When life throws me a particularly bad sucker punch, I think about Big Dan.
My cousin, Big Dan, was a devil of a hustler. He lived by a creed since we were fourteen:
Danny no go carry last.
He never did – in exams, gambling and fights. His cheating skills were legendary and his death-chokeholds, unbreakable.
He never lacked money. He would do odd jobs or make shoes for sale after school, which was kind of funny, since he had no legs. He lost them to polio.
“Wetin I wan use leg do? I beMaradona?” He would quip.
What he lacked in limbs, he made up for in guts and wits. They got him into and out of anything: pockets, skirts, trouble.
“Accept Jesus. He is the way,” a student once preached to us where we gambled.
“Wetin we wan take Jesus way do na? No be air we go follow go heaven?” Big Dan had answered him. He promptly left, nonplussed.
One night,while awaiting our university admission letters, a freak fire gutted his shoemaker shop and put him out of work. He got another, the weekend after, as our church night-guard. One Sunday, five months later, we woke up to an empty church. Big Dan had arranged for the cleaning overnight. We never saw him again. He went to America on the proceeds.
I remember the first time we spoke, six months after he disappeared. He had called.
“Na me, Su Dan” I couldn’t mistake the voice even if I was dead.
“Na my stage name for here.”
“Wow. You be rapper?”
“Rapper for where?”
“No vex o, but you no fit be dancer na!”
“You deycrase.Dey use your brain small. Who tell you say I need leg do gay stripper?”