msafiri fiction 150 One could therefore imagine the stir it caused, when on an early Tuesday morning Mallam Sile's wife showed up at Samadu's house to collect a tea debt he owed them. Prior to that, Abeeba had tried amicably to collect the money Samadu owed them, which was eighty cedis — about four dollars. After her third futile attempt, Abeeba had suggested to Sile that they use force to retrieve the money. But Sile had quickly cautioned his wife, " Stay out of that boy's way, he is dangerous. And if he had decided not to pay, please let him keep the amount. He would be the loser in the end." " But, Mallam, it is an insult what he is doing," Abeeba had argued. " I think people to whom we have been generous should only be generous in return. I am getting fed up with their ways, and the sooner the folks here know that even the toad gets sick of filling his belly with the same dirty pond water everyday, the better!" Though Sile was surprised and taken aback by his wife's vehemence, he had decided to allow the matter to die. When Abeeba arrived at Samadu's house, a number of housewives and young women were busily doing their morning chores in and around the compound — some sweeping and stirring up dust all over the compound, others fetching water from the tap in the center of the compound and pouring it into the barrels in front of their rooms, and a few were lighting up charcoal pots to warm up hot water and their left over food from the previous night. She greeted them politely and asked to be shown to the tough guy's door. The women's intital response was to turn Abeeba away, as they feared that Samadu would humiliate her once he came out of his room. But Abeeba insisted that it was important business that had brought her, and that she must see the tough guy. Seeing the fire in her eyes, the housewife reluctantly directed the tea- seller's wife to Samadu's room, located outside the main compound— in the boys quarters of the house. The usual tactic boys used when fighting girls was to try and strip them of the wrapper around their waist, knowing that they would be reluctant to keep fighting half- naked. But Abeeba had come prepared: She wore a sleeveless ready- to- fight shirt and a pair of tight- fitting khaki shorts, and for the first time ever left her ubiqituous veil at home. " You rogue, if you call yourself a man come out and pay your debt," Abeeba shouted, as she pounded her fist at the door. " Who do you think you are? Ruining my sleep because of some useless eighty cedis?" screamed Samadu from behind the door. " The money may be useless, but it is certainly worthier than you, and that's why you haven't been able to pay. You rubbish heap of a man!" responded Abeeba. Her voice was coarse and full of menace. The veins on her neck stood erect, like those dervish fighters at the annual wrestling contest. Her eyes looked hard and brutish, and she moved her head in rapid movements as if she was having a fit of some sort. One of the onlookers, a famished- looking housewife, pleaded with the tea- seller's wife, " Go back to your house, woman. Don't fight this boy, he would disgrace you in public." Another woman added in the background, " What kind of a woman thinks she can fight a man? Be careful O!" Abeeba didn't pay any attention to the women's admonitions, which she considered useless babble. Samadu, meanwhile, was yet to come out.