My small pot of Indomie was gone. It was a neat job from a sticky hand. No doubt the missing launch had been under the thief’s microscope while I prepared it, because seven minutes roughly stood between me and my missing chow. I had left my small corner of kitchen in that happy-whistling mood of a man whose food was ready, to a busy store right in front of the house to get myself a chilled bottle of malt that will partner up with the noodles while it went down, only to return to find the beautiful blue flame of my orange coloured gas, feeling lonely. Its partner was gone.
Instantly, an alarmed look found expression on my hungry face. In a dazed mode, I set my cold bottle of Amstel down slowly at the entrance of the veranda and hurried to the crime scene where my surprised eyes blinked repeatedly in disbelief. Still in denial with the stark reality in front of me, I ran my right hand over my eyes to rid it of any scales but it was a lost labour. The deed had already been done. My well garnished blend of three fried eggs and two hungry-man pack of noodles had fallen into the wrong hand, more painfully, into an undeserving stomach. But not if I hurried.
I killed the gas flame quickly and activated my sniff like a desperate hound on an assignment and began to take in small wisps of air. Door after door, corners after corners, my quick long investigative legs travelled. It was a bit strange not to have picked that very strong flavour of noodles within such short time frame. All that hung heavy in the air were variations of unwanted smells each door and corner brought to my long curious nose. But I wasnt dissuaded, I kept going. The pang of hunger from my stomach continued to wheel me until I came to the last door of the dim lit veranda, but no luck. I placed both hands on my waist in disappointment and inhaled deeply, and suddenly, a familiar scent filtered into my nose. It was coming from the last door.
I changed course immediately and turned right. I edged closer to the sticker plagued door curiously, and surprisingly, it was unlocked. Gently, I nudged it open with my right elbow, careful not to alert anyone inside to my presence. Immediately I stuck my head in, the clogging thick scent of noodles came at me strong, kindling a loud rumble in my stomach. I walked in with light footedness, and my pupils instantly dilated when something very familiar caught my eye. It was the companion to my gas.
It sat comfortably on a very old peeled brown carpet, but no one was there. My bearing came loose immediately and I walked briskly towards it. I snatched it open at once and realised my dinner was a few rings short. Derrick had burrowed a little into it but where was he? My head became fraught with mind boggling imaginations. I threw a quick scan around the unkept room which looked scattered as if a bomb had gone off; littered clothes, upturned plastic chairs, cards, scattered books, and realised I was alone.
I covered my grub immediately, grabbed it and made a straight line for the exit when I heard heavy footfalls on the veranda headed towards my direction. I froze in my tracks and instantly found myself in two minds. ‘Should I wait and smack him hard upon entrance or wait to see how the whole thing pans out?’ In a heartbeat, I decided to go with the latter. I closed the door quietly and hid behind a very thick brown curtain, my warm pot of launch now safe in between my grasps.
With a calculated leg work, Derrick sneaked into his room like the thief he is and heeled his door shut. He leaned on it, his heart heaving up and down, oblivious of my presence. I continued to maintain my concealed position behind his thick curtain, a few inches away from him, brainstorming on my next move when my soft eyes bulged with disbelief. Firm in the right grip of Derrick, was a bottle an Amstel malt and I thought to myself it must be mine too”. Suddenly, there was that strong impulse inside of me to sneak up behind him and strike him hard on his oblong shaped head with the pot I had, but I kept that drive in check. I looked up again and this time, his once smiling face had all of a sudden, lost all expression. He realised that his stolen dinner was no longer where he had left it. Shocked, he advanced towards where he had left the pot in quiet legs to be so very sure.
He set the malt down slowly and began to search impulsively but after what seemed like a complete waste of labour, he opened his door and decided to extend his search outside, thereby giving me a small window of opportunity for a getaway.
Some few minutes later, I was sitted in front of my door step with my malt and now warmed food positioned in between my widespread legs, my hand working the fork of entangled rings in and out of my mouth with a cheerful energy. As always, it came with an Indomie induced tune. Those kind of heavenly sound you make when eating something very toothsome. I continued to hum mischievously. It was a deliberate act as you might have guessed because, I knew Derrick would come scouting like he always does. And just like I had earlier imagined, he appeared at the other end of the passage a few minutes later in his usual stealthy mode, kindling a ghost smile at the corner of my left mind. Upon beholding me, he paused and again, began to gravitate towards me in a calculated stealth. The expression on his fair face was a meld of awe, guilt and surprise. It spoke volumes. What brewed inside his head, I imagined.
Derrick was without words, he looked like a man stricken by his conscience. Even after invited him to sit down and break bread with me, he still could not utter a word. Worse still, he could not bring himself to look me in the eyes or face; a face which held a mischievous grin.
Uchenna Kaiser Egbujie