My Friend, The ‘Madman’ (2 of 2)

My Friend, The ‘Madman’ (2 of 2)

The years passed, and I finished my university course in civil engineering. I soon got a job in a large construction company which sent me all over the country to supervise various building projects. One day, I was on my way in a taxi to the site of a project I was supervising in Kaduna, when I passed a junction where an unkempt man in tattered clothes appeared to be directing traffic. He seemed to be doing a very efficient job – he didn’t seem encumbered in any way by the large cooking pot on his head. I looked at him idly… and then my face froze in recognition. I shouted to the taxi driver to stop, threw him a clutch of notes and bolted out of the taxi towards the man.

“Kacha! Kacha!! I shouted, running towards the man. He looked much, much older than I expected him to be, but he was still scrawny, and he still had the same old grin. “Kacha… it’s me, Chukwudi!” The man stopped for one second, then ran towards me and we embraced tightly.

I stepped back and regarded him. His clothes were tattered, but they were clean. His hair was unkempt, but there was only a faint trace of body odour. But I was greatly concerned. “Kacha… what are you doing here? Why are you doing this job?”

Kacha grinned at me. “Chukwudi, it’s good to see you again. But what else should I be doing? Come, let’s take a break, and we can catch up.”

He led me to nearby bukateria where everyone seemed very happy to see him. The bukateria owner smiled and asked him if he wanted his regular meal

“Absolutely, Mama Laraba”, he said. “And please serve my very good friend here a meal too.”

Mama Laraba smiled again and walked away to prepare the meals. “How much do I have to pay?” I asked, assuming that this is what he had intended.

“Pay? Don’t be silly, my friend. Everything is on the house. How can I expect you to pay for the meal when I haven’t seen you in so many years? Nonsense!”

Over the meal, we exchanged information about what had happened to each other in the years since we last saw each other. I recounted the rather boring story of how I had completed my degree in civil engineering and about how I was now working as a supervising engineer on various projects up and down the country, while he punctuated my account with exclamations of “Great!” and “Fantastic!”

“So, what about you?” I asked, when I was done. “You set out to be the philosopher that would change Nigeria – how come you’re now directing traffic in Kaduna?”

“Ah”, he said with a twinkle in his eye, “I wanted to go to university at first, but then I realised that I probably wouldn’t learn much from there. It would just be like secondary school, except that the lecturers would be even less willing to admit they were wrong. So I decided after finishing my exams to teach myself philosophy instead. After all, all I needed were some good books.

“So I stayed at home, reading and expostulating theory after theory. After a while, my parents got fed up of me taking up space and ordered me to go out and look for a job if I wasn’t going to go to university. Well – it was their house, so I didn’t blame them for telling me what they wanted of me – but I knew that I could never be happy working for someone who knew much less than I did. So I left home with my bag of books and took my philosophising on the road.

“I wandered up and down the country, hitching lifts, begging for food and living from hand to mouth. In the middle of this, I realised that people thought that I was mad, because I didn’t have the same aspirations as them – to get a good job, settle down and get married, build a big house and buy a car. But I felt as free as a bird – I didn’t have any concerns at all. Most people would be worried about where their next meal was coming from, but I needed so little to keep me happy that I never worried about this – and strangely enough, I always seemed to get food when I asked politely for it.

“So I thought – if this is what comes of people thinking that I am mad, then perhaps I really should pretend to be mad so that I can enjoy the full benefits. And Chukwudi, I assure you that there really are benefits! I can do whatever I want and wear whatever I like without people looking down on me – they say I am mad, so what do they expect? When I appear polite and do something useful for people, to most people that’s always a pleasant surprise, given the way people treat mad people in Nigeria. So this means that they are always very willing to accommodate me and do me little favours. The bukateria owner always gives me food because she knows that I direct traffic and she feels sorry for me – plus I sometimes help her out when I have the time. So I’m very happy with my life.”

I was flabbergasted at this revelation. “If you’re so helpful and polite, don’t you think that people will realise you’re normal?”

Kacha laughed. “Well, I still have to remind them that I’m mad by doing the occasional mad but harmless thing, like this…” and he tapped the cooking pot on his head.

I shook my head in sadness. “Kacha… I don’t understand. You had a brilliant mind. Even now, you still have a brilliant mind. Remember how you used to go on about not being selfish? Don’t you think that by allowing your brilliant mind to waste away doing what you’re doing, you are being very, very selfish?”

He smiled sadly in return. “I learnt the hard way what you were trying to tell me back then then in secondary school. I may have been intelligent academically, but I was a stark illiterate in the ways of men. It took repeated rejection before I could open my eyes to the fact that despite what I thought about myself, I was nothing – absolutely nothing to other people. So it didn’t matter what ideas I had about fixing the world’s problems… nobody was going to listen to me anyway.

