Mind of Diamond

Mind of Diamond

A Story by Idiong Divine
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The struggle between a hard up taxi driver and his daughter over whether or not to keep a briefcase containing four million naira (NGN4,000,000) forgotten in his taxi by a hurrying passenger.

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    Oreva Odeki sat alone on the bed in their one room apartment. It was another of such a day again for her. She had silently referred to their condition of poverty as hell. She knew her father would not be happy to hear that from her because he had been doing his best; he wasn’t a lazy man. He worked through the clock all week, month in month out without anything to show for it. He was a taxi driver.

     Looking at the room again, it was unkempt in spite of every effort she put in daily to tidy it up. The walls were littered with blots of old and recent blood stains, which perfectly explained just how mosquitoes-infested the apartment was. She would sometimes soak a piece of cloth to wipe off those mosquitoes blood stains but that was in itself another way of denting the old paint on the walls. The old wooden bed which would loudly announce whatever you were doing whether climbing onto it or coming down from it, had an equally old foam in it, only it was well sheeted with a wispy but clean sheet. There was a divan at the corner opposite the bed but from all indications, it had outlived every comfort it was meant to give because users will closely feel the poking of the woodwork underneath the shabby looking furniture. The concrete floor was bare without carpet or rug. The coverings at the doorpost and windowpane were an apology for curtains. A 14 inches Sharp television and a transistor radio were on display in a wooden shelf at one end of the room.

     Oreva lived in such penury with his father.

     Poverty started for them when his father got retrenched in a massive demobilisation of workers in the banking sector. He got a fair pay off from his former employers. But that money all went in treating his ailing wife who fell sick about the same time he received the payment. That was what forced the family into poverty and debt. The painful part being that Oreva’s mother did not survive the ailment. She passed on.

     That was many years ago when she was only a little girl in primary school. Now she had completed her secondary school. All these years her father’s earnings had gone into her education, their feeding and the maintenance of his taxi cab.

     Oreva felt life should be with purpose and satisfaction, it did not have to mean possessing the entire wealth in the world but definitely not this hardship they were living in day to day. These days, life was getting even borer for her now that she had to be at home; having finished secondary school the previous year. She just sat back at home studying all mornings and listening to the radio all afternoons. Her results from both the West African Examination Council and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board had been okay to gain admission into any of the federal universities of her choice but lack of fund had restrained her entry into school. So she continued studying at home and hoping.

     Her father had advised her to start thinking of a trade she could learn like most other girls in the neighbourhood who could not go further with their education.

     ‘Father, I will find it very difficult to learn any trade,’ she had replied.

     ‘Why?’ Her confounded father had asked.

     ‘Because my mind is on something else.’ She replied.

     ‘And what could that be my daughter?’

     ‘Father, I want to become a medical doctor.’

     ‘As if I have not told you times without number I don’t have the money to support you through the university.’

     ‘Father, apologies for my arrogance, but I have a conviction that I will study medicine in the university. Going to learn a trade now will only serve as distraction to me.’

     Mr Odeki had looked at his daughter thoughtfully that evening. Much as he wanted her to heed his advice, he admired her childlike conviction. He knew what the girl wanted was better than what he was proposing her to do. He just shook his head and left her to herself.

     Most mornings after her father had gone out to work, she would sit back at home doing all the thinking, studying, praying and concentrating she could. She had read somewhere that the human mind operated with a degree of magnetism; that it keeps attracting whatever you continued desiring with it.

     Neighbours in her compound and the surrounding compounds, even her father, was beginning to think her tetched. She did not get herself involved in hanging out with friends like most other young people around. She did not get into the usual dating most boys and girls of her age indulged themselves in after secondary. This was because of the hidden orientation of life she had acquired from her voracious reading. Somehow she felt there was so much for her to do to change from her current status as a poor girl. Most boys and girls in her surrounding seemed satisfied with whatever life was dishing out to them daily; they were not so much bothered about what could happen in vast and unpredictable future ahead. But Oreva was constantly conscious of this

 

          **                                     **    **

     The sun that afternoon was burning with the fierceness of an angry deity. On such afternoons, taxi drivers were usually compelled to remain under it and work because that was when commuters cannot bear to trek even the shortest distance or even use motor bikes to their destinations. They preferred the taxis at such times to shield them from the direct blast of the sun.

     Mr Odeki, Oreva’s father was sweating it out in his taxi. He had just dropped off a set of passengers at the Enerhen Motor Park. He was trying to position his cab in the queue of taxis waiting for their turns to board passengers. Just before he entered the queue, he noticed a well dressed young man beckoning at him from across the road to come. The man appeared to be in haste. He turned the cab and drove to him.

