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.

Tweets to @oke4chukwu