Osita clenched his teeth in anger and gripped the steering wheel so tight as he drove back home. It was almost 9:30pm on a Sunday night. The day started off well with an unlikely visit to church after nearly 9 months. The sermon from the visiting preacher was well received; a complete deviation from the regular “sow a seed” message that made him abstain from church services for a while. It had gotten so monotonous that he decided it was time to look for a new church but he never quite got around to doing that.
The preacher, who was simply but tastefully clad in the dark brown traditional attire popularly known as “resource control” was well spoken and had the aura of a man who had experienced a lot of travails but surmounted them effortlessly by the sheer power of optimism which was what his message was pretty much about. It resounded with Osita because lately, he had little to be optimistic about.
He was dreading the team meeting at work tomorrow morning because he had once again failed to meet the his monthly target and he wondered how he was going to sit through another round of tongue-lashing from his sex-starved boss. Miss Atinuke Martins was his nemesis; the 38 year old woman who the office nicknamed “Devil’s bride” was a despicable and utterly relentless bitch when it came to diminishing human beings she considered beneath her. Osita was unfortunately among this group.
Since she was transfered to the Lagos branch from the Abuja head office of the Real Estate Valuation firm he worked for, not one person in the office felt safe anymore. His was particularly worse because she was his direct supervisor and never failed at any and every opportunity to tell him what an incompetent nicompoop she thought he was.
He had endured the insults for two months with a smile which was gradually wearing thin and he realized that he was nearing breaking point when he unexpectedly snapped at Funmilola, his understudy and colleague with whom he had been nothing short of a kind and benevolent tutor. He apologized profusely immediately of course and offered to take her out to lunch as penance for which she politely declined.
“I know you’ve been under a lot of pressure lately and its beginning to tell.” She had said in a most understanding tone that nearly brought tears to his eyes.
“Don’t let the devil’s bride get to you.” She whispered with a smile. “She’s not worth it.”
He wished it were that simple. He had a feeling that the bitch was out to ensure that he lost his job. He was stupefied and thoroughly horrified when he overheard her tell the CEO that she didn’t think he was suitably qualified to perform his duties. A position he had held successfully for two years without incident while meeting every set target.
It wasn’t his fault that there was an internal squabble amongst the board of directors for money and power which eventually led to two of the founding partners calling it quits with the company and their exit, led to an exodus of three of their biggest clients. Now the pressure was on as the company struggled to make ends meet while embroiled in the throes of a bitter and expensive litigation for the soul of the company.
It was in the light of this that management decided to carry out compulsory pay cut with the very possible option of future downsizing if things didn’t improve. There he was, an innocent grass trampled by thoughtless elephants. He thought things couldn’t get worse until they decided to transfer this bitch from Abuja.
As if things weren’t bad enough, he received a wedding invitation from his ex of three months ago last Tuesday which he tore promptly tore into pieces after seeing her name on it. She had told him she was tired of waiting to be married even after he explained in detail the travails he was going through at the office which called for some restructuring and ultimately, a postponement of their wedding plans.
After he got off the initial shock, he relaxed and actually felt relieved to be away from the pressure. Granted, they had been dating steady for two years at the time when they had a major issue of it, he wasn’t ready. He would bounce back; he definitely would but recently he had begun to have doubts after realizing that he shouldn’t have waited for the perfect moment. He was beginning to realize that there was never going to be a perfect monent. There was only now.
Which brought him back to his most current predicament. His rent was due in a month and he was still a couple if hundred thousand short. The side deal he had done 21 days ago had refused to yield dividends which would have taken care of his immediate problems. A visit to his client had brought more “stories that touch the heart” for which he was totally uninterested. He stated in the most polite way he felt was possible that he would resort to drastic steps if the client didn’t start spitting money instead of sorry tales.
It was in that state of mind that he met Lekan, his gifted but most unreliable tailor. He had given materials to the tailor 2 months before a wedding he was to attend knowing his penchant for failure in terms of timely delivery. The wedding held yesterday and he had no option but to improvise. He had made a mental note to collect his clothes at whatever stage they were in as well as his money as the imbecile had stopped taking his calls.
He had gone to the tailor’s to calmly terminate their relationship but what happened took him totally by surprise. The small but untidy shop was littered with all sorts of materials at different stages of completion and there were two or three other customers who had probably decided to sit it out with him until he completed theirs.
“Bros, bros!” Lekan hailed in his usual mischievous manner. His voice was small and squeaky, like that of a hungry rodent and his miniature size was at par. On a good day, Lekan was a source of amusement but not today. The stern look Osita gave was enough to pass the message but Lekan, often used to getting away with all sorts didn’t take the hint.
