Onyedum looked closely at the electrode. It was the right size, just what he wanted. Shrugging his shoulders, he inserted it into the groove of the welding handle. These boys. May God help them to be honest. He was sure somehow this was an inferior quality material they had stocked his store with, yet he couldn’t definitively lay hold on any tangible evidence. He got hold of the earthing, and laid it on the massive steel door he was fabricating. He next switched on the machine.
The minute electric contact was established between the steel surface and the electrode, the usual large spark did more than it was directed to do. Instead of melting the point slightly to make the joinery easier, it first burst into an unbelievable spark, and the resultant flame traveled a better part of the three-metre span of the door, nearly shearing it in two. Before the damage was complete, Onyedum rushed at the controls and killed the current flow. He removed the electrode, and checked the part number. There was none like that on any metallurgical chart.
‘Ifeanyi! Nnanna! Can you see the damage you have caused me? What will I tell Honourable Jones now? Do you know how long I followed him the length and breadth of this country to secure this job? Do you know how many lies I have told to get to him? Just pray this damage is reparable, or else…’
The drone of his Toyota Highlander as the apprentice noisily braked and parked near his workshop cut him short, and made him turn. The fifteen year old, soaked in grease from crown to sole, killed the engine, and jumped out. Onyedum was glad there was no grease transfer on his immaculate upholstery, as he made to reprimand him, but checked himself when he sifted his brain and noted he hadn’t seen this one the last time he was at Ololo’s garage. He looked calm and determined.One thing which did not escape Onyedum’s notice was his boyish handsomeness, and perfectly sculpted body, his chest shape emboldened beneath his coveralls. He found himself agreeing with his spirit.
‘Oga said you still owe him two thousand’, he rolled out. ‘Your engine consumed all five litres. It’s an eight-cylinder.’
He liked the boy the more. At least he spoke sound English, not these others who made a shame of even pidgin English.
‘Next time, either wear good clothing, or cover the seats, you hear? What is your name?’
Seven stores and workshops away, amid the din of the busy Ila morning, five pairs of eyes and heads took up staring maliciously at Onyedum as part time employment. Once in a while, there would be a loud hiss, and several hushed statements. The pairs of eyes followed and monitored his kind discourse with Fred, the youngest hand in Ololo’s garage, the tipping, and his vicious return to cudgeling his boys. From the way his lips moved, they were sure those boys were receiving no allowance that week. From the way his lips moved. But it was no longer one hiss, but five that was audible when it was suddenly registered on the five minds that Onyedum was more compassionate than to deny anyone around him anything, much more his own boys, no matter how loud he raved, and that his bark was worse than his bite.
Like there was some invisible signal, the five men suddenly looked at one another. They dispersed to their workshops.
Onyedum had inserted the key in the hole of his door in the evening of the same day, preparing to enter his home when he was suddenly aware of presence behind him.
‘Ike, Williams, Nnaji…what is happening? Is there a problem?’
‘Ah, no problem sir,’ Ike said smoothly, running his hands over his wavy hair. ‘We want to spend the night with you today.’
‘Why? What about your masters’ houses?’
It was Willie’s turn. ‘It looked like it was on cue, sir. You wont believe the coincidence. Our masters all had visitors…..you know what I mean…and you were the only one who came to our minds.’
Onyedum regarded them. He knew their masters. Incurable skirt chasers. ‘Its alright, come in.’
Twenty minutes later, four men were on the dining table, helping themselves to some fine dinner, with the boys teasing Onyedum, asking him to leave some of this impeccable cooking for a woman, and that this big house was missing female presence. He was already thirty one, and they swore they wouldnt even near thirty before they had two children each.
‘Marriage is a lot of responsibility, boys. Though I am seriously thinking in that direction…excuse me..i need to ease myself….’
In the next five minutes, the teases and tantrums had resumed, Onyedum intermittently sipping his Hollandia yoghurt and smiling at their childish, inexperienced views of life. He seemed to do that a little more often, and beneath the table, subtle kicks and pinches communicated glee at their success, which professionally did not reflect on their faces, or their individual stares. It peaked when they saw his eyes dim, and he gave weak orders regarding how they should not bother tidying up the plates, and their rooms which was adjacent to the dining room. He finally dozed off in mid sentence, and there fell on all of them expectant silence.
A Jack knife materialized. Ike moved to him, and made sure the knife burrowed half way through Onyedum’s neck. Before that was over, his trousers and undies were lying on the floor, thanks to the duo. The same treatment was meted to his genitals. It was left hanging on the skin, his vas deferens, network of veins and arteries spilling out defeatedly.
