There was a time I had a cleaning job in a small guest house in Asaba. Then, I was staying with an uncle who lived in Okpanam Road.
At the small hotel, we were called housekeepers. About five of us were employed. We each had a bucket, a wood mop and a dusting towel.
The big bag of detergent beside the tall refrigerator in the storeroom was for general use. We also had bleach and hard brush.
Once every year, a housekeeper is entitled to one-week leave. It usually starts on Thursday to end on Friday of the following week. Week shifts change every Thursday.
When mine finally came, I decided to travel to my hometown—Ogidi—to see my mum.
My old woman was very happy I came. She prepared ukwa that night.
And she told me about the new miracle church in town. New but powerful. Very powerful; the pastor there was working wonders.
With great awe and gratitude, my mum narrated to me about some of the big miracles; a blind man that was given his sight back and a woman who became pregnant after over 10 years of barrenness.
‘Hmm,’ I hummed, staring at my mum with doubtful wonder.
‘You must go with me tomorrow night,’ my mum said to me. ‘It is the only Friday you have!’
‘I don’t want to go,’ I said.
My mum grunted, swaying her head. ‘I’ve heard about how the devil walks about freely all around the streets of Asaba, devouring every single soul in sight. You must go to the vigil with me!’
And so my mum forced me to the vigil that night of the next day.
I must say that there were some aspects of the all-night-long service I did actually found interesting. All those drama of girls screaming and falling to the ground came off to me as somewhat entertaining.
And the weird confessions too.
Some confessed to being snakes, others lions, jaguars, even animals not found in Africa.
Foreign spirits, the pastor called it.
And then on Tuesday morning, my mother said we are going to the church again.
‘Why Tuesday?’ I asked. ‘Isn’t the vigil supposed to be on Friday?’
‘We are not going for vigil,’ my mum answered. ‘We are going for counselling.’
My heart skipped a beat.
A face-to-face encounter with Pastor Magic? Who knows what I’m going to confess to being today?
Obviously not a snake because I hate them. Even so, it is usually females that confess to being snakes. But really no way I can be a lion either. I am not that strong.
As I left with my mum to the church that Tuesday morning, my mind battled to pick from either earthworm or cockroach.
But the pastor did not say that I have an animal spirit. He did mention that I am possessed though.
Of course, everybody that came to Tuesday counselling has to be delivered of something, or be given a huge revelation about who had been behind all their predicaments.
The huge entry fee paid has to be justified somehow.
According to the pastor, mine was the spirit of stubbornness and lust for women. The later was quite easy to understand; I was staying in Asaba.
The way my mum even nodded as soon as the pastor said that, as though she had known a long time.
Luckily for me, it wasn’t anything the pastor’s forceful prayer, head tossing and a generous sprinkle of olive oil could not handle.
After the prayer section, I came out looking like a lap of chicken just brought out of the frying pan. The pastor emptied more than two bottles of olive oil on me.
But I returned home with my mother that afternoon feeling really different. Hungry, dirty and thirsty!
‘You will start feeding well now that the spirits have left you,’ my mother said to me as she handed me a tray of well-pounded fufu and ogbono soup. ‘And hopefully add some weight too,’ she added. She touched my shoulder. ‘Ewo! Those evil spirits have sucked you dry.’
At that moment, for the first time since we left the church, I felt real gratitude for having followed my mum to see the pastor, and I finally stopped regretting the 3K entry fee we paid.
I left my hometown back to Asaba on Thursday morning.
A few weeks after my return, on a cold Wednesday night, something happened at work.
I was on night shift that day. Night shifts at the hotel were lovely.
In fact, I actually used to look forward to them. There were so many things to enjoy.
You don’t need to do much sweeping and mopping or even bothering to change the sheets.
Many things are easily neglected in night. Night lodgers don’t seem to care much about room hygiene anyway. They usually come in with more pressing issues at heart.
And then the condom sales too! Depending on the level of the customer’s desperation, one pack of Gold Circle can go for as high as 5H. And they were only leftovers picked during cleaning and repackaged.
That night, as usual, I pick-swept through the rooms and relaxed the old sheets back.
My job was done in a little over an hour and I came downstairs to the reception to gossip with other hotel workers.
That was when a tall man walked into the reception area accompanied by a young pretty girl.
I suddenly knew I have seen the man somewhere before, but because he had dark glasses on, I couldn’t quite make up my mind.
But I wasn’t ready to give up that easily.
‘Good evening, pastor,’ I said.
It was a test greeting— if he was whom I thought he was, he would turn and I would have had my confirmation, and if he wasn’t, well, it becomes my mistake.
But he not only turned when I called him pastor, he took off his glasses too, blessing my sight with utter revelation.
‘Pastor, good evening,’ I greeted him again, now with full certainty.
‘Good evening, boy,’ he responded. ‘You attend my church?’
‘Well, my car broke down on the road and I decided to sleep for the night and continue the journey tomorrow,’ he explained.
‘Eyaa,’ I said. ‘With your sister abi?’
‘What?’ he asked. And then he quickly collected himself. ‘Oh! Yes, yes, my sister. My cousin sister.’
‘Ok, sir. Enjoy the night.’
Later that night, when he called and asked for a pack of special circle, I asked Chuka to go. ‘Collect 1K from him,’ I told the boy.
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