“And when I realised this, I also realised that what really did matter to me was seeking my own happiness – not putting it behind the demands of other people. This is the path I chose to get there – I recognise that not everyone would have chosen it, but it’s what has worked for me.”

I bit back the frustration in my voice. “Kacha, don’t sell yourself short just because you’ve realised the truth about people. I’m pretty high up in my organisation – I can talk to someone about getting you a good job where I work.”

Kacha stared at me for a long time. Then he spoke gently. “Chukwudi, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I honestly am happy with my chosen life. I’m very happy to see you again, so I would be very sorry if we had to part on bitter terms like we did ten years ago. So please – accept that our lives have taken different directions and be happy for me too.”

I bowed my head for a while. Then I sighed and said, “At least let me give you my card in case you ever change your mind.”

“That’s no problem”, he replied smiling. He took the card, we talked some more, and then I announced that I had to be going, as I was late for work already. We stood up and embraced each other again, then I walked out into the morning sunshine, hoping that I would hear from Kacha soon. I didn’t look back, so I didn’t see as my friend, the ‘madman’, gently let go of the card I had handed him. I didn’t see as it was carried along by the wind, further and further away…

35 thoughts on “My Friend, The ‘Madman’ (2 of 2)” by Tola Odejayi (@TolaO)

  1. Thought Kacha would have ended up an interpreter for animals. Well, traffic is also very good. Good story. Reminds me of ‘Reign Over Me’ that starred Don Cheaddle and Adam Sandler. Enjoyed the story.

  2. If he never saw him throw away the card away, then does the story really end there?

    1. Gosh, Jaywriter, you are truly a film buff!

      No, there will be no part 2. In fact, Kacha’s throwing away the card ensures that there won’t. I have to admit that there’s a conflict here – if Chukwudi is telling the story, how does he know that Kacha threw the card away? But I will classify that under ‘poetic license’…

      1. Glad you understood why me had to think of another part. Okay, so the old mother doesn’t end up trying to look for his son in the future. Possibly to stop the guilt she’s been feeling since they chased away her son. And turns out his friend’s the only person she turns to for help. Turns out the friend goes back to the food seller who then tells him that the card he gave kacha that day was thrown away. And kacha has found another love that he has gone after. And then the new adventure starts at this point. Think your story has just began. Do complete okay. We’re waiting.

        1. Well, that’s something I didn’t think of.

          Unfortunately, in the universe of Tola Odejayi, things don’t always resolve to endings where *everyone* is happy. But (and anyone else) have my permission to continue the story along those lines… it sounds like it could be quite interesting!

          1. Didn’t really see it with a happy ending poco a poco (in respect to Kacha) reuniting with the family and friend or falling in love or becoming a prof etc. Think the whole journey of a character in a story (usually the main characters) oughtu to end with them learning something new, usually about themselves, about life generally and/or about others. Think Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, Crazy Heart, Titanic, Dark Knight and so on.

        2. @Jaywriter…I beg to disagree…a short story does not tie up all loose ends…if it did then there will be no short story:)
          ….as long as the plot is resolved,(in this case it was, then there if no need to go on and on)..
          @Tola …yes, that end is a POV inconsistency, will be resolved if story is told in the third person.

          1. @berry – have read short stories me’ve felt ended like short stories. Me usually think in film. That ‘letting the card fly with the wind scene’ is too powerful to have ended like that. If Kacha’s friend had said ‘Somehow I knew he would throw the card away’ or something like that, then this issue of another part wouldn’t have come in. Every story to me is like a kiss. Some you want a full novel. Some you want as a series. Some you want as short stories. Guess me want this as a series. Like @lade-a would suggest, since tola has given me the rights, will go put it down and who knows, it might come in handy someday. Who knows? Berry berry, don’t know why your name reminds me of Halle Berry.

  3. This was unexpected. And sad. Guess you cannot be a genius without also being a little eccentric [mad]

    1. Why do you think it was sad, Lade? After all, Kacha claims to have found happiness his own way – is it such a bad thing that he found it the way he did?

      1. Its sad because Kacha really had a lot to give society but he chose the ‘self’ route. And the really sad thing is that route always ends with a drug overdose or a rope round the neck or a jump off a bridge.
        Everyone who gave something worthwhile to humanity had to ignore ridicule, endure scorn and overcome great odds to do that. They didn’t shrink back like Kacha did. Kacha is wasting himself. He is meant for so much more and it makes me sad that he is settling for so much less, his ‘happiness’ notwithstanding.
        Now, can someone remind me that this is fiction and shut me up? Lol.

