Teenage lovers littered the little river bank of Kono waterside. It was probably the hottest day in the history of that little village in the middle of the southern part of Nigeria. The older people – parents and grandparents – took refuge under all the orange and mango trees even the guava trees; very few people had verandahs or sheds. The children didn’t have a place to hide their heads from the penetrating sun rays; those that did were not permitted to share with their parents lest they got wind of the latest gossip or ‘adult entertainment’. Even the place Livinus discovered was taken over by Mfon and Tonye who in turn chased them away but not before Ambrose tied the mangoes and oranges in his t-shirt to prevent Matthew from spoiling his only shirt and Livinus had packed his efuru: weevil larva.
Ambrose discovered a new place on the opposite side of Livinus’ dethroned spot. To ensure no one seizes it Ambrose made them walk along tall elephant grasses and covered their footprints with leaves and twigs. The rust-coloured leaves were ankle high in the new place. Matthew made a broom with long thin twigs. He had just about finished sweeping when he hit the heel of his left foot on something hard. He made the sign of the cross: it was believed that hitting your left foot was bad omen. Livinus being the least cautious one pulled Matthew back and tried to dig it out unsuccessfully. Ambrose knocked on it like you would knock on a door.
The water was three feet high in a red brick runway, one end was shaped like a spoon and the middle of it had a decorative bowl made from concrete. Livinus went to the bowl to remove the leaves but when he saw the way the leaves kept rising and falling like breathing he backed away quietly. Meanwhile Ambrose pulled weeds from around the stream and along it’s walls and Matthew removed the leaves from the water with the broom. Matthew went to the bowl to remove the leaves and the water squirted on his face; unable to stop it he stepped aside to stare at it. It was the first time he had seen anything like that – it was fountain.
Their desire to discover the source of the water flow was drenched by the cool breeze and their tired limbs. The sunlight did not penetrate the thick canopy of leaves, so they lay down supporting their head with their arms.
“We can do more cleaning tomorrow, what do you think?” Matthew asked.
Ambrose dipped his index finger in the water and tasted it and bolted upright and cried, “its clean water o!”
After lapping some water, one after the other they jumped in and started to splash water. Livinus was the first to step out after about an hour. Matthew’s eyes fell on something as he climbed out but didn’t want to alert Livinus in case he would lead them to another default palpitation from the scourge of a cane; it was unlikely for Livinus to stay out of trouble of which he was never a victim.
“I’m going to be a rich man I promise you!” Livinus said sitting on a slab beside the stump of the cashew tree scratching his leg.
“We all want to be rich!” Ambrose responded as he washed the mangoes and set three aside for them.
“No! You’re not listening. I mean I must be rich. To God, I’ll do anything!”
“Be careful what you wish for!” Ambrose said as he joined them under the tree.
“What will you do if you are rich?” Ambrose asked Matthew and passed a mango for each of them.
“I’ll take my mother to a new and large house and buy her anything she wanted. What about you?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought of it before….maybe I will travel to a place where I would not see Papa the drunkard.”
“Let nobody hear you call him that o!”
Ambrose twisted his mouth then whispered. “What do you think Livinus will do when gets rich?”
“Buy new cloths?”
“I think he will pay people to look for trouble.”
Matthew shook his head smiling, he still didn’t understand Livinus’ and Ambrose’s attitude towards each other.
Livinus was pacing from one place to another, breaking off branches as he went along the elephant grasses, Ambrose and Matthew delved into the oranges.
“Let’s agree whoever gets rich first will sponsor the others to get to where they are.” Livinus said eagerly with eyes that looked like it was about to separate from its sockets.
Ambrose and Mathew looked at each and shrugged.
“Okay.” They chorused.
After locking pinkies they went back to their oranges except Livinus who returned to pacing. A few minutes later they looked back wondering why they hadn’t heard Livinus murmuring for a while. When they didn’t see him they shared his mango and orange between themselves and kept the ones they were taking back close to their makeshift stools.
“Wait o! Do you know the way out of here?” Matthew asked suddenly looking back at the trees.
“Yes, I marked the path we took. Where is that boy now? Let him not get us into another trouble o!”
Trouble hmn! Then he remembered what his mother said on his birthday ‘Son, they will always come and confront me because we are poor. Please stay away from Livinus for your own sake eh! He is a bad influence.’
“I saw something earlier, come I’ll show you!”
They went and cleared the slab. It was actually a dilapidated well. Something was inscribed on it and it read:
TO BE CONTINUED