There comes a time in life when one remembers some silly events in one’s childhood, and one begins to wonder if one was actually normal. To be honest, I think some of my escapades are stories worthy of Hollywood’s Nickelodeon Series.

I think I was about eight years old when this incident happened but I remember it vividly as if it were yesterday. The years waits for no one.
Growing up in the not so urban area of Ilasamaja has its perks, and one of such is the never ending list of playmates one could have. Despite being an ‘AJEBUTTER’ as many called my siblings and me due to my mother’s strict adherence to neatness and polished English in the place of the usual colloquialisms (pidgin English and the Yoruba language) used by the people around, I still had the opportunity to mingle and have fun with other children.

It was not uncommon for us to invent games like wrestling and other forms of dangerous games to kill time, and yours truly was always a participant in such games, mostly as the ringleader.
I had this friend which we nicknamed ‘Cockroach’ due to his small stature, and he lived up to expectations. Whenever our football was kicked into a tight spot like the bottom of a parked car, Cockroach got it out for us by wriggling his small frame underneath, dyeing his clothes with mud in the process. But we all envied him because his ability to retrieve lost balls was legendary.

Cockroach was not just my bestie, but also my classmate, so we had quite a lot in common, chief of which was that we were both ‘OLODOS’, trust us to carry first position from the back of the class (I think association of OLODOS could have best described us).
Cockroach always had nails to play with, new and shiny, and seeing him with those nails made me green with envy. In a bid to find out how he was getting the nails, I queried him one fateful afternoon, and he gave my a sly smile, and uttered his source of nails in his usual stuttering way, while drumming his legs on the ground in a bid to construct his words ‘I…I… Ssssstole it!’ he declared triumplantly.

I am from a family where we were trained never to take what didn’t belong to us, but the romance stealing nails offered was just too much for my greedy and adventurous soul to resist. It was not like I had any thing to do with the nails but, I just had to have them. So, the day cockroach suggested that we both stage a two pronged attack to liberate some nails from the shackles of their owner, I quickly agreed.
We crawled gently to a nearby vendor and cockroach boldly dipped his hand on her nails and made away with one nail, laughing with glee. Luckily, two nails fell and I picked them up and ran like a gazelle. I had never run faster than that in my life.

We told other children about our adventures and their minds were made up… They all wanted to nailnap nails (nailnap 😂 I just coined it from the word kidnap). They wanted to be like their role model, yours truly!

So, I became the strategist, the boss who stays at home while the boys are doing the dirty work. I sat in one corner of our compound, waiting for my boys to bring the loot home and they did not disappoint. My younger brother ‘Silas Chidi’ is one criminally minded person, he decided that taking one or two nails was not enough by bringing back home FIVE NAILS on his first heist. The boy was good!

On his second, he brought back four nails. Come to think of it, did he want to run down the nail vendor’s business? ‘Taking nails as if na your papa get am.’
All this while, I was forming boss, the keeper of stolen nails, the recruiter of promising and potential thieves and the director of affairs. Before long, we had all the children on the heist.
Children always overdo things, they never know when to stop. As at this time, we had about TWENTY nails, but we were just getting started.. The statement ‘Everyday for the thief but one day for the owner of the house’ is highly correct. My dear cousin Andy Ebuka decided to give it a go, and that was when they were discovered.

I saw my beloved robbers running back home shouting ‘THEY ARE COMING!’. Trust me not to ask who was coming, I joined the race for safety but not before I gathered my beloved nails. I ran upstairs to spy on how things would turn out, and I could not help laughing when I saw the aggrieved nail seller hurling invectives at us in her native Yoruba language. What I remember vividly was when she described us as OMO JATI JATI. But I wasn’t bothered because I had my nails.. My nice and shiny nails

Filled with pride and happiness about my stealing prowess, I started boasting to my elder brother Dan Anozie, forgetting the fact that he was such a tattletale (Amebo). He gave me a big knock and reported us all to my aunty, the mother of Andy Ebuka, my cousin. ‘Why didn’t I keep my fucking mouth shut?’ I cursed myself.
Mama Andy started our trials and she asked all the children who the leader of the gang was, and all with one accord vociferously called one name EDOZIE!!! forgetting the fact that the idea was cockroach’s. Even cockroach called my name (the stinking poltroon)

We were all flogged and Mama Andy divided the nails among us to return them to the owner. She gave me about 8 nails which I refused, claiming I took only two (I was that stubborn as a child). Other children returned theirs repentantly, but yours truly refused to indulge in the ignoble act of returning nails. After a lot of whippings from my aunty, and the command of my mom who was back from the market, I finally decided to return them, but not until the nails were redistributed.. I now had to give back four instead of eight, which was a little righteous victory for me.

I thought it ended there but alas, I was wrong. As I was passing there that night with my dad and siblings, some children started pointing at me, singing the famous yoruba hit song ‘OLE AJIBOLE OLE AJIBOLE’ meaning a thief. I was truly embarrassed and for once, I walked away with my head downwards instead of giving back a stinging comment. Thank God my daddy did not notice, it could have been round two beatings for me.

From that day onward, I never took what was not mine, no matter how seductive it looked

Note: All the names in this work are fictional.

3 thoughts on “DIARY OF A PURE EVIL DEMON: NAIL THIEVES: By Chiedozie Ude”

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