I am satisfied! I got out of bed and rushed into the bathroom. I didn’t need a serious bath because I knew I would come back very dirty; I would have a proper bath later. I took a pretty good time to brush my teeth. I blew a light air into my palms to smell the freshness of my mouth. I was satisfied.
I got into my pair of Blue Jeans Trouser and my black tennis shoes. I wore a sweat top on it and dashed out of the room. I went to my dad’s room; he was still sleeping. I sneaked out not wanting to wake him. I never knew the day would be filled with a lot of reason to be encouraged and highly motivated. I realized the strength in determination even in the face of mockery and ridicule.
“Good morning aunty” Keji greeted as she stood up from the settee.
“Morning Keji. Mama Victor, how far?” I said.
“I dey o. E kaaro ma! (I am okay. Good morning ma!)”
“We should get going. We have a long day.”
Mama Victor and Keji walked out while I followed. I remembered I would need my ice flask, so I turned back towards the kitchen.
“Michael!” I called.
He came out of the kitchen looking like he was up to some mischief. His right cheek was swollen, obviously with a piece of meat. I looked at him in query. He was jittery.
“Why are you jittery?” I asked.
He smiled sheepishly. I shook my head in pity.
“I need my ice flask filled with ice cubes please. I am going to the cow market. Get it ready fast.”
He rushed into the kitchen as I walked to my father’s room to check if he was awake so as to bid him goodbye. By the time I was back in the living room, Michael was waiting with my ice flask. I took it from him. He turned to exit but I called him back.
“Mr. Young Man, the offer you are enjoying now remains valid while stock lasts. Let it not repeat itself after dad’s birthday. You know what that means, don’t you?”
He nodded positively.
“Good! See you soon.”
“Aunty mi! (My Aunty!)”
I turned around to face Faith, my cousin.
“Hey babe! What’s up?”
“I want to go with you.”
“Ooops! Would you be able to cope?”
“I have never been to the cow market? Don’t say no please!” She said pleadingly.
“Okay. You have 10minutes to meet me outside!”
“No need ma. I am set already.”
“Really? With that novel in your hand? No darling, we are going to the cow market not a library”
She dropped the novel on the centre table.
Alhaji had been a good family friend and very dependable cow dealer. He’s been known to our family for many years. We enjoyed a warm and friendly business relationship with him. He had reserved our desired cow as agreed. He had gone to buy more cow from the northern part of the country towards the coming Christmas celebrations. Alhaji’s representative, Leke, led us to where the cow was tied. The market was a very big one. There were many cows though, ours was the biggest. I made necessary payment and requested for it to be slaughtered and butchered at the market butchery. Leke put a call through to Alhaji’s regular butcher, Mukaila. We negotiated. Mukaila led the cow to the butchery while we followed.
Activity at the butchery was overwhelming.
The butchery was an open building. It had six (6) pillars supporting the roof. On a side of the butchery was a row of ten (10) taps that ran with water. On another side were four (4) different pumping machines, of different sizes, used to pump the slaughtered cows in preparation for butchering. Still on another side were work tables used for butchering. The floor was cemented but wet with water and cow blood mixed with cow waste. Outside the building, on a side, were extra-large round pots put on fire from local stoves. The pots are filled with water. The boiling water was scooped with 5litre kegs, shaped to serve as water holders; the hot water was used to remove the cows’ furs and to wash the intestines. Outside the building, still, was an open space. Thick, tall and round pegs were erected on the open space. There were cows of different sizes and colours tied to every peg; waiting to be slaughtered. Different people, young and old, had one thing or the other to do within and outside the building. Different groups of young men led the cows to the slaughter shed one after the other; while some other men, alongside some older women, were busy working on the butchered cows’ wastes and pieces.
“Hey! Kuro l’ona! (Hey! Make way!)” a young man shouted.
He was leading a big black cow to the slaughter slab. The cow was a troublesome one. I guessed it felt death was nigh. It gave a lot of trouble before it was eventually forced down.
“Kehinde, won ti de o! (Kehinde, they are here!” an averagely old man shouted.
