Lola Opatayo

Creative Writing Resources, News and Tips.

Tales of a year: the Gift

Short Story

Dear reader, this is the end of the series Tales of a year. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and you have an idea of what my experiences were, please feel free to post your comments and suggestions about the series. I appreciate all the comments, suggestions and shares; every kind word has spurred me on. Tomorrow there will be another story so please don’t be a stranger!
Patrick Oko sat down quietly,
amused by the corp members popularly known as corpers. He had followed one of them after school to Mama Dennis’
joint where some drank beer while others waited for a ride into town. They
talked about everything between their individual experiences in the village and
with the villagers to their expectations after their service year ended. They
were completely oblivious of his presence, freely expressing their disdain of
some of the villagers. Patrick was greatly amused; what seemed strange and
disdainful to them was the norm to him, it was the only way of doing things.
They were the strange ones. He enjoyed being in their company though; he even
considered it a priviledge that they would bare his company. It was like being
in the company of higher beings who knew everything, he had just heard a new
word, ‘swag’ and brought out his notebook to write it down (as was his habit) so
he could look it up later.
“Patrick, are you writing down
another new word?” one of the corpers asked with mock seriousness
“Yes sir, you know I want to be
like you so I must learn how to talk like you” he replied earnestly
“Really?” the corper asked “Wow,
I’m flattered” he said again with mock seriousness as the other corpers
laughed. They enjoyed Patrick’s company too, his naïve ways amused them to no
end and he served as their informant concerning the villagers and their peculiar
“Don’t mind them” one of the
corpers said to Patrick who was doing his best to hide his confusion at their
laughter, he wondered if he was really that funny.
“What do you want to become in
the future?” another corper asked
“A corper” he replied, the
laughter this time was uproarious
 “Patrick no go kill me o!” the corper said,
trying hard to control his convulsive laughter.
This time Patrick was confused,
wasn’t it a good thing to be like them? He had dreamt so often of wearing the
green khaki trousers and cap with the white NYSC imprinted t-shirt. He even
wore the orange boots Corper Obiora gave him before he left to church every Sunday;
they were his best shoes and the symbol of who he aspired to be.
“And where do you want to work?”
“Tunde leave him alone now…”
Corper Dele said unhappily, he was reading poor Patrick’s mind and he saw that
with each jibe his colleagues took at him, they lowered Patrick’s already low
self-esteem. Patrick was one of the serious students and he saw that glimmer of
hope in his eyes everytime he talked about Abuja where he lived; he had seen
that he was one of the few people in this village who dared to dream.
“Dele what is it? Are you his
father? Aren’t we just playing with him?” Tunde replied irritably, this Dele
was always too serious for his liking. They needed some comic relief in this dreadful
village and he was going to have it. “Answer the question my dear friend, where
do you want to work?”  He said with a
smile that was on the verge of turning into uncontrollable laughter.
“I can work anywhere o!” he said
“Yes, I can be the vice principal
of my school, I can work at the local government office, those big, big, jobs.
You know as a vice principal, everybody would want me to be at their party?
Even at the church, people will respect me, I may even become the secretary of
my chapel, I will have a lot of money. When I get married, I will even be able
to take my family on holiday to Lagos” he said enthusiastically. He didn’t
notice the giggles that grew into a laughter of mockery, he was dreaming again.
Now he was embarrassed, he had dared to share his dream with people who he
expected would understand, but they had laughed at him. He smiled and bowed his
head, drawing vague shapes with his biro.
Six years later he stood in front
of the board, his eyes scrolling up and down the list. His name was not on this
“Don’t let anyone tell you you
can’t. Choose to rise above your limitations; you do not have to accept your
present condition. Never ever be afraid to dream, when others laugh at your
dream you learn to choose your listeners wisely.”
Those words had resounded in his mind
for the last six years. Corper Dele had pulled him aside and told them to him
on that day, he had spoken to him like an older brother. He sighed in frustration;
he should have seen it by now. There it was! He exhaled in relief; he had been
posted to Enugu state. He walked away from the board and dialed a number.
“Hello? Uncle Dele, it’s out. I’ve
been posted to Enugu state”
“Oh ok. Send me those details we
talked about, I’ll speak with the Regional Manager there and make sure you are
posted to one of our branches in the state”
“Thank you sir, I’m very
“Don’t mention”
Corper Dele had always been a
good influence in his life, he had always kept in touch with him. It is hard to
forget the person who clothes you when others have stripped you naked, or the
person who sees greatness in you when there is nothing to see. It is the gift
of affirmation and those who have experienced it never remain the same again,
someone has opened their eyes to their true identity. Patrick exhaled with joy,
glad that he had surpassed his dreams because someone had chosen to believe in

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