Kalu entered his Uncle’s office and met some women who were busy chattering.
Kalu: “Good morning,” he greeted them with sweat having drawn a map under the armpit of his shirt. He had trekked for a long distance.
The ladies ignored him as they continued with their chat, one of them who looked like a cartoon character for she had heavy makeup was laughing too loud. Her voice pierced into ears. Like a statue, he stood mopping at them, irritated having had enough he snapped at them,
Kalu: “Can you ladies, show some decorum? I have been greeting but you just ignored me!”
They looked at him, the cartoon character lady shot at him, “and when did it become compulsory for greetings to be answered?” her second laughed, “Abi o?”
He ignored them and sat down, took a newspaper to read but the thought of Caroline, his girlfriend, crept in and it made him smile. Caroline was just twenty two but smart had the wisdom of a sixty year old. Kalu was so much in love with the pretty girl who shared the same descent with him-she was Igbo. The problem he had with Caro was her spoken English; hers sounded more like Igboglish, where the English words came out smeared in Igbo accent. She had dropped out of school in primary six and her grandma who she lived with never pressured her to go back to school; grandma who she fondly called “Nmma!”was the only parent she had. Her mother had given birth to her and ran off with a stranger; she never really knew who her father was. No one knew. When her grandma died her aunty brought her to the Abuja to stay with her that was how they met with Kalu.
Caroline: “Karu ma rova!” she’d say.
Those words made him laugh all alone in the car.
All effort to make her attend the evening adult classes was an exercise in futility.
Kalu: “Baby, go back to school now,eh,biko nu!” It is “Kalu my Lover” … not “Karu ma rova”
Caroline: “Eh,” she’d shrug, “Mi I doesn’t fit. I is old for school! I will just be a perfecti house waif!” she’d say in her undiluted Igbo accent.
Kalu: “See,eh, nne, going back to school would give you the opportunity of being a famous woman and your English would be exactly like Queen Elizabeth!”
Caro: “but I can Spark English na!” he’d catch his breath so that he wouldn’t laugh at her, “me and Queen Eliza Nglish is resemble!”
It was hilarious how confident she felt about her spoken English.
There was little he could do, Caroline was not only smart but stubborn. Most times he wished she spoke impeccable English. Kalu’s mother fondly called Mma Kalu knew about their relationship wasn’t in support of it at all,
Mma Kalu: “Kalu what’s wrong with you? Even me that have just an NCE qualification if I were a man I can never be friends with that girl that speaks very poor English not to even consider having her a wife!”
Kalu: “Mama that one is your own o! I love Caro so much. I see perfection in her imperfection!”
Kalu would turn away,
Mma Kalu: “ I see. I’m just watching you! Any day I come to that your Abuja and I see her close to you I’ll so disgrace her,” she shook her head.
Kalu: “Don’t try it. So you’d know you’re going to bless our union so you just forget all this oyibo you’re speaking!”
Mma Kalu: “Stay there and wait for me you hear? I won’t say over my dead body o because I’m not ready to die yet!”
The secretary who had given Kalu time to come entered, Susan was her name- she snatched him away from his thoughts,
Susan: “Ah ah, why are you just coming now?” she went over her desk and dropped the food flask she came in with, Kalu stuttered, she faced the ladies on her desk, “Rita and Loveth maik una gimme chance I get work!” they move to another table.
Kalu finally finding his voice,
Kalu: “Aunty Susan, it is being a very awful day for me oo! From one misfortune to the oth…”
She did cut in,
Susan: “And he just left the office minutes ago!”
Kalu’s eyes turned pale.
Kalu: “Hah!”he rested his hands on the table.
Susan sat and opened her flask the aroma from the flask made Kalu swallow spit whose stomach churned with hunger,
Susan: “Come and join me, “ she said as she flung a spoonful of rice and stew into her mouth.
Kalu: “Thank you,” he swallowed spit again, the food was inviting, “Can I wait for him?”
Susan munching said,
Susan:”Well, you can wait and maybe if you’re lucky enough he will be here soon!” she stirred her food as the spoon hit against the walls of the flask.
Kalu: “Hmm, I’ll wait!”
Kalu sat down on the visitors’ bench, he was sleepy but couldn’t afford to sleep, Rita and Loveth were making the noise, their voices echoed in his head as it caused him headache.
Susan as if she knew what was on his mind,
Susan: “Maik una reduce una voice na!” she said and twitched open the water bottle.
Kalu wondered what their duties were at the office, for all they knew how to do was to disturb. How would the country develop when most of the workers busy themselves with doing nothing but feasting on gossips? Kalu couldn’t hide his irritation as he felt hatred for the ladies.
Kalu got into the bus despondent, he was hungry too. To get into the bus he had to tussle, shoving bodies that smelt after- work- sweat; and the conductor didn’t help matters, his caterwauling rasped him but what could he do? The boy was just doing his work. When the bus was filled up the conductor sat on the engine directly opposite a Curvy woman with a baby,
Woman: “o boy, stay well. Si di way yhu dey match me!”
Conductor didn’t swallow it well as he ogled in a rude manner,
Conductor: “Ow yhu wan maik I siddon again?” he shot at her.
The woman gawked at him dandling her baby to stop crying,
Woman: “Yhu dey mad abi? Match me again if I no carry yhur head jamb fo dis door,” she gesticulated with her right hand almost throwing her fingers into his eyes, the conductor looked a little scared, “Take it easy, madam,” someone pleaded, the plea seemed to prick in some confidence into the conductor,
Conductor: “ Maik I hear word. Sey, if yhu wan comfort na bus yhu soppose henta?” his said in Yoruba accent.
The woman covered her nose,
Woman: “Chai! Wetin di smell?” everybody seemed confused, wondering what was smelling.
Conductor: “Wetin dey work dis woman sef!”
Woman: “No wonder! Abeg, abeg, abeg, close dis your gutter so na you wan use smell kill pesin fo here”, the people started laughing, “no wonder my baby no wan stop tu dey cry!”
The driver who had been quiet since broke into cacophony,
Driver: “Ah, Seyi, dis woman dey scatter yhu!”
The conductor laughed exposing his brown teeth with patches of black on them; the front teeth seemed to have been chopped off,
Seyi: “No mind em. Na wan sero!”
Woman: “Park wan side,jare!”
The bus was sent into laughter.
Kalu smiling, was at first annoyed by the drama but began to enjoy it, for some minutes it sunk the ship of problem his life had boarded; before he knew the bus had become a fun fair that was when his mind ran back to the day’s ill events. His mind flew to no place in particular for he had tuned off; he just wanted to relax, he closed his eyes.
The halting of the bus returned his attention to the bus, a lady had been arguing with the conductor because of change,
Lady: “My friend, change dis fifty naira, no bi tear- tear money I give you!” she threw the money at him as she dropped from the bus, she had gotten to her destination. The act of throwing the money at the conductor goaded his anger,
Conductor: “Your mama!” he charged at her with a slap
The people in the bus screamed, the slap was ear deafening, the lady retaliated and before anyone could wade in she had used her legs in sending him wailing on the ground. She used Karate on him. Kalu didn’t know when he jumped into their middle in a bid to quench the fire and in a flash; the world had suddenly gone dark. He had slumped. The blow he had received in the stead of the conductor made him pass out.
QUESTION: Was Kalu dead?
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