Two Bottles of Beer in Search of Grace

Chuks walked out of the firm and dragged his feet to Madam Ifok’s beer parlour. The room was empty save for an old man struggling with a chicken lap, seated before a skinny girl trying not to show her disgust. Chuks dropped his file on a chair and sat on it. ‘Big stout,’ he ordered. A dirty maid brought him the drink.

‘I can’t get the job,’ he muttered.

‘Huh,’ said the girl. ‘You talk to me?’

‘I don’t talk to lice,’ he said.

The girl quickly withdrew.

‘Hey, am I gonna uncork the bottle with my fucking teeth?’

The girl came and uncorked the drink with quaky hand.

‘And get me a glass, fool!’

Madam Ifok, a mass of stumbling flesh held together by ill-tailored blouse that revealed tired cleavage and a massive skirt that swayed to a secret rhythm, brought the glass herself. She put the glass before Chuks and placed a fleshy hand on his shoulder.

‘Take it easy bro. You are not the only one carrying Nigeria on the shoulder.’

Two bottles later, Chuks left, ready to meet his comrades. It was just four o’clock, no need to hurry. He crossed Herbert Macaulay Road, dodging beggars, hawkers and the busy idle. Just before the dirt road that led to his street, Chuks grimaced at the sight of over one hundred okada riders. Half of these commercial motorcyclists are graduates, Chuks thought. Now see where they were crouched on their motorcyclists, dry-lips, waiting for non-existent passengers; everyone now prefer to trek, no one has 50 naira to burn on a lift when one can boast of two k-legs.

A little sun can’t kill anyone, Chuks decided; in fact, a little sun is good for everyone—Vitamin K, something like that, he couldn’t remember. So people trek while these okada men starve. Shame, Chuks concluded.

At the alley that led directly to their compound, Chuks stopped to ease himself.

‘Dey no de piss for dia o,’ someone—an idiot child, of course—shouted at him.

Chuks ignored him and poured half a gallon of acid on the wall. He zipped up and began to make away. No one chastised him, talked to him even. No one who had a grain of sense would talk to a red-eyed leopard, no one.

Inside the compound, Chuks stopped dead. Ben, Peter and Ayo stood in the middle of the compound as thugs threw their things outside. He saw the righteous caretaker standing an honourable distance from the eviction party, one hand on his pocket, the other hand directing cigarette to and from black lips. He didn’t appear to see Chuks, in fact as far as he was concerned Chuks was dead and his ghost, invisible.

Some tenants peeped from their windows, helpless, half-entertained, half-warned.

‘What nonsense is this?’ Chuks stabbed the air. No one answered him. His file had suddenly became too heavy for his hands. Not finding a suitable place to drop it, he took fervid steps to the caretaker with the load. The man smelt like he had fallen on a heap of tobacco and refused to get up for two days. ‘Man, stop this. You are pushing us into deep quagmire!’ But he should have known that grammar wouldn’t solve the problem.

His stomach grumbled with undigested stout; it was his fault that this was happening. He had the rent a couple of days back, he had it! But he threw it into the lagoon. A graduate, how could he had let someone dupe him, at his age! Their drinking bucket of water landed on the centre of the compound and broke.

‘Stop that!’

Their only chair landed outside.

Just like grammar, shouting wouldn’t help. Chuks decided to try something, his last shot before the gutter. ‘Which of you have call credit?’ he asked his comrades. They ignored him; they didn’t look at him, but he knew their eyes accused him.

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‘Hey guys, I understand how you feel but I must make this call,’ he urged.

Ben, not bothering to turn, handed over his phone. ‘I only have thirty naira.’

‘It will do.’ Chuks walked to a discrete corner of the compound dialled James’ number.

‘You got the job?’ James asked him.

‘That is not important, Jimmy; we are been evicted from the room!’

‘What do you want me to do? I gave you the rent and you blew it! You blew it, didn’t you?’

