Chuks was ready to go out. He reached for his briefcase.
‘I need your help, Chuks,’ James said.
Chuks fingers tightened on the briefcase handle. ‘I am almost late for work.’
‘I know, but I need some money.’
Chuks thought as much. ‘How much?’
‘Twenty-five thousand naira.’
Chuks hissed, lifted his briefcase and made for the door. He grabbed the door handle then stopped abruptly; he turned around. ‘What do you need such a fortune for?’
James’ face was weak with earnest. ‘I will send twenty to my old mama at home and use five to hold myself for the now.’
Chuks shook his head. ‘I don’t have money.’
‘You have to help me.’
Chuks shut his eyes for a long second. ‘Please James, let’s leave this talk till the end of the month…’ he turned to the door.
‘I can’t wait that long. It has to be today.’ James rose to his feet. ‘I have a feeling all is not well with my people. I can feel it in my bones. I just must do something, see?’
Chuks faced James. ‘You should have told me before now. The month is half gone and I don’t have money!’ Chuks was shouting but there was no malice in his voice, hard as he tried.
James sighed with filial helplessness.
Chuks boiled for a quarter of a minute in which it was impossible even for him to talk. Then he calmed down, turned around saying, ‘I will see what I can do.’
Chuks stopped at the door. ‘You sure want to get me fired from work!’
James hurried to their desk/table, tore out a small piece of paper and wrote something down. He walked to Chuks. ‘Take; this is the account number you should send the twenty kay to. As for my five, I need it cash.’
Chuks held the paper in his hand as though it was made of egg shells. He looked up at James. ‘I only said I would see—’
James slapped him on the back. ‘Forget it man, I trust you.’
‘You are sending me to rob, James. This pressure is too hot.’
‘You can bear it, Chuks. I am counting on you.’
Chuks looked straight into James’ eyes and saw the bond between them, a bond fuelled by time and toughened by collective hardship. Chuks dropped his gaze and scowled at the paper. ‘Monica—how do I know she isn’t your girlfriend?’
‘I wish. She is my only sister o.’ James laughed but it didn’t warm the cold worry in his face.
‘Is she pretty?’ mischievously.
‘No, she is fat and ugly.’
Chuks pouted at James then sighed. ‘James, you are a bad boy, do you know that?’
James opened his mouth wild with mock disbelief. ‘I am a good boy o.’
‘I know, but you are a bad boy, a good bad boy. And you are my friend…’ he swallowed hard. ‘And you are also my brother.’ He looked at the paper in his hand. ‘I will try everything within my powers to make this happen, man trust me.’
‘Come on Chuks, you are late for work, go, go.’ James opened the door, and pushed Chuks outside. ‘Go jor.’ He shut the door and leaned on it. Chuks’ talk was coming out in slow rush of sentiment so he had to put a stop to it. If he hadn’t thrown Chuks away he would have cried, the tears were in the backdoor of his eyes already. And it was too early in the day to cry.
(The Above is culled from my Work in Progress)
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