He put off the stereo and fell back on the mat of a mattress which had harbored his oh so many dreams over the years. It was a Tuesday afternoon, 1 P.M according to the loud ticking wall clock he had inherited from his brother after he passed. Passed was such a nice way to put it, he thought , smiling at the slowly rotating fan. Sometimes he wondered why he put it on even, the thing was practically useless. What had he been thinking of earlier? Yeahhh… his brother “passing”. Passing was such a nice way to put it, the guy had been beaten to a bloody pulp, lynched for stealing a woman’s purse at Kotokraba.
The skinny old man was shaking all over as he led him inside, the odor around him sinister. What was it really with mortuary-men and alcohol? The ghost stories were not real, they couldn’t be. If God did not exist, then ghosts didn’t either, and hell, he knew for a fact God didn’t. With shaking arms the man opened vault 37..such an odd number… and in a raspy voice, evident of a serious cough problem, maybe T.B, muttered, “Inn this??”
Charlsey looked up at him, face pale and swollen from all the beating. Weren’t they supposed to do something about the faces??? He shook his head slowly, “no bi am” The man nodded and made an attempt at saying something, a fit of cough interrupting him before he could even start. He seemed to have changed his mind, coughing and repeatedly nodding he led him out.
He had denied his brother. What was he going to do with a dead body? He had no money for a funeral, and he definitely wasn’t going to go back to any of their relatives.
“Sir you cant smoke here..”
He got up from off the bench infront of the post office, digging the letter deep inside the side pocket of his American jacket with his right hand. With his left, he pulled at the cigarette, making his way towards the lorry station.
“Yesssss Kotokraba, Kotokraba, Kotokraba!!!!”
Lucky, he got a seat by a window at the back. No nasty drivers-mate smell, no sitting in-between fat women, no by-force conversations. He looked out, the buildings whisking by…he fell asleep. He dreamt, he dreamt he was 10 again, swinging on the mango tree outside their home, looking into the face of the sun, Charlsey and Ama playing ludu right underneath him, he was Tarzan, king of the monkeys.
“At the back, at the back!”
He woke up to his reality. Digging out of his jeans he pulled out a crumpled 1 cedi note for the mate. “junction”
The door was open so he walked in, his brother never locked up. Of course he didn’t care if he was robbed, he would probably just go rob the same thing off another guy; Easy come easy go. The room was empty! A mattress much worse than the one he had back home, a wall clock cracked on the sides, a brown bag with clothes around and poking out of…then a stereo! He liked the stereo.
He was about leaving when for some reason he turned back to take the clock. Time wasn’t really his thing but… He walked out with the stereo and clock safely tucked into the brown bag round his shoulder.
The room was quiet, the clocks ticks sounding louder than life.
He sat up on the mattress, and reluctantly pulled the letter out from underneath his pillow. For close to 30 seconds he stared at it, at the senders name, then sighing, tore it open.
I hope you are doing well with your new job in the city, Charles hasn’t written to me in a while, I hope he is well too. Things on my side are really looking up, the white girl I told you about helped me get a job at McDonalds, can you imagine, McDonalds!!!! Like from the movies we used to watch! It is very hard, cars come and I give them food, very hard, sometimes I have the evening shift and I have to work from 10 to 6, but the money is okay. James, I want to thank you again for helping me raise the money to come here, you and Charles, I love you guys so much. When both of you left to work in the city, I thought I had lost everything, you already know how Aunty Eva treated me, I don’t want to bring up painful memories, but thank you. Wherever Mama and Papa are right now, I know they will be proud of the two of you for working hard and making it in the big city, and even paying Atuobi to help me come here. I know you don’t need my money, but I want to do this. In the envelope is half of my first paycheck, please take it. It is me saying thank you. I love you so much James. I pray some day we all come together again, maybe who knows? Things can be like they were before. Take care of yourself for me.
She re-read the letter one last time, then holding it at arms length to prevent her tears from soiling it like the last one, sealed it shut.
“What yer doen oer ther?”
She sniffed in and wiped the tears away, dropping the envelope into her open bag on the table, then turned the reading light off. The room was pitch black, she liked it that way, that way she never had to see the looks on their faces as they plunged in and out of her. Slowly, she lifted her naked self from off the chair and made her way to the bed. She lay there, staring at the slow rotating fan. He reached out to touch her and again she felt that cold sensation wash over her…she bit her lip, she couldn’t cry. Atuobi would kill her if he heard she had been crying again. The man was really getting into it now, he squeezed harder, dug his hands in deeper, there was an odd sound, then he mounted her.
James counted the money and fell back on his bed
Charlsey joined a queue in the white place he had awoken in
Ama faked an orgasm and begged for more….