never seen Shedrach so humble, pricing your transport fare like tattasai in the market.

Finally, one comes along and agrees to take the both of you at the bargained price. You hop in and sigh with relief. Shedrach hands you a loose 100 naira note dampened from his sweaty palm. You hold it up with a mocking grimaced look as if holding up a soiled baby diaper. He gives you a gentle shove and you both giggle like mischievous schoolchildren.


In church, the pew is scanty and the chairs are cold. You settle into your seat. The elder leading the evening sermon has a robotic voice, this infuriates you. You shift your eyes from a corner of the church to the other, looking for anything to distract you from the sermon going on. The Christmas tree from last Christmas is still mounted by the side of the pulpit.

You roll your eyes and scan the seats for Shedrach. He’s sitting in the back row adjacent to yours, eyes glued to his phone screen. He looks up from his phone and shoots you a knowing stare as if you communicated by telepathy. You both smile and you return back to the sermon.


At the last amen you dart out of the church, Shedrach following closely behind you. The junction from church is a dusty red road with muddy sand. Shedrach coughs into his sleeve. A church member halts his beat-down Nissan Micra beside you and peeks out of the car window. “Ah Ah Shedrach what happened to your car?”. Shedrach replies “I left it at home, no fuel”. He offers a fake sympathy and tells Shedrach where he bought his fuel from, recounts how many hours he queued to get it. Then finishes with “it is well ehn” as he revs his tired engine and drives off. “unbelievable! He didn’t even offer us a ride home” you say to Shedrach. “Come off it, we’ll be fine” he says, and you turn to watch the road.

A keke grinds its engine and stops in front of you. The rider agrees to take you home at 200 Naira seeing you’re both from church. Shedrach gestures toward you for the 100 Naira he gave you earlier.

There, you realize, you’ve lost the money.

You put on an awkward performance, aggressively search every pocket of your trouser and shirt, knowing you’ve lost the money but you are not about to admit it.

The keke rider grows impatient and rides off.

Shedrach’s expressions morph from a smile, to confusion, and finally rage.

“Hey God, Benjamin please don’t tell me you lost our T-fare”, he charges at you.

You are lost for words. “You just had one job Benjamin and you couldn’t keep it. Why are you so stupid!”. His words cut deep and you protest, “okay Sheds you don’t have to be so condescending now, these things happen, it was a honest mistake”.

“An honest mistake, ehn? Ben, today of all days, and here? How are we supposed to get back home now huh, tell me!?”

He’s angry. His voice breaks and his words come out in stutters like they do when he’s upset. He turns around and starts walking.


You call out to him.“Sheds, Sheds!” 

He replies harshly without looking back, “What!?”.

“Sheds I’m sorry”, you say dragging your tired legs behind him.

“sorry won’t hitch us a ride back home now Benjamin, save it”.

“okay fine use your 100 Naira and get a ride home, I’ll hitch-hike,” you say, unconvincingly.

“And what would that make me? A useless brother that leaves his kid bro to suffer abi? So that mama and everyone at home will hear us abi? We will trek this trek together, body go tell you!”


Your legs are sore and swollen from walking by the time you get home. You’ve not been this exhausted since parade drills at NYSC camp. Looking down at your dusty legs, you ache with nostalgia. It wasn’t that many years ago when Shedrach would visit you in boarding school. How he’d look at you and say “see your dirty legs, looking like harmattan’s first born”, how he’d say “go and wash your legs before I take back the provisions I brought for you”.

You remember how he would walk you to the school’s borehole and pump water while you washed your legs, and how the other students stood aside and watched because you were with your ‘big brother’, and how the senior girls stared with dreamy eyes at him, how proud it made you feel that your brother was ‘a spec’.

Looking up at Shedrach’s legs now, you want to make the harmattan joke but you remember he’s still mad at you.

You both wash your legs by the garden sprinklers before heading inside the house.

Inside, Shedrach slouches and spreads on the leather couch and heaves a heavy sigh of relief.

You’re standing by the door, unsure of what to do; if you should say something or go up to your room.

Finally, you speak.

“Sheds, I just want to say how sorry I am for today”.

“which part?” he asks.

“Everything” you say.

“I know I can be stupid at times and I mess up badly but I don’t do these things on purpose, I’d give anything to have things back the way they used to be and to see you happy again, and…”

Warm tears well up in your eyes and you throw your head up to hold them back. Shedrach says nothing.

Things were better last year before Shadrach’s contract got prematurely terminated in June. You used to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S and laugh, and fall asleep on the couch. You played Scrabble and Monopoly together until your stomachs growled then you raced yourselves to the kitchen and cooked noodles or some other junk food around since neither of you had finessed the art of cooking real food. Pizza and Shawarma deliveries were not a luxury then, nor were cable and Netflix subscriptions. You had your laundry and ironing handled by the laundry service.

Now most things are above your price range. Shedrach nags over everything. Like when you forget to turn off the pumping machine and it overflows, or worse, when you accidentally burn food.

And then there’s black tax. He made you promise not to tell Mama that he has been out of work, and he still sends her money from his little savings. Like that isn’t enough burden to bear, there’s you who has become a liability since finishing national youth service – NYSC, last year, and still not able to find a job. On most days Shedrach does a good job of not pointing out the obvious, but you both know.


You make your way to the stairs and take a slow step.  Shedrach looks up at you and says, “wake me up early tomorrow morning”.

This is his way of saying “I’m sorry too”. You flash a toothy smile at him, he tries to look stern but fails at his attempt. You burst out a laugh, and he joins you. Times are hard and you may have lost 100 Naira today, but you will be alright. You and Shedrach will ride this wave of hard times. 

Contributor’s Bio

Edwin Mamman is a sonographer and writer. He has work published on KAFART’s The Revue, African Writers Space, Tidings of Magpies magazine, Punocracy, and forthcoming elsewhere. 

He blogs on WordPress under the pseudonym LareWrites, and sometimes contributes to Life’s Essentials blogspot on WordPress. Edwin writes from Kaduna, Nigeria. He tweets @edwinmamman. Email him at edvinmamman@gmail.com. 

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