The Hangman’s Dream 1

 

 

 

I was looking for the best spot to hang myself when Alex called. She wanted to know if I could manage working as a driver with a local government chairman. I almost laughed. I would have grabbed any job: feeding pigs, washing corpses, packing shit, anything. Seven long, hard unemployed years had robbed me of all the pride, choice and hope I ever had. All I wanted was to end it; purge the world of my parasitic self, make myself more useful as fly food and manure. Then Alex called.

The interview was the next day and I didn’t have anything to wear. All my clothes were at least eight years old and most looked eighteen. The interview was meant to be just a formality but I couldn’t go looking like a loser. Alex had worked that out. She brought me a new jacket and a pair of black jeans.

“Hon Sam can be picky, so you want to put your best foot forward. Smile when you talk. Try to maintain eye contact. And for grief’s sake stop grinding your teeth!” She said rolling her eyes. I blinked away tears and tried to swallow the pebble in my throat. I was still looking for the words to thank her when she drove away.

The jacket fit perfectly but the jeans were loose at the waist. A sad smile flitted across my face; she was shopping for the old me. The one that played football, weighed 90kg and dreamt of owning a hotel chain not the underweight shell I had become. I looked into the mirror and a wave of panic hit me. What if Hon. Sam didn’t like me? What if he changed his mind? What if this was just another can of dashed hope? My blood froze at the thought. I couldn’t –wouldn’t imagine what that would be like. Before I left the house, I put the rope in my pocket and switched off my phone. If this was another of Fate’s twisted jokes, I didn’t want to be unprepared.

I left my house three hours to the interview but with unexpected traffic and a sudden rainstorm I found myself racing against time. To make it to Hon Sam’s house, I ran the last hundred meters under a relentless drizzle. His compound was massive, the size of three football fields. Its ten feet high, barb wire capped concrete walls loomed ahead of me. A kennel of dogs barked as I approached and a stone faced policeman looked me over before letting me in. I clenched my teeth to stop myself from shivering and tried to relax. I was cold, wet and scared.
A smiling young man led me to an outdoor bar to wait. We passed rows of cars in black covers. Part of me wondered which one I would drive, a Lexus? A Mercedes? A Porsche? The other part snickered: get the job first. Dreamer.

The young man gave me a seat at the bar and asked me what I wanted to drink. I wanted black tea, in a giant mug, served hot with plenty of sugar and cream but I smiled and said I was fine, while I struggled not to grind my teeth.

The Ultimatum

~Hymar David

A LETTER TO MR.OCCUPANT.

Yesterday, I did you a good turn and you repaid me by almost breaking my head. Well done.

You see, I was ill yesterday, I think you must have slipped something into that morsel of bread you threw into my corner. I got sick, yet I knew enough not to nibble on the bread you bought and left on the table. Because I didn’t want to give you my sickness. And what did I get? You chanced upon me suddenly and grabbed a broom. And I was telling Rachy that you are a decent person and not like the former occupant of the room. So much for that idea.

Our former occupant, what’s his name again? Ah, yes, Satan. That’s the name Rachy believes fits him best. The man was so evil, he planted a whooping nine traps in this tiny room. Nine traps! Just because we were so hungry we chewed a hole in his tennis shoes. How is it our fault the fool is broke and stingy? Even when he eats rice, there isn’t a single grain left on the plate, he cooks soup and cleans the china with his tongue. Once, he was eating biscuits in the presence of two friends, one of them a woman, he dropped a piece on the floor. Rachy was already jubilant because she thought the presence of his friends would deter him from picking it. But as she steeled herself for one mad dash to grab-and-run, Satan picked the piece, blew dirt off it and popped it into his mouth with a laugh.

That was when we declared war on him.

And by God, we gave him war.

We tore the room to shreds; we nibbled everything we could get our teeth on. Bedspreads? Check. Books? Check. Toothpaste? Check(not that he always had, the poverty of this man almost always saw him brush his teeth with salt and water). We called our friends in the other rooms of this face-me-i-face-you and wrecked total havoc. That huge and fearless Canine even gnawed at his toes at night and shat in his bathing water that he usually fetched and kept in a bucket in a corner of the room.

After two weeks, Satan got tired of turning the house upside down, hunting for us. He got tired of setting and resetting the traps which we had learned to navigate around. He packed his things and left.

