OLIVIER TWIST (EPISODE FIFTEEN)

Iyke paid Black Owl a visit. Black Owl, so called because of his pot-black skin and his unusual lifestyle of sleeping in the day-time and going about his business at night. He said he was distracted by the silly noise of people in the day, so while people went about their silliness he slept and when people slept he took care of his occupations. His main occupation was even more unusual, deadly: he lived on eliminating people; not just anybody, he eliminated the toughest bad boys—an assassin failed to carry his duty or a drug-pusher double-crossed his partner or a blackmailer became too ambitious, people call on Black Owl ‘to judge’ as he put it. He was feared by all, a killers’ killer.

Black Owl was a short gaunt fellow who could pass for a tout; he didn’t carry any weapon–he said fists were created before guns–he used his bare hands; and all his victims had died by strangulation. It was said that he was invulnerable to knives and bullets and can disappear into thin air. No one was sure; no one ever tried to be sure. He was expensive and choosy and possessed crude morality—for instance he never executed any operation where his client appeared to be at fault; he rarely accepted jobs, but when he did, he saw them through, it didn’t matter who the kill-interest was, or where you run to; indeed his victims’ dead bodies had been found in as far as Calabar, Jos, Maiduguri and even in Benin Republic.

Iyke went to see him this night. It was Iyke’s night, Black Owl’s day-time. Iyke and Black Owl had become buddies since Iyke barred his attendants from billing the great assassin for using the restaurant, hotel or bar. Black Owl appreciated this gesture for he kept telling Iyke, ‘You, you, haha; one day, I will retaliate these things!’

After so many fruitless searches Iyke found Black Owl in a smoke-clouded dancing floor of a bar, sweating as he kept stepping on a large lady’s feet in the name of dancing. He had a bottle of beer in this hand and used the other hand to hold his trousers from falling down. It always foxed Iyke how this seemingly inconsequential fellow could be the terror of Lagos underground world.

‘There is fire in the mountain,’ Iyke whispered in his ear. Black Owl said ‘Go to hell’ and continued to heave his dance.

‘I need your help man,’ Iyke whispered again.

‘You are provoking me,’ the great killer said.

‘It is Iyke o.’

Black Owl stopped moving as though his movement gear was suddenly seized. ‘Iyke,’ he shouted. ‘Long time! Where have you been? Why didn’t you tell me it was you? Do you know this harlot am dancing with? Iyke keke meke! Hahahahuu!’

‘Let’s talk outside, man.’

‘Why not!’

‘So your problem is OBJ?’ Black Owl asked reflectively after Iyke related the entire story to him.

‘Yes. But I don’t want him dead; just keep him out of my tail forever.’

‘I will have a word with OBJ this morning,’ Black Owl said and all the death that had passed through his hands rolled out with the words.

Iyke knew that his problem was settled.

‘I must rush back….’

‘Come and celebrate with me, Iyke, my fourth girlfriend had a baby girl today. A whore begets another whore. Hahuhahu!’

Iyke really wanted to get back to Olivier but no one said no to Black Owl. Black Owl could be magnanimous most times but as his head suffered a little mental disturbance, he could mistake the slightest disagreement as insult worthy of grave punishment. No, Iyke would not decline his offer, not this night, not when OBJ’s issue was on the surgery table. It was half past four, with little patience he could sneak away from Black Owl and return to his bed before Olivier noticed his absence.

Black Owl had his hand awkwardly placed on Iyke’s shoulder when they re-entered the bar. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he announced, ‘meet the chairman of the occasion, Iyke!’

The drunken crowd cheered.

Iyke was saddened by this, sneaking out was now near impossible. Someone thrust a glass of gin into his hand. Just as Iyke made to tighten his hold on the glass it slipped off and shattered on the immoral floor.

‘Hahahuhu!’ Black Owl laughed. ‘The chairman is nervous. Hey someone, clear this mess and get the Great Chairman another glass.’

Iyke silently accepted another glass. He wasn’t nervous, he was worried, dead worried; everything was not right with Olivier, he was sure.

