The bricklayer was doing this his banging right in the middle of my head, his mallet bouncing allover the walls of my skull and leaving a splitting headache on the floor of my brain. The noise was driving me out of my mind! On a peaceful pretty Sunday evening; when the whole world was supposed to be in a nice sweet coma. I couldn’t concentrate on the Maths homework we were supposed to submit first-thing-tomorrow-morning-or-MrMensah-would-kill-us. The nutcaseman was just banging away wildly as if it wasn’t the Sabbathday that we were supposed to be keep holy and silent and all that nice Christian stuff. Why couldn’t he just have come on a Monday morning when everyone else in the world would be mad too and nobody would notice him. Why on a Sunday evening when we were supposed to be chewing over in our sober minds the crumbs from Sunday school and digesting the Words in our hearts.
It was all Dad’s fault. He had got this hot idea in his head that he should put an AC in his study (his beloved books were going mouldy and dying in the humidity of the study.) Dad had tried to explain to me one time how it was the stifling dampness of the warm atmosphere of his study that gave the room its academic ‘air’. To me, the room was just plain stuffy, literally and unliterally!
Now his books were dying and he figured that an AC would be just the breath of fresh air they needed to survive. So this mad bricklayer was banging a hole in the wall behind Dad’s large leather chair for the AC.
It was not just the man’s banging; he had a noisy transistor radio which was tuned to this Yoruba station where a madly raucous programme was on with about four women chattering and cackling insanely like twenty covens of witches, churning up enough noise to fill ten markets!
Dad was not used to this kind of rural invasion into the genteel tranquility of his immediate environment, so he feigned this sudden, ill-fitting bonhomie and went visiting a makeshift friend on campus. Mum took cover in house fellowship.
I was now alone with the maniac.
Since I couldn’t find any exes or whys I prepared myself for tomorrow’s death at Mr. Mensah’s hand, and began looking for a simple murder plan in my head. Killing a person in your head is the easiest thing in the world to do; brief, precise, clean—a stab, a shot, a blow—just one sharp action and it was all over, and the person was lying on the floor of your mind bleeding everywhere. And the good thing about your mind is that you can’t go to jail in it.
Dad had a golf club. A samurai sword. A danegun… No…
Yes! A knife! A simple, innocent kitchen knife—the most easily, readily available household murder weapon… Only that it would make the whole business messy, and rowdy kind of…
I settled for a tennis racket. (Nothing like a good old racket to kill a din.) The racket was Slazenger. Dad’s. It was heavy. I wondered how those fragile white women on TV could swing it so fast and hard and catch a ball speeding crazy across the court to hit it back mad at the other girl.
Just as I raised mine to serve the bricklayer the fatal blow, he turned around. I froze. He blinked sweat away from his eyes, and opened his mouth.
‘Flies,’ I said. ‘They’re everywhere…’ I swatted the empty air above his surprised head twice, back-and-forth. He just stared up at me as if I had a dreadful disease he didn’t want to catch. He held his mallet stiff, and the racket suddenly felt less like a murder weapon in its awesome presence. It went limp in my hand.
‘Abeg give me water,’ he said. His voice sounded pressed flat. I sighed and hurried out of the room.
As I carried the water to him in a glass, another devil idea swam into my head—I could spit in the water!… But that was just a harmless childish thing. To a madman with a mallet it was nothing. Dare and me were always spitting in people we didn’t like’s water and drinks and nothing ever happened to them; instead they seemed to be even happier after drinking our spits. I swallowed my spit back and thought of something else; something more dangerous to put in his water that would do something to him… A cockroach?A bogey? Chalk? Geckoshit?… Valium! Yes! Mum ate two everynight, for dessert. I had tried some out, out of curiousity, one day. I slept like two Rip van Winkles, and woke up forty years later, in the hospital.
I found the packet under Mum’s pillow, and emptied it into the glass of water, and stirred with an old toothbrush Dad uses to fuss over the soles of his shoes. I could still see the grainy particles floating about in the water.
The bricklayer did not see them; he didn’t look at them; he just took the glass from me, gave me a filthy look, and poured the water away down his throat.
I went to wait in the livingroom. It was like waiting for a person with a terminal disease to die. You had to be patient. It was long. Those kind of people die sluggishly; they take a whole lifetime to die, and you have to wait before you can return to your own life. Like how Mum did for Gramm-2.
The banging continued…
Then, first, the rhythm slowed up, then the sound suddenly died. Just stopped, in midbang, like a failed heart, and the mallet dropped dead to the floor, taking its noise with it. And everywhere fell silent like adeadman.
I had never killed anybody before. The feeling was empty. My head felt light, my mouth, dry. My legs were gone from under me, abandoned me.
The man was slumped on the floor of the study, only his head and torso showing, the rest of him was hidden behind the chair. I felt sorry for him; he looked between slumber and death; you couldn’t guess which side he was on. I raised his hand to check, like a wrestling ref—1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!—his arm was dead. I opened his eyes, they closed themselves back—his eyes were dead. I lifted his heavy head; it banged back to the floor with a lifeless thud—his head was dead. I slapped his face; he turned the other cheek—his face was dead. I checked his chest; there was a faint activity in it—his heart was still a-live. It meant he was only halfdead, or threequarter…
I took the cup to the kitchen and rinsed it out, thoroughly, to erase any trace of the Valium; just in case the Police came and started sniffing about. I also wiped it clean of all fingerprints; I wiped it so hard and clean the manufacturer’s fingerprints must have gone off too. I had to be Professional.
That was how I got to do my homework and Mr. Mensah didn’t kill me.
Dad had to get another bricklayer; because the hole was only halfdone. I don’t know what happened to that one Ihalfkilled, if he ever woke up.
When I told Dare about the murder he didn’t believe me. He asked me where I buried the body. I showed him a fresh mound of earth in the backyard where I had buried one of my broken Transformers. He asked me to dig the man up and show him. I told him the body would be stinking and decayed. He just laughed because he knew it was a lie, and he didn’t believe… He was just jealous, because he had never killed a person before, a real person; only toys, and cockroaches, and rats, and frogs and lizards.
I didn’t bother boasting about it in school, so that Isla wouldn’t ask me to bring the bricklayer’s body to school so that he could believe. If Dare couldn’t believe, nobody would, least of all, Isla.
Some lies are just better left dead.