That night, we had a victory dance in the empty room.

Dear new occupant, I am not trying to scare you, I just don’t want you to say one day that nobody told you.

I have as much right to this room as you do. I was born here. My mother’s blood has stained a trap, my father’s has stained the head of a pestle. I don’t know how my own would be but that is not my worry now. All I ask is be nice to me and I will be nice to you. After all, I eat the cockroaches you so detest. Wasn’t it yesterday your girlfriend came and got hysterical just because a cockroach crawled across the hem of her dress?

Here is a list of my conditions for peace to reign between us:

– Don’t throw away leftover food, keep it in a plate in the corner for Rachy and me. If you are too proud to feed ‘common rats’ just pack it in a nylon bag and leave it untied in the dustbin.

– If you attempt to poison us, we will know. Like my father used to tell us, ‘You know the onion by smell.’

– Keep your traps away, we are not like our cousins in the forest, if you are not eating us, stop hunting us down, I beg you.

– When you see us, don’t immediately reach for a broom or the pestle your girlfriend uses to pound yams when she is around. We are not the enemy, we are not threats. Relax, let us go our way. it is not like we sleep on your bed.

– Picking biscuits and groundnut from the floor is a sin against us. DO NOT do it.

I repeat, I am not threatening you. I just want you to know like I once heard Satan say, ‘no be by size.’ We have our way of dealing with people we don’t like. And we like you. You don’t have to like us back, just let us live in peace and feed off what you don’t want.

How is that too much to ask?

Your comrade,
Rattie

I obtained Mr David’s permission to post this here. I enjoyed reading it and would love to read your response too . Please tell us what you think in the comments. Thank you.

Photo credit: Google Images

This Just Can’t Work

I watch her sashay past and rap on the door. She looks good in her ankle length gown, golden gele and bracelets that jingle like bells.

Oga opens the door and they share a kiss before he whisks her inside. Later that evening, they stroll out, whispering in each others ears. Oga tickles her, she laughs, a lilting soothing sound and I can’t remember hating anyone so much.

Soon they are back. Oga carries all the bags. They’ve bought rice, stew, salad and ice-cream. She is talking and twirling her hands in the air to make a point. That’s when I realise that something has to be done. If she goes on this way, she’ll be Mrs Ukwak by Saturday.

My options are limited. I am not bad as far as Mercedes Benz 190’s go but I am sure you can already see my difficulty. I can’t talk, at least not without giving Oga a heart attack and I can only influence things when they are close to me. But this is no time for excuses, it is a time for results, so deliver I must.

You must be wondering how my boss’ love interest is any of my business. What does a car stand to lose from a wedding? What loyal being wouldn’t want his owner happy, settled and fruitful? Definitely not me.

I want all that for my boss and more, only, not with Amara.

I know Amara from way back, I noticed her one day at the car wash when she came to see some guy called Carl. I was waiting my turn at the sponge and I couldn’t help over hearing the telephone conversation she was having.

“Oh Dani!”Amara squealed into the phone. “Of course I missed you. The thing is, I am not in town, I travelled to Kaduna for a retreat.”
“Sure, of course, I will. I love you too. You did? Thank you, the fifty thousand will go a long way. Thank you. Bye”

Her phone rang again.

“Wow! Emeka! Yeah, long time. I have missed you too. Aww, I couldn’t make it to Lagos anymore, but I’ll try to make it up to you. I promise. The money you sent is still in my account and once I get a break, you’ll be my first stop.” She was smiling at the phone and twirling her weave.

“Oh my goodness, you are in town? You should have told me baby, I am out in Jos on business. I told you I don’t do surprises. Anyone trying to surprise me only ends up surprising themselves.”

No kidding.

Before Carl came to pick her two other callers had been given three other stories, one of them was a even a woman. At some point, I had to read the sign boards around again to myself, I had to remind myself I was in Port Harcourt, not Jos, Kaduna, Dubai or Yenegoa.

Now here she was with Oga, playing the saint, I was having none of it.

I get my chance soon. The next morning they tumble in to rush her to work. She jumps out screaming. In the process, I rip her yellow silk blouse and smudge it with some grease.

