Goke slurped up a strand of the waterlogged noodles he cooked and chewed, humming a tune by Teni. Seun watched him and shook his head.
“If you like shake your head from now till next year. I’m still the godfather of your child.”
“Mo taka oshi danu.” Seun snapped his fingers over his head and shrugged.
“Guy, I know the final solution to our money issues.”
Seun scrunched up his nose at Goke. Goke always had bright ideas that were only bright as long as they remained ideas, once executed, they brought no results. Nothing seemed to be working these days for Seun and Goke. All their bets fell through. No one was falling for their bank ruse any more. They tried peddling drugs and ran into debt because their supplier scammed them and Seun had to admit that getting served a pill of their own medicine sucked really bad.
“Guy, hear me out.”
Seun scoffed. “I dey hear.”
“All these ones we’ve been doing since na child’s play. No one hits it big by playing small.”
“Hmmm. Deep.” Seun’s voice was thick with sarcasm.
“If we are going for a big catch, we have to launch into the deep.”
“Eh, now, as Jesus wey you be. You wan perform net-breaking miracle.”
Goke laughed. “Shut up guy. This your church going don dey scatter your head.”
Seun wiggled an eyebrow to Goke. “It’s worth it.”
“Like I was saying, we can’t be afraid of diving into the deep end where the waters are cold and murky.”
“What the hell are you talking about, ogbeni?”
“We are going to see Princeton.”
Seun’s smile vanished. He stared at Goke, incredulous.
“What?” Goke splayed his hands. “Don’t you want a better life for your child?”
Everyone who knew Prince knew his loud desire to travel to the united states of America. If you spent three minutes discussing with Prince, it doesn’t even matter what the subject of discourse is, he’ll find a way to chip in something about USA and how his destiny was tied to being there. When he got to know that there was a town in the US called Princeton, it further fueled his conviction that he was made to thrive only in the US. He quickly adopted the name and it was said that Prince flew off the handle if you called him anything but Princeton. He put his money, heart and everything where his mouth was. He kept pushing and trying to get into the US, suffering many scams and VISA denials while it at. But eventually, about two years ago, Princeton got his golden chance.
No one knew how he pulled it off, and no one thought it was legal, but Princeton went to the US. He flooded his social media with pictures. He added the US flag to his twitter handle and his Instagram bio. Before he left Nigeria, he threw a big party and gave out all his precious sneakers. He said he was shedding off his old skin to make room for the new. Everyone in the area knew that Princeton’s dream had finally actualized. It became a point of hope for boys in the area. And ‘God of Princeton go run am for me.’ became a common prayer in the area. A prayer echoed in pubs and joint joints.
Princeton barely spent a year abroad before he got deported. It was impossible for the news to stay under wraps, not after his loud, triumphal exit. As the news of his deportation flew around, diverse speculations of the reason behind it flew too. Some said he was dealing drugs, some said he was involved in human trafficking, some said he was a pimp. Everyone had a tale of their own to tell about Princeton’s deportation. His story kept the area busy for a while.
Before long, Princeton fed the area something new to gossip about, his wealth. Not long after he returned from America, Princeton bought an expensive car, he also bought a landed estate in Ibeju-Lekki. People said he had a figurine that vomited money in a room in his house. Others said there was a hollow tree stump in his backyard from which he scooped dollar bills. Rumor had it that Princeton made bodies disappear and lapped at blood-sullied hands. The stories were many but there was one thing everybody agreed on, a fact that went without saying: Princeton’s inscrutable wealth was founded on something metaphysical. In local parlance, Princeton dey do jazz.
“Princeton? Goke, you dey craze?”
Goke hissed. “It’s not a big deal, jare. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
“You wan kill person?”
“After all this your drama, both of us know that you will go.” Goke smiled. “You know your heart is thumping in your chest right now. Your heart wants to go. I know you, guy.”
