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BN Prose: The Dimpled Smile by Ireti Adebayo-Oladapo

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After a hard day, Bayo had settled down on a bench between two wooden houses with peeling paint and sloping tin roofs in the slums of Lagos Island, to enjoy his sumptuous meal of ekuru and a couple of fish.  Normally, he would only have had one fish, but after two grueling months of pushing carts like a stallion, loading concrete blocks like a beast of burden and like a slave, eating only once a day, he had treated himself to an extra fish for hitting his target.  Bayo had barely finished washing his hands with the pure water he had kept when two street urchins crept up on him.  While one of them pinned him to the ground, the other frisked him, removed the money he had fastidiously kept in three separate pockets and gave him two hard blows to the stomach before they ran off.  The seventeen year-old Bayo, unable to comprehend the disaster that had just befallen him, touched his empty pockets, sat back on the bench and rocked back and forth like a drunken monk.  A push, some kicks to his jaw and all of his life savings were gone. He wept, staring at his swollen hands and bleeding knees. Blood trickled down his nose.  Market women and errand boys cast masked glances towards him and shook their heads in helpless pity from a distance; no one would go near for the fear of being victims too. Days of toil under the hostile sun, sleepless nights and frenzied dreams due to sore joints and fever raced through his mind in flashes, his frail frame trembled in misery.

Later that evening, Bayo leaned on the only table in the dimly lit room and listened to six boys discuss their fail-proof plan.  Mobile phones, jewelry and money were to be demanded — their targets, the rich ones in exotic cars.  Time dragged for Bayo as the choking fumes of marijuana made his nostrils itch and the boys spoke in low voices while they cleaned and polished their guns.

‘If tonight good, you fit get fifty bale.’  Bossman, the leader of the gang said pointing a tobacco- stained finger at Bayo.

Fifteen thousand do me sir,’ replied Bayo, and the boys burst into laughter.

‘Dat’s wat all una first say,’ said a boy known as Snuff.  He played with the edges of a dirty Band Aid on his left cheek.  He had been cut with a knife during an intense argument over the English premiership match between Manchester United and Chelsea FC.

Kò sí ọ̀fẹ́ leko,’ Oluomo said. ‘Nothing dey free for Lagos.’ Oluomo worked with Bayo at the building site. (Bayo had been an apprentice at a goldsmith shop but had to quit and took up menial jobs at the site to earn some money.)  Two months earlier, Oluomo had asked Bayo to join the gang, but at the time, Bayo had replied, “I go use my hand, work, get money.’

Bossman checked the time, threw a half-smoked cigarette to the floor, crushed it with his dusty boots and with a voice that made Bayo tremble, he announced it was time to leave.  Faces taut, closed and unsmiling, the boys hid their shiny weapons in baggy trousers and filed out, Bayo trailed behind.      

The Lekki-Ajah expressway was, as usual, heaving with traffic and the furious activity of street hawkers.  The clouds had made their shapes against the evening sky and the blare of indiscriminate hooting like millions of wounded owls filled the air.  It was rush hour and everyone was eager to get home, patience was a discarded virtue.  Okada riders spat thoughts (as they formed in their heads) while they squeezed through every available space between cars and pedestrians, and pedestrians tried to avoid being crushed between the reckless okadas and slow moving vehicles. In faded blue jeans and t-shirt, Bayo held no gun, his job was to cause a distraction at the end of the road while the others raided the cars. With his hands in his pockets, occasionally digging a fingernail into a thumb, he stood by the roadside and waited for his prompt.  In spite of the cool evening, sticky sweat dripped from his chin to his neck; he had never felt so uneasy – pinching from the iru his mother used to sell in front of their house was the closest he’d ever come to theft.  His eyes went from one car to the other as he analyzed the viable ones and settled on a woman in a Honda CRV who had a piece of jewelry on her neck, he did a mental calculation of its cost.  She must have felt the intensity of his gaze because she turned and smiled at him flashing deep dimples, her eyes beaming as though she approved of him.  The sweat had extended to his palm, Bayo smiled back while his hands momentarily waved at the stranger, her dimples deepened as she waved back.  Then the shrill sound of a whistle, like a dirge in the middle of a beautiful wedding ceremony – it was the signal for the start of operation. Bayo moved towards the Honda. The woman unaware of what was about to happen, still looking at him, still with the shine in her eyes, and, suddenly his resolve broke; how could he rob the one with the smile that warmed his heart? He turned and fled.

