The clock had just chimed 8pm and Ducat was doing his usual trek to what he called home. Allen Avenue, Ikeja was well known in Lagos. Different things happened here. It was an avenue where transactions worth several millions of dollars happen every day. It was also an avenue where poor people lived in the interiors of boys quarters and uncompleted buildings off the avenue. Prostitutes and drug dealers have found this avenue a haven for transactions. Currency traders and marketers have made this avenue buzz with life. Up at the beginning of the avenue, near Aromire Avenue end was Alade market. Different eat houses and fashion houses were resident in this avenue. It was an avenue that housed the good, bad and ugly. Ducat did not have a good day. His boss did not pay him. It was a Friday and he was hoping to get some money from the last transaction to pay for his bed space for the month. He needed to cook some soup. He needed to eat his favourite food, which was fish pepper soup with boiled rice. He got to eat this once a month, that was on month ends. While these thoughts were ruminating through his head as he trekked on, in front of him stood a lady, on the phone, next to her was a car. The hazard light was on. He smelt car trouble from a distance. He was very hungry. The last time he had a bite was when Fuga shared his lunch with him. He didn’t even have transport fare to head to Ojuelegba for his customary weekend and month end treat. This was going to be one miserable weekend, he thought to himself.
“Excuse me sir” the elegantly dressed lady addressed him. She wore a black skirt, red camisole, black jacket and burgundy shoes.
“Can you please help me to push the car out of the way ?”
“Sure”. At least being kind doesn’t cost anything.
Ducat asked the lady to get into the car and put the gear in N. it was a bit of an incline and Ducat pushed the car all the way to the side of the road, clearing it off the main road by himself.
The lady was impressed at such enormous strength, yet this guy looked like a person who could be blown away by the wind.
“Thanks so much sir” the lady in Burgundy shoes said.
Ducat was about to continue on his journey when the lady asked, “do you happen to know of any mechanic around this area by any chance?”
“No. Moreover it is late.”
“I am stuck I don’t know what to do. The car just stopped working and I can’t leave the car here in the middle of the road and I am going to Surulere and I can’t reach my friend on phone.”
“I am sorry to hear this” Ducat said. His mind was still on how miserable his weekend was going to be.
When Ducat was a young boy, he used to spend holidays with his uncle in Onitsha. His uncle had a spare parts shop and a garage. He used to work for his uncle during holidays. He also learnt how to repair cars at his uncle’s garage. The only thing was, his uncle never paid him a penny. That was why he never went back to his uncle for holidays. He did all what the other apprentices used to do like lifting weights, building stamina and developing automotive skills. Training to be a mechanic in a place like Nigeria had a lot to do with physical fitness. Because most of the auto garages did not have sophisticated equipment like they do in the western world, most tasks had to be performed manually and that meant a lot of physical strength had to be expended on tasks. So, part of the training towards becoming a mechanic had to do with physical strength, toughness and stamina development. For fun, Ducat used to partake in these routines and that was how he developed the skills on how to push cars up an incline effortlessly. Even though he had left his uncle’s shop for several years now, he wasn’t a neophyte to the world of auto repairs.
The lady in burgundy shoes was in distress. The Mazda 6 ultra-sport series looked very new. The lady must have coughed out some decent dosh for that machine. And she was in the middle of the road let down by the beautiful machine. What a life! What an irony, Ducat thought. He was looking for oof just to take care of his meal plan for the weekend and his month end rendezvous and here was a lady whose problem was how to secure her expensive car for the night.
“Sir please can you help me?”
“With an idea on how to secure the car for the night?”
“My suggestion would be for you to push the car near a place that has some security presence, then talk to the security guard on duty to look after the car for you, find him some money and trust that the car would be safe till morning when you come for it with your mechanic.”
“Makes sense” she agreed.
“Or call your mechanic and ask him to come to meet you where you are.”
“I don’t have a mechanic. This car is only two months old and it has not given me any problems since I bought it. It’s not even done her first servicing yet.”
“Well let me see if I can help you. What is wrong with the car? ” Ducat asked.
“I was going up the incline when it just lost power and stopped. I tried to start the engine all over and it would not work.”
“Let me have the keys” Ducat ordered.
The lady looked Ducat over. Ducat could see the questions unfolding in the lady’s mind. “Can I trust this guy? Does he know anything about cars? If he does, why didn’t he suggest it earlier on, what if he disappeared with my car key?”
‘Life is a risk, isn’t it?’ She concluded in her mind and handed the keys over to Ducat.
Ducat opened the car and tried to start the engine, it would not ignite. He fiddled with a few things and the car would not start. He checked the dashboard and everything seemed fine. He opened the bonnet and asked the lady to point the light from her phone on the car engine. Ducat pulled two foot mats from the car and laid it on the ground under the engine. He slid under the engine and examined the engine. He did a few checks and he needed a toolbox.
He took an okada* and dashed to his house and within thirty minutes he was back with a toolbox and flash light. He went to work and in the next fifteen minutes, he asked the lady to start the engine. The engine came to life and he instructed her to turn it off.
He came out from under the car and closed the bonnet, packed his tool box.
If there was a time you could visibly read the joy in a person, this was one occasion you could read joy lines on this lady’s face.
“Thank you very much. I don’t know how to thank you, but thank you and thank you and thank you.”
“Let me drop you off, direct me to your house.”
“Don’t bother, just give me transport money and I will find my way home.”
“No way, not after what you have done for me. I will drop you off.”
“I live in a rough zone and you may not want to come that way”
“It doesn’t matter. I will drop you off”
“If you insist. Let’s go”
Ducat was happy and fulfilled that he had been able to help somebody in dire need even though his weekend will be all miserable because of lack of food and pay.