Houseophelia

There is a single well in this community and everybody fetches from it. Houses that surround this well are mostly face-me-I-slap-you, the others are uncompleted.
This well has a fetching-pail everybody uses except for those who own theirs, and no, this isn’t about the well or fetching-pails but it has something to do with it.
Not so far from the well stands a building that houses a man people call Baba. A nice, respectable Ijaw man of average height, soot-dark complexion, has large rough hands and splayed feet. He used to be a successful bricklayer until he lost his job and then his wife left him for another man.

Rumour has it that the incident sent him to rock bottom, and that’s why he’s private. The few times he is seen outside he smokes a cigarette and soliloquize. When people walk by he greets with a hearty smile. Most times he is indoors. For work, he leased his spare rooms.

Motunrayo and her family live two houses from Baba. A little girl of age nine who goes to school at 8:00A.M and returns at 3:00P.M, daily. After school, she eats, does her arithmetic and then she goes to fetch from the well, for her family’s daily use. A pattern she doesn’t break.
On her way, sometimes Motunrayo sees Baba smoking a cigarette and she greets him. He smiles richly at her and engages her about her day.  Often he walks her and helps with her bucket. Sometimes when Motunrayo sees baba he gives her mints, compliments her hair, or sometimes he gives little amounts he said was for school.

It is not abnormal in a small community like that to see an older man playing or talking with a child, as most people know each other by face and values.
One day Motunrayo goes to fetch water and notices that the fetching pail fell into the well. She thinks. She has only just begun. Her mother, a robust woman whom her raucous voice can be heard in strident arguments with her neighbours, will beat her, and so she went to Baba’s house.

When Baba opens Motunrayo explains what happened and then asks for his fetching-pail. “My mum will beat me when I’m done fetching I will return It,” she says.
“Return it when you’re done and don’t let it fall into the well,” Baba says.

“Thank you.” She genuflects.
After Motunrayo is done fetching she returns the pail back to Baba.
The next day and days after that she borrows Baba’s fetching-pail, she says it makes fetching quicker. Indeed.  Baba gives her. It became a norm.
Another day Motunrayo goes to borrow the pail. She knocks and Baba opens his door. Usually, he gives her and goes inside but first he looks around the neighbourhood, it is scanty. The only people around are teenagers, Okada men driving, cars. He invites her in.

Nobody sees Motunrayo go in, and when she comes out she is in tears.