#                           #

Olivier was well-fed with crying. She had cried the kind of cry that filled the body like food, the kind that made one feel better at the end of the teary exercise; she had cried to her satisfaction. Now she was missing her man. It was dawn and she could hear Lagos awake to its endless bubbles and rattles. Every criminal was back home by now, resting. Where was Iyke? But he couldn’t be a criminal, no; her man dare not be a criminal. But why hadn’t he come back yet? If criminals could be home now, how much more him that was an upright citizen! How much more an Iyke. Or could it be that something bad had happened to him? Could…

She rose from the cushion from where her eyes had been glued to the door and entered the inner room. To take Iyke out of her mind she must engage her mind with some other things, culinary affairs perhaps; she lit the stove and placed the food on top. The fire warmed the food but didn’t warm her heart, didn’t remove her mind from her Iykean thoughts. She lied down on the bed and resumed her postulations…

The smell of burning food woke Olivier up and she kicked out of the bed. She snatched at the pot and dropped it as it burnt her palm. In vexation she kicked the stove and it flamed and began to burn the carpet. She got water but by the time she quenched the fire, half of the room was wet.

Olivier was now unable to bear the whole thing; she began to search the whole house for the spare key to the front door. She would get out of the house, let Iyke come look for her if he really cared for her. She found a bunch of keys on top of the electronics and stormed the door. She tried the first key, the lock didn’t budge; she tried the second one, the lock still remained intact. At the sixth trial, the lock sneezed a click and she drew the door open.

Olivier was surprised to see a tall, roughened young man standing before the door. She narrowed her eyes as she studied him with disapproval. On his part, Humphrey holding his deadly tools bag on his hand was awed, looking at the most beautiful teenager he had ever seen.

‘Who are you?’ Olivier stammered.

To be Continued…

Announcement

I have come to the end of the second season of my blogging. I am exhausted, like aged shoes and I think I need a rest. Since late January I have been posting an average of two posts per week. It is not just about pressing the ‘publish’ button, no, posting has to do with writing, typing, re-writing, editing, re-editing, polishing then publishing, sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, creating awareness, listening to suggestions, corrections, recommendations and replying all comments. Blogging is a full-time work and I gave it 25 hours every day. Now, I am panting, now I must rest.

When I was leaving for the university, my mother didn’t tell me to read my books, she said pray, rest and eat well. She knew so much about my love for reading to bother. Now this advice is coming to haunt me—most especially the resting angle. So I am going to return to the ancient counsel and rest weary bones. I meant Sade to return this month but I am afraid I just can’t get her back. Better this rest than break-down, hospital, death (who will write my obituary?) etc.

I am going to rest for five to eight weeks. I will do so much reading and intensify my efforts in my teaching of the next generation. I must return in June, in order not to miss a calendar month. Hopefully, in June Wild Sade will also return with fresh anger and new challenges, and the story of Olivier will come to a screeching end. June will be great.

Blogging should be constant, they say, so as to hold your readers. But blogging is not a 365-day bank work; football fans for instance don’t change clubs at the end of the season, so I fear not about losing my readers. In fact, more readers will come during the pre-season and swell the rank.

You should continue to browse my blog; I tell you you haven’t read half the stories here. Have you read ‘The Joy of Motherhood’? ‘Yeye World’ (a story in pidgin)? ‘Sons and Killers’? ‘April 18, 2011’? ‘Easter Rice and Other Absurdities’? ‘A Drunk Man Sings of Nigeria’? You may also read my novel excerpt. What of the poems, read them? Sweet beautiful poems they are! And don’t forget ‘Why She Left You’, ‘Mammy Water‘ and ‘To the Kitchen O Goddess’ and that one billion naira question, ‘Do Igbos Sell their Daughters in Marriage?