“Ouch! Oh no, Jerry! That seat just burnt me! And look, my blouse is gone!”

Oga darts out and runs to her side. “What seat, Amara? Calm down. Let me see, it isn’t so bad. We can get a new one–”

“That seat,” she says, pointing at the front passenger seat. “That seat nearly peeled off my skin. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it wrecked my best silk blouse too.” By now her voice has risen a few octaves and she looks like she is about to cry. I feel like pinching her to hurry things on but I am busy.

I am working over time to cool the seat heater. I make it just in time for Oga’s probing fingers.

He runs his palms over the black leather seat with a frown on his face. “It is normal,Amy, a little warm but definitely not bum-burning.”

“But it just burnt my bum. I sat on it and it was like sitting on a hot plate.”

“Come on, Amara, don’t be dramatic. Let’s go before I get late.”

“Oh. So I am being dramatic now?” She replies with a flip of her braids. “Your useless, archaic, malfunctioning car burns me and I am being dramatic? Well, you better get going then because I am not going anywhere with you. Sorry broke ass.”

She grabs her bag and storms away before Oga can say a word. When he recovers enough to ask her to wait, she is gone.

I smile inside. I am savouring this little victory. Oga ll probably go begging to bring her back and maybe he’ll succeed. But I have a plan for that.

For now, let’s enjoy the peace.

Mirage Mercy

He watched her wriggle into her gown, while questions flooded his mind. She smiled showing him her dainty gap tooth and even white teeth.

“I have to go,” she said. “It is getting late and I don’t want to miss my flight.”

“Of course.” Goddard said, as he rose to help her into her jacket. “When will I see you again?”

“Soon. You know how these things are. I never know when I’ll get a break from that crazy boss of mine. Let’s see maybe next month….”

Goddard knew she was lying. He wouldn’t see her for the next three months.

She would disappear.

Her phone would be switched off, his Whatsapp messages would pile up unanswered, texts would return undelivered, mini-calls would hover forever.

She would be nowhere in sight, as if she found the edge of the world and walked off it.

Just like she had last time. And the time before that.

When they met eleven months ago, he hadn’t really minded. He was travelling to Abuja from Okirika for an interview. His brother sent him money for a flight but the recent plane crashes were still too fresh in his mind. He decided to go by bus instead. Besides it was easier than travelling 100 kilometres to Port Harcourt International located at the fringes of the city. Road travel in Nigeria wasn’t hazard free but he preferred taking his chances with solid land beneath him.

He overslept on the day of the trip. His phone battery ran out and he lived alone. He barely got into the bus before it left the park.

“It looks like someone had a busy night.”

He turned to meet slate grey eyes looking into his and a full friendly smile that made him smile back instantly.

“I wasn’t that lucky. My battery died. I am Goddard.”

“Mercy”

And that was how it all began. The ride to Abuja was the shortest ever.

They exchanged phone numbers.

They talked about politics, music, the scar on his arm, her contact lens, the vice-president’s invisibility. When the journey was over and she was leaving, a part of him was leaving with her.

He didn’t get the job, there were five slots and 419 applicants. Some with recommendation letters from the Presidency.

He went back to Okirika, to the little apartment he shared with Max, his pet cat, a dozen wall geckos and his four year old TV.

He tried calling the number she gave him the next day but it was switched off. It stayed switched off for a week. He was about to delete it one evening when she called him.

“Hi Sailor,” Mercy said “Are you in Okirika?”

Yes he was. Of course he was. He gave her directions and soon she was alighting from a motorbike in front of him.

That weekend was perfect, it was like living in a dream.

She cooked, gorgeous dishes that melted in his mouth and had him wanting more.

She took, driving him to heights he never knew existed, places he had never explored.

She was a light in his drab world and he was a moth floating to her.

On her third visit she brought him a recommendation letter for a Federal job in Yenogoa. It was signed by senator Inimo Wodi.

“Where did you get this?” He asked.

“Oh Goddy, you are so serious. He is a family friend of ours. I just mentioned your case and he got interested. Make sure you go along with it though, the interview is next month.” Mercy said kneading his shoulder muscles.

He got the job. When he called to tell her the good news. Her number was “unavailable at the moment”.

He googled her. But none of the ,nine Mercy Odilis on screen were her’s.

