The plumber I found lived in Ife, a big town east of Abagboro and about four hours trek away. He’d examined our tap and promised to return with materials to fix it. That was four days earlier.
I bend my bucket over the water. Toro had pleaded that I fetch for her as well, lazy bones. She stretches her luck with me sometimes, which is so annoying. I’m careful to take the clear water for the keg first.
The stream is narrow around here and trees from the small bush hang down, which makes the area cooler, and remote.
Since the water trouble started, I’ve learned to balance the 50-litre keg on my head, and hold two buckets on days Toro refuses to join me. It’s the only option to making two trips.
I hum a popular song by Ice Prince and do not notice the swift movement before I see them.
Three village boys stand in a semi-circle, and stare at me. I drop my bucket and give them my full attention. They’re dressed in the local manner with the village boys, unmatched print trousers with dirty shirts of different colours. They can’t be more than sixteen years old each, but with these poverty-ridden villagers, they could be family men.
“Tisha! You think you have power in this village because you can speak English.” The statement in heavily-accented vernacular is from a stout dark-skinned one. “You think because you wear tie around your neck like a goat, you can harass our girls.”
I frown. I speak a little Yoruba, and I respond with it. “I never harass any girls.”
I didn’t see it coming, or I could have dodged at least. Another one, not much taller than the first speaker, flips a cow-whip in a flash. It catches me across my face to my chest. I gasp, the shock and pain mixed in equal proportion. I straighten, and decide to leave rather than fight. I’ve never been a fighting person, and would rather resort to dialogue, but these ruffians didn’t look like they wanted to talk. The keg is almost full and I can come back for more water. I pick it along with my two empty buckets.
“Where do you think you’re going?” The whipping boy says.
I heave. “I don’t want any trouble.”
The first talker stand in front of me. “Then why did you look for it?”
The whipping boy lifts his whip again and this time I step aside, but he doesn’t hit me. The third quiet one moves close and tackles me. I fight back but he is mighty strong. Soon I understand their plan. The third one and the speaker hold my head, arms and legs and for the life of me, prostrated on the floor, I knew.
The whip says, “How many did you say?”
“Twelve,” the speaker says.
The whip is painful. Faced down on the wet bank of upstream, two village boys strapping me in a death grip, the three boys count as the whip unleashes twelve strokes on my behind. “Eni, eji, eta, erin—”
I doubt if I will be able to sit for days.
“There,” the speaker says. “Learn your lessons, Tisha, and don’t look for trouble from the princess next time.”
Within seconds, they are gone. I remain as they left me, the pain coursing through my body, and I weep like a little child.
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