PROSE: THE MIDDLEMAN

‘Lunatic! A man has to be deranged, mindless, unhinged, to perform a wanton, pointless and purposeless task like this.’ Funso Bada, tall, lean, gray, ascetic and the Inspector General of Police looked and sounded very gloomy and, in the circumstances, he had every justification for looking and sounding that way.

He moved through the rubbles of what was once a ten storey building as firefighters and security men run helter-skelter to see if there are survivors. The smell of burnt hair rented the air as more people in the area gather to catch a glimpse of what just happened at the nation’s capital city. While the building is being cordoned off by soldiers, some fully armed police men search the parameters doing background investigation from neighbors and passersby. The firefighters managed to enter from the rare with a ladder as the front view of the building had already collapsed due to the blast, and the smoky atmosphere made it difficult to adjust to the present condition of the building. Emergency services quickly removed dead bodies from the building and rushed the wounded to nearest hospitals. Cranes have been brought to the blast site to move the mass of rubble and ensure that no-one is trapped there.

Funso Bada tended to be precise to the point of pedantry and, as now, had a weakness for pompous tautology. ‘Insanity’, the criminals responsible for this is certainly not a man of a normal cast of mind’. He fetched his phone from his pocket to receive a call and as he made a turn to return to his car, someone called him from the side of the damaged building, ‘Boss, maybe you’d better have another look,’ an officer said.

Funso Bada walked amidst rubles to where the officer stood. ‘See,’ the officer pointed.
Funso’s hands were clenching and unclenching and he was shivering violently. Both of those were involuntary but for different reasons. The former accurately reflected an intense frustration and anger; the latter was due to the fact that, when a bomb went off in a place and another one is about to detonate, such an environment is no place to be. Funso Bada looked again. Had he been a bombdoctor, he reflected, it would have been a sight to gladden his heart. With firefighters still in the building plus several security men on ground numbering to forty and multitudes of sympathizers and onlookers, he doesn’t know where to start from and before he could call out an order for everyone to run for their dear lives, the whole place went up in flames again for the second time that morning.

Another bomb blast! But before 9: 00am that morning, everything was normal.

7. 30 Am. The Monday morning rush was in full swing. The high-rise state of the art building occupying 50 offices in the center of the nation’s capital city was famous for its beautiful architectural design and its busy environment. Kenny Morgan parked her car and took the elevator to the fourth floor where she was greeted by a receptionist as she hurriedly made her way to her office.

The atmosphere was lively as usual. Some chatted or thought; stood or sat while some even laughed occasionally. Early morning pleasantries were exchanged as everyone scramble to concentrate with the coming week.

Dara Banjo sat reading the problems page of a women’s magazine, occasionally smiling at the ridiculous situations some girls seemed to get themselves into. He scoffed at some of the answers too. Flicking over the pages, not really interested in the words before him, his thoughts returned back when he saw his boss. ‘What’s that you are reading Banjo?’ Here we go again, thought Banjo as he quickly dropped the magazine on his table. ‘Morning ma’, he said and hurriedly pulled a file as he followed his boss to her office. Having worked with this woman for nearly five years now, Banjo knew better that to keep mute is welcomed than giving excuses. He cleared his throat before paraphrasing his words. But before he could open his mouth to say something, Kenny Morgan, his boss, a mother of two, bred and trained in the U.K smiled as she sat down. Banjo sensed she was in a good mood and thought he could get away with a little more cheek than usual. This morning, anyway. ‘Only two letters arrived?’ she asked as she checked the file before her. Not bad for a Monday morning. Yes, Banjo, what is it?’ Since Banjo was not expecting a question he didn’t know what to say. ‘Call me Rebecca on your way out and stop reading female magazines early on Monday morning’, she said and put a straight face to start the week’s business.

On his way out he noticed a young lady coming out from the elevator; she wore a black skirt with a pink flowery top. When she approached the receptionist was the last time Banjo looked her way as he entered the account office to call Rebecca. ‘Hi Rebecca, madam wants to see you now, he said. Rebecca looked up and smiled to this young handsome man that she wished would be her man one day. She hoped he would understand that she admires him. Shaking the thoughts out of her head she managed to stand up. ‘Are you okay?’ Banjo asked when he noticed her countenance. ‘Yes, am okay and why do you ask?’ ‘Nothing, just kidding’, he said jokingly and turned to leave. Rebecca watched him till he reached for the door before she cleared her throat. ‘Where is she?’ ‘In her office’, he said and left the room. Rebecca sat down again. She had looked forward to a day that this man would take her out and from there she would make her intentions known to him. She wondered how many years it will take her more before she finally settles down with her own man. Having been jilted several times by men of different status and calibre, she still made up her mind never to give up on herself. The day she set his eyes on Banjo, she just wished. As the Chief Accountant in Tower High Incorporated for the past seven years, Rebecca knew everything about everyone.