Read, comment, share, these are my end words. You can always reach me on twitter @oke4chukwu, Facebook Kingsley Okechukwu (You will see so many Kingsley Okechukwus but there is no mistaking my handsome face—hahaha, actually my profile pic is a group of Arsenal players.) You could email me on kingkingsley89@gmail.com or catch me on Google Plus. But the most important one is to alert me on Diamond Bank. Igbo boy! He loves money! Yes, I does, so? (bad grammar, and so?)

Meanwhile to the lovers of Olivier, most especially Sweet-Heart Nedy, Sencen, Yemie, Unique, Meeryam, Emmanuela, Olivia, Mona, Amecks and Penny Benny, plus Moses, Apostle Samuel and Herbert and (how dare I forget) Tina and childhood angel Dorcas I say I love you guys for the great company and thank you for your patience and insist ‘let’s continue to do this’.

Cheers!

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TOTAL QUAGMIRE

To celebrate his first job interview in ten years, he slaughtered a god for the boys. A whole god. He also bought eight bottles of beer to wash down the fried god. ‘Sweet god,’ he kept cheering as he danced to Lucky Dube.

‘It is dog, not god. How can you eat god, fool?’ James shot at him.

‘You don’t know anything,’ he danced on. They all knew Chuks. He called anything anyhow he wanted and it remained that way. He called James enemy of progress. Of the five of them who shared this room, James was the only one with a real job and the only one who didn’t drink alcohol nor eat dog (or god’s) meat.

Of the eight bottles, Chuks drank four. He abused James at every sip. ‘You are the highest paid player here, how comes we haven’t paid the house rent?’

Chuks forgot that James had given him the house rent two weeks back and he ‘loaned’ the money to a man who promised to secure him a job. The man had now gone extinct.

He took another sip. ‘I am more educated than you James.’

This was somehow true. Chuks was a first class graduate of Economics while James bagged third class in English. But this didn’t count in the labour market. James worked for a local weekly newspaper while Chuks had roamed the streets of Nigeria for ten years before he got this interview.

At the sip of the fourth bottle Chuks challenged James for a fight. James writing on the table ignored him. Chuks spat a mouthful of beer on James back and James went mad. He kicked to his feet pushed Chuks down and made to beat sanity into him, but Ayo, Peter and Ben grabbed him. James fought them, but they held him tight.

‘Let him come and try me, leave him,’ Feeble Chuks called, his near empty bottle held out like a weapon, and shield.

James tried his best but the trio conquered him and sat on him to finish their beer.

#                      #

A terrible head ache woke Chuks up this morning. It was 7.45am and the interview was by eight! He stamped to his feet. To make for the door he walked on the bare bodies of his roommates spread on two aged mattresses like frozen fish. Outside, their empty buckets of water stared at him. He kicked the jerry can, empty. He cursed as he lifted one bucket and rushed to the drum opposite to fetch water. Half way on, the fat woman who owed the drum came out. ‘You are stealing my water!’ she cried. Chuks ran with the half-filled bucket to the bathroom. At the bathroom he discovered he hadn’t taken the sponge case. It was the fat woman’s fault. ‘Barren woman,’ he spat and began to wash himself.

#                      #

It was ten minutes past eight. Chuks was ready to go out, smart on well tucked-in shirt and trousers. Everyone in the room had contributed to his dressing. It was Peter’s shirt, Ben’s belt, Ayo’s shoes and James’ perfume. Chuks buried his file under his armpit.

‘Am ready to go out,’ he announced, ‘wish me good luck boys.’

‘Good luck,’ Ayo mumbled in his dream.

‘You are late,’ Ben said.

‘Don’t come back without the job,’ Peter.

James snored on. Chuks kicked him on the buttock.

‘What is it, Chuks?’

‘I am set for the interview.’

‘I don’t have money to give you for transport,’ James covered himself, body and head with the thick ancient blanket, like a fresh corpse.

Chuks yanked the blanket off him. ‘I don’t want your miserable money.’

‘Then let me sleep!’

‘I need three big grammars for the interview. Three words that I can use to scatter the interview panel with.’

James sighed. He knew he wouldn’t have his rest until he gave the insufferable Chuks what he wanted. He squeezed his face thoughtfully.

