This is an adoption and adaptation of R.K Narayan’s ‘Like the Sun’, and it is dedicated to my Supermost Reader Yemee whose birthday is today; Hard Voices wish you a great year ahead.
We welcome everyone else to an amazing new year. Let’s have fun here and hereafter.
I woke up with a nagging fear inside the locker of my left chest. I didn’t have a nightmare, I had slept peaceful as a forty year old man could sleep; yet that cold pin in my heart continued to pierce me. There was no board meeting today and the MD hadn’t summoned me, why the fear? I didn’t spend the whole morning pondering over an orphan fear.I made for the bathroom.
My wife was in the kitchen singing, and her rough voice drifted into the bathroom and I smiled. I stopped mid-smile. Today was the day I set aside to tell absolute truth. When I set this day out, five month ago I didn’t know today would ever come, this soon even. This world is a cushion of euphemism as raw truth hurts, so men in order to navigate this planet without fistfights have resolved to un-blemish truth, to remove the thorns in it and serve it with mercy. You visit your mother-in-law and she serves you black amala that glues on your teeth and lips, with vegetable soup that demoralises your appetite. While nursing your ordeal she comes into the dining and asks, ‘Hope you like my food?’ No bishop worthy of his sceptre would say the truth.
So in a moment of enlightened recklessness, I had chosen today as the Absolute Truth Day, the day I would damn the consequence and tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. So help me God. But it wouldn’t be an easy walk, the fear in my heart so real I could almost smell it, attested to that. ‘Honey, hurry up so you won’t be late,’ my wife called. I hurried on with my bath.
I sat on the dining and my wife settled opposite me. ‘The kids,’ she said, ‘I miss them so much.’ I hid a grimace. Those children were little demons, there was never a moment of peace when they were around; it was a major relief when my sister’s brother and his wife took them to spend some days with them. My brother-in-law already had four kids, now adding my two young goats to them would turn his house into a crazy circus. I pitied the poor man.
‘Don’t you miss the kids?’ my wife was asking. I nearly dropped the cup of steaming tea in my hand. I grunted, better to say nothing than lie. My wife eyed me. ‘You don’t miss your children?’ I sighed. ‘Hell, no, I don’t miss them one bit; I wish they could stay with their uncle for ten years.’
My wife’s lips parted with shock. ‘Oh no, oh no.’ She rose to her feet and ran into the bedroom, crying. The bread in my mouth turned into a bile. My wife would never forgive me and I hadn’t even spent an hour of this Truth day. I thought of staying home for the rest of the day, but I wouldn’t miss work without grave cause. The Personnel Manager was retiring at the end of the year and I had two eyes on his job. Absenteeism wouldn’t help my course. Moreover the whole exercise would be defeated if I abstained from associating with people. And with my wife already thus offended I daren’t think of staying home.
There was a newspaper stand opposite my apartment. A mild crowd always converged around the table, arguing politics, cursing and abusing each other. Today the crowd was larger andcivil, sombre even. I shut my car door and crossed the road, overcome by stony curiosity. The whole newspapers carried the story of the death of a former head of state. People stood in groups of threes and fours discussing in hushed voice the void the former head of state had left. ‘Nigeria has lost a great patriot,’ someone said.
‘Nonsense,’ I said aloud. ‘Who is a great patriot, this criminal who emptied our treasury and enriched himself as much as he impoverished Nigerians?’ I shook my head. ‘I wish he died sooner.’
‘You don’t speak evil against the dead,’ another said. ‘The late general did his best for Nigeria.’
I laughed. ‘Indeed, he did his best! He died in a foreign hospital, right? He was in power for eight years how come he didn’t build one hospital in Nigeria?’ I didn’t wait for their answer.
I got to work late but thankfully the MD’s car wasn’t in his parking lot. I got into my office and quickly attended to my mails. Then I thought it was time to go into the field to hunt for customers. On a second thought however, I decided against it. No one would excel in our business telling absolute truth. Ours, like most business, thrived on looking at the bright sides, sidestepping the flawed pages and deemphasizing demerits to an irrelevance low. No, Absolute Truth Days are no business days, I wouldn’t venture out. I brought out my workbook and began to draw marketing plans to be unleashed on the public on a less truthful day.
Towards noon I received a phone call from the MD, requesting my presence in his office. The MD was in his sixties, small but full of life with a social spirit. Once in a while we went to the club and drank beer like peers. I was happy to be consulted by the MD. With the post of PM soon to be vacated, being friendly with the MD was a helping hand. In the MD’s office with him was a young man in blazers whom MD introduced to me as Tony, the literary editor of Sun Newspaper. ‘Tony is going to publish my poem in his newspaper but I am shy,’ the MD said smiling from ear to ear like a schoolgirl in love.
‘Yes,’ Tony agreed, ‘MD is a great poet.’ I didn’t know that. I had seen a few of MD’s poems and they struck me as very bad and anti-creative.
‘Show him the poem,’ MD said. ‘Tony I need your opinion; I know you are a literary man, tell me if the poem is good enough to be published, be frank.’
My heart sank as I collected the paper from Tony. ‘Let me take the poem home and report to you tomorrow,’ I pleaded. MD shook his head. ‘I need your opinion now. I want to be done with this poem palaver today.’ I looked at the poem—it was utter worthless. I looked at MD’s old expectant face and I felt like a murderer. I would have paid a hefty fine than do what I was about to do. But there was no going back, I had subscribed to a course—absolute truth, and absolute truth I would tell.
‘This poem is an insult to art,’ I said. MD caught his breath. I faced the editor.
‘Publishing this will devalue your newspaper.’ The MD collapsed on his execute chair. I rose to my feet.
‘You have seen my other poems,’ MD’s voice was husky, ‘any hope for me?’
I shook my head. ‘Forget writing poems, you have no talent for letters.’ I had to summon all my courage not to run out of the office.
In my office, I drew at my tie which had become unduly tight. The air conditioning was on but I was sweating. Truth, truth, truth, terrorist truth. Now there was no question about me getting the Personnel Manager’s job, and I would never expect any favours from the MD; it would be a miracle if he didn’t victimise me. I sighed. And my wife might never forgive me. God, just a day of telling absolute truth! And this was supposed to be an annual event. If I did this few more times, I could end up selling second-hand ladies’ shoes in Gboko.
Tweets to @Oke4chukwu