*Operation 111/chicken robbery* Episode One

The melodies of the night insects was all we needed to alert one another that our time was due and we were ready to go on the operation. Papa Atta’s hen coop was a distance away from his house, but still within his compound. His lazy and irresponsible dog was out satisfying its ego with the female dogs in the nieghbourhood. We were certain that all was ready, and foresaw a successful operation. Four pairs of eyes and two flash lights were good enough to see through the dark and brought us behind Papa Atta’s wall, where we were sure the hen coop was situated. Having successfully completed all of our other operations without being spotted, boosted our morale and made us confident that we would definitely get away with that. K. B was the first to jump and he made a clear landing, avoiding ears and attention. B-Duke was next and he also made a clean landing. One person was to wait behind the wall with the sack so he loads it with the roosters that we would be passing over. Gabby volunteered, so I also jumped into Papa Atta’s compound. Our search was for roosters, since our intention was to prepare jollof rice with them. But the roosters had been avoiding their coop and were sleeping on a tree which stood over the coop. Our flash lights caught sight of what we all believed was the biggest of Papa Atta’s roosters also asleep on the tree. I warned them that we should let that particular rooster be, since Papa Atta would definitely have eyes for the rooster and probably had plans for it as we were nearing Easter. But K.B seemed to have had his own plans for it and swore that he was going nowhere without that rooster. We made a clean catch of two roosters, grabbing them by the necks and preventing them from crowing for help. All they could do was to struggle,  the other roosters were fast asleep to be startled. It had rained earlier and the air was cold. The birds seemed to be enjoying their sleep. We were surprised to see that the biggest rooster we had our eye on was alarmed by the struggle the second rooster we grabbed was making. The biggest rooster started jumping from one branch to the other, going upwards and away from our reach. K.B decided to climb the tree and go after it since I had the second rooster in my hand and B-Duke also had the first one. “K.B, make you bone that rooster, we go fit grab two more take replace am, wey we go get more chicken pass what that rooster sef go provide.” I asked K.B, to leave the big rooster alone, so we could grab two more in replacement, hoping that he will give up and back off. I felt uneasy as I was very  aware that K.B’s profound ambition and interest in that particular rooster could get us caught, but he was not ready to let that rooster be. I decided to climb up as well and help K.B grab that rooster, since I knew for certain that K.B would never leave without it. I therefore turned the rooster I had in my grip’s head into its wings and it slept peacefully. A little knowledge I obtained when I went to visit my grandfather in the village. The big rooster was stubborn, as if told to do so, it kept climbing upwards and upwards until it was out of reach. “Who ask you say come join me for here?” K.B asked why I joined him up on the tree in anger. “Then I get everything under control. Like you for no dey join me for here.” He further reprimanded me for joining him up there. “Did I make any noise in joining you? I only thought I could help, but it turns out this rooster is not ready to be stolen. There will be more chances and more operations to undertake when this rooster can be dealt with. But for now, we can grab two more  and leave before we get caught.” I told K.B in a pleading tone. “I get plans give this rooster. Like we go take make separate pepper soup wey we go enjoy am alongside the gallon of fresh palm wine my grandmother take come from the village, to sell at the big market,” K.B made known his plans; what he would have used the big rooster for. He whined on, almost in tears “You have plans for your grandmother’s palm wine? Chale the old woman go die oo. Remember she has not recovered from the debt our other operation cost her?” “Ah, and who cares? ‘Dead body no dey pay money.’ When she dies, the profitable thing I go get be say I go have the house all to myself, wey her debt go cancel.” We burst out into laughter, forgetting that we were not supposed to be where we were and laughing out loud could get us caught and beaten before taken to the police station. In the course of our laughter, the light in Papa Atta’s living room turned on. Our laughter ended abruptly, and the fear of Papa Atta crept back into us. Papa Atta was the only man in the neighbourhood with a double barrel gun. He was an old soldier who was relieved of his duty after using excessive force and use of firearms where it was not needed. Everyone feared him and all the other groups of thieves would not touch anything that belonged to him. ”Turn off the flash lights… Quickly… quickly,” I whispered to B-Duke, who had not yet seen the light in Papa Atta’s sitting room turned on.