Seun sat there, unable to say anything because he realized with a cold start that he really didn’t know himself or what he was capable of.
Folake was hurrying down the company hallway, listening to Eseosa brief her on the pitch to collaborate with Quatum Advertising, when her phone beeped in her purse. It took self-restraint to keep from whipping it out to check what the notification was since her data was turned off.
“Eseosa, can you prepare a short report and forward it to my mail? I have to be at that Ad tech trade show right now.”
“Khalid is taking you, right?”
Folake shook her head. “He said the company car he drives developed a fault, I’ll have to order an UBER.”
“Alright. Bye.” Eseosa said and returned to her office.
Folake took out her phone. It was a credit alert of fifty thousand naira from Erin. Folake blinked and chuckled. She called Erin as she walked through the company’s doors, out of the bliss of AC into the stark heat of Lagos. She called her sister.
“Erin, nibo lo ti r’owo (where did you get money)?”
“Errr… one fateful evening, I took my guns and my goons and raided a bank.”
Folake hissed. “Be serious jo.”
“I think ‘thank you’ is what you should be saying. Sha sha, don’t think I sent you money to spend on yourself oh. It’s my contribution to Tope’s therapy. Mumsi told me of the huge hole that has drilled in your pocket.”
Folake smiled. “Thank you my dear. But I still want to know, how did you get the money?”
“I’ll soon be done with exams today and I’ll be coming home as soon as I’m done. I’ll be coming to your house straight. Let me come and enjoy your WiFi small.”
“You still haven’t answered the question oh, madam.”
“Sister mi, your wahala is plenty oh. You’ve started behaving like mummy.”
“Iyen emi na?”
Erin guffawed. “You know that’s exactly the kind of thing she’d say.”
Folake bit her lower lip as she entered the UBER, knowing that Erin was right. “You are not serious.”
“See you later this week. Prepare delicacy for me oh.”
FK shook her head and ended the call. She sighed, grateful for the financial relief Erin’s token had given her. Tope had his first therapy session last week and Folake’s mum offered to pay for that session, reminding Tope that she was doing it only because she pitied Folake and she didn’t want her shouldering the responsibility all by herself. Folake hugged her Mum and told her she was a wonderful mother. Tope allowed himself a small smile, he couldn’t show too much excitement in his mother’s presence. He had to be sober, lest she feels the need to remind him of the gravity of his offence. Folake realized that at the end of the day, she’d only be paying #90,000 out of the total sum and with that, God helped her get the promotion and a raise of #50,000.
She’d gone with Tope to see the therapist. She let him go in alone but she went to the facility with him just to support him and ease his nerves. When he came out of the therapist’s office, he wasn’t smiling like Folake expected, there was in fact, no change in his demeanor. Folake asked him how it went and Tope shrugged.
“He asked questions and took notes. I think he’s trying to build trust.” Tope said.
On their way back, Folake brought up the gospel again. This time, Tope listened with a little more interest. He asked questions about the work of redemption. Folake tried to explain it to him, but it seemed so confusing to him. There seemed to be a veil over his heart. Folake knew that she had to pray for him. The Ephesians 1:17 prayer immediately came to her heart. The eyes of Tope’s understanding had to be enlightened. But the issue was, these days, FK hardly had time to pray. The demands of the promotion by far outweighed the benefits. But she was trying. That was what she told herself to assuage her conscience. There’s only so much I can do. I’m very busy. Jesus understands.
In that moment, the words of Aunty Solape floated across Folake’s heart.
When you remember prayer, pray. When you think you’ve not been praying enough, pray. Don’t sit down and beat yourself up. Instead, use that energy to fellowship with God. Folakemi, pray now, pray.
Folake’s phone started ringing. She smiled. Seun, her fast-growing disciple. Seun, her trophy project. She took the call.