‘This is no time for blame, Jim. Listen, the landlord’s wife is your tribal woman.’

‘So?’

‘Call her and plead with her to call her husband and plead with him to call the bloody caretaker and give us two weeks grace!’ It was a long shot even to Chuks.

James sighed.

‘Just do it, bro.’

Tweets to @Oke4chukwu

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23 thoughts on “Two Bottles of Beer in Search of Grace

  1. Walter

    No one paints the picture of hopelessness in this country better than you, Okechukwu. Kai! I read your stories such as this and I shudder to think that there are people actually living these lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Saint Gab

    Hey!!! I hope this isn’t a bad omen for my leaving to stay in lagos tomorrow? You like suspense too much. Will you complete the story my friend.

    Like

    • HARD VOICES

      Mehn, you going to Lagos! Shaking my head… But in a second thought, go, go and make a way for me. At least I have a place to squat when push becomes hard push, when handshake passes the elbow, when water passes graduates’ garri. Go Gab, go Gab, go Saint

      Like

  3. Phait

    I really don’t know what to say,i remember a good friend of mine telling me that after NYSC I will realise “getting into heaven is more easy than getting a job in this country” I am starting to believe him……and I am a lady,just 3 weeks and it is frustrating….cant imagine what the guys are going through

    Like

  4. Adeleke Julianah

    With the vivid-ity with which you paint hopelessness in this country ehn, I would think you graduated with 1st Class Upper in the course on how to tell the tales in its truest form. But I know there’s no course on hopelessness in our country. In fact, everyone of us are learners!
    You sure know your ways with painting stark reality.
    I respect you Kingsley. I greatly do. You’re outstandingly exceptional…

    Like

  5. samsey

    Hmm mm…… Pieces like this jolt me back to reality, it’s really hard to survive in this Niger area but I’m still optimistic. Only just try, and stay positive. NYSC is saving my ass right now, I hope I’ll be ready when the time comes, with less than 3 months to go I find myself occasionally shivering from the fever of things to come but at the same time I take delight in some really beautiful pictures of a tomorrow painted boldly in my head. Amandla Awetu

    Like

    • HARD VOICES

      Shiver not, you will be ready, I trust you. Get a clipper or a sewing machine or something while you are at it, just in case, just in case.

      Glad to see you here for the very first time

      Like

  6. Alexis Chyka

    Yes o, call Kingsley to finish this quagmire!
    As always, excellent!
    If you and Chucks don’t find a job by the end of the week, just take up teaching Creative Writing (the hour has come and the work is that good).

    Like

  7. Adewoyin Joseph

    If every job-seeker transfers aggression like Chucks, the country would be nothing short of a mad house or a rage estate. But I blame him less.

    The number of make-over artists and caterers (especially in the line of making cakes) in the country is so much, I wonder if there will be anyone left to paint or bake for by the end of the decade. No offence.

    Scarcity of jobs is the cause of a lot of career change, hardly passion. It’s really depressing to see the pitiable state and hardship people endure daily. Ironically though, the hustle launches a few to greatness. A few in hordes however, is nothing!

    As cliché-d as it sounds, not giving up is still the way forward.

    Like

    • HARD VOICES

      No, every job-seeker dare not transfer aggression, and no, Chuks doesn’t do it daily. Yes, even the most calmly designed unemployed should spark now and again.

      Lols, no offence meant but how on earth did you settle for cake designers and face mechanics? I smell a white rat.

      Scarcity of jobs does many harms, depression, lost of passion and career are a few of the ingredients in the evil hot soup. But, I believe, one in a thousand making it isn’t too bad. #winks.

      Of course, not giving up is the only way, I swear. #coughs

      Thanks Senor Joe for this thoughtful one. Very like you, very refreshing.

      Like

  8. DrSwag

    How you manage to capture misery so masterfully is totally beyond me. However, in the thick darkness of the despondence you paint, the dazzling brilliance of your artistry shines through…

    Like

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