I knew that sound too well. And it was followed by little feet stomping down the stairs. I heard something fall with a loud thud and prepared myself for what would follow after. Seconds later, Khalil tumbled into the living room and dropped himself on my laps with all his might.
“Hmmph! Khalil, you’re getting too old for this,” I chided.
“Uncle Moe, there’s a flying cockroach in my room and it’s cumberstomp,” he complained in a breathless voice, as though he hadn’t heard me.
“It’s pronounced cum-ber-some,” I corrected, emphasizing the last syllable.
“I don’t care.”
Awusubilahi minasaitoni rogin!
“So you want to break me into two because of a cockroach, ehn?!”
His lower lip jutted out and he put his little arms around me. “It’s really, really big. I swear,” he said, my tummy muffled his words.
Ivan and I had come to Lagos from school. I was with my boys for the weekend and Aliu was out on errands. I dropped my notes from school on the sofa and gathered the little boy to his feet. “All right. Let’s go kill a cockroach. And stop running in the house. Your dad wouldn’t like that.”
“Yes sir,” he said in mock salute. “Come on, it’s in my room.” He grabbed hold of my hand and pulled.
We made a quick stop in the kitchen for a broom and dustpan. “Alright, now show me to this monster.”
The moment I stepped into Khalil’s room, I stifled a curse as a toy lying in my way nearly caused me to trip. Then I stared aghast at the room. It looked like a minefield. “What is all this na, Khalil?” I said with mounting exasperation. “Why is every toy you own all over the place? You’re not even playing with them.”
“But I was,” he protested from behind me.
“Yeah? And yet your PS2 is on Pause?”
Khalil sighed, that sigh that children give to show off the idiocy of adults, and pushed me into the room. “I haven’t found a save spot yet, obviously.”
“Obviously,” I mimicked. As if that ‘obviously’ answered everything, I thought. “How did you even see the cockroach in this war zone sef?”
“It was the only thing moving and flying na.” He carefully tiptoed around me, looking for the insect.
Khalil, heir to Aliu’s dynasty, was afraid of a cockroach. Where had his father gone wrong, ehn?
“I think it’s under the bed.” He pointed to the bed from across the room which hadn’t been made at two in the afternoon.
Jesus! He’s just like his father. That one too is scattered, I thought with a shake of my head, remembering how I’d once found a shoe on his dresser.
I moved through the valley of toys and made it to the bed. I got on my knees and lifted the duvet hanging from the top over the side of the bed.
“Jesus, Khalil! There’s more stuff under your bed than out here. I won’t be surprised if there’s a nest of roaches in your room.” That earned me a whimper and I rolled my eyes. “Relax joor, there’s no nest.”
I returned my attention back under the bed and saw something moving. “Yes! I see it. And it’s not that big joor.”
“It is o! Looks like one of those insects from the movie, Mimic. What if I’m asleep and it jumps on my face and lays eggs in my tummy and it bursts out from my chest – Aargh!” The boy dramatically threw himself back against a chair, with his tongue sticking out one side of his mouth, and began jerking spasmodically.
I chuckled and shook my head simultaneously. “That’s it. No more movies for two months.”
“You won’t be here for two months.” He gave me the ‘ntoor’ and I laughed out loud.
I took the broom to drag the roach out, but the insect had other designs. It darted right toward me. I shot away from its advance and leaped unto the bed in a manner best described as astoundingly embarrassing.
The insect crawled out majestically and stayed beside a toy.
“There it is!” Khalil squealed.
I jumped, my heart beating rapidly. That wasn’t a cockroach. It was bigger and scarier.
“There, there, there!” Khalil was frantically pointing at the huge, black, tentacled spot in the middle of the carpet.
“Yes, I can see it. La illah ah illalah!” I rasped. “What is that? That is the most revolting thing I’ve ever seen.”
“What about when Uncle Deola lost his swimming trunks at the pool?”
Deola is my movie buff friend.
“You’re right. This is the second most revolting thing I have ever seen,” I corrected.
Khalil swiped a book off his desk, and got ready to hurl it.