     The man immediately opened the rear door and jumped in.

     ‘Chatter please.’ The man requested.

     ‘Where?’

     ‘New Port.’

     ‘Six thousand naira.’

     ‘No problem.’

     Mr Odeki started to move the taxi in the direction of New Port. He was happy that the young man had agreed to pay that amount. He was just trying his luck but it turned out that it worked out for him. He was saying to himself that once he dropped him off he would close for the day. To him he had got a bonus for the day. He did not see why he should keep punishing himself in the hot mid day sun. The money was enough for him to buy his fuel for the next day’s job and to put good meal on their table for at least two days.

     There was still a long way left to get to the New Port which was at the other end of Warri. Mr Odeki drove patiently with a happy song in his heart.

     From his rear view mirror, he saw that besides the briefcase the passenger had placed on the seat next to him, there was a folder on the young man’s lap. In a short while, he opened the folder and began perusing the documents therein. He was intermittently throwing up his head, the way ducks do when drinking water, to grasp whatever it was he was reading. Sometimes he muttered some things faintly like a man in meditation. He appeared to be late for a meeting. Mr Odeki did well to accelerate the taxi a little faster. He was gawping at the young man through the rear view mirror all of the time. His expensive suit and wristwatch, crew cut and clean shave even the perfume he was wearing spoke volume of his social class. He was a rich boy. But why use a cab the taxi driver was wondering. Perhaps he was a stranger in town.

     The young man was oblivious of the gawking the taxi driver was doing via the rearview mirror because he was totally lost in the content of the folder which he was working on.

 

          **                                 **  **

     Oreva was home all along. She had been preparing lunch of beans porridge and dodo which she had just finished eating. Usually, after a meal of beans porridge, she would feel sleepy. But she was not ready for a siesta that afternoon. She had planned to visit Tejiri, one of her friends who was going to have her birthday party that weekend; who had invited Oreva to join her in shopping toward the event.

     Oreva was having a hard time picking what dress to wear to her friend’s place. She had searched her clothes box for something befitting to wear to her friend’s place at Edjeba.

     Tejiri’s father was a senior staff of Shell Nigeria. That was besides the fact that he had two well known companies with which he obtained contracts from other major oil companies and the state government. These companies were ran by his wife. They lived in an exotic duplex in Edjeba community. So Tejiri was invariably of a far different social class from Oreva but it was something unique that had brought the two friends together. It had to do with the saying that diamond cuts diamond.

     For whatever reason, even though the money was readily available for all of his children to attend any of the costliest schools in the world, Tejiri’s father had ensured that all of his children passed through the Nigerian public school system just so they can have that peculiar firsthand experience he had in his days in Agbassa Primary School and Nana College both in Warri. He believed the public schools were where a child can actually be endowed with the gift of work which was about the most vital of the ultimate gifts in life. The pupils and students of such public schools were being indirectly thought to embrace work when the system made them pass through such difficulties in school even at their tender age.

     The man derived joy in gathering his family together to recount his primary and secondary school experiences.

     How pupils were delegated by the class teacher or class monitor, to darken the blackboard using charcoal or wasted batteries in those days. How pupils were delegated to go and fetch the class drinking water in a plastic bucket which must be kept very neat together with the plastic cups used by the class. He cherished telling them how they used to have weekly labour days when every pupil will come out to clear grass and pick dirty pieces of paper and dirt with their hands to keep the school compound clean.

     He would tell them of their school farm; how they would cultivate crops and took care of the poultry birds without having to ever eat from the produce. They used to wonder in those days where the produce went after every harvest.

     The part he loved talking most about his school days was the modes of punishment. He had a description for most of his teachers; their mode of teaching and punishment. He always remembered when he beat up a female student in his secondary school and the punishment that followed. His parents were invited to collect his expulsion letter. But after hours of pleading, the punishment was reduced to clearing of a portion of grass that would take five men a week to clear. He was given only break periods and closing hours to accomplish the task. After weeks of work, he discovered that the portions he had cleared were getting bushy again. He only managed to complete the tasked with the assistance of his mum and other relatives after school hours. He never raised his hands against any female student again. He learned to smile whenever a girl insulted him.

     Mundane as those experiences may sound, he believed they were the elements that had shaped him into an achiever today.

     It was this choice of Tejiri’s father to pass all of his children through public school that led to a girl from a poor background as Oreva meeting with a girl like Tejiri, who was born with a silver spoon. They were classmates in secondary school from SSS1.

