CROCODILE

His back is against us. Arched like a cat’s. He hurriedly tucks at the hindrance at his waistline, with the fluster of a four-year old struggling with shoelace. But his fingers tell a tale of impatience, whence relief shall delay. In the urgency of neglect, he lets his rifle fall to the ground. Now armed with both arms, the Khaki trousers slumps off his waist, mocking the once defiant belt buckle. What happens next confounds us fourteen passengers. The once-upon-an-armed Policeman begins to drizzle salt rain against the wall and ground; spitter-spatter. Clad in Black Khaki shirt, boxer shorts and fallen Khaki trousers. He lifts his right leg, tilts his buttocks to the left and lets out an ominous fart. Aye, this is what begifts the other thirteen and driver with murmur ‘pon the lip. Amused by his brazenness, I roar with laughter. Perhaps I was too loud, for the Officer of the Law suddenly quells his ease and half-turns to the window from whence I stared the proceeding. His face now cringes, as if a burnt pancake. He hurriedly grabs his trousers, in attempt to cover shame; or recover it. Before he reaches rifle, however, our bus driver seems to have had his share of the comedy. The Volkswagen Transporter bellows ‘way, leaving the Policeman gape at Black stripe on Yellow paint.

When I was twelve, my grandfather would call me into his room each evening and tell of his younger days. He had been a hunter, the village’s pride- according to him. I would bend my feet beneath me in a squat, wedging my arms at the elbows and resting them on my thighs; supporting my chin with my palms across my cheeks. He, on a creaking chair as old as my father- so he said- would spin finely threaded tale of village life I would never have. I had often wondered why he came to the city, if village life was so fulfilling. Now, he lies motionless in a locally made coffin, several meters beneath his farm. The day he died, I followed father to the village. I queried my father, seeking truth. “Grey hair tells no lie.” But grandfather did. A great deal. Perhaps because he had no hair; grey or other. I vote nay that he ever shaved. His scalp was battered; all hair grated by loads of tuber and fruit, for grandfather had been a farmer. That is all father told me. Nosy whispers said more, however. “Abraham Johnson”, the English had christened him. The unfortunate fisherman. Libertine. Drunk. They said his first name stuck, for he spread more seed than the Cobra sprayed saliva. He had only one legal son, however. My father. But Abraham Johnson! In spite of his failings, the village knew him well, for he had caught more fish than a Lizard caught flies. In the end, however, he had lost three fingers on his right hand to a crocodile. A queer man, he ne’er let them waste. He would roll up paper pregnant with Indian hemp while mother and father left for work, lick the sleeves and wedge the foul piece between the stumps of two half-eaten fingers on his right. The last stump, the index finger, he would use to arrange brown snuff powder after his smoke.

Noise from the bus park arouses me from time travel, lest I remain in the past. My mind seems to cling to memoirs of dead bald men? Nay. Perhaps I was reminded. Aye, the pissing Policeman. His belly was like grandfather’s, for ne’er have I seen such a finely carved calabash. Rounded and swollen by seas of fermented Barley. Indeed, it reminded of grandfather, but I will let it pass. Our bus driver wheels to the right, turning into the Park. His left hand is hanging from the window, a crisp currency note rolled between his fingers. He slaps it into the palm of an eager Policeman, the latter grinning sheepishly and saluting the driver. This time, no passenger exchanges glances. None complains. In my country, it is the norm to bribe these ones. It is the law. Their law. He revs up the engine a last time, whence the over-worked engine coughs and sputters thick smoke from poor fuel combustion, further plaguing the almost saturated air. I begin the walk, briskly throwing foot. I am in a hurry, and the Live Football match is scheduled for “18:45”. It’s 6:30 p.m. already, and I’ve yet to walk some twenty more minutes. “Perhaps I shall hire a Bike?” Nay. Too expensive. They’ll charge Three Hundred Naira, for they know I have no choice. Extortioners. The thought roving, I walk past them Bike riders, leaving them whistle in my direction. Five paces past, and I begin to hear the din of an excited throng. I finally see the lot up ahead on the road. Leading this congregation is a man clad in the Danshiki. The scalp of his head is covered by the Dog-eared cap, the ears of which are neatly folded and pointing upwards. He has a partner hanging from his left shoulder, that he may not take all glory for himself; the queer little drum that speaks grandiose, all within baritone. His left palm lies across its side, holding it against his left thigh. He suddenly bends in a sacred manner, as if performing the Danse Macabre. His right hand aptly surfaces, showing the wooden mediator between him and drum. The drumstick is curved as a Scimitar, then rounded at the point of impact. The Talking Drum then begins conversation, bellowing praise of a noble ruler. Few paces behind this duo is a car hued Black. A fat man with a puggy head sits atop the Sunroof, waving to the crowd. He is clad in Guinea Brocade sewn into ‘Buba and Sokoto’, a native style. The vehicle bears posters of him, with the inscription:
“Vote…for Councillor”
I choose not to see the name of the fat one, for I am disgusted.
“Oi, pray tell us! Are you but greedy for more power?!”
I only think it, I dare not ask aloud. There is no guarantee of freedom after speech, I’m afraid. Closely following him are two trucks. I stand at the roadside, observing the procession. Come the first truck. Laden with sacks, two attendants begin to climb down, the one after the other, repeatedly. Each time carrying sacks, each time throwing to the eager crowd, and each time the crowd chanting praise. In the crazed struggle, a sack or two bursts, spilling Rice or Beans. I begin to move out of their way, lest the furious owners of burst sacks ram into me in their madness. Unable to move briskly, I begin to ease my way out of the crowd, the only one moving in the opposite direction. As I advance, I see that the second truck is loaded with thugs. Behemoths that would dare the Goliath; their lips swelled and blackened from burnt wraps of Indian hemp; their faces dry and whitened from much exposure to gusts of cruel Harmattan winds. Each one a monster; all seeking blood. “One..two..three..four…” A tirade seems to have begun on the east of the first truck, interrupting my count. Hastily, the giants begin to leap out of the truck, all armed with machetes and large knives. I once more begin my march, this time quickening my pace. I must have missed much of the football match, but I must escape this mob.

