Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Brand Of Cain Episode 2

Richard Philip was angry––angry with life, angry with self, angry with everything and everyone. He was a graduate without a job. He could not imagine himself lacking in job having graduated from the higher institution about a year ago. The ink was barely dry on the certificates of some people when they had started working. Even those with the worst qualifications and grades could be seen knotting ties around their necks and heading for offices.
Although Richard was not the very studious type in school, he still managed to end up with a good result because he had a higher intelligence quotient and assimilation gift than many of his classmates. He had personally seen university life as a four-year vacation from the realities of life. His judgement on the discouraging value of higher education reflected this belief. He had also seen it as a long part of some other people’s life which was studded with parties, dates, escapades, affairs, unexplained absences, threats of expulsion, and an endless parade of yearning for the opposite S£x that seemed to be the order of the days. He was generous in addition; he loaned out his lecture notes to truant classmates, coached some of them on the courses they’d missed, covered up the absence of many of his roommates, until he finally got through these four years to acquire a Bachelor’s degree. He didn’t show up for graduation, he had taken off to look for jobs even before finishing school. But his certificate was mailed to him.
He was a twenty-seven year old man of average height with close-cropped black hair, dressed in a blue and white striped long-sleeved shirt, a pair of black trousers and shoes. He was quite beautifully structured, and he possessed the appearance of a man most ladies would fantasize about. As a baby Richard had been so pretty that people thought he was a girl. He had no friend or relative except his mother who was the only woman he had grown to love and respect. When he was in his first year in the University of Nigeria, he had been sexually abused by a gang of girls. It wasn’t in the least a satisfying romantic image; five ladies had taken turns on him as they rode him aggressively, and when they were done he had splattered on the hard floor as if he had been hurled in front of a locomotive in motion. He had always wanted to keep himself till that honeymoon night, but he unfortunately lost that pride to a cluster of university hookers. He had narrowly escaped being infected with HIV; it was that moment when the last lady was about to climb over him that someone had flashed his torch from far off. The ladies had scrambled off laughing to themselves, and mocking that sixth lady who had not been successful with her attempt to do the hot guy. That last lady had just gotten infected with the human immunodeficiency virus two days previously. Since that moment Richard had always been afraid of being alone in the midst of ladies, he didn’t know how lucky he was beforehand. Many seemed to show much interest in him, but he had refused to allow the handshake reached anywhere close to the elbow. Now, what he was really interested in was to get himself a good job, which he never got.
Noise was everywhere, and Richard hated noise. The decibel rate of that room was enough to make a corpse complain. The Cyber–Café was full of people seriously engaged in internet scams. Richard was there particularly to check any available job on the internet––he’d gone to almost all imaginable companies in the city of Lagos but he always ended up empty handed and frustrated.
Sitting next to him in the sordid cyber-café with a computer was a gum-chewing boy of about fifteen years old who was not interested in anything being displayed on the monitor screen but pornography.
On another computer at his other side was a big, maybe six feet three or four giant with long curly hair and a beard. He wore a bandana around his big head. And a gold earring was hanging on his left ear-lobe. He looked like a pirate. A gold chain around his neck so thick you could look up a bicycle with it. Richard wasn’t exactly a small man but sitting next to this large thug made him feel like a midget. Another man farther beside that Great Wall of China beside him was a short dark young man with tinted white hair which was frizzled out from his head and formed a halo over him, as if he had just stuck a finger in an electric socket, he was looking much like a cartoon character than a human being. He needed a shave, and some little trim of his grotesque goatee. His clothes were rumpled and wrinkled; they hung loose on him like shapeless rags. It was the man’s goatee that annoyed Richard most about him. He believed men should either be clean shaven; like himself, moustached or wear full beards. Another noisy group of five men were standing at one corner, debating loudly on professional football matches.
One boy jumped up suddenly and bellowed at the top of his voice, his raucous laughter catching the attention of everybody around, “Maga don pay!” He began dancing like someone who had just received Chloroquine injections in both his bottom cheeks.
I better get out of this sanitarium before I become insane myself, Richard decided. He logged off the system and got out of the café just when the boy’s fellow scammers were congratulating him on his luck.
The streets of Lagos had changed for the better with the help of the God-sent Governor, Baba Fash. The roads had been re-paved and circular holes had been cut out of the sidewalks to allow the planting of young flowering trees. Old and condemned buildings had been demolished and new ones built. Traffic congestions were controlled, there was no one-way driving, no illegal parking of motor vehicles, and reckless drivers had been committed to hospital psychiatric wards to get their brains observed. Dress like a hooligan and find yourself behind bars. The concrete pole which had fallen across the busy road a week before had been re-erected; the broken concrete had caused a fatal accident on the motorway, claiming the lives of five travellers and making movement of vehicles a complete standstill that fateful afternoon.