“Do you think he has a hint that we are here?” I asked K.B, still in a whispering tone. “Make you keep still. No movements. Hold the roosters tightly, or them go betray our presence,” K.B whispered to B-Duke in a frightened tone, telling him to tighten his grip on the roosters least they betrayed our prescience. Sweat had started pouring down my body profusely. My face was also buried in sweat, as we all stood stifled and on full alert. I could hear from beneath the tree that B-Duke had started murmuring words of prayers. Though I could not hear exactly what he was saying, I was sure from subsequent situations, that he was praying one of his ‘Get away and come back no more’ prayers. In such instances, we were always too petrified to laugh at his deed, but we always did so after a successful getaway. The situation upfront was at its worse, as Papa Atta’s light stayed on. Knowing the consequences of being caught, I saw K.B brush a trail of sweat off his brow and continued to stare, probably hoping that the lights in Papa Atta’s room would turn off and allow us to leave immediately. After what seemed like eternity, Papa Atta’s light finally went off and we all gave a heavy sigh of relief. But B-Duke was still drowned in his prayers; so deep that I was only able to call him to attention after calling multiple times. “K.B, we have five roosters in our custody and that is enough chicken for our jollof, and if you still want, the pepper soup we will be using to do justice to your grandmothers gallon of ‘palm wine,’” I said, consoling K.B and hoping he would accept defeat. “Abua! Akoko!” K.B threw insults towards the rooster at a pace that made me think that I was the one he was talking to, in response to what I told him. “We go definitely come back for you. By hook or by crook, and even if we no fit get the chance to come this close to you, I go make sure say I go stone you to death when I see you around in the neighbourhood.” K.B continued to throw hot words and threats at the rooster. As soon as K.B was done threatening the rooster, it started to make noise, as if it understood what K.B said and was offended. We all stood, watching the rooster in drop-dead horror, wondering how to appease it and make it silent. Our horror intensified when Papa Atta’s light turned back on. Our prayers now was that the earth should burst open and swallow us, as we watch Papa Atta open his curtain to see what could have caused the rooster’s noise. We watched on… Papa Atta let go of the curtain and it dropped back to its former position. With the lights still on, we saw his shadow creeping slowly into one of the rooms. “He is going to bring his double barrel gun!” These words blurted out of my mouth without asking permission from my mind. “Hurry…hurry, make we get out of here” K.B said to us. I jumped from where I stood on the tree without any concern about whether or not I could get hurt jumping from that height. B-Duke had long reached the wall where Gabby stood behind waiting with the sack. I waited for K.B to come down. In some few seconds he was standing right beside me on the ground, and to my surprise, he had the big rooster in his grip. “How did you do it?” I asked in full surprise. “It’s just one of the things I dey do best. I be more efficient when scared. I go fit make just about anything come to pass when I am scared,” He boasted how he could do anything when he is scared. “Man, you are real. You be the worse guy in town,” I said, in full praise of him. “Hurry, make you grab the other roosters let’s go.” K.B asked me to cut the praising and focus on getting out of the den. Despite our fear, we were determined not to let our labour be in vain and that we still had to get away with some of the roosters. I had two roosters and K.B was also carrying two. B-Duke made away with only one rooster. When we reached B-Duke at the wall and were all set and ready to jump, we heard a voice ask Gabby from behind the wall, “Hey boy, what are you doing here at this time of the dawn and with a sack in your hand?” “I am looking for metal scraps,” Gabby said to the man with a firm and confident tone. With the tone of voice he used, a man could not ask more questions, but only advise, “Be careful with where you seek your scraps. Not around Papa Atta’s terrain. You won’t find anything here, and you might not come out alive.” We heard the man walk by, but just as we were about to jump over the wall, Papa Atta came out of his room with his gun in hand. We had no option but to lay still, flat on the ground. At that point, we all realized that nothing more than B-Duke’s get-away prayers could get us out of the jaws of Papa Atta…   To be continued next week
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Tawiah Aboagye

I'm cool and Poetic, Author of the play The African Within.

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