Mr John’s story.
Three kids from the school have started to bother me, why? I wonder, they keep bringing leftovers from their kitchen, did I tell them I was hungry, eh? Or do I not look well fed? I may be dirty and a bit crazy but my O.C makes sure I am okay.
They call me Mr John to my face and Mad John when they think I am off my face. The weed calms me down and drowns out the voices, one good thing about being mad is no-one looks at you when you’re having a smoke, it is expected. I am happy to oblige.
I never told them my name, they ask if I slept well and where did I sleep, I ignore their questions and ask them to bring me a chewing stick or a toothbrush, my teeth need something, bits of timber don’t work I need the real thing., I have not brushed my teeth in six months my mother would be furious!
As they scurry off like kids on a mission, I begin to wonder, have they been sent by the Naija secret service, the CIA or MI6, are the remnants of the republic now using kids to do their dirty work? What do they need to know, who is paying them? I can play ball!, in my state of mental abandonment, I still think and hear, I hear more than I want to, I hear too many voices, voices of the living and the dead and the ones that are in-between, I keep begging them to go, they stay. I hear time ticking loudly too loud, so I threw away my watch, a colleague picked it up, he wears it upside down, I am yet to dance in the rain, make love to a sane woman or go on a date, maybe it’s not too late to be sane.
I keep my head to the ground, my army training has served me well, thanks to National Service and camping in the wilderness of Belarus, I marvel at my ability to leave the world I knew and existed in but still think and remember the good and the bad. I know I am mad, delusional, but the good voices keep me sane, the good voices drown out the cries, the sounds of bullets penetrating flesh, the staccato of the machine guns, the rockets being fired, the ingenious dust missile Ogbuniwe and its devastating effects on the opposition, necessity is the mother of all invention the captain had said, when the lads showed it to him, he was pleased as punch, those on the receiving end were not available for comment, and those that were available were a little too shocked. The good voices drown out the things that no man, women or child should have to see or hear, like children being burnt alive as the rockets hit their houses, the young girls torn in two by shrapnel, the pregnant women eviscerated into a bloody mess, men young and old being blown to smithereens, the good voices talk away the stench, the smell of blood and gunpowder that seems to follow me around, the good voices ask if I need more sauerkraut and hot-dogs, the bad voices taunt me with the cries of potbellied children with skinny arms and legs, hair turning red and falling out in clumps, my OC a catholic father keeps repeating the word Kwashiorkor over and over again, this is not my war I had told myself a thousand times a day, but I was in it, why?, because I was greedy, ‘cause I was being paid, I was a mercenary and this was my job, fight for the highest bidder, fight in the most extreme conditions, fight because whether you believed in the cause or not you still got paid.
The famine relief brought food to the starving, the publicity brought recognition of the atrocities being committed, It got me here, it prolonged my time. My conscience spoke to me daily, I never knew I had one! Most mercenaries don’t have a conscience or so I’ve been told.
Money maketh the man and money and war most certainly made the man insane.
So if you wonder why I walk the streets with no home, money, wife or family, you would be very wrong to pity me, I have plenty money, i think in pidgin English in my saner moments. I have a great family but I choose to fight someone else’s war, may be because I have a conscience and decided to help or may be because I am just a little bit greedy, I’ll let you decide, I’m mad and incapable of rational thinking!
My OC, the catholic father speaks to me again, I‘ve yet to establish whether he is a good or bad voice, he drones on about me going back, go back to where I say, who wants me , who needs me, and why should I go back I am still waiting for my final payment.
‘You’ll be waiting a long time’ he says and disappears again.
The kids are coming back, ‘Mr john, Mr John, how you dey today?’
‘I beg o, make you leave me alone!
They throw the toothbrush at me and run away, I pick up a pink toothbrush. They must be real and not just voices, pink is my favourite colour.