Bayo’s mother lay on a mat in the single room they shared.  The lantern burned low. She was shivering and had covered herself with a blanket, which worsened the fever. Bayo removed the blanket and made it into a pillow, and gently placed it under her head as a cushion. She coughed. He gave her a cloth into which she spat, then he sponged her face and neck with a wet towel.

In a scarcely audible voice, so quiet that he had to lean closer to hear, she said, ‘shebi we go go to doctor tomorrow?’

Mama, them bad boys thief all the money today,’ sadness trailed his voice, ‘but you go go next month.’

‘Next month go soon come.’ He nodded in acknowledgment and she continued, ‘when I don well, I go sell my iru again so you go go back to learn your goldsmith.’

Bayo smiled and nodded again. Then he went to shut the wooden window and dropped the tattered drapes to keep out noise  – deserted kids, played outside in dirty pants on the streets, their mothers either gossiping in the neighborhood or outside selling their wares.  Their fathers were busy getting drunk somewhere.  Bayo’s mother mumbled something that he took for a prayer, and he nodded once again, sticking his fingers into the holes in the curtain. Pictures of a busy road and a kind face and a warm smile played though his mind.  He nodded again, even though no one spoke, and a lone tear mixed with his determination to work twice as hard in days to come.

Photo Credit: www.man-over-board.com

75 Comments

  1. onyx

    February 28, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I’m stalking BN today and refreshing the homepage like no man’s bizness… Bayo’s story is the story of too many young boys. I actually didnt see the end coming, thought he was going to make the “hit” with the rest of the gang. Chei, na wa o, 2012 and we’re still battling extreme poverty in Naija 🙁

  2. Kate

    February 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Good job Ireti. Touching and interesting story. Life is not easy journey.

  3. D Pretty

    February 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Aww…A smile can change a lotta things unseen.
    Thanks BN for this wonderful writeup

  4. Twix

    February 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    whoo whoo whoo……….beautiful piece

  5. ama

    February 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    vey moving……sometimes all it takes is a smile,a kind word and you never know how that can change someone’s life…..imagine if the woman hadnt smiled, and Bayo’s first operation becomes s success…he then becomes a hardened criminal…and society would suffer at the loss of an other hard working young man and also at the crime this an would have committed

  6. cathy

    February 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    life doesn’t come cheap

  7. ama

    February 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    bella naija i am in a dilemma and i would love to know the opinion of your avid readers..Pls how can i get an article to your relationship column???

    • Damilare Aiki

      February 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      Hi Ama, please kindly send your info to features @ bellanaija.com and it will be featured in our Aunty Bella slot.

  8. Aibee

    February 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Really deep. Gives me mixed feelings. Sorrow at the poverty in our world, gladness that some people still want to work for their living and despondency at the fact that poverty and insecurity will always be part of our world.

    • Purpleicious Babe

      February 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      I concur with u aibee…

      nice prose ireti….
      very explicit and imaginative…

  9. iya oloja

    February 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    mehn…this is too emotional for me…nice write up though…lovely piece!

  10. Temiloluwa

    February 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Hmm.

    Good thing he didnt join them. I hope his mom gets well and all works well for them so the world stops thinking good people finish last.

  11. k.jay

    February 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    wow! I love this write. very touching.

  12. Diva

    February 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    WOW! Totally blown away by this one, great write up, even as tears fill my eyes in my comfy office, im also inspired / determined to work twice as hard despite what life throws at us.

  13. binta

    February 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Don’t really understand what the writer is trying to get at…am I first*winks*

  14. Nomy

    February 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Toh bad. Bellanaija una do well. I felt every single pain with Bayo, my heart broke for him too. I guess what i find most touching about the story is his resolve to work harder instead of taking the easy way and stealing.

  15. Miss A

    February 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    A smile can change the course of events! Lovely prose…

  16. Raliah

    February 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Dis write up just made me shed a tear. Nice piece

  17. sista in the Lord

    February 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    wow….my heart was actually pounding hard as i read this story . Touching peice

  18. ama

    February 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Damilare Aiki thanks…you mean [email protected] right?

    • Damilare Aiki

      February 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Yes Ama, do have a lovely day.