‘If that man likes, let him joke with our money….’
Three days later, Olize had just stretched and wondered if nights could be any better. The sheer peace and serenity of the dreamless sleep was just overwhelming, and he was more than grateful to God.
The morning paraphernalia of bathing and dressing over, he had moved over to the kitchen for something to eat, only to open the door to be greeted nasally by one of the most acrid putrefactions he had ever perceived in his twenty eight years. In minutes, the kitchen, pantry, living room, garage, bedroom, and store had suffered varying levels of assault, yet the cause of the odour remained a mystery. There was nothing to suggest any smell in the entire house, yet the dominating pressure of some very foul smell on the air was simply killing. He stepped out of his compound.
Unknown to him, ten other houses in the neighbourhood had been severely disturbed by the same smell.
‘Hold this for me’.
The corporal kicked the gate five times before he realized it had been padlocked from within. A mild debate ensued between his men and the neighbours over which implement that would be most appropriate, and with Teutonic speed, two large hammers appeared, and Onyedum’s compound lay open before them. The same thing was done to his main door.
It did not take long for them to realise what the cause of the assault to the air for the past forty-eight hours had been. There, on the dining table chair, sat what was once Onyedum, head tilted to the left, green flies buzzing all over him, large holes created by bacterial feasting on his neck, stomach and below his waist. Eyes closed, skin bleached black and unlifely, he had succumbed to the quick action of nature, very, very, dead. Several digital cameras and mobile phones clicked and winked, all at once.
The attendant knocked on the door of the morgue of Ogbu Specialist Hospital, and waited for some seconds. Sure he didn’t hear any suspicious sound, he turned the handle of the door. He whistled a popular tune, in a bid to fully announce his presence. He pushed the door open, swiftly. He surveyed the room. All clear.
He moved straightaway to the topmost locker, pulled it open and unzipped the body bag. He checked the name tag.
‘Andrew! Oya o! Work don come o! Make we prepare this body.’
Like a scene from the epic Dracula movie, Andrew was treated to an unexpected shock the minute he made to unzip the body bag the second time. There was movement underneath, and he first mistook it for some micro organisms having field day on the rottening body. But it proved contrary when the bag came open and the big hole on Onyedum’s neck made slight movement to the left, even though the region had been bloodily darkened. Bacterial activity had started on his swollen cheek, nearly revealing his facial framework. That twitched, too, before one arm assured Andrew it was no longer a joke. He bolted out of the room when he felt a reeling in his head, leaving the door ajar.
Dr Obika, Chief Medical Director of Ogbu Specialist Hospital peered hard at Onyedum through spotless and dustless spectacles. An accomplished surgeon, he had been in public service ten years, and in this private practice five, and he had never come across a case this severe before, even in his entire life. The patient’s oesophagus, and upper part of alimentary canal had not only been severed, but was nearly devoured entirely by anxious microbes, which were both in the air and around. Struggling hard against the stench which had an unbowelling threat, he threw his head the way of his lower waist and returned it to status quo. These overzealous attendants sometimes could be funny. Where did they expect him to start from anyway? This was clearly past redemption. He flickered a switch, and beamed the theatre lamp closer. Face marshed and determined, he stretched his fingers deep into Onyedum’s neck. His hand felt several bloated flies and hundreds of worms, yet what he sought was there alright. The connecting artery, and its veins. He shook his head, flicked of the light, removed his gloves, and returned to the waiting room.
‘I am sorry, this is beyond me. There is nothing I can do here….’
Three days later, Dr Albright was wheeling a recuperating Onyedum into the intensive care unit of Mixers Health Centre. The suturing of his neck was just completed, with plastic pipes of small diameter running all the way from his neck deep into his chest. The veins and arteries in his manhood were artificially distended to join the tip, and it stood as erect and turgid as the generous infusion of drip into his system commanded. Once at his destination, he ran his hands through his white hair, removed his glasses, and pulled at his pointed nose. He regarded his patient, very satisfied with his work, and ingenious construction. His very younger brother had been gruesomely murdered in this same fashion in Harlem just two years into his medical programme, and he had been totally helpless when he faced him in hospital. He had attempted this same formula, and was just a cut away from success when his blood pressure had pirouetted, and in seconds he had become cold and limp. But staring at Onyedum today, he felt that void that had been created by his brother’s death had been adequately satiated. He did final checks, gave sensitive instructions to his nurses, before leaving the unit.
On that same day, two years later, Onyedum was standing with a microphone, flanked on both sides by his wife and two sons, on the podium of the Founding Fathers Assembly, armed with certain pictures, telling the world what he knew.