There was even more noise outside. In front of a shop was a crazy Nigerian Hip-Hop music thundering from two speakers as large as coffins. Men and women were bargaining, buying, selling, arguing, laughing, praising, criticizing, conferring––over goods like eggs, chickens, roosters, soaps, fish, peppers, butters and cassava flours. Yet, some market women were ceaselessly calling on passers-by to buy goods in which nobody was interested; one sweating woman clutched a screaming infant, she tried to soothe the baby by putting her Bosom to its mouth, but the baby itself appeared tired of salty mammary gland, it turned its face away from its mother’s bosom and continued shrieking. The nursing mother in question ignored the crier and continued to unravel with another woman beside her the puzzle surrounding how today’s tomatoes had lost their tomatoey tastes. After walking a few kilometres out of Market Lane into the Chevron Roundabout, Richard took the second exit into Nollywood Road; there were many vacant shops with ‘For Rent’ signs on their walls and dusty windows. People walked up and down the busy streets like ants through sugar. Just at the intersection of the Marvel Supermarket was a purse lying on the ground. Richard stopped when he saw it, the purse was looking fat––nobody would deny that it contained something valuable. Without thinking twice, Richard quickly picked up the purse and continued walking as if nothing had happened. He walked for a couple of minutes before he stopped to search its content. The purse contained a mobile phone, many rolls of money and different cosmetics ranging from a simple nail file to a compact plate of mascara. The amount of money in the purse, Richard found out after counting, was quite tempting. He returned everything into the purse as he had found it; he knew the owner of the phone would call. He had already walked a few kilometers from where he found the purse when the phone rang. He brought it out and pressed the green button.
“Hello?” he said.
“Oh, Thanks be to God.”
It was a cool, gentle, mellifluous feminine voice.
“Who is this?”
“It’s the owner of the phone that you are illegally in possession of.”
Richard was shocked, “I’m not illegally possessing anything, I found it on my path.”
“I don’t care how you got it, okay? I just want it back. I searched inside my bag just now and couldn’t find it, you don’t know how devastated I have been. So, can I just have it back?”
Richard refused to be easily convinced, “How do I know you are really the owner?”
“See, Mr. whatever…it’s not the phone that I need, it’s the SIM card inside. I just need it back, okay? You can keep the phone to yourself, I don’t care.”
The woman had already decided that he was a thief; she didn’t even know him yet. He was in an annoying mood today, but this strange woman had cut him in the raw.
“Anyway, come to The Delicacies restaurant along Queen Aminat way. You’ll find a deserted shed opposite the restaurant, go to the shed and pick up your SIM card.” He terminated the call.
“Hello, hello––” she checked the phone and realized that the man she had called had terminated the connection. She was grateful. At least, the man was kind enough to tell her where to pick her mobile card. She could not imagine how she was going to feel if she lost that SIM card. You rarely lose your phone or money in Lagos and get it back. There was a time, maybe prior to the year the country gained her independence, when they said you could leave your belongings almost anywhere and find them untouched when you returned. These days, even the clocks in churches are being purloined. She paid for the call she had made at a local call centre and jumped into her car; she switched on the ignition and drove to the described location.
Richard stood sentinel at the front of The Delicacies restaurant, keeping a careful watch over the purse he had dropped on a table standing in front of the shed, making sure that no wrong hand got hold of it. Over two decades earlier, the piece of land occupied by the restaurant was formerly holding a large private hospital, and beside the shed opposite was an old bank building which had been neglected. Its strong room was now being used in the nights by weed smokers and sellers. He had decided, after his annoyance had ceased, not to take anything from the purse. He kept everything in the purse as he had found. Richard was no saint, if he had wanted to take somebody else’s property, it wouldn’t have been this way, it was too easy, too clean; there was no likely danger in it. And to Richard, the danger in a crime was what made the crime interesting. When Richard was in the university and in need of some money for handouts, he’d stolen the Professor’s Nokia phone and he had indirectly sold it back to him in another casing and colour. He had once tried smoking cigarettes and Indian hemp just to know how they tasted. He had gambled and conned just to feel what gamblers and con-artists felt. He had even successfully picked the pockets of a pickpocket at the bus-stop.
He leaned against a tree and put his hands in his pocket to await the arrogant woman.
Then just down the road was a glistening black jeep approaching.
She stepped on the brake of her vehicle when she saw the sign board of the restaurant; she switched off the ignition and got out of the car. She was about to cross the road to the other side when she noticed a young man with a hard face staring at her suspiciously. She ignored him and crossed the road. To her utter astonishment, she saw her purse as she got there, and all her things were intact, not even a kobo was taken out of the money. The lady joyfully made her way back to her car and as she was about to climb into the vehicle, the young man presently staring at her came towards her.
“Is that purse you’re clutching your property?” asked Richard.
“Yes, I came here to retrieve it.”
The voice is unmistakable. It’s that same gentle voice, the voice was very soft and sonorous, it might have been a little girl’s voice but not quite.
“Then you’re the arrogant woman who spoke with me on the phone.”
“Are you the man who found it?”
He felt he should feed her a piece of his mind, “Who are you to speak to me in such a manner? You think I give a rooster waste about your things?” his voice was cool but it carried a tone of irritation.


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