     Tejiri was such a girl that ensured she beat everyone in her class through hard work and she had always succeeded until she fell into the same class with Oreva. When the results for their first term examination were published, Tejiri discovered she came second. She got devastated when she discovered the person that had beaten her to second position was a girl. She had managed to play it calm; secretly working on returning to her first position by the end of the second term. When that time came, Oreva beat her again with even a wider margin.

     Third term in that class was a tug of war. Tejiri had used every influence she had on most of the students in the class intimidate her contender. She made sure Oreva was alone during break periods. Any classmate who associated with her became enemy to Tejiri. And that meant verbal intimidation and rejection by her fans which comprised of more than two-third of the class.

     Oreva would suffer alone because much as the students respected her for her brilliance, they dared not stand against the almighty Tejiri.

     Oreva in herself would not lose a battle to any girl just because that girl was from a wealthy home. She designed a plan on how to pay Tejiri back for luring every classmate away from her.

     She secretly visited a few classmates who she believed also desired to come top in the class academic calendar. She discussed some difficult topics they had treated in class with them to expand their understanding of the topics. She further made room for them to secretly visit her at home with any difficulty they may have with their lessons. Oreva’s house became a kind of secret centre for extra mural studies for classmates who truly desired to do better in their studies.

     When the third term results were published, Tejiri found herself in the ninth position in the class, not that her grades went down; whereas Oreva retained her first position with even higher grades in the subjects. In between the two titans were those boys and girls that secretly followed Oreva.

     The following year in SSS two, it was no longer difficult for the class to know who to follow. They then knew exactly who the best in the class was. Tejiri was smart enough to quickly join the flow of students to Oreva’s side. Somehow, she recovered her number two position and made sure everybody got to Oreva through her. According to her, the class no. 1 was too studious to be disturbed just anyhow by every Tom Dicken Harry in the class. So everyone must obtain permission to see her.

     Those were their days in school. Now they had become close friends in spite of the huge social gap between them. Tejiri was already studying in one of the federal universities and had promised her friend that she would talk to her mum about talking to her dad about helping with the fund for her to go to the university. Oreva had appreciated her friend’s kind gesture but she was shrewd enough to know Tejiri’s parents may simply wave it off as a childish request. It didn’t matter how wealthy they were.

     She got a dress from her box that could pass for the best she had. She ironed it. She carried a bucket of water to the general bathroom to bathe that afternoon.

     Soon she was dressed up ready to go out. Switched off the bulbs and fan, threw the curtain at the doorpost in, locked the door throwing the key in a potable handbag she was holding. Her father had his own key. Besides she would be back before he returned.

 

 

 

           **         **                                 **

     When Mr Odeki got to his door mouth to meet the door locked. He quickly recalled that his daughter had informed him earlier that she will be going to see a friend that afternoon. With his own key, he opened and entered. He was carrying a briefcase. He thanked God his daughter was not at home that day.

     The briefcase belonged to the young man he had carried earlier. The man had hastily hopped out of his taxi when they got to the New Port. He had paid him a fare that was even more than they had bargained and had disappeared into a jeep that had been waiting there for him. Mr Odeki spotted the briefcase through the rearview mirror but not before the jeep carrying the young man had sped off. He dared not pursue a brand new jeep with his rickety taxi. So he ended up bringing the briefcase home; all the while wondering what was in it.

     Inside his room he placed the briefcase on the floor; he sat beside it closely observing it. He noticed that it had security number lock system. He however went ahead to pull at the open buttons. The briefcase clicked open. The owner in his haste must have failed to use the number lock system. He slowly lifted the cover to see what was in the briefcase.

     The taxi driver cupped his mouth with both hands to prevent him from screaming. It took him minutes to recover from the shock that stuck him.

     Oreva returned home with two shopping paper bags containing some items and cloths her friend had bought for her on their shopping spree. She was very excited because she was not expecting the gifts. She blabbed unendingly about their experience in those plazas to his father.

     ‘Father, can you believe after asking me to pick these expensive stuffs for myself, she also gave me twenty thousand naira in the end?’

     Her father would not have believed her if he himself had not seen a far bigger astonishment that day. What he saw in that briefcase had affected his proclivity of life. He now believed anything can happen. He yet did not want to relate his own experience of that afternoon. His young daughter may not understand. He just allowed her to go on with her blabs.

     She paused briefly to regard her father’s eyes. Something unusual she sighted in them had caught her attention. They were staring beyond the room to miles away. They were glistening and unsettled.

     ‘Father, anything the matter?’ She paused to ask.