He tried to talk her into getting on one of the Social Media Networks, Facebook at least.

“Oh Goddy! That’s so public. Eww, I could never do that. ” She replied.

So he let it go.

It wasn’t everyday one found a woman that was intelligent, sexy, caring and undemanding.

Undemanding. That was what really worried him. At the beginning he was ashamed when she would come to see him and he couldn’t pay her fare or take her out to any of the new eateries in town. Mercy never complained instead she came with foodstuff and made him gourmet meals, complete with dessert. In bed she was adventurous and fun. He was getting hooked.

But soon it was Sunday morning again and she was leaving. As he kissed her goodbye, he felt a rock settling inside him.

Soon it was a pattern. Great weekends followed by weeks sometimes months of silence. When ever he asked she laughed it off, but he wanted to know. Needed to know.

And this time he had a plan.

He had discovered a distant relative of his that worked at the Abuja airport. ‘Worked’ was an euphemism for acting as a human mule, he loitered around carried heavy luggage for small tips. His name was Dumebi.

It hadn’t taken much for him to convince Dumebi to wait for Mercy at the Airport and follow her home.

Soon he would know where she lived, from there, hopefully, who she was.

She was expected to arrive Abuja by 4pm, so he expected Dumebi’s call by 6pm latest.

Dumebi called by 8 to say he missed her. The taxi he’d hired for the chase ran out of fuel mid-way. He was sorry. Could brother please give him another chance.

Goddard threw the phone across the room. The Nokia obliged by splitting neatly into three pieces.

Fuming, he went to the kitchen and dished himself some of the Jollof rice Mercy had made that morning and a cold can of Star. He stood in front of the TV and began to flip channels when he saw her.

Mercy was on TV.

Only she wasn’t Mercy Odili. She was Mrs Mercy Wodi, the stunningly beautiful wife of Senator Inimo Wodi.

They were commissioning a new orphanage in Port Harcourt and she was smiling her open gapped, even toothed smile while her obese hubby mouthed some platitudes about giving.

The rice, remote and beer fell out of his hands.

He couldn’t breathe. The ceiling was spinning. Then all that was left was the sound of him moaning,”no,no,no o o o o.”

Guardian Angel

I told her not to marry him but it was like talking to an electric train. Her mind was made up, my words were a waste.

I listened in disbelief as my twenty-one year old sister begged me to remember her “biological clock was ticking.”

I marvelled as she bade me to reconsider, because “all her mates were married.”

I gasped when she declared that I should get used to it, she was marrying Leo with or without my blessing. Kponkwem.

As I listened to her, lava coursed through my veins. I was angry, livid even, but I wasn’t sure who my ire was for.

Part of it was for a society that made Diana think marriage was a trophy; a 50 metre sprint where the fastest women got medals and flowers instead of a gruelling marathon-relay where your partner’s skill and commitment was as important as endurance, focus and having fun.

Another part of my anger was for myself, I should have seen this coming. I should have stopped this from coming.

Maybe if I had worked hard enough on getting that government health centre renovation contract, and had the cash at hand to pay her bit for the partial Masters scholarship she had won at Emory.

Maybe if I had moved to Abuja at the beginning of the year as I had earlier planned…

Maybe, the eternal twin of perpetual regret.

I told Nkoyo that Diana wanted to get married and she was quiet. She was so quiet that the silence formed a cloud around my ears and began to ring like a bell.

We had been dating for three years and four months. She was twenty-seven and I was thirty. I knew we would be having “The Talk” soon and I wasn’t ready.

It wasn’t the money or anything. As a site engineer for a telecom outfit, I could afford a family. What I couldn’t afford was my well ordered life spinning on its heels. I liked the single life. Change was inevitable, I knew but I wasn’t in a hurry.

Hadn’t been in a hurry, until now.

I called a colleague on vacation in the US and asked him to help bring the platinum ring I ordered.

I shouldn’t have bothered, Nkoyo left me four days later.

“I am sorry, Mon. I don’t think this is what I want anymore.”

I thought she was joking.

It took two weeks of failed reunion attempts for me to get it.

I had been dumped.

Diana and Leo’s wedding held three months later, Diana was glowing like a giant fire-fly while Leo was a frowning frog.

Mom was so happy, I thought she would burst.