After wheedling and bribing Princeton, Goke and Seun got him to spill his secret. He took them a place he called the temple of Zinas. Seun wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or if it was real, but the air about the place was eerily still and his arms were enshrouded in goosebumps. The temple was on the down floor of a duplex and naturally there was nothing spectacular about the exterior of the building. But Seun could feel the still air and the chills scurrying up his spine. He looked at Goke and his shify eyes told Seun that Goke was also getting the willies.
Princeton stopped at the door and instructed Seun and Goke to take off their face caps. The duo promptly obeyed. He knocked on the door twice and said his name. A man in sunglasses opened the door and held it steady while Princeton, Goke and Seun walked in. He nodded his greeting to Princeton. Seun took careful, reverent steps as he scanned the interior of the temple. All the drapes were of lustrous gold and the walls were painted a muted shade of purple. The living room had a settee and chair set arranged in an arch. The chairs had ornate, golden edges and a smooth finish that Seun would’ve loved to run his hands over if this was another place. At the centre of the room, where a centre table would have been situated, a tall statue stood. A statue of man with strong arms and a silver cascade of wings from his shoulders. His eyes sockets were empty in a way that was startling and piercing and there was a crack in his forehead that oozed fresh blood. Seun tried to keep his eyes away from the statue. He looked instead at the paintings on the wall. A frame of colorful tornado, a blast of colors with lettering in one corner ‘Zinas will give you what you want. You must do what he asks.’ As Seun read those words, he could swear someone was whispering them to his ears.
The next painting left Seun’s head reeling. It was a spiral of repeated shapes and it had a staggering hypnotizing effect on Seun. He couldn’t tear his gaze off the frame until a voice startled him.
“Princeton, I see you’ve brought new friends.” The priest said as he emerged from the inner chambers.
The priest’s neck was decked with rings upon rings of the finest gold Seun had ever seen and when he stretched forth his hand for a handshake, Seun noticed how supple his fingers were and how heavily bejeweled they were. His silky outfit was blousy and billowed around his slim frame. His sense of style was the kind suited for runways and he was short.
“Sit.” He said.
Seun was going to settle on a couch before Princeton stopped him. They were to sit on the floor, with their legs crossed in lotus position. The priest sat too, with the statue directly behind him and all eyes in the room on him. He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath, tilting his head backward. For seconds, all Seun could hear was the thumping of his heart. When the priest’s eyes snapped open, they came to rest on Seun. Seun’s heart beat faster.
The priest smiled. “Seun, you are a chosen one.”
Seun eyes widened.
“You are wondering how I know your name?” The priest chuckled. “You and your friend here want money, not so?”
Seun and Goke looked at each other and nodded repeatedly.
“The favor of Zinas is upon you, Seun. He has chosen you. Both of you, go and enjoy the favor of Zinas.”
Seun sat there, at a loss for words.
“Run along. That would be all for now.” The priest said.
Seun couldn’t believe that it was all over so soon and what did that jewelry man mean by him being chosen of Zinas. When they left the temple, Princeton shook Seun’s shoulders.
“Man, I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years of relating with Zinas and Zina-Bigu.” Princeton said.
“Who is Zina-Bigu?”
Princeton shook his head. “Man, you’re so lucky.”
It was true. Luck like Seun couldn’t explain began to follow him. And it started that very day. People’s ATM cards fell around him. The first time it happened, he thought it was coincidental but by the third time, he remembered the words of Zina-Bigu. He quickly made orders online with the ATM cards.
He decided to try his luck and test the limits of Zinas’ favor. He took one of the cards to the machine and randomly guessed the pin. It worked. He withdrew all the forty-eight thousand that was in the account. Seun could scarcely contain his excitement. He joined a bus randomly, knowing that an ATM card will fall out of someone’s wallet, out of their back pocket. He knew that someone’s ATM card would come to him, compelled by the favor of Zinas. Seun watched as the lady in front of him fiddled with her phone and then she took off her phone pouch. Her ATM card slipped from the phone pouch. How did she not notice that?
