By: Sami Tunji
God comes to our house one dusty evening and tells us in a deep baritone that my father will have a car. A red car, precisely. The colour of Jesus’ blood. We say amen until we feel a scratch behind our throats. God, a lanky un-bearded bald man in a shiny white cassock, adds with the fervency of the Holy Ghost that we should expect the car in three days. Number three metamorphoses into living beings going to and fro the entire room of my mind: 3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3ℇ3 … I begin to think about anything related to the number three, trying to make the word of God more significant: Trinity, Jesus rose on the third day, aje meta…. I pause at aje meta, and ask Jesus to cast and bind every witch who wants to hinder the fulfilment of God’s word.
“Messenger of God, you haven’t finished your malt?” It’s a humble suggestion-question of reminder from my pious father in Yoruba to God, who has just finished praying and prophesying and is about to leave. The half-drunk Maltina sits with humility on the table; its dark-brown eyes laser-focus on me as I bend my neck to look at it with thirsty eyes. I pray God will say “no, thanks” and leave the drink so that I can gulp it down later. But he stretches out his hand before I finish the prayer in my mind, holds the bottle in a firm grip around its neck, lifts it up to his patchy lips, and swallows the remaining content in a single gulp, that kind that can make you win a drinking competition.
Before God leaves, my father squeezes some money into the tiny offering basket of his hand. I think one hundred or two hundred naira note for him to take an okada back to his house or to the house of another church member. One thing is sure as he leaves, his prophecy has etched out a smile on the face of every member of my family. My father is smiling. My mother is smiling. I, the firstborn, am smiling. My two younger sisters are smiling. Uncle Kaz, my mother’s brother from the village, is smiling too. It feels like a warm sun is shining on the sky of our faces. I wish a photographer can just enter now and take a picture. Snap snap snap! My mother bursts into praises, “He’s a miracle working God…” We sing along with her in dancing feet – a family of terrible singers too happy to know how terrible our voices sing.
Three days take long and do not take long to come. They are here: the third day and the red car. I am the first to see a red car parked on the street, a few feet away from my father’s bungalow. It’s around 11am on a Friday, I think. I am filled with the joy of the Lord. I almost become a mad boy on the street.
My father is not at home. My mother is in her shop, some feet further away. I’m not sure where my siblings are anymore. But I spot Uncle Kaz and beckon him towards me. He comes. The smile on his face tells me he knows why I have called him. He is excited too. We are both filled with the joy of the Lord.
We touch the car as if we are touching Jesus’ garment. The car, which model I’m not sure of, is not very clean, as if someone has been using it for a long time. But in my mind, I imagine that the angels of God, like they had walked a long mile to visit Father Abraham, must have ridden it from a long distance through our un-tarred, dusty, rough road to this place; that explains the dusty and used state of the car.
Uncle Kaz and I stay beside the car for about 30 minutes. Awe is etched like tribal marks on our faces. I stand beside the car, posing, knowing this must be my father’s car that God prophesied about.
“God is miraculous!” I say to Uncle Kaz and want to say to everyone that walks on the street, but I am waiting for my father to come back from work and put the car key, which might have been delivered to him in his office, in the car, and start the car, and take us for a ride of pride around the street, saying, “This is what the Lord has done, and it is marvellous in our sight.”
We are still standing beside the car when a strange man, not as tall as God, comes to invade and steal my father’s car. The man walks like the owner of the car that God has given my father. After smiling at us, the man opens the door of the car, steps in, inserts the key, starts the car and drives off, leaving dusty space and surprised faces.
“Maybe God changed his mind…” Uncle Kaz mutters. There is no more smile on our faces. I begin to question myself like a detective questioning a criminal. What have we done wrong? Was I too excited? Did any of my family members sin? Why did God change his mind? I kneel on the street and beg God to forgive us and return the car until Uncle Kaz asks us to go inside the house. His mouth reeks of disappointment. As we walk the very short distance home, it feels like everyone walking on the street can see how disappointed we are, and they are laughing hard in the private corner of their minds.
When my father returns from work, I refuse to tell him about the car. In fact, it seems everyone has forgotten about the prophecy, except me.
I grow up, realizing that God actually lied to us. Yes, God lied. And he lied hard. That car belonged to that man, not my father. God deceived us! He fooled us! Damn!
Thirteen years later (and I know that for the rest of my life), any time I hear the name of God, a picture of a lanky un-bearded bald man in a shiny white cassock stained with speckles of that lie creeps (and will continue to creep) into my mind. And God becomes (and will continue to be) ugly. Very very ugly.
Sami Tunji is a freelance writer, editor, researcher, and adventurer.