Ebi stood at his door, with a faraway look in his eyes. He handled the door and a tingling sensation coursed through his lean veined hand. With a start, he realized a little electric charge had made its way into his hand. It was not the devil again trying to afflict him. He was immune to any spiritual attacks, at least for now. It was the thick of the harmattan, and things like this were always common, the reminder of his elementary physics and chemistry flooding his bothered head, and successfully killing the other thought that was brewing in his mind about the cause of the little shock he had just experienced. The door handle was metallic, and on account of that, the dryness of the weather made way for electrons to easily move, and interact, his body as a conductor.
But that had little to do with the reason why his lean body was arched against the door frame, describing a sixty-degree angle. On his right hand was a menacing machete, edges shining with much effort at sharpening. He pushed the door open, and made his way to the floor above, body, soul and spirit saturated with rage.
No 19 Oke street was number to one of the oldest houses on the entire neighborhood. Aerially it took a sharp L-shape, with at least thirty flats facing one another, close like two professional wrestlers sizing each other up. Each building had at least four floors each being in the highest state of disrepair imaginable. The occupants of the houses, happy to have a semblance of a roof over their heads for next to nothing, did their best to make it habitable, patching and screeding where they could, as far as their meager sources of livelihood could afford. The owners and managers of the houses, neither having the funds nor the will to give the houses a face lift, were better content with whatever they could eke out of the tenants, with of course the attendant bickerings and fights. Each of the landlords had other properties where their hearts were, and cared less what happened here. Most of them were nursing hope that one of these days the government would begin to explore the possibility of claiming the houses, and compensation to them being a little reasonable. A thug was once hired to forcefully evict a tenant and his family from the building after months and months of defaulting in his rent. Even though he was handsomely paid, he asked the landlord that morning, before the tenant, “The law says six months’ notice. Have you given him up to six months?’’
Ebi had been living in No.19 for the better part of ten years. A ten years he would rather view as penance for his sins, known and unknown, rather than a denial of the promises of Abraham he believed he was entitled to, by virtue of his being a Christian. Not really denial, but delay, for he had never lost hope things would be better and even good someday, serving his God and modeling his Creator before friends, family and neighbours. He had no job, a graduate of Zoology from a nondescript institution. He knew his field of study was of low demand in his country, and he knew better than spare a thought for furthering his education, for obvious financial reasons. At thirty-nine, he wondered sometimes if marriage was for him at all, if the manner and pedigree of women he was observing and seeing were anything to go by. Brought to this house by an old friend and servicing its costs from the menial jobs he did by the side, he never ceased at any point to be grateful to his Maker, if for nothing, securing his soul in the afterlife.
But for one problem, he was ready to wait on his God for whatever time He chose to make his life like that of other normal people he knew and saw around. That one problemwas Mr Jones his neighbor in the upper floor, and it had worsened in the past week to a spiritually suffocating extent.
The decking above his room was a sore spot in the house, having defied stubbornly every single effort at patching and covering with cement. That bundle of reinforcement steel rods stood menacingly out, so that with careful observation the ensuing crack could reveal the activity in the upper room. On Monday, pieces of paper which he suspected were used for dirtier purposes, along with dust, glided, particle after particle, into the meal he bought with the last kobo he had that day. On Tuesday, it was the trickling of some urine down from his head, ear and neck save his mouth, along with the sickening and unbowelling putrefaction, that served as the alarm bell that signaled the beginning of his day. And on Wednesday he was brushing his wavy hair when a cube-size of something dropped on his head. The greatest mistake he made was trying to rub is head to find out what it was. On withdrawing his hand, the buzz of the first green fly informed him of his folly, followed by fifteen others. He could not even open his mouth to curse whoever it was, for the semblance of child excreta kept screaming innocence.
Today was Thursday, and there had not been a single word of apology from the upstairs direction. They had just been greeting and carrying along like nothing was happening, Ebi deciding not to mention it at all. There was no way he could go out today, his whole body drenched to the skin, dripping, drooling and reeking from what could be dirty wash-water or toilet water – he didn’t care now. Even God will grant him two minutes to let Mr Jones know what it felt like to be at the receiving end.
But for his anger, he would have thrown up from the pungent odour from the can he was carrying, filled to the brim with urine and faeces, as he bounded rapidly up the stairs to the upper floor. The matchete clanged warningly on the concrete as he approached.
He found Mr Jones in front of his apartment, on his knees, a pleading look in his eyes. The can dropped from his hands, spilling its contents and filing the space with the usual fragrance. The matchete dropped, too.
The story of his life, his journey to that point, flashed in Technicolour past him. With a loud cry, he clutched at his chest, and fell. His eyes rolled unnaturally. He stopped, still.
Mr Jones, shocked, ran to him, crying for his wife. She ran out, only to see what used to be her husband beheaded and bleeding profusely. A large plank had fallen and impaled him from the side of his neck, killing him instantly.