        1. This is fiction, shut up! :)
          but I think this just attests to the fact that Tola O did a fantastic job of telling this story, a story must cause a change in thinking or at least make people soliloquize like Lade is doing….!
          Welldone again, T…and I feel you Lade…Kacha ended up living his life for people…the very thing he tried to run away from.

          1. Kacha ended up living his life for people…the very thing he tried to run away from.

            Did he? I thought he ended up living his life for himself.

        2. But Lade, Kacha did not shrink back. In fact, he actually did want to change society, which is why he took to the road. But surely, there must come a time when everyone evaluates their life and asks if they are making progress towards achieving their goals, and if they find that they are not, they should ask if maybe they should change direction. I would say that Kacha reached that point, and he changed direction – maybe just not exactly in the way that most people would have expected.

          Anyhow, even if he had accepted Chukwudi’s offer of a job, would he really be changing society that much? Perhaps he wouldn’t have been happy with just making the kind of small change that one makes working in an office.

          Anyway, look at me… is this not just fiction? Someone should tell me to shut up, too. :)

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this story…Well done!

  5. A good the story…madness of the century….

  6. one weird guy
    enjoyed the story

  7. This is very good TolaO, as always, and for me , that poetic license at the end of the story did justice to it.In as much as I want to agree with Lade, I still think Kacha has the right to live his life whatever way he pleases.

    He is a strong willed man, making a decision and sticking by it.

    Well done sir!!!

    1. I agree with you that Kacha has a right to live his life as he wants, but I think the story brings up the issue of the conflict between the responsibilities that one has to oneself on the one hand, and the responsibilities that one has to society on the other.

  8. noooooo,tis was sad,I really prayed and hoped for the best for my new found love,kacha,why now?
    But isn’t he living a deceptive life by making pple think he’s mad when he’s not?
    Really loved this one,TOLA,thumps are up.

    1. But isn’t he living a deceptive life by making pple think he’s mad when he’s not?

      This is a good question. Honestly, @Gretel, I don’t know. Is he not mad? How many people would stand at a junction directing traffic with a pot on their heads?

      Or maybe he’s saner than you or I, since he’s smart enough to have figured out a way of living his life free to do what he wants without worrying about the stresses of everyday life. Now even I am confused…

      1. you don’t have to be confused,it’s sort of deception I think,he only uses it to get what he wants from pple like you rightly said but he could have used his ssce result to get a job,no matter what job and he would still give back to the society,I don’t think what he did is smart coz even if he does what he wants he does it to create a impression of madness,doesn’t he feel bad at night when he is all to himself and comes to reality that he’s sane?
        Ok,this is fiction oh.

  9. Hm, I’m not sure I’m pleased with Kacha. Good work though, TolaO! You really drew me in with this story.

  10. I kinda expected this to end somewhat like this. I would’ve talked about how he knew that Kacha threw the card away, but you already mentioned that. Well done TolaO!!!

  11. this is fabulous, enjoyed it
    but do u think people like that exit?

  12. Like Lade, I’m a bit saddened by Kacha’s choices. But this was a great story, and very well told too. Like Jay, I thought it a bit off that the MC knew that Kacha threw away the card. Maybe you should have used the third person POV in this story. But hey, ‘poetic license’ covers a whole lot, I guess.

    Good work, Tola. I really enjoyed this.

    1. Yeah, maybe I should have just cut out that bit about the card, but I wanted to show that Kacha had definitely decided to go his own way. I guess I could have rewritten that with a switch to a third person POV.

      OK, enough sadness already. My next story will be a lot more cheerful, I promise!

  13. Awww! No!! too sad!!!
    Well done anyway TolaO

  14. I have read this story before on another site. I just cannot shake the feeling that I have read this story before. Is this a case of plagiarism or its same author?

    1. Hi Omonomose, and welcome to NS.

      Of course you’ve read the story before… it was written by that notorious plagiariser whose name begins (or used to begin) with ‘Sh’. He’s so good that he even plagiarises the stories from me before I’ve written them. :)

      Seriously, if you read my other works, you’ll probably be able to put two and two together…

  15. This is great. I’ll keep a watch on your posts so I know when you post a continuation.

    1. Glad you liked it, Zahymaka. There won’t be a continuation – but if you like what you’ve read from me, feel free to click on this link to see more of the same:

  16. Viewing the story on its own merit, he shouldn’t be too surprised, as he knows “Kacha” to be a doer of strange things, right from their secondary school days.
    There’s no wrong in the path he chose,he just wants to be as free as a bird.
    Nice story

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