“Benji, your wife don complain too much, she say you no dey laugh again, you no dey play with your children again. Wetin be the problem. Tell me, ah fit help o!”
“Yinka na you be ma best friend and ah trust you but the problem be say, no ear fit hear dis story. Forgive me e day too bad.”
“Look, Benji, na im make me dey worry you, I wan hear am, nothing wey ear never hear before!”
“No Yinka, ah no fit.”
“Benji, if you keep dis problem for mind e fit kill you. Tell me make ah see as we go take do am.”
Benji told his story.
* * *
It was a very quiet night, the only noise was that of passing cars. Inside a tinker shed by the Ishagbo highway, the policemen on duty-Gana, Ade, and Bengi-passed the time by playing draught. They were oblivious to the passing cars.
“Gana, make you remove hand if you no sabi wetin to play!” Ade hissed, as Gana spent about five minutes deciding on which seed to play. Gana dragged on his cigarette and ignored him.
Benji got up. “I don tire,” he said. “Make I go piss for yonder.”
Gana packed up the game, stretched himself and yawned. “I swear, if no be say dis our new Oga dey do inspection for night, I no for dey come. Ma next life, I no go do police work, na suffer-suffer.”
“No bi lie you talk,” Ade retorted. “Man picken jus dey here for mosquitoes and tiffs. How much dey get sel?” he asked, putting his hands in his trouser pockets, and bringing out wads of notes. “Only hundred and two naira. How much you get?” he asked Gana.
“I never count am, make I check,” he searched first in both shirt pockets, then in his trouser pockets. He pulled out the money all crumpled. He straightened them one after the other, then countered them. “You dey complain, I get only eighty-two naira, twenty kobo.”
“How twenty kobo enter am?” Ade asked.
“How twenty kobo no go enter am? I dey collect money from anybody wey carry load, wetin be load, any kin human being wey pass here.”
Benji came in zipping up his trousers and laughing. “E-e-eh?” so you follow, Gana? I remember one thing now.” He told the story of his neighbor’s child who lost his ground nuts to one of the policemen, the little boy had spat on the offending policeman’s face but the policeman gave him such a baton whack on his head, he forgot all about school, and returned home crying.
Gana sensed that the story was aimed at mocking him. He hissed and told them that as far as he was concerned, “Police work, na survival of the feastest, if man no feast for small, small things, man no fit survive!”
“Illiterate man, na survival of the fittest, no bi feastest,” Ade said, amidst chuckles.
“Anyway,” Ade continued, “Wetin I go take dis money do?” He started to count off what he would spend the money on: fifty naira for his little girl’s school fees, twenty naira for a brothel and the rest on drinks.”
“Why you wan spend twenty naira for woman?” Jus give me ten naira and I go give you woman.”
“You mean am?” Ade asked, drawing closer to him.
“I mean am!” Benji replied.
Ade took him aside and they talked in whispers. Suddenly they hurried off. “We dey come!” they called to Gana. “Make we buy kola nut for yonder!”
“I get kola here!” Gana screamed back at them but there was no response.
Mfon was under a cone like tree, making conversation with a stick of wood. At intervals, she laughed loudly. She did not notice Benji and Ade until Benji called out her name: “Mfy-y-y-yy!”
She looked up and coyly covered her face with her dirty palm and said, “I am shy.”
“A-a-ah!” Ade exclaimed. “Na mad woman?”
“Wetin do am, na here I dey come almost every day.”
“A beg, no vex, give me back ma ten naira!”
“Ade, you dey fear too much, jus look at me, as I go meet am.” He walked over to Mfon and caressed her shoulder. She slowly drew away and repeated, “I am shy.” Benji smiled and waved at Ade to come over. Ade scratched his head and went over to Mfon. Benji made a quiet exit.
He sat beside here and cautiously wrapped his arms around her. She was still covering her face and peeped at Ade through her spread fingers, then, she abruptly leapt at his neck and screamed, “You look like the creeping monster, a thief in my domain!” Ade gripped her arms and pushed with all the force in him but could not get away. He put his left leg forward and pushed to make her trip but she held on to his neck with a vice-like grip. She threw him over and they rolled like enraged dogs in fight, dust swirled around them. Grasses bent under their trampling feet as Mfon pulled him up again. Sweat broke out on his face and armpits.
“Abeg!” he begged Mfon, his eyes wide.
“Ha-ha-a-a-a!” she laughed into his face and squeezed harder at his neck. “Beg me the more and I will let you be. You are suddenly dumb. All right, you want me to let you be, mmh? There you go!” She let go of him and he fell like a condemned sack of oranges.
“The monster sleeps like a frog on a log, come little sticks make his bed for him, make his bed for him?!” She was still in this ecstatic mood when Benji came in, a grin on his face.
“Whey my friend?” he asked.
“There! He sleeps,” Mfon replied, laughing.
Benji noticed his colleague on the ground and thought he was asleep. He walked over to him and pushed him. When Ade did not budge, he said to him, “Wake up now before I slap you!” He slapped him hard on the cheek but Ade did not show any sign of pain. He stood in stunned silence and swallowed hard. He paced round contemplating. He could not carry the body to Ade’s family; he might be implicated. It was better to feign ignorance and let someone discover the body at dawn, but then remembered that Gana was him leave with Ade. He paced more and then said to Mfon, “You must pay for dis, mad woman!” and turned to go but Mfon pounced on him, grabbing his shirt. He freed himself and ran before she could do more harm.
* * * *
“You tell Gana?” Yinka asked at the end of the story.
“E-eh, ah tell am, e say im go help me hide am.”
“Na wah oh, dis kaine wahala tire me, but why?”
Before he could finish, two heavy knocks sounded on the door. He opened it and his eyes nearly popped as the inspector of police and Gana strode in. Benji stared at Gana, his mouth agape.
“No, be me talk!” Gana said, pointing at the inspector’s hand. He needed no proof to know that he had been found out, there in the inspector’s hand was his name tag.
“Ma own don finish!” he muttered as the inspector ordered Gana to handcuff him. Then they led him away.