Seun bit his lower lip, it was all he could do to keep himself from bursting into laughter. He extended a foot and stepped on the card. He tactically drew the card close to himself and while he bent to retie his shoelace, he deftly picked up the card. The pin came to him like an almost imperceptible whisper.
The favor of Zinas is upon you, Seun.
Seun’s heart was bursting at the seams with angst. Without doing anything, Zinas accepted and chose him. Zinas gave him favor without making demands. A new sense of awe filled him for the temple, the priest, the god that Zinas was.
Goke and Seun danced, drank, spent lavishly on anything that crossed their minds and when Goke asked Seun why they were buying designer bags for random ladies they met at the pub, Seun said, “Cos we can! Cos we are big boys!”
They entered pubs and told everyone to knock themselves out, they’d foot the bills. They took their guys to strip clubs on the island and paid for kinky services.
Within three days, Seun and Goke had blown a million naira and there was hardly one tangible thing they could point to as a result of their spending spree. But they didn’t stop because ATMs were still raining in their path. The favor of Zinas was still around them like a balloon of glory. The area was buzzing with gossip about Seun and Goke. And oh, it felt really good.
Folake was in the kitchen with Erin, fixing lunch and bantering when she repeated the question she’d asked Erin the other day.
Erin rolled her eyes. “Ugh! I didn’t want to tell you so that you will not resist the Lord’s nudging the next time you want to send me money.”
Folake chuckled and clapped dramatically. “See this girl. Soro soke (speak up) my friend!”
“You know I do photography on the side in school, yeah?”
Folake goggled. “So, you’ve been cashing out big time.” She juggled Erin’s cheek. “Erin spending, Erin money! Do giveaway now.”
Erin shook her head. “I think you should contest in a pageantry coming up this month.”
Folaked scoffed. “Where is this coming from? I’m not cut out for that kind of stuff.”
“Oh, trust me, you are perfect for this one. It’s called face of Agba Iya 2021.”
Folake gaped and tried to grab Erin. Erin ducked swiftly and ran, laughing hard.
“This rude child. I wi-”
The doorbell rang.
“Are you expecting a guest?” Erin asked.
“Oh, that should be Seun. He’s a disciple. I’m sure you’d be delighted to meet him.” Folake said on her way to open the door.
Erin found herself smiling, she was eager to meet this brother.
Seun came in with a small nylon bag. “Hey, FK, good to see you again.” He shook her hand.
“Same here. Erin!” Folake called out to Erin.
“I’m coming, let me just turn these pieces of meat over.”
Seun proffered the nylon to Folake. “Please take it.”
Folake looked at him askance. “What’s this?”
“A bottle of shampoo.” Seun replied and because of the befuddled look on Folake’s face, he quickly added. “I know this is a tad awkward and you might be skeptical about taking gifts from me. But trust me, by taking this shampoo, you’ll be doing me a favor.”
Erin came out to join them.
“Good afternoon, bro.”
“Good afternoon. You must be the much talked about Erin.”
“Good things, I hope.”
Folake scoffed. “This one is rude.”
Seun chuckled. “That’s not what she says.”
Folake turned to Seun. “I don’t understand this your shampoo thing oh.”
Seun sighed. “The story behind it is ridiculous. Don’t make me relive it.”
Folake’s eyes twinkled. “I’m even more curious now. Aren’t you, Erin?”
Erin nodded absently.
“So, I went to the mall and I wanted to pick body cream…” Seun was saying before Folake cut him off with a gasp.
“No way!” Folake uttered, half laughing. “You picked shampoo instead of body cream?”
Seun shook his head. “Don’t judge me.”