She came out from a side of the butchery. She was holding a machete with her left hand. The machete was blood stained. She wore a low haircut. She wore a pair of dirty blue ¾ Jeans trouser and a multicolour t-shirt. She looked masculine. She walked past me. I looked on as she moved. I was awed. She was close to me. I could hear her discussion with the two men. The two men looked educated and sophisticated.
“Uncle, N10,000 is not much sir. I have bills to settle here too. All that will be left for me, at the end of the day, would be a bit less than N5,000 sir. I’ll pay for the space I use and my assistants too would have their share of the money.” She said.
I got more shocked.
“She speaks good English!” I told my cousin, Faith, in surprise.
She smiled in awe too.
“…but she is an ordinary butcher?” She asked me.
“I am surprised too.”
“Aunty, a ti fe pa maalu yin o. (Aunty, your cow is next to be slaughtered.)” Mukaila shouted.
I nodded and directed Mama Victor and Keji to go and supervise. I wanted to steal a chat with Kehinde. Unfortunately, she was too busy. By the time I turned towards where she was, she had left for the slaughter shed. I held my cousin and walked toward Mama Victor and Keji.
“Faith!” I shouted.
She stopped abruptly. She was about colliding with a guy holding a sparkling sharp dagger. She was scared!
“I have told you to be careful here. Their knives mind nobody.”
“Yes ma, I’ll be more careful.”
I got attracted to Kehinde. I wanted to know more about her.
Luckily, my cow was to be butchered close to her worktable. I moved close to her.
“I’d like to have a brief time with you when you are less busy”
“No problems ma.” She responded.
My eyes were fixed on her. I didn’t want to lose sight of her. She was swift. She butchered like a pro. She sang through the process. She was up and doing. She was ordering her assistants as she desired. That gave an indication that she’d been in the job for a while.
“Sir Mukaila! Baba niyen!”
“Mi o mo pe obirin naa maa nse ise yin yi o. (I didn’t know women are allowed in your business too)”
“Yes o. In fact, a ni ikan ni ibi; Kehinde lo nje. (… in fact, we have one here; she is called Kehinde)” He said smiling.
“Mo ti ri! (I have seen her!)”
“Ma, I am here.”
I turned around. It was Kehinde.
I smiled at her.
“Hey! Kenny! How are you?”
“I am fine ma” She answered warmly.
“Sorry, how old are you?”
“17years ma.” She responded with a smile.
“Who taught you butchering?”
She only smiled.
“Really, I am spell bound seeing a young lady doing this?”
“Any of your parents in this business?”
“No ma. Not one relative”
“How then did you find yourself in it?”
“Situation ma. It’s really a long gist for another day ma. But I enjoy doing it.”
“You speak good English, are you in school?”
“Yes ma! I am in SSS 2.”
“Wow! How long have you been doing this?”
“3years plus ma.”
“…and you feel comfortable?”
“Yes ma. I am proud to be a butcher ma. It’s better than stealing and best than prostitution.”
“Do you render home service? I mean if I have a cow to be butchered in my house?”
“Yes, I do ma!”
“Can I have your number?”
“Yes ma. 0-8-0-5-4-6—”
“How do your parents feel about your choice of job?”
“Indifferent! It brings food to our table in a noble way”
“Does it affect your schooling?”
“No ma. I have it all planned out now in a more convenient way.”
“…and your friends, male particularly, are comfortable with your style”
“Initially, they were skeptical but now, we relate well. I even have some of them who are now into the business too.”
“Sorry, one more question before you go?”
“Go ahead ma.”
“Do you mind if I write about you and post online? Facebook maybe?”
“No ma, I won’t mind ma.”
“Why wouldn’t you mind?”
“I want people, especially young girls, to get motivated through my story.”
“Yes ma. I am young and have faced a lot of challenges growing up but I am determined. Today, I am a boss in my chosen job. I pay people who work for me and I make good money with which I care for me and my family. Prostitution, stealing or cultism are not solutions to trials. Positive job, held up by determination, is the answer.”
“Hmnn… I feel you.”
“Excuse me ma, I have to go now. I am sorry.”
“Yes darling. You have really made my day. More grace.”
I smiled as she went back to her work.