“Hey, don’t throw your textbook.”
Dropping his textbook, he swapped it for my tablet.
“Throw the textbook! Throw the textbook!” I yelped.
Khalil obliged, picking up the hefty hardback and chucked it across the room. It landed into a teepee over the insect. We held our breaths. Pages ruffled, and seconds later, the cockroach leisurely crawled out.
“It’s still alive, Uncle Moe! What do we do?
I inched closer to the foot of the bed to smack it with the broom, which was still in my hand, when the beast turned toward me and leapt forward.
“Holy shit!” I shrieked as I scrambled back on the bed. “It jumps!” I careened backward until my back hit the wall behind me.
“Language, Uncle Moe!” Khalil admonished, wagging his finger at me, his eyes brimming with amusement at my mortification.
“Yes, I know. Ma binu.” My phone rang in my pocket and I shuffled my weapons into my right hand to grab it and place it against my ear. “Deola?” I answered breathlessly.
“Moe…kilode?” the supple tones of my friend enquired from the other end.
“Put him on speakerphone,” Khalil demanded. “Uncle Dee!” he yelled as I switched the call’s function. “There’s an insect in my room and it looks like one of those things from Mimic!”
“That’s it. No more movies for you, young man!” Deola’s voice croaked out from the speaker.
“You sound like Uncle Moe. Why are you fighting me when you should be fighting the aliens?”
“It’s a – what is it sef?”
“You don’t know what it is?” Deola’s amusement spilled from the phone. “Waaawu, Moe. Shior!”
“It’s a mutant cockroach that probably has mutant babies,” Khalil interjected.
Deola’s cackle irritated me. It was clear he wasn’t taking us seriously. Our mortal peril was completely lost on him. “Koshi kuro lori phone fun mi,” I snapped into the phone.
“Isn’t Aliu home yet? He left to my house about ten minutes ago in a hurry. He even forgot his laptop charger.”
“No, he shouldn’t come yet o,” I protested. “I can’t come and embarrass myself further by having him come kill this thing for me.”
“Uncle Moe, it’s moving again,” Khalil cut in.
I turned a panicked look around to see the beast crawling across the carpet.
Deola laughed harder. “Oya, I’m coming.”
“Come with shovel and bleach.”
“Kilode? On top cockroach? You be Huck ni? Are Olivia Pope and the other associates nearby?”
I am ready to strangle this pikin, aswear! “I’m hanging up now,” I said.
“Koshi danu!” I retorted and hung up. Then I slipped the phone back into my pocket.
“Is Uncle Deola coming to rescue us?” Khalil asked cheerfully.
“Deola is coming to assist us,” I replied, stressing the verb.
“It’s okay, Uncle Moe. No one’s going to think any less of you for not being able to kill a cockroach. At least, you can carry twenty five litres keg of water. So you’re good.”
I arched a brow at him. The boy was really good with his sarcasm. “Be running your mouth there. Why don’t you kill it?”
“Because I’m seven.” The “duh” wasn’t said but it was certainly implied. “But you, you’re old,” he added.
“That’s like, super, super old.”
“Why am I even bothering? I have underwear older than you.”
“That’s pathetic.” He made a face.
“What? They’re clean. And if I’m old, what’s your father?”
Khalil looked thoughtful. “What’s older than ancient?”
“Ha!” I couldn’t help but laugh as I climbed off the bed. “I’m making a run for it.”
“Don’t leave me na.”
I hunched over and put a hand to my back. “I’m too old to carry you. My feeble bones may crumble to dust.”
The serious look he gave me was a trait he got from Aliu.
“Don’t come and die in our house.” He paused, and then added, “And it’s not funny.”
I returned him the favour of an ‘ntoor’ expression.
From the distance, I could hear Aliu’s car pulling up into the driveway. Moments later, the door downstairs clicked open and close.
“Guys?” he called.
“In Khalil’s room,” I yelled back.
His footfalls on the stairs pounded as though he was coming in leaps and bounds. And then, he appeared at the door, with a worried look on his face.
Written by Vhar