She repeated the question twice before her father could hear her. He came to suddenly and responded off key.

     ‘Oh, you have such a kind friend.’

     ‘No. I am asking you a different question.’

     ‘What’s that? I didn’t quite get it.’ Odeki asked fluttering his eyelids rapidly to gain mental balance

     ‘I asked you what the matter was that you are staring through me like that.’

     ‘Oh I am hungry.’

     ‘Really!’

     ‘Yeah I am.’

     ‘I will quickly get you something to eat then.’

     ‘I’ll appreciate that please. But what have we at home?’

     ‘There is beans porridge. I’ll just need to fry ripe plantain to go with it.’

     ‘No no, I don’t think I can eat beans tonight. Perhaps another day.’

     ‘Okay father, from my money, I will prepare you your favourite, ukodo.’

     ‘Ah! That’s nice but I will not have you touch that money just yet. You should save it toward your education.’

     ‘Don’t worry father, I see that money is coming?’

     Her father took a close but sudden look at her.

     Oreva noticed the sharp look brief as it was, it made her wonder again.

     ‘Did you say you see money coming?’ He asked.

     ‘I smell it. Can’t you?’ She replied smiling at him.

     The man had a kind of reverence for his daughter for her intelligence and brilliance. He was proud of her. But this evening he was beginning to fear her. He just hoped she had not indulged herself in some form of voodoo. What was she talking about?

     ‘So much for your money talk. Here take,’ he stretched her some cash. ‘It’s just about 6pm. If you hurry, you’ll still meet the market before it closes. Buy two kilos of goat meat and yam for the ukodo you have proposed.’

     Oreva collected the money and saw it was three thousand naira. She was surprised. She had not been given such amount in the past to prepare a meal.

     ‘Father, is this not too much?’ She asked.

     ‘I don’t think it is. Go now so you can meet the market.’

     The girl hurried out.

     It would take her less than ten minutes to walk to Igbudu market from Odien Street where they lived.

     So much went through her mind on the way. Those stares were strange. She had captured all of them, spontaneous as they had been. She did her best possible to contain them so as not to further rouse him. She just hoped he would agree to rest a little to douse the effect of stress on him.

     In a couple of hours when the meal had been prepared and served, and while they were waiting for it cool, her father brought out a bottle of wine and a chilled pack of juice he had bought for the occasion and placed them on the table. The wine was for him and the juice for her. Oreva contained her surprise still.

     After the ukodo had been eaten and after the wine and juice had been drunk, in very good quantity, she popped out the question.

     ‘Father, what are we celebrating?’

     ‘My dear I just feel it’s high time I started giving you the treats you truly deserve. That’s all.’

     That night, neither Oreva nor her father could sleep.

 

        **     **                                    **

     Oreva found herself ruminating all morning, about all that had happened the previous day. The sudden change she had noticed in her father’s attitude. She could not tell if it was for good or bad.

     She was lying on the bed squinting at the ceiling as she was used to. Then by a hunch, she noticed it. The manhole had been tampered. The piece of ceiling covering it was shifted slightly. None other could have notice that very slight shift from its usual position but it could not pass her because she knew the grid of their ceiling so well even with eyes closed.

     She got up from the bed.

     She accessed the manhole, climbing the window burglary proof like a tomboy. She pushed it up and took one step further to peek in the murky void of the manhole. It was lying just there at the edge. Her instinct had hardly ever deceived her. Still following the hunch, she reached for it and brought it down.

     She went over to shut the door.

     Then she returned to open the briefcase. Kneeling beside it, she reached for the buttons and pressed. The briefcase responded with a click that unlocked it. Oreva lifted the cover to see what was in it.

     Whatever she saw in the briefcase had shocked her uncontrollably as she was thrown aback with an unconscious scream. She fell back hitting her head against the old divan.

     She collapsed.

     It was only for about an hour. She slowly regained consciousness. She managed to close the briefcase and replace it in the ceiling, taking care to properly cover the manhole.

     Much later at bedtime, she asked her father. He was lying on the bed and she on her mat.

     ‘Father, is there anything you need to tell me?’

      Her father had turned to look at her and replied. ‘Dear, if there was any such thing it will only be a matter of time before I’ll reveal it. You know I can’t deliberately hide anything from you.’

     She had been licking her lips to hear the mystery from him. But it appeared he was not ready to divulge it yet. So with a stiff upper lip, she brought it on.

     ‘Well, I have seen it.’  She said.

     ‘Seen what?’ Her father asked sitting up.

     ‘The briefcase.’

     ‘What briefcase?’