“Bros, why you no wan answer me na?” He continued to joke.
“Lekan, I’m not in the mood. Where are my clothes?” His tone was business-like.
“Ah, bros. E remain small. E go ready tomorrow.”
“That’s what you told me two months ago. I told you it was for a wedding; the wedding was yesterday.”
“Ahhh, Olorun! You for remind me na. I for finish am for you.” He exclaimed.
Osita was near breaking point. His body shook with rage as his fist unconsciously clenched and unclenched – a sure sign that he was about to lose it but he maintained impressive control.
“You stopped answering my calls and you ignored my text messages and you say I didn’t remind you?!” He said incredulously.
Lekan scratched his head remembering the text messages and the calls from his many customers that he never acknowledged. The mischievous smirk never left his face the whole time and Osita found this increasingly infuriating.
“Just give me my clothes and my money. I will find another tailor.” He said tiredly.
“Ah, bros. E never reach like that na. See, I don already cut am. Na just to sew am remain.” Lekan reached for the untidy pile beneath his sewing machine and brought the cut material out. Osita made to take the material but a mild tussle ensued as Lekan refused to let go.
“Leave it!” Osita growled angrily.
“Bros, abeg na. I go do am this night. E go ready tomorrow.”
“I said LEAVE IT!”
“Na so Lekan dey do. He can never keep to time. Na only to make empty promises e sabi. Later, e go say our politicians no be better people. How you take dey different?” One of the obviously pissed off customers interjected; a young lady dressed in jeans and an oversized tee shirt.
Lekan gave her a stern look and momentarily lost concentration in the tussle which Osita took advantage of.
“Brrrroooos! Why you dey vex like woman na?” Lekan teased after realizing he had lost the tussle.
“What did you say?” Osita asked with raised eyebrows.
“Bros, you go collect am tomorrow. I promise.” He pleaded.
“I gave you seven thousand naira; I want it back.” Osita said without a hint of a smile.
“Ah, bros, you go forget that one oh. Ya money don enter voice mail.” Lekan said. He wasn’t smiling anymore.
“Wetin you talk?” Osita asked again, reverting seemlessly to pidgin English.
“Your cloth go ready tomorrow.” Lekan said as he stretched his hands for the clothes Osita held away from him.
“I no want again. Just gimme my money make I comot here. The wedding when I was use am attend don pass. I want my money.” Osita said again.
There was a tense silence as both men looked each other in the eye. Lekan realized that he had just lost this customer so he sat back down and continued to sew what he was sewing.
“You no hear wetin I talk?” Osita asked, the steam coming off his ears very visible now.
“Bros, you come collect ya money tomorro…”
He never completed the statement as Osita slammed a clenched fist into his face. As a result of the awkwardness of his position which was way above the sitting position of the short, sitting tailor, he missed Lekan’s face but not the neck as he crashed on the sewing machine. The impact of fist on neck produced a dull thud which was quite deceptive in terms of the intensity as Lekan’s head slammed the wall by his right side. The expression on his face was one of utter disbelief. It was priceless!
The three customers jumped up in shock as a cacophony of exclamations escaped their lips unharmoniously but simultaneously.
All attention was suddenly focused on the little shop and passersby changed direction to watch.
Osita stood up, his legs shaking, temper spent and surveyed the damage. The sewing machine had fallen to the side – it wasn’t damaged. Lekan on the other hand, had slumped to the ground from the stool he sat. His head had hit a sharp object. There was blood.
“You wan kill am?!” The lady in jeans screamed.
The younger man was speechless.
The older fella who had before now, been engrossed in the Complete Sports magazine he was reading sprung to action and grabbed the limp Lekan from the floor where he lay in a crumpled heap unconscious. He examined the wound which turned out to be on his neck and not the head.
“He’s unconscious. We have to get him to the hospital.” He said.
Osita shook his head as he drove home twenty five thousand naira poorer. The injury wasn’t serious, he was told after being berated by every and anyone who happened to witness or hear the story. He took the insults with equanimity. He didn’t like it but this time, he was quite sure he deserved it.
It had been ages since he lost his cool like that. The last time he did was in the university many years ago and the young victim who got the full brunt of the intended punch stayed in the hospital for almost a week. None of his peers ever messed with him again after that.
The good thing out of all this was that Lekan, when he came to, apologized sincerely and promised to deliver the clothes personally to his office the next day and forgo the outstanding balance.
And he did.