Ejiro sat in Mama Comfort’s Bukka staring mournfully at the last piece of meat floating in the greasy pool of Ewedu and Gbegiri before him. It was the kind they called roundabout, his favourite, he always saved it for last.
He picked it up and tossed it in his mouth, feeling its oily juices run down his tongue and throat as he slowly masticated it. But his slow concentrated chewing was in direct contrast to the beehive of activity in his brain, he was feverishly trying to solve his latest problem. If he didn’t find a job soon, he would find himself on the streets.
Henry had refused to put up with him anymore unless he started paying his half of the rent. And yet the jobs were still as elusive as ever. Ejiro had always been one to cross a bridge when he got to it; but this one was rapidly disintegrating under his feet, leaving him to wade through the murky waters, struggling not to drown.
But he would survive, he always did.
As he sat there thinking of a way out, he heard someone call his name. Quick as lightening he turned, making sure the side of his head with the ringworm scars was backing the wall. The man coming towards him with smooth confident strides was urbane and handsome.
Surely this wasn’t Sunday Bafere, little Sunday Bafere, the sickly kid who was always bullied out of his lunch money back in school.
Sunday grabbed him in a bear hug, but Ejiro saw the shock and pity in his eyes as he took in the scrawny frame and threadbare clothes before him.
There was also a hint of something else, mockery? scorn? Whatever it was, Ejiro wanted to wipe it off his handsome face. But this was not sickly Sunday Bafere anymore, this man looked like he could crumple Ejiro’s skinny frame with one hand.
Their conversation eventually went from old school reminiscing to present day matters. Then Sunday took him outside to show him his latest acquisition;
A 2011 Mercedes Benz S-350.
When Sunday revealed that he was a pastor, Ejiro was dumbfounded. He had expected to hear that he was an investment banker,a medical doctor or one of those other professions that he normally associated with such wealth and sophistication. He was convinced Sunday had to be running some other kind of business on the side, but Sunday confirmed that he was a full-time pastor with his own ministry.
The wheels in Ejiro’s head started turning. Up till then, he had never cared much for religion, being of the opinion that spiritual matters were a luxury for a hustler such as he regarded himself to be. He had looked upon the whole area of religion with something bordering on incredulous amusement. Of course he had been raised by religious parents like most Nigerian children, but unlike most he had quickly tossed it aside as an unnecessary luxury when, as an adult he was faced with the harsh realities of life. But looking at Sunday, Ejiro was starting to see religion in a very different light.
Even as he stood there chatting with Sunday, he was devising a strategy. By the time he and Sunday parted ways, Ejiro already had a name and the beginnings of a plan. The hustler had found a new hustle. He would be Brother David and he would burn fervently with fire for the lord!
Pastor David smiled to himself as he recalled that fateful day seven years ago. He still visited Mama Comfort’s bukka once in a while, but these days he was more likely to be seen in the luxurious lobbies of the Oriental hotel or Radisson blu , that was when he was not in his penthouse suite of offices inside Rugged Cross Towers.
He chuckled to himself as he took a sip of his tonic water, wondering what his congregation would think if they saw the extensive array of liquor which he kept in his bedroom bar at home.
He stood up as he saw Pastor Paul approaching; Pastor Paul was one of his assistant pastors at Rugged Cross Ministries, which he had founded four years ago after a brief stint at the Redeemed Christian Church of God and some time in theological college. Pastor David fixed a smile on his face bracing himself for the hour of church gossip and politics that was about to commence.
He had grown used to it, the back biting, the politics and hypocrisy that came with the institution; he had actually started enjoying it.
His was a pragmatic kind of Christianity, he understood the need for keeping up appearances, for the late night vigils, the lengthy meetings and prayer sessions and all the other minor ‘inconveniences’ that came with being a worker in the lord’s vineyard. The rewards were many, and contrary to popular belief, they were not all to be found in heaven. As he listened to pastor Paul talk about the soul winning convention the church board was planning, he let his mind wander over what he considered to be the more pleasant aspects of his ‘job’.
There were the numerous financial donations, the gifts of cars and even a house from wealthy members, there were trips abroad to attend various conventions and meetings, and even his children were being educated with church funds. And then there were the other benefits that came with the job. He thought about Sister Rebecca, to whom he had shown that ‘brotherly love’ could mean so many things; “You fill me with a renewed fire for the lord” sister Rebecca had told him, holding his hands feverishly.
Oh he had shown her fire all right. He had made her call out the name of the lord many times that night. The thought of it made his body react in away that he knew Pastor Paul would be shocked to see.
He had picked his wife from among the ladies of the choir; she was shy, beautiful and eager to please, the perfect partner for a young rising servant of God. How was he to know that once she settled into her role as ‘pastor’s wife’, she would neglect her other duties. She tried her hardest to emulate a log of wood in bed every night, only grudgingly co-operating after numerous frustrating attempts.
And so he had started showing a little more interest in some other girls in the choir. They came to him, for guidance,for direction, for love. And he complied. After all they were his sheep and he, their shepherd.
Pastor David wondered when he would be able to get Sister Rebecca alone again. Then he realised he was smiling, and quickly arranged his face into his usual look,that of the overburdened shepherd saddled with the responsibility of leading a flock of unruly sheep into the kingdom.
Finally after 45 minutes of church talk, Pastor Paul took his leave. It was almost time for the weekly meeting of the workers committee. When he left, Pastor David placed a call to the reception desk at the oriental, to see if his usual room was available, and another one to Sister Rebecca to join him for a little ‘counselling’ session. He glanced at his watch, yes there was still time before he had to join the workers committee.
As he stepped into the elevator, he wandered when the private jet which the church had ordered would be arriving. Oh yes, Pastor David thought to himself, the rewards are bountiful here on earth.