It was a Wednesday and the children of Aunty Folashade Comprehensive Memorial Nursery and Primary School, Isolo were having their annual Easter funfest.
On this day, they came to school wearing their play clothes instead of school uniforms. They gathered on the field used as the assembly ground, and after the packs of Okin biscuits and lollipops had been passed around, they sat, crouched, quieted down, and waited for the main event of the day.
It was a cloudy April afternoon, not too hot to be sitting outside, and not cloudy enough to look like it would rain. The teachers stood in bunches around the students, all facing the side of the field that had been set apart as the stage.
Miss Moyo came out first. She was wearing a multi-coloured striped shirt with bright orange baggy trousers, white gloves and big floppy shoes. She cartwheeled from the edge of the stage until she got to the middle where the microphone stood. Then with one final flip, she stood in front of the stand, detached the mic and fell backwards with a loud whoop. The children laughed. She got up and staggered around, exaggerating her jerky motions by wiggling her arms. The clown paint on her face made her look both confused and scary.
The children yelled back, “HELLO AUNTY!”
She put her hands over her ears and danced a jig.
“Are you all ready for Super Dele?”
She walked from one end of the stage to the other, repeating the question. The children’s replies growing louder each time.
“Good, good. Now, we must let him know we are ready. To do that, when I say ‘Super,’ you shout ‘Dele.’ Can you do that for me, children?”
“Now when I say Super, you say?”
On the third chant, there was a boom from the loudspeakers, and smoke rose from behind the curtains as Super Dele strode out onstage. The children screamed and clapped. He was a large man with a massive upper body and he walked slowly across the front of the stage, pausing every few steps to flex his muscles. He wore a white singlet tucked into tight cycling shorts. His shoulders bulged out of the singlet, his chest and arms glistened with oil. He paced the stage posing and waving to the students with the limited range of his sculpted arms.
For his first feat, Super Dele brought out a length of rope, and selected four male teachers from the crowd. He put his left hand on his waist standing in a hero pose as he pointed, “You, you, you, and you.”
The teachers came forward. Standing next to Super Dele, even Mr. Lawal the PE teacher looked malnourished. Miss Moyo talked to the teachers, then drew a white line in paint across the middle of the stage. She handed them one end of the rope and walked the other end to Super Dele.
Before he took the rope, Super Dele faced the students, raised both hands and flexed his biceps. They protruded out of his upper arms like tumours. He dropped his head, brought his guns to the side, cocked them and pushed out his chest for the second pose. Then he turned around and pulled both hands up again, flexed the biceps and clenched his butt cheeks for the full rear profile. The crowd went wild.
He took the rope and stood opposite the men. Miss Moyo and the students counted.
“One…. Two….. Threee.”
The men attempted to pull Super Dele over the white line.
After what was probably the most embarrassing sixty seconds of Mr. Lawal’s life (not to mention Mr. Okwa, Mr. Bello, and Mr. Adeyanju), Miss Moyo said to the students, “Let us give Super Dele his powers.”
“When I say Super, you say?”
The four teachers watched helplessly, still tugging at the rope with their stringy arms. Super Dele’s eyes widened and his entire body quivered as he drew strength from the chants of the virgin children.
He howled and pulled all four teachers over the line. They fell in a jumbled heap onto the ground. Super Dele stood with his eyes closed and arms stretched out to his sides, palms to the sky, absorbing the praise before turning to help the teachers up and thank them. The teachers stumbled off the stage, not waving, not smiling, not looking up to meet their students’ eyes.
A helper rolled in a wheel-barrow laden with cement blocks. Super Dele lay on his back in the grass as the helper and Miss Moyo loaded the blocks onto a wooden board placed over his chest and stomach. They stacked two blocks flat on their sides, then two more on top, and two more on top of those.
Miss Moyo counted the blocks with the students. She said, “Children, don’t try this unless you are–” She cocked one hand behind her ear and stretched the microphone out with the other hand. The children replied, “SUPER DELE!”
The helper, Yusuf, walked off stage and came back with a sledgehammer. He broke the blocks with practiced swings, stopping after each block for Miss Moyo to say things like, “Four more blocks, children, is he super enough?” To which they yelled back, “YEESSS!”
Yusuf, legs spread apart, hands high above head, broke the final block with a grunt.
