Igbo-Smoking Keke Driver

Episode 1

Last week I had an appointment in Onitsha and prepared early so I could beat the usual traffic on the Asaba-Onitsha expressway. I hurriedly had my bath, rushed my breakfast and headed out of the house with my knapsack. As a rule I do not use my private vehicle within the Onitsha metropolis for personal reasons. So I went to the road to board a Keke-na-pep (commercial tricycle) that would take me to Onitsha park.
A few tricycles passed by, all of them full, and for a while no other keke na pep was in sight. I guess it was because it was still early in the morning. I was beginning to get impatient when I noticed a solitary and empty tricycle hurtling down the road in my direction. I stuck out my thumb for him to stop and the keke swerved sharply unto the side-lane and screeched to a halt by my side, scattering dust left and right. I jumped back a bit on impulse to avoid getting hit.

After a quick glance at the keke and its driver, my first reaction was to tell him to keep going. The Keke looked like it had definitely seen better days; the windscreen was broken with the cracks forming a kind of spider’s web with a jagged hole on the left side of the driver. There were bumps and scratches on the framework and the back seat was detached and a little skewed. It looked like a badly bumped bumper-cart.
The driver himself looked like a villain out of a Nollywood movie. Thin and unkempt fellow wearing a dirty yellow (or was it orange) T-shirt and rugged jeans. He was sitting so I couldn’t figure his height so much but he looked generally small. His facial features consisted of an uncombed hair, ragged beard and wild moustache.

But it was his wide red eyes that were his most prominent feature. Like someone who was suffering from a viral conjunctivitis, although he wasn’t squinting in the sunlight to indicate photophobia so I knew the redness was from something else, most likely marijuana. He stretched out a bony hand and beckoned for me to enter.

I paused. In other circumstances I would have told him to go, that I had changed my mind or something, and jejerly wait for another keke with a saner looking individual at the wheel. But I was running late already and I was thinking of how I was going to beat the traffic on the express. I thought, to hell with it, what could go wrong, right?

I boarded the keke.

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