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The Lone Crusader

By Valentine Ukachukwu Umelo  (Nigeria)


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Author Notes: Valentine Ukachukwu Umelo is a Pharmacist. He was trained at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Apart from short stories, Mr Umelo writes radio plays. In 2003, his radio  play, ‘Knight in Shining Armour’, was joint third place winner of the BBC’s yearly playwright’s competition, ‘African Performance.’ Mr Umelo also writes for young people. Some of his novels for young people are presently under consideration for publication by a major publishing company in the U.K. Mr Umelo kicked of his writing career in 1998 by sending weekly contributions (about 300 words) to ‘Last Word’, a BBC’s three minutes commentary read at the end of the weekends ‘Focus on Africa’ news bulletin.Mr Umelo who considers his wife his greatest asset as a writer (she is his in-house critic and editor) has two lovely children.



I didn't know where I was going, and I didn't particularly care. I just kept on, walking and walking and walking a lost soul. Like a man gone mental. Or… Or had I? Had I gone bunkers? Didn’t think so. Okay, so I looked like one, like a mad man, so what? ‘I feeeeeel like a motherless child, a loooooong waaaaaay from home …a looooong, looooong way from my home …believe it’. Fine song.  …Bonny M. Okay, so I was a long way from my home. Did that make me a lost soul? No, no, no and no, I am no lost soul!

I sauntered into any street that held the fancy of my roving eyes long enough. Roving tired eyes. But strong eyes too. Wise eyes. Had seen it all. I suppose it would have loved to go blind, what with all the shame it had seen in the not too distant past. Since it came with me, a long, long way from our home. Our dear home. ‘There is no place like home, home sweeeeet home, when I go north south east and west, there will be no place like home’. How many people really know the meaning of this song they spend time whistling and singing and shaking their waists and dried bottoms and dried chests to, saying they are dancing? Ghana man says, ‘travel and see.’ Ah, my eyes have seen. Let them ask me … there is more to that song than meets the ordinary eye.

When it occurred to me, I stopped and made inquiries. Other times, I didn’t bother asking anybody anything, but, like a robotic device, scanned compounds I thought would yield fruit. If convinced there was nothing, I kept on, crisscrossing one neighbourhood after another, and pushing further and further into the heart of ---- town.

Haba! Why were they staring at me that way? No sooner had I opened my mouth, eyes popped. Jaws fell, revealing tobacco stained toothless gums. Bulging muscles, adorned with leathern talisman tensed. Every activity? HALT! Haaa! ---- town folks! Forever acting funny. I am an ordinary man like you folks: two hands, two legs, one head, one heart, one …just one brain… for crying out loud, ONE BRAIN, just ONE BRAIN! Ahh, my eyes have seen. Can’t you just let us be, ---- town folks? Learn to treat us like any other human being, please. We don’t bite. If somebody told me all these, I would never have believed it. But I have travelled. And I have seen. The things they fill my ears with! ‘You eat snakes’, as if snakes were not meant to be eaten, are they not ordinary animals, like cows, or chickens? ‘You eat dogs’. How are dogs different from goats? ‘You eat human beings’. How many of you have seen us eating human beings before?  …Well, that is what we heard. That’s what you heard! Can anyone just imagine that? ‘You are this, you are that… …You are all criminals’. ALL criminals!! It is all very sickening. Sore sound for the ears. And to imagine ---- town folks making these unsubstantiable, untenable and unfounded allegations with all seriousness and cocksurity: ‘I know it, I know it’. Among which nationality, which community, which association would you not find variants? Among which nationality, which community, which association would you not find criminals? Even among the angels, there are criminals, was Lucifer not once an angel? Damn it! Did he not have cohorts who were disgraced with him? Damn it!!

Whatever made me stop and ask that group of men and women, I would never know. Maybe it was the way they chatted excitedly like a group of schoolchildren on their first excursion. Or the inviting coolness under the grandfather neem tree, where, like fortune tellers, they sat cross-legged on tattered mats and low stools, brewing and drinking ataya, that much-loved Chinese green tea. Perhaps it was the uninhibited way they swayed, as if hypnotized, to the slow, but heady tunes of local Ndaga music seeping out rhythmically from a terribly scratched transistor radio with only a quarter or so left of its once long and shiny antenna, now clothed with rust. Tell you the truth, I envied these ---- town folks. They had rest of mind. And they didn’t look back to find people staring after them, shaking their heads. That spooky feeling the stares gave …always making me want to canter off.

The compound they directed me was on a street filled with red, finely pulverised dust. Wherever I put my legs, thick cloud of dust rose hurriedly from under my feet and cocooned me, with particles fighting each other as the struggled their ways, into my mouth, ears, eyes, nostrils, under my clothes and so on. Even my pockets were not spared.

Can you just imagine it? Intent on investigating my whole person …dust particles. Even dust particles! Ha! I …we are truly an enigmatic people, highly sought after. They want to decode us too. Great! I wish ya luck. Lots of luck. Rains---

I hurriedly gave up thinking what the street would be like during the rains as the sun broke, like a calabash of kerosene, spreading its extra-intense heat everywhere. Christ, it looked unusually bright. Squinting my eyes, I gazed at he sky, avoiding the sun’s shimmering surfce. A wispy discharge of blue smoke snaked almost parallel to the street from a source further down. And then my nostrils caught the acrid smell in the air, like burning tyre. A small company at the end of the street handled hot asphalt and bitumen for roadwork. This I was to learn later. Much, much later.


As soon as I set eyes on the compound, I knew my Helena would love to live in it. It had a low-walled brick fence with a brown gate in the middle. Pieces of broken bottles were pasted on the brick fence. That can’t deter any one, least of all a determined thief. Very loud music, I think rap, maybe rock, was blaring in one of the flats. The walls shook. And to imagine that neither the door nor any of the windows were open! Ha! ---- town folks and noise!

Apart from the stereo noise, the other thing that struck me as unique about this compound was its neatness. Tiled floor, neatly swept …was that a speck of dust? NO! The three apartments in it were whitewashed only recently, I noticed. The two buckets in which the whitewash had been mixed lay neatly arranged by one wall. Was that an unpainted portion on the wall, perhaps mistakenly forgotten? Not at all! God, this compound was neat! It was paradise in contrast to the other compounds I had come across.

The apartments were built in such a way as to form a rectangle with one side missing. This side was the low-walled fence with the brown gate.  The gate wasn’t locked. Gingerly, I parted it open and slid in just as a woman was stepping out from one of the apartments …the one on my left. Hmmm… so short and stout. Sharp, penetrating eyes. Images of a hawk tearing at a freshly mauled prey floated across my mind’s face. I was sure her toe and fingernails were long. They were! Red ...dripping blood. Gold necklace. Silver-ringed toes. My God, I gasped in horror! Haaaa…