     Oreva pointed the ceiling.

     Her father dismounted from the bed suddenly.

     ‘Did you touch it?’

     ‘Where did you get it from?’

     ‘Oreva, I asked you a question.’

     ‘Yes I opened it.’ She replied.

     ‘Whatever made you do that?’

     ‘Father, I am your daughter, remember.’

      Odeki instantly realised it was just the two of them in the world. He needed to work with her.

     ‘Okay then, what do you think?’

     ‘Please tell me where you got it from.’

     ‘It’s a gift.’

     ‘From whom?’

     ‘From God.’

     ‘God! He gave you that briefcase?’

     ‘Yes. He sent an angel to deliver it to me.’

     ‘With all that money in it? I have seen that the money is about forty packs of one thousand naira denomination totaling about four million naira. Father talk to me please. I am grown now.’

     ‘Okay, a man left it in my cab.’

     ‘And,’

     ‘Every effort to get it back to the man had been to no avail.’

     ‘Then you should report to the police.’

     ‘What police? The Interpol or the NYPD? Because I know what our own police will do with the money if I take it to them. Dear I think we should keep the money for ourselves. Remember you have to go to school.’

     ‘But we just can’t keep it. It’s not ours.’

     ‘How long will we keep waiting for ours. I think this is a gift from God. He has decided to wipe our tears of over the years.’

     ‘Father, if we keep it, it will only amount to greed on our part.’

       He came over and stood in front of her.

     ‘My daughter, take a good look at me,’ he said. ‘Take a look at this room; look at yourself my dear. Is this what you really want out of life?’

     Oreva could see the love of the money in the briefcase had distorted her father’s moral proclivity. This was not her father he had known over the years.

     ‘God’s time is the best. This money is somebody else’s. We can’t have it. We can’t throw integrity in the waste bin just because of four million naira.’

    Odeki had thought of keeping the money. He had conceived a ploy to move to a different location with his daughter and start a standard life there. But here he was having difficulty convincing his daughter to join him in the plan. Perhaps he needed time to rethink. He was confused.

     ‘Okay I promise to look for the owner and return it.’

     ‘I suggest we take it to the radio station to announce it.’

 

           **                                    **                                    **

     Next morning.

     Mr Odeki and his daughter were in his taxi driving to the local radio station. They had resolved to put it in their hands to get the owner of the missing briefcase. The atmosphere between them was freer now than in the past days. He wondered how he even reduced himself to thinking of keeping someone else’s money for himself in the first place. He turned to look at his daughter and was grateful for her sound moral stand. That to him was richness too. No one in the world can rightly say they were helplessly poor again. Not when he had a daughter with a mind of diamond.

     ‘Oreva, do you think we will be rewarded for this?’ He asked her.

     ‘Please don’t count on any cash reward from anybody for returning this briefcase of money. I can bet you it doesn’t come that easy. The owner may just give you a big hug and kiss you good bye.’ She replied.

     ‘So why were you so keen on having us return this much money when you know there would be no reward?’

     ‘It is because I know the big eye of providence is watching to reward every good act executed by man on earth.’

     Oreva was sounding out-of-this-world. But her father had learned to look beyond this world as well. So that made the two of them.

     The workers at the radio station were stunned when they received the taxi driver and his daughter who had come to them with a briefcase of four million naira in it to announce for the owner to come forth and claim it. It was unbelievable to them. They collected the briefcase and promised to announce it. They went further to grant the family a brief interview on radio. They were asked why they chose to return that much money when they could have used it to better their lives.

     ‘It would be morally wrong for us to keep it.’ Mr. Odeki replied.

     ‘Also, it would be unfair of us because it may affect the owner adversely.’ Oreva added. 

 

   **   **                           **

     Days later.

     Mr Odeki’s house at Odien Street was swarming with neighbours and visitors who had come to salute their integrity. He had not expected it. He had even thought he would be laughed at by friends.

     The biggest surprise was the call from both the owner of the briefcase and the governor of the state for the radio station to bring them the taxi driver and the girl that returned a missing briefcase of money. That such act in a time like this was noble and cannot not be rewarded.

 

         -The end-

© 2012 Idiong Divine


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Added on November 24, 2012
Last Updated on November 24, 2012
Tags: Brilliance, worthiness, richgirl poorgirl

Author

Idiong Divine
Idiong Divine

Eket, Niger Delta, Nigeria



About
Divine Friday Idiong aka Idiong Divine is an internationally acclaimed author of poetry, short stories and a novel. His first published work, a collection of poems, “Never Ending Poem”, go.. more..

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