As she made her way to her boss office, she noticed some eyes staring secretly at her beautiful figure while her heels made a soft sound as she walked but she pretended as if she didn’t know. ‘Morning ma’, she said as she entered Kenny Morgan’s office. ‘Sit down. You seem to have a lot on your mind Rebecca. I can’t recall your mentioning any of this to me’, she said pointing down on the file before her. ‘Haven’t had a chance to. You were busy throughout and after the meeting you had with the contractors, I thought it wise to give you a break since it was already late into the night.’ ‘So, am listening.’ ‘Well?’ ‘Well what?’, Kenny Morgan asked. ‘Ma, by the time I saw the payment file signed by you, the meeting had already started and there was no way I could have reached you. But I think there was a mistake somewhere’.

‘Mistake? Did you just call a disappearance of 5 million naira that I never authorized that just grew wings and flew out of the company’s account a mistake? Around 7.00pm last night, I received an alert that the money was withdrawn and since yesterday was Sunday I couldn’t contact the bank. For goodness sake, who receives an alert of such amount on Sunday night? Just now I called the bank Manager and he said he called this office on Friday morning, that I Kenny Morgan picked his call and authorized the payment. He said I confirmed the payment and that it was for the execution of a contract we were working on. I never received a call from any of our banks on that Friday. Never’! She banged her hand on the table furiously. Rebecca was scared. ‘Ma, ….I ……I really don’t understand.’ ‘We will all understand as soon as the police gets here’, she said but before she could pick her phone from the table, she heard a sound for the last time.

Only that morning at 6.00AM WAT, she woke up. She felt a deep sense of relief. She could breathe again. Last night, before going to bed she received an important message that might change her future forever. A job interview she has long waited for. Having just graduated from the University of Lagos with a 2.1 in Physics Electronics at a very tender age of twenty-three, Banke Portia Oduwole, the last daughter of a renowned electrician who lived in Woroki, a slum settlement in Lagos had dreamt of a world of comfort that will bring an end to her complaints.
Her father, Oduwole Gabriel was a man of integrity to his death. Though, he was poorer than a church rat yet he never allowed his condition of living to give him a bad reputation in the society where he lived his simple quiet life. Through the hustle and bustle of the slum, Banke eventually made it out of secondary school and to everyone’s disbelief she gained admission to the university.

Every parent would be happy for their child but it was a sad day when Banke came back home with an admission letter to study. If there had been any other place to go to share her joy that evening, it was definitely not home.
‘Mama, am back,’ she said as she spotted her mother by the wooden kitchen at the backyard where all the tenants in the face me and slap you building cook whatever it is they call food to satisfy their yearning stomach. Mama stood, holding a transparent nylon filled with okra. Silence answered; but in a minute or two she saw her mother holding a knife and a bowl. She held the letter in her hand hoping that her mother would ask what it was, and when she was certain that her mother was not bothered, she asked for her father.

Her mother ignored her again only to walk past her to sit down on a rickety chair placed against the wall. Mama wore her usual dress of flowery stuff but there was no scarf on her head; and through her hair she had run a streak of rubber band. She seemed to Banke a bit sorrowful. She decided to leave her mother alone to ponder on whatever it was that troubled her.

When they finished supper, while Banke cleared the table; she checked her parent’s mood to know if it was the right time to throw the bomb. That night the earth lay dark under a muffled sky and the air was so still that now and then Banke’s father held his shirt to blow air on his body. When she returned from the kitchen, her father had resumed to telling her mother what and what happened in his workplace that afternoon. Banke didn’t pay much attention but with the look of things it was like whatever made her mother to be sad in the evening had subsided. ‘So, take this money to get your hair done tomorrow,’ he said and handed a note to his wife. Mama smiled and said thank you before dashing inside the house.

‘Baami,’ Banke said and looked at her father before constructing the next sentence. ‘Uncle Teacher sent Morenike to me today about the admission result,’ she said and felt absolute silence in the yard as all eyes turned on her. ‘What about it?’ said mama who came out of the house carrying a basket full of palm kernel. ‘I gained admission to the university, mama.’ She eventually dropped it but her father made no reply: he did not seem to hear what she had just said. Mama had already pushed the basket aside, and was looking from Banke to her father. Though he knew that Banke was the gifted among his children, yet he was petrified and dumbfounded, he had thought that Banke will come back to learn a trade at last like the others. Banke’s two sisters are fashion designers while the only boy between them is presently learning how to repair motorcycle. Had she broke the news earlier her father wouldn’t have tasted the meal because he looked like someone who was forced to swallow a fresh fish.

Everyone went to bed that night without uttering another word to each other. To Banke there was something vaguely ominous in this stolid rejection of a chance to do something unique unlike other children who live in the slum, school in the slum and want to live their entire life in the slum. She wondered what had happened on the drive to greatness that her family members once had in their blood. Had they resigned to fate?