  19. SMD

    February 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Aww, BN. u out did yaself this time around.
    Once a smile made feel like a queen. I went to town in clothes that i normally wouldn’t wear outside cos mum needed some items urgently. Whiles out,she called and asked that i should pass by her bank. I said a silent prayer that no one i knew should meet me. I was getting odd looks from people all around but still mustered courage and walked up to the lady at the customer service desk.
    My o my! that smile she flashed my way! for a moment there i expected someone to appear from behind me,”surely this smile wasn’t meant for me!”
    All self confidence i didn’t feel before flooded back,i felt good about myself. I stepped out smiling and even went home 2hrs later still with that stupid smile up my face.
    Keep Smiling!. thanks BN. 🙂

  20. Stellamaris

    February 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Good,culd it be dt d story is to continue or is ds d end?

  21. Lue

    February 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    i like the way this is written, nice use of words.
    http://lucianochinwe.blogspot.com/

  22. Becky Mama

    February 28, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Great piece…. So touching

  23. Rhorlii

    February 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    This is extremely touching!!!! Lovely piece

  24. tosin

    February 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    inspiring

  25. Chiedu Ifeozo

    February 28, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Great writing is always one with a deep sense of reality that can stir certain emotions in our hearts and take us to a place where our minds are in sync not just with the writer but also the characters. This story achieves that. Well done Ireti.

  26. Mo

    February 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    This article was heart-tugging…

  27. ama

    February 28, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Damilare Aiki DONE!!!!

  28. Chinazar

    February 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    I just love this. BN, keep it rolling.

  29. iyaafin daib

    February 28, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    W̶̲̥̅̊ђåt Ώ̶̲̣̣̥ Nice write up ireti, may god be wt us ooooo. Ȋ̝̊̅§ dis T̶̲̥̅̊h̶̲̥̅̊e̶̲̥̅̊ end of T̶̲̥̅̊h̶̲̥̅̊e̶̲̥̅̊ story?

  30. Tia

    February 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    You never cease to amaze me BEAUTIFUL story………………really emphasising what is actually going on in our society today, Honda CRV…………………..:)

  31. Lamie

    February 28, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Beautiful piece sis…..it is both inspirational and emotional. This post deserves all the laudation it gets and more. Keep it up dear…like I said earlier, I know great people. Love you loads & I’m proud of you and your work. Mwaah!

  32. chizzy

    February 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Wow,wow extremely touching actually wanted d story 2 continue 2 d pt wer he wud be rewarded 4 all his efforts….hmmm dere ar alot going on in d world we live in….diff people wit diff trials,God help us all

  33. Doyin

    February 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    awwwwwwwwwwww……nice write up Ireti…

  34. Bayo

    February 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    This is such a beautifully written piece. Funny coincidence, I bear the same name with ur lead character. Life is about the choices we make… if only we all could turn away from hurting another just like Bayo did!

  35. Amdalat

    February 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    @ Binta.. you are not first oh.. I read BN alot..but hardly comment.. but this one I was like “Huh.. all over the place story, I dont understand”

  36. Temitop

    February 28, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Very touching piece- story af a typical Nigerian boy hustling to make it it- while some few peeps seat embezelle and mismanage d nation’s resources.Nemesis is giong to catch up with every1 of dem-very soon!

  37. Oby

    February 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Beautiful piece really..I do hope I get to read the concluding part…it brings to light the wonder of a ready smile and/or a kind word and the sad reality of what some of our youths go through…In all ” a beautiful piece”.

  38. sunkanmi

    February 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    very good write up ireti.. proud of you any day babes

  39. Ayo MT

    February 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Such an emotive and well written prose.. The sadness and sense of injustice one feels on behalf of Bayo is a real, I guess it’s because one way or the other a lot of us can identify many ‘Bayos’ in Nigeria..
    Ireti, you are an amazing writer, hope to see more from you!

  40. Oloridetola

    February 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Really nice. Ireti, there has to be a continuation of this prose o! This story should have a happy ending

  41. MAdiba

    February 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    nice piece ma lovely sis…..

  42. vera james

    February 28, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Great story Ireti. Well done!

  43. davis king

    February 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Wonderful job my sister! I could almost call this a movie.

  44. funsho agali

    February 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    This is a story from a mind that has great insight. Reading through this story appear so real like a movie at the cinema meant to open the veil on a frustrated mind, throwing open usual possibilities to closed doors. Its a great one, I’d give u an A if I was to grade this story. Suspense filled… To fascinating not to have an end!!!

  45. adura

    February 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Nice and brilliant story.

