Greetings to my most esteemed readers.
Thanks for all your kind and encouraging comments on the Mickey Jay series. I decided to start up something new and randomly, I wrote this new story which I hope to follow up. Every story is a journey and as of now, I know not where it’ll lead so don’t be surprised if I decide to change the title of this story much later as a central theme forms. Please enjoy and your critiques and suggestions are welcome as always.
The man immediately attacked the gigantic plate of pounded yam and egusi soup with goat meat set before him. The size of the bolus of pounded yam he cut and held in his right hand frightened the hell out of me. My mind was cast back to that famous Bright Chimezie song where he was accused by the “Oyibo” people he boarded a plane with of attempting suicide because of the size of the bolus of eba he swallowed. He dipped it into the rich plate of egusi soup laden with bits and pieces of stock fish and ‘kpomo’ with a big piece of goat meat which he carefully and lovingly kept on one side of the soup plate as if for future reference. He skillfully cornered one or two chunks of stock fish and kpomo into the depression he had made on the bolus before passing a sentence on the food to his mouth. His adam apple moved with precision as the bolus of pounded yam covered with soup disappeared into his mouth and traveled through his gullet down to his stomach. The piece of kpomo and stock fish had already been sorted by an expert tongue and transferred to the teeth for proper mastication before they shared the fate of the swallowed pounded yam.
“The road to freedom is no easy one.” He began smiling with obvious satisfaction in between hard chewing and swallows. He reached for the glass of water on middle of the table across me and took four to five heavy gulps, emptying the glass. I filled the glass up again from the bottled water in front of me, greatly afraid that he would to choke on the food.
“I had been monitoring the program of my captors for the past four days. I lost hope that my wife would pay the ransom demanded for my release.” He continued. He scratched his balding head with his rather filthy left hand while his right hand continued to work at the food.
“I didn’t dwell too much on why she hadn’t paid the ransom of N5million demanded immediately as she had access to over N17million in our joint account. I feared for the worst initially, as they had threatened her too.”
“After two days of sitting on a wooden chair with my hands tied behind me, a duct tape over my mouth and a hood covering my face, I had lost sense of time and space. All I had were my thoughts, my hunger, my thirst and my discomfort as I sat there in the stench of my own urine and excreta.”
The stench of his urine and excreta were still there and my hand had never for once left my nostrils since we met. He’d had noticed it but was too overcome with gratitude to care. More importantly, I felt the need to help this man so I didn’t let the stench deter me. He continued in between swallows.
“I still had this belief that somehow, it was all a dream. That I would wake up. After the daring kidnap that brought me to that personal hell, I had no company for two whole days. Can you imagine? Two whole days! No one to yell at, no one to curse, no one to beg. I was all alone.”
The circular mountain of pounded yam had been reduced to a rubble of improperly crushed bits of yam and bones of stock fish he couldn’t chew.
“Would you like some more food?” I asked.
“No my friend. May God bless you and your generation. This is just ok for me.” He said. He grabbed the mighty piece of goat meat he had preserved for future reference. The future was now. I stared in wonder as he bit into it, savoring the oily juice and softness of the meat. He couldn’t have been more than forty five years of age but he looked older. His eyes had sunk far into its sockets but they remained sharp and alert. His nose had a dry patch of caked blood from where he may have been punched. On his chin was an unkempt and uneven stubble of beards over two weeks old. His striped white shirt had turned brown and dirty but I could tell that in its glory days, it was of high quality and rather expensive. They were bruises here and there on his arms. Oddly, for a man who had gone through so much, there was a vitality about him.
“I apologize for getting carried away. My mind is a mixture of unorganized thoughts, nightmares and it appears my brain has temporarily lost the ability to coordinate my thoughts…” He said apologetically.
“Take your time sir.” I said in an understanding tone.
“No, no. I must tell you my story.” He insisted. “You have shown me uncommon kindness. Even I, a few weeks ago wouldn’t have thought to help a man in my shoes right now.”
Despite his claim to be uncoordinated at the moment, he spoke in clear and precise terms. He was a highly educated man.
“My name is William. William Emeka Uchendu.” He continued lowering his voice. “I suspect my wife wanted to have me killed.”
“Why would you think that?” I asked, shocked.
He laughed. That kind of laughter that made me wonder about his sanity.
“Perhaps, I should start from the beginning.”
I nodded and passed him a fresh bowl of water towards him to wash his hands. I asked the waiter to bring soap so he could wash both hands. He complied and washed his hands thoroughly. He sat back while the waiter cleared the plates. I paid the bill and he left. He leaned forward immediately the waiter left and said, “I wouldn’t mind a cigarette right now.”
“You can’t smoke here,” I said.
“I know. I just wished I could get a smoke.”
“Let’s go across the street. I noticed a bar. I’m sure we can smoke there.” I nodded towards the glass door exit of the restaurant.
Seven minutes later, we were seated facing each other in the bar. A packet of Benson & Hedges and Dunhill lay before us with two bottles of Harp Lager Beer. We’d both lit up. He inhaled the first drag of cigarette deeply with eyes closed. These were things he missed. He spoke suddenly.
“I’ve been married to Veronica for six years now. In those six years, we’ve had no children. We’ve flown to four different countries trying to determine the problem but each time, we were given a clean bill of health. The doctors told us nothing was wrong with us. Though they all advised me to quit smoking.” He looked at his cigarette. He sucked hard on it and blew out a thick cloud of smoke.
“When you’ve had a near death experience, you suddenly feel you must indulge in all you denied yourself. Well, I actually did quit.” He stubbed out some ash.
“We came back and decided to wait on God to do things at his own time. I started traveling a lot for my flourishing business. Business was good. I was able to cater for her every need to ease her depression. I began to take her on business trips with me. Didn’t want her to complain of boredom. Last year, she got bored with following me on my business trips. She wanted something of her own.
I welcomed the idea. She wanted to open a mall so I threw in over N5m into the venture. I wasn’t around much so I couldn’t monitor her progress but I trusted her and she didn’t disappoint. Ever heard of Sidwell’s?” He asked me.
“That’s the biggest shopping outfit in Ajah!” I exclaimed. “I’ve been there like twice.”
He nodded with satisfaction and said. “Oh…good. Well Sidwell’s is a product of my money and my wife’s vision.” There was a pause as he lit up another cigarette.
My mind wandered to that fateful day I went to Sidwell’s. I was in the company of a friend and his girl friend. We went to pick up a birthday cake for someone. I was impressed by the massiveness of the place. It seemed to stock everything one could ever hope for. It wasn’t yet in the league of the Shoprites and the rest, but it would get there, eventually. I was particularly impressed when the young and pretty owner was pointed out to me. She wore a blue jeans trouser and a blue shirt. She was very pretty and very chic. I didn’t tell Mr Uchendu any of this though. I turned my attention back to him. He had a faraway look in his eye.
“Let me tell you how we met and got married.” He said with determination. It felt like he had decided to bare it all, so I sat back and listened.
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