After winning their trust, you go for the heart. But be careful to not make it look like you’re going for anything. Make it look like you’re stumbling around and by accident you turn out dear to the church girl you’re pursuing. In all you do, keep your eyes open. Wide open. Look out for the signs; study the metrics. Watch for suspicion or doubt. The moment you notice an iota of either, backtrack and regroup. Smooth is the only way to play. Smooth is the only rule. Damn, I should write a book on this. I’ll probably title it, ‘How to Get A Church Girl’s Back on the Ground or in Your Bed’. The thought amused him. He could picture the front cover with bold letterings and a line that boasts, ‘Bestseller. Over a million copies sold’.
“Hang on, don’t you know what your cream looks like?” Folake’s question interrupted his thoughts.
“That’s the thing. I don’t use cream on a normal day, because of my Mum’s complaints of my ash knuckles, I decided to turn a new leaf and see how that has turned out.”
Erin only chuckled. Seun was aware of her eyes on him and he felt uncomfortable under her scrutiny. Her piercing gaze was all too reminiscent of Stella. She could see through him. She was potential hazard to his plan.
“Erin, I hear you’re still in school.”
Seun delved into his pocket to pull out a few thousand naira notes. Perhaps money would ease Erin’s suspicions.
“Small pocket money.”
“Thanks, but no.” Erin said evenly and to Folake she said, “Sister mi, I want to finish up in the kitchen.”
Seun watched Erin stalk off. He hated her already. Dangerous, dangerous little thing.
“Oh, she could be like that. She’s a very independent young lady. Sometimes, she rejects hands out from even me. And you won’t believe it, she actually contributed to Tope’s therapy.” Folake rattled on as she took a seat.
“Oh, wow.” Seun muttered. “Amazing.”
Independent. I don’t like that word. It’s suggestive of women like Felicity. Those arrogant, stubborn feminists. Women who’d make terrible wives and would be bad influence to any wife material. I have to find a way to keep this girl at bay.
“Speaking of Tope,” Seun started, acting concerned. “how is he faring?”
Folake sighed and shrugged. “He’s doing okay.”
“I was thinking, it would be nice if there was someone on ground with him to teach him the word and guide him on the path of restoration.”
Folake nodded thoughtfully. “But I don’t know…”
“Erin.” Seun supplied. “She’s on break now, isn’t she?”
“Yeah,” Folake said slowly, realizing Seun’s point. “that’s actually a very good suggestion.”
Seun smiled the modest smile of church people. “She carries the fire. She’ll help him a lot.”
Folake leaned back and took a deep breath, smitten by Seun’s wisdom.
In the kitchen, Erin couldn’t stand still. Something was off. Her spirit was restless. She started muttering in tongues.
After Seun was left, Erin took the shampoo he brought and examined it. Folake came around and filled her lungs with the sweet smell of it.
“Hmmm… I love the smell. Erin, don’t think of asking me to give you this. I won’t.”
Erin dropped the shampoo, picked her phone and searched out the product on Jumia. Erin sighed.
“Sister mi, this shampoo costs twelve thousand five hundred on Jumia. Twelve five.” Erin shifted her weight on her legs. “Who accidently buys stuff that expensive?”
Folake chortled. “Can you imagine? This Seun is funny. Too think he actually wanted to buy body cream. Men sha.”
Erin crossed her arms over her chest. Her sister wasn’t seeing what she was seeing. She decided to leave the subject be. She didn’t want to come across as judgmental or suspicious. She knew she had to pray to receive light on the matter.
“Erin, you have to go back home oh.” Folake said.
“Tope. He needs you more than I do. I enjoy your company oh, but I believe that you will be able to reach Tope even better if you’re there with him.”
Erin nodded. She didn’t voice the question in her mind. But she wondered where this bright idea came from. Of course, she wasn’t planning to spend her whole holiday with Folake. She had only just returned today. But she saw Folake’s point. She understood her concern but that didn’t stop her from wondering if Bro Seun had something to do with the urgency in her sister’s tone.
“I’ll leave tomorrow.” Erin replied.
Click here to get the book which contains the complete story of Ghetto Bloom.