  46. Kween Akpabio

    February 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Dis story is so touching, it really got 2 me.
    keep it up

  47. BLESSING

    February 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Nice sis,thank God,proverty is a disease,pls let read what happen to d end

  48. Mattade

    February 28, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    This story is touching for everyone who knows what it means to be on the street. Good Job Ireti

  49. Temitopejopelo

    February 28, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Wow! Awesome piece Ireti…I have always known that you carry GREATNESS*wink!!! Well done sis…well written indeed! Proud of ya!

  50. sporah

    February 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    nice one girl

  51. Emaleecious

    February 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Started out nicely, but I honestly wish you didn’t end it there. Makes me wonder if he will change his mind and go to the gang, or work hard again? Will his mum make it? will things change for the better…

  52. Ife

    February 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    This is a beautiful story sis, full of suspense. Well done aburo. Proud of you.

  53. Mummy K

    February 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    A smile is a powerful weapon. Keep soaring high Ireti.

  54. doppleganger

    February 28, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    captivating story but i was even more captivated by the picture of gorgeous bayo lol

  55. NUBIANWATERS

    February 29, 2012 at 7:18 am

    This is deep and thought provoking. The candid fact is, life can be unfair at times. Can’t help but think about the weighty blows poverty deals the larger percentage of our populace. Extremely dishertening to know too many a people in our society live way below the poverty line. The most painful of all being the insensitivity of the people in power to it.

    I commend the writer of this prose, thoughts well played out!

    http://nubianwaters.wordpress.com

  56. Olori Toluwabori Alabi

    February 29, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Ireti i have told u this before and í will have to look for better ways in telling u that the sky is truely ur starting point.Am happy Bayo still got his conscience working, many of his type as since killed theirs.keep it up girlfriend.u rock

  57. Omoba

    February 29, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Wow, the story is so real…… hmmmn, speaks of the plight of many youths today, helpless and almost hopeless. Fighting to break away from the cycle of poverty. We need to wake up and do the little we can to bring hope to at least one helpless youth in our neighbourhoods.

  58. aderatony oladeji

    February 29, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Nice piece,it reminded me of the life style in lagos island,the characters and the various scenes are just the replica of what transpire day in and out in Lagos island. I personally,was trained in that environs and the decision I took was related to that of Bayo.I put it to you hard work n perseverance pays,inspiring I must say

  59. Stickky

    February 29, 2012 at 9:37 am

    You can never quantify the value of a smile. It breaks barriers and opens doors.
    Nice piece of work from someone who understands the efficacy of smile. Smile and I are proud of you. You can imagine how many times her name is mentioned on this thread. Amazing!

  60. Dasilva

    February 29, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Touching and interesting

  61. Fajemisin Olufemi A

    February 29, 2012 at 9:47 am

    A tiny dimpled smile can go a thousand mile to make a man change his mind.nice and wow

  62. Shola Olulana

    February 29, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Ireti, your talent is amazing. I hope you have plans to make this a novel or a soap opera.
    When is season 2 coming out? The story isnt complete…

    Well done Mon Cherie.

  63. Ayo Babatunde

    February 29, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Wonderful piece, paints a picture of d complex Dilemma faced by our youth in d society and d ‘self’ power to decide not to give in to it.
    Great job

  64. Dahlia Voka

    February 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks Bellanaija u are the best Nigerian website

  65. Nikky

    February 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I can actually relate to Bayo’s story because it’s what every normal Naija guy who is hustling goes through.I felt his pain all through.Such an emotional write up.Good job Ireti…

  66. Birthwrite

    February 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    wow! this is one creative piece that went beyond beautifying words on paper. You captured the struggles of Bayo and empathize with his demons, one being poverty. Thank you. If only our boys can be that determined to not defile themselves like Daniel in the bible and Bayo in this story…our world could be a lot better.

  67. Beebee

    February 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    *First* yay….

  68. Nnenna

    February 29, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Lovely piece, Ireti! It’s like the story should continue. Was spell bound…didn’t even know when I reached the end of the story *thumbs up*

  69. Shadiya

    February 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Life ain’t always easy! Ireti this is a good one! Pls I would love to know hat happened to Bayo afterwards! Weldone

  70. tolu

    March 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

    lovely,well written

  71. The Bim-J that God loves

    March 2, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Wow! Beautiful article Ireti! I especially love your use of visual imagery. Keep it up and God bless you. Xxx

  72. toxy

    June 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Very soulful….

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