‘Use quagmire, it means predicament; then paroxysm which means outburst; giddiness—means dizziness. Bye bye.’

Chuks wrote the words and their meanings on the back cover of his file. ‘Quagmire, paroxysm, giddiness, huh?’

James grunted.

‘I won’t abuse you for one week,’ Chuks said for thanks and ran off.

#                      #

Chuks reached the reception of the company at 8.35. ‘I am here for the intraview,’ he told the receptionist.

‘For the what?’ the girl demanded, a little discourteous.

‘Interview,’ he corrected himself. She was not more than twenty-two, she wasn’t pretty, she didn’t go to the university, he thought all these in two seconds. The receptionist, half-reading his mind pointed an offhand finger to the stairs and quickly covered her face with a fashion magazine. She didn’t buy the magazine, Chuks thought as he began a light race upstairs.

There were seven anxious applicants seated on either bench of the outer office of the personnel manager’s office. Three angry ladies and four short-tempered men. They didn’t bother looking up; he didn’t waste his good morning. On the desk just before the door, the Personnel Manager’s secretary sat, hammering on the desk-top keyboard, pretending to type. The secretary was pretty, he decided.

Chuks took his seat near the angriest lady who shifted self-consciously as though he was covered in dung. He smiled his evil smile. Let the fool shift till she fell off the building and break her thin neck on the concrete. He wouldn’t care. He would be getting the job and she wouldn’t get a job for eighty years, bitch! She is ugly, he concluded.

They waited. Time crawled. Chuks brought out his phone, thumbed into the Facebook Application. On his drunken state yesterday he had posted ‘Finally, job interview’, stupid of him. Now, he would remove—tear off—the appalling post from his timeline. But he couldn’t access his account. Bad network, he thought. He checked his account balance, NGN 0.63. He quietly returned the phone to his hip.

The door of the manager’s office opened and a man of about forty-five came out carrying his dirty file in shaky sweating hands, delicately, as though it was made of egg shells. His over-sized shirt was badly ironed and held by a tattered belt. His fading trousers swept the ground around his antique shoes. His hair was bushy, his beard unkempt. His…

Chuks shut his eyes.

‘Give way jor.’

Chuks opened his eyes. The badly dressed man knelt on the door way, imploring God to help him land the job, the angry lady who was seated near Chuks was shouting at him to give way. The man champed on his supplications. The secretary came and led him by hand out of the way. ‘This is total quagmire,’ Chuks said. Everybody looked at him.

#                      #

Chuks

Twelve o’clock, Chuks was yet to be interviewed. His nose was now twitching with impatience and his dry lips were sharpened into a pencil of irritation. There were two more people to be interviewed before him. It was the beer, he hissed. The beer crippled him in bed. If not for the beer, he would have been here before these urchins and would have been interviewed and given the job since. He hissed again.

His phone vibrated two beeps, the arrival of a text message. He brought out the phone. The message was from Ben:

So dey didn’t just giv u d job dey askd u to resume 2day? Goodnews! Pls whyle comin back buy a tier of beans. No food @home o.

With hands trembling with hunger/anger, Chuks typed ‘Your father yansh’ for Ben’s inbox. But the screen showed ‘Message sending failed’; he hissed, he had no credit he had forgotten.

At 1.30pm, Chuks entered the Personnel Manager’s office. The Personnel Manager was a woman in self-important glasses, sandwiched by two tamed gorillas on suits. ‘Good afternoon,’ Chuks greeted. The men nodded their bald-heads. The Personnel Manager writing didn’t respond. Chuks felt his palms going damp, despite the humming air-conditioner! His heartbeat was deafening. Chuks walked to the chair opposite the panel of interviewers and sat down.

The Personnel Manager looked up.

Chuks held his breath.

The Personnel Manager was his ex-girlfriend.

The above is an excerpt from my on-progress novel. How do you see it? Is there any cause to continue the endeavour or should I fling the poor manuscript in River Kaduna and walk away? Please, I really want to hear what ya gotta say.

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