She woke up the next morning only to see her father and mother staring down at her. She couldn’t fathom what it was that made them stare so much. ‘Good morning Baami,’ she said and stood up from the bed she shared with her sisters, they were still deep in their sleep and couldn’t hear when Banke rose up to greet her parents. ‘I have read the letter Banke and you will go to that school if it cost me my last blood,’ he said. Mama must have cried throughout the night because her eyes were already swollen and red as crimson.
Banke graduated in flying colours amidst struggles and troubled she battled with before leaving the university. So when she received a message to come for an interview with the famous Tower High Incorporated, she felt luck was already smiling on her again.

A dream going to become true.

She dressed up and left home early to meet up with the interview slated at 9.00am. Her mother bade her farewell while Banke stopped a bike and waved to her mother. She wore a black skirt with a pink flowery top. All hopes were up as she prayed within her for favour. Her struggles would soon end, she thought.

A taxi took her to a modern ten-storey office complex with beautiful architectural designs and tastefully furnished private office suites. Banke walked briskly along an upstairs passage. She looked straight in front of her as she moved towards the elevator. ‘Can I help you?’ asked a lady in a navy blue skirt suit. ‘Yes, good morning, I have an interview at Tower High this morning’, Banke answered as she admire this lady of elegance with little colour but a beautiful pallor. ‘This way’, she motioned Banke to the elevator that stood at the far left corner, ‘I work at THI too, and you are welcome.’ Banke was so happy at the news that she smiled broadly to the lady.
‘My name is Jessica, am the one who called you for the interview.’ ‘Oh!’ was all Banke could say. ‘It’s not only your resume that looks presentable; you have a great physique too.’ Banke managed to say a shy thank you but deep down she felt like jumping up and shouting halleluyah. ‘Oh, I forgot my laptop in my car, can you please take my bag and wait for me at the reception?’ she handed the bag to Banke who collected it with all joy without having a doubt what this kind act could cost her. Jessica pressed a button and Banke gracefully entered the elevator.

Banke pressed the fourth button and that was it!

The elevator stopped at the fourth floor and Banke walked into this serenely decorated suite painted in white and cream with high hopes that maybe today, she would become one of the staff of THI. She approached the receptionist who told her to sit down. Banke sat down on the blue sofa looking at the entrance door every time someone comes in with the mind that it would be Jessica. Little did she know that she was the one holding the bomb that would take away the lives of innocent people who knew nothing about Jessica’s fraud of five million naira.

PROSE: THE FUTURE

‘Isn’t it cruel to ask anyone what their future will be, because who knows? Not me! I don’t know. Take a stroll? Why are you being mean? I don’t even know what I want for dinner. Now I’m going to cry and hyperventilate into a bag, thanks for ruining my day.’

Then I stormed out of the house. Without looking back I knew she was staring at me.

Hers was history.

Even history isn’t as straightforward as Steven Spielberg’s World War II films would have you believe. That’s why I always laugh when someone claims that the present is more insane than the past. People have always been crazy, and they always will be.

Then she began to call my name but I was long gone.

Gone like my mama who got jailed when I was three. She called it self-defense but they called it murder. Grandma looked after me ever since.

Today she asked what my future holds. What else? What more can it hold when papa left on my fifth birthday? No mails, never a single call.

Walking east about ten blocks, grandma’s voice still echoes in my head as I suddenly found myself in the park. My thinking was going along like that when I spotted something flowing to my foot. Blood! I stopped and took in a loud deep breath; the air entered my throat and floated down. I could feel my lungs expand and contract, growing clean and pure, as if scrubbed with a bar of Ivory soap.

I looked both ways but was afraid where to put my foot. Dismembered bodies everywhere like chicken washed up for cooking. My heart kicked into a quicker beat and my throat went dry. I didn’t hear the sound of the helicopter hovering above me neither could I remember how long I stood there waiting forever like a legend statue.

‘F..r..e..e..z..e!’ a voice said, only if he knew I was long frozen.

Then just like a dream I remembered what I wrote down in my diary long time ago.

Today 15th of March, 2016. I finally graduated from college, how I wish papa was here to see how much have grown, hoping to become the best reporter in town, so that every time papa watch his T.V, he’ll see me. – George Marsh.

Something about the stench of blood brought me back to my senses. I was amongst them, soaked with different blood. There was a knot in my gut at the thought of it. I began to puke.

‘F..r..e..e..z..e. Put your hands where I can see them!’

Struggling to my feet from the sticky mud soaked with fresh blood that tries to keep me down, I raised my hands but unknown to me I was holding a dripping arm.

From nowhere rang the loudest bang of all centuries that landed me back on the ground. I was floating like as if thrown on mighty waters. The future became clearer to me.

Grandma was not mean after all.

Then I appeared on every reporter’s blog.

Vampire!