Super Dele got up to great applause. He froze in a standing Thinker pose, one arm bent, chin resting on fist, the other hand closed fist on his waist while Miss Moyo and Yusuf dusted him off, polishing his muscles back into peak gleaming condition.
“And now for the grand finale,” Miss Moyo announced.
Super Dele, mute as always, pointed at the parking lot and Miss Moyo said, “Who owns that yellow Volkswagen?” The students turned around to look at the teachers. Mrs. Olaniyi, the social studies teacher, abashed, raised her hand. Miss Moyo walked through the crowd to her and after a brief discussion and some reassuring, convinced Mrs. Olaniyi to drive her car onto the assembly ground.
She drove the car up to the right side of the gathering. The children moved backwards making room for the car as Yusuf attached a thick rope to the bottom of the Beetle. The other end of the rope was wrapped around Super Dele’s waist. Mrs Olaniyi sitting in the driver’s seat inside the car, watched, her head poked out of the window.
“For his last and final feat. In a supreme battle between man and machine. Will Super Dele triumph?”
A hush settled across the crowd. Mrs. Olaniyi looked unsure of what to expect.
Super Dele turned away from the car walking till the line grew taut. He leaned forward and strained for the first big step. The car rolled after him. He took another step, and the car came along. Then he stopped and unraveled the rope from his waist. He took two more steps walking backwards, pulling the car with both hands.
He raised one hand victorious in the air, pulling the car with the other hand. The children were clapping. He raised the rope to his mouth and pulled the car the rest of the way with his teeth. The children were on their feet screaming.
The car rolled to a stop at the other end of the gathered crowd. Super Dele raised his hand for quiet. Miss Moyo said in an ominous tone, “But, is that all?”
Super Dele crouched in front of the car, placed both hands under the frame and lifted the car off the ground. Mrs. Olaniyi in the cockpit, put her hands over her mouth and screamed into it. The children were uncontrollable. He put the car down gently.
Super Dele waved to the rowdy crowd. He opened the door of the car and escorted Mrs. Olaniyi out by the hand. He whispered something to her and presented her to the crowd and they applauded her.
Then the show was over.
The headmistress came out and hurried the students to their classes for the annual funfest lunch. Mrs. Olaniyi drove her car back to the parking lot. But before she went inside to her class, Miss Moyo ran out to her from where she was dismantling the stage props. The makeup was still on her face, but her costume was now gone. She (Miss Moyo) reached into the pocket of her jeans and gave Mrs. Olaniyi a business card.
Later that night, Mrs. Olaniyi was cleaning up the dishes from dinner. She turned off the lights, to the kitchen, to the dining room, and followed the sound of the snoring to the bedroom where her husband Femi was sleeping. He was lying on his back, his only comfortable position for over a decade since he had started tending his potbelly. She sat on her side of the bed and listened to him. She reached into her bag and brought out the business card. It was a plain white piece of cardboard with scissors-trimmed edges. She played with the card in her hand, cleaning her fingernails with its edges. The standing fan rattled as it swung back and forth matching her husband’s snores.
Then she got out of bed, phone in hand, and walked through the dark house. She sat at the dining table and dialed the number on the card.
Just ordinary Dele picked up on the second ring.
“Hello, it is me. Foluke,” she paused. “Mrs. Olaniyi. The yellow beetle.”
He laughed, “You don’t have to say it like that. How could I forget?”
There was silence on the line.
She said, “I hope I didn’t scream too loud. Sorry, I was afraid.”
“No, it’s my fault. I should have told you I was going to do that. But we like to surprise the audience.”
She didn’t know what to ask him, so she said nothing. He did all the talking, until her phone beeped and she said she had to go. And after she hung up, she couldn’t quite remember what he had talked about.
She went to sleep, tugging the blanket out from underneath Femi and tucking it under her chin.
She dreamt she was driving at night in her yellow Beetle. She drove down a deserted portholed road until the car sputtered and died. Super Dele emerged from the darkness into the cone of the headlights. His white singlet had a giant D written with what looked like charcoal on the front. He ripped the singlet off, tearing it into equal halves. It fell off his body and disappeared. He flexed his pectoral muscles, making his breasts dance, the left and right sides jiggled after each other. Then he reached into the car through the windshield and picked her out of it. Cradling her in the nook of his mighty arm, he swished his cape (yes, there was a cape, it must have been attached to his collarbones or something) and took off flying, one arm outstretched and the other arm holding her nuzzled up against his chest.
So she called him again the next night.