I make an urgent rapping sound on the door.
“Open up, It’s Felicia!”
The door swings open.
“Good evening, sir!” I greet my father, barely kneeling. Not because I’m disrespectful, but because there’s no time to complete customary salutation.
“Good evening. Welcome.”
I slip inside the house and slump into a couch.
“I’ve told you severally to be home before seven, young lady. Did you see the mob? What if they hurt you..?”
Father begins.
“I…had to check some things out at the market.”
Silence. He knows I’m noble. I wouldn’t misbehave.
“Is mummy back?”
“She’s in the kitchen.” He responds. Partly recovered from the race, I begin to stand. The TV is not showing the football match, unfortunately.
“Daddy, are we not watching the match..?”
“This is the break after the first half of play.”
“Oh.”
I did stay long.
Mycroft Holmes, from the Sherlock Holmes TV series, graces our TV at the moment, his mouth a loaded pistol. As I move towards the kitchen, I pause to hear him speak.
“…I guarantee…that material will be found…resulting in your immediate incarceration.”
Oh. He knows. He’s the government. He can do as he pleases. The government.
I turn towards the kitchen once more.
“Good evening, Mummy.”
“Welcome, my baby.”
I do like that name, anyway. I grin, flushing and warming in my mother’s embrace.
“I’ve come to help…”
“Don’t worry. I’m already done. Go and rest a bit.”
“Thank you, Mummy!”
My father mustn’t hear of this. He’ll say mother’s spoiling me. I sneak into my room, closing the creaking door gradually, as would one afraid to wake a sleeping babe. Once alone, I begin to loosen my scarf. My best scarf, it is. I once gifted it to mother at their last anniversary, but she did not like the colour much. When the last knot is undone, I toss the scarf on my bed, letting my hair fall back and tease my aching neck. Father had nailed the mirror strategically, such that I need only climb out of bed to gaze ‘pon my face. I’d done this in the morning when I woke, and I feel it necessary to complete this ritual. I flip the light bulb on and discover, much to my chagrin, that a pimple has begun its growth on my light-skinned face. I scatter the cosmetic tray before me until I find my liquid knight in familiar bottle. Caution. A bath first. Enlivened with zeal to evict the vile imperfection, I begin to approach the towel. Climbing across the bed, I meet with my scarf again. Deep spots and hues, like the scales on grandfather’s Leviathan. Perhaps the Crocodile is not much different from Government. Arms of Executive and Judiciary; hind legs named Bribery and Debasement, and a thrashing tale of Legislature. Aye. Tail with stories. Tearing at poor man from rivers of power. Perhaps there is no law. Perhaps there is no justice. Aye, it’s ‘Court of Law’, not ‘Court of Justice’. The politician did speak of change. Same sermon of the Leech before him; whence forth we literally bounce in zigzag. Man only governs man in the internecine cycle of greed; hate and ill fate. “Why ‘change’, and not ‘repair’?” I stare the tiled bathroom walls, the question in eye. “If our water tank burst along its girth, would we repair it? Would we rather change it?” Perhaps human desire is insatiable. “If we changed the tank, would it function better? If we repaired, would it function better? Would we outgrow it, eventually?” That is the tank. That is human government. There we have our fierce Crocodile. Lest I plague myself with riddles for the Plumber, I’ll have a good bath.

Perhaps man can ne’er tame the Crocodile.
Indeed.
“…it does not belong to man who is walking to direct his step.”

For them with eyes. To see reason.

NOTE: All characters are fictitious and do not actually represent a person, persons or an organisation. Furthermore, this piece of fiction may not be used for political or anti-political themes.

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8 thoughts on “CROCODILE

  1. I’ll use a word to describe this piece; BEAUTIFUL!

    The description, “finely carved calabash” cracked me up.
    More ink to your pen; or should I say more power to your computer…

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