I hid my frustration and smiled for the cameras. But inside I was drowning in a bog.

The conversation we had at the doors of the church before I walked her up the aisle lingers…

“Monday”

“Yes, Diana”

“Be happy for me, OK? Please?”

“Diana, you know– alright. Don’t look at me like that. Look, everyone is waiting.”

“Let them wait. I need your blessing Mon, please.”

“God be with you little sis.”

“Amen.”

With that, she raised her head and straightened her back and we walked into the church. Behind her veil, tears shone in her eyes, and I began to wonder if it was real.

Could Leo be the love of Diana’s life?

Was I just being a miserable brother-in-law eating ogre?

After the wedding, Diana went back to her job teaching at a private university in Aba while Leo was in Calabar with me. He worked at a bank as a marketer, but we seldom met and never called.

A month later, Diana got a fabulous job in an international oil company in Port Harcourt. No matter how I teased she wouldn’t tell me how much she was earning.

“Mon, it is huge. Gosh! I can’t believe it.” She kept saying again and again.

Soon she called to say she was expecting. Twins. No, she didn’t know what sexes yet. Yes, she was fine. Very fine.

She had boys after ten hours of labour. Twinkle and Delight, Leo called them, like they were puppies or bear cubs. My dislike for him morphed into congealed contempt.

One weekend, I ran into him at a supermarket.

“Hey Mon, how are you doing?” Leo said.

“Good. Aren’t you supposed to be in
Port Harcourt with your family?

“I couldn’t make it man. I was tired, needed a rest.”

There was a pause. My sister was juggling twin boys, a new job, a strange town and this idiot was talking about rest?

Thoughts shifted in my head on cue, then all I saw was red, my fists burying themselves in his light skinned jowls, my knees kneading his balls in sharp succession, a tooth or two rolling on the cream tiles, and an immense sense of relief.

I smiled instead and walked away.

That weekend, I called in a few favours and by Monday, Leo was sacked.

When Diana called I sympathised. It was horrible, Leo being let off like that. Curse those horrid new generation banks.

The next time I saw her she was lying in a hospital bed with wires running out of every part of her.

“He didn’t mean to,” she croaked out of a broken jaw.

“Of course not, love. Shh don’t say a word.” I replied, crouched by her bed. That’s when everything became clear and I knew what had to be done.

The police booked it as a hit and run. Leo survived, making kids orphaned had never been my style. I was content to see him lose a leg. There wouldn’t be anymore beatings, or absenteeism.

Who knows? Maybe Diana would wake up someday and leave him. Yeah, I know, fat chance.

Conversations: Like A Heartbeat

What are you waiting for?

I don’t know.

Are you scared?

Yea, a lot.

Of what?

Everything. I am scared of success and scared of failure. Scared of being inadequate, scared of being too much. Scared of making the wrong choices and scared of trusting the wrong people. I am not just scared , I am terrified.

Aha! Then you have no problem. If fear is all that is holding you back, you must go ahead. You must do it afraid.

What if I fail?

What if you succeed?

What if I can’t finish?

What if you can?

People will laugh at me. They’ll tear my work to shreds!

Maybe. And maybe some will love you. Maybe you will reach those fpr whom your gift was meant.

It is useless. The world is strewn with the bones of dreamers, failures and wannabees.

It is also full of success stories, if you only look out for them.

But the world doesn’t need another piece of “African Art”

If it doesn’t, then why is the need to make some surging in you as strong as your heartbeat?

In And Out Of Time

The time difference, that is what ruined things in the end. Shangai was five hours ahead of Ibesikpo and their lives were that far out of sync.

When she woke up and wanted to spend a few minutes gisting, he was running off to a high power board meeting.

When he wanted to unwind and tell her about his day, she was battling narrow corners with tricycle drivers.

When she wanted to have a quick skype chat before stepping out for a walk, he was fast asleep and his attempts to reply quickly became soft snores.

It made no sense.

Except on Saturdays by 5pm, Ibesikpo time.

When she was back from a long day in the market and he was tucked in bed with a cup of green tea.

And they would trade stories and tell each other jokes and dream of what could have and maybe would still be.

But even that was not enough, when she was posted to Iwoukem. Six long hard weeks without a word, and their long distance love succumbed.