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Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:”
The three of us got to the door at the same time. We looked at each other, assessing each other, mentally judging whether the other two had been up to better good. Saida had several books under her arm and I could see the ink stains on her palms and her library card peeking out just so from one of the books. I shook my head. She just wanted us to know she had been in the library since morning when I could see the grid marks on her right cheek that looked suspiciously like the cover of one of the books she was holding.
“Hey” Sike said, opening the door to let us all in. Sike who from the moment I met her at the beginning of the semester dragging in a truckload of clothes reminded me of an aristo. It was the color of her skin (like over ripe paw paw skin), and her pouty lips and Barbara Mori body. A person looked at her and imagined all the no-good she could be up to. I did not know where she had been, but her handbag was too small to contain any book. Probably sleeping with the lecturer, I thought scathingly; with her skin color and red nail polish, how else could she be on a two-one?
“Where are you coming from?” Sike asked, a smile on her face as thought she knew exactly what I was thinking.
“Crusade,” I said smugly to the both of them. Read all you want, I wanted to say to Saida and you Sike, sleep with the whole faculty if you like, but me, I have divine backing for these exams.
“Which one?” she asked, turning on the light and dropping her small stylish bag on her bed. I dropped my bible and notebook on the table also before answering, “Let Me Go.”
She snorted loudly. “The one by Ezekiel Pepple?”
“Yes.” Saida looked up from unchaining her bucket of water from her bed.
“The one that claimed he was in Ibadan and yet his course mates saw him writing an examination paper?”
“Yes,” I replied, “God asked him to go for a crusade and he forfeited his final paper to go. When he got back, his course mates all told him they had seen him the exam hall.” I remembered the awe I felt after hearing the story. It gave me goose bumps. I wish God would call me to go to Ibadan and have an angel be my proxy during my exams. Saida and Sike looked at each other and at me.
“You believe that story?”
“You do realize that Ezekiel Pepple is in his sixth year for a four year course abi?” Saida said.
I shook my head. “Who said so?”
She smiled. “I was talking to Prof. Sylvanus.” Of course, she was. I shook my head and did not deign to answer her. All these evil spirits that the devil would send to discourage someone and steal blessings after extreme fortification had come from God himself.
I closed my ears to the remaining discussion and got into bed. I was too tired to read. Since the exams started a week ago, I had drawn closer to God. I knew only God could draw me out of my third class into a two-two; like he drew the Israelites out of Egypt, and Daniel out of the Lions’ den and the four Hebrew boys from the fiery furnace. When I saw the posters for the three-night crusade by Ezekiel Pepple, I knew I had to attend. I had heard of him of course, the legend who went to Ibadan and yet had been seen in the exam hall writing his final papers. I called NJ and we both agreed to go.
“How will we read?” she asked later that night as we settled into our seats near the altar. The crusade was holding in the open space beside Shogunro multi-purpose hall where most student programs held. There had been a large turnout the night before and so we came earlier today. With our bags and scarves, we kept two extra seats for Juwon and Abigail. “I have Ugozi’s paper tomorrow by 12 so I will leave early to revise,” NJ told me as we settled down.
I nodded. “Okay.” I had a paper by 12 also but believed firmly that it would do me more good to stay in the presence of God and soak anointing. I would stay till three a.m. go to bed, wake up by seven and revise for the exam.
The crusade started an hour late. When praise and worship started, I cleared my mind to receive revelations of the questions likely to come out during my exam. I was partly done with the reading; I had planned on staying up yesterday but had been too tired from the crusade to do much reading. I tried reading in the afternoon, but couldn’t; I have always read better at night. During the message, I listened carefully for any coded message that might come from the pulpit to me. The whole ground was alive with a kind of frenzy. I recognized a few faces from my class when I had the time to look; third class students, not my kind of third class (I was on a 2.49) but those at the very dreg of third classness. That would not be my portion.
“I’m leaving now,” NJ whispered to me. “I have two chapters I haven’t covered yet.”
“But the prayer has not even started,” I said.
“Pray for two abeg. I have to read.” I shrugged. If she wanted to go and read, it was fine. She made her way out of the row and I turned back to the altar. The crusade finished around five in the morning, and I stumbled into the room, tired. Sike was awake, her feet in a bowl of water and her books spread on her bed.
“Hey,” she said as I entered. I nodded sleepily at her. I set my alarm to seven and fell on my bed fully clothed. “You want me to wake you?”
“Yes, please,” I said closing my eyes. Too soon, my alarm started buzzing and I shut it off. Someone started tapping my feet. “Sola wake up.”
“Uhn?” Sike was dressed to leave.
“You said to wake you. I’m leaving, my paper is by eight.”
“Thank you” I said, sitting up and reaching for my textbook. She left the room and shut the door behind her. As the door clicked close, I dropped back to bed. Every part of my body hurt and my bed was life at that moment.
I woke up at eleven thirty and did a dash for the bathroom. I tried not to think about the topics I hadn’t had time to cover; I believed firmly that it was what I had read that would come out. I had that faith. As I put on my shirt, I flicked through the textbook. I barely made it to the exam hall. I sat down and watched with trepidation as the answer sheets and then question papers were shared. “You can start!” I opened the question paper, saw the questions and felt a headache start. I began to speak in tongues.
Proverbs 14:23 “Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table.”