Sister Dupe had seen Brother James many times in church. That was not a problem. Brother James, however, had a certain fondness for very long neck ties. That was a problem for Sister Dupe, who could not stand this brother’s particular habit. He wore them at every opportunity. Church services, of course, provided the perfect opportunity to show off his latest acquisition. But, the length of his neck tie was just one of two pressing issues Sister Dupe had with this brother.
The second one was his particular strut. Everyone knows that cocks crow at dawn. We have heard them disturb our peace in the mornings. Sister Dupe had never seen an actual cock crowing, but she had seen one strutting. Brother James did not just walk; he strutted, the way Sister Dupe imagined cocks all over the world did at dawn every morning, before stretching their vocal chords to wake up the world.
As active members of their church, they saw each other several times a week: at bible study, prayer meetings, and almost every program that had the word ‘fellowship’ somewhere in the title. At each of these meetings, the same questions sprang up in Sister Dupe’s mind: “Why does he tie his neck tie like this? Doesn’t he have friends or people who love him enough to tell him the truth? Isn’t this thing too long?”
Because she did not believe in suffering in silence, she had found more than one occasion to approach Brother James to tell him the truth. Twice, in fact, she had voiced her concern, and twice she had failed to convince Brother James of the pain he was inflicting on certain members of the flock.
Once, she had told him that there was a fine for wearing a tie that went too far past the belt line. Brother James had pounced on the word ‘fine’ and completely changed the topic. He turned the discussion to how politicians should be fined for sending their children to school abroad, while the educational sector remained in a deplorable condition. Sister Dupe who neither cared for politics, nor for the functional illiterates who ran the show, had promptly found an excuse to flee.
But she did not give up.
Another time, after Tuesday bible study, she had walked up to him and asked him if he ever used a ruler to measure his neck tie after tying it. Brother James, the clueless man, had laughed, before launching into a story about how his primary school teacher used a ruler to measure yam tubers before buying them in the market.
“Six inches! Can you believe it? Anything less than six inches, he would say was a cocoyam!” Brother James recalled, tears rolling down his cheeks from laughing so hard.
Maybe it was the tears that blinded him or perhaps he was just not sharp, for if he had paid attention to the malevolent look on Sister Dupe’s face, he would not have continued laughing. She had failed again, and her anxiety was mounting. This guy had to know the truth by force. But how was she going to pull it off?
One day, one day sha. He will finally get the message.
Well, Sister Dupe’s “one day” came soon enough.
It was three days before Christmas, and the Beautification Committee was decorating the church specially for the Christmas service the following Tuesday. Sister Dupe was charged with inflating several balloons, tying them up with string in fours, and placing them on designated walls in the church’s main auditorium. She was deeply engrossed in her work, and had already succeeded in tying up one set of balloons.
Giving in to the urge to stretch a bit, she raised her head and turned to the left, just in time to see a familiar face approaching her. The extra-long silk green tie, which the wearer obviously considered festive, judging from the Christmas carol he hummed as he strutted, was a dead giveaway: it was Brother James.
The devil left the beer parlor, which was on the same street as the church, entered the auditorium and sat on Sister Dupe’s left shoulder. The words he whispered into her ears were the ones her heart was ready to accept:
“Teach him a lesson he will never forget. Do it quickly.”
She nodded her head in agreement and jumped to her feet. Looking first to the left, and then to the right, like a person about to cross a busy street, she confirmed that there was no one else in the auditorium apart from her and Brother James.
Brother James, although he was walking towards her was not actually coming to speak to her. He was on his way to the men’s restroom, which was located off a corridor to the right of the altar. As she sat with her back to the altar, very close to the altar, he had to walk past her to get to the restroom. Once she was on her feet, she closed the gap between them with a few strides, and flashing her warmest smile, she said:
“Compliments of the season, Brother James. What a lovely tie you have here! Where did you get it?”
She, of course, was not looking for a response from Mr. Struts-a-lot, but he thought she was. He was opening his mouth to return her greeting when, without any warning, she pulled out a pair of scissors she had kept hidden behind her.
Snip, Snip, Snip.
Three snips was all it took to reduce Brother James’ green tie to a green stump. It hung suspended in mid-air like a parachute that refused to land. The man was so shocked at the unexpected turn of events that he stood perfectly still.
Pleased with the new length, Sister Dupe who could not stop grinning remarked:
“There! Perfect length.”
Stuffing the now detached part of his neck tie into his breast pocket, with such aggression that in any other setting, it would have been considered sexual harassment, she added:
“Keep this as a memento.”
The statue did not breathe a word. Ignoring the look on his face, she retired to her seat, and said to the astonished man still glaring at her:
“You will no longer irritate others with that … that eye sore!”
Maybe it was the term “eye sore” that shook him out of his frozen state or maybe he had had enough. Who knows? The minute Sister Dupe said the last word, he totally forgot where he was and rained a torrent of curses on her head. Unmoved, she sat there laughing at him. Annoyed by her brazen non-repentance, he walked up to her, and shaking his finger in her face, barked:
“You mad woman! You need deliverance!”
Then, he stomped off. Sister Dupe laughed hysterically for a few minutes and returned back to her work. The devil hopped off Sister Dupe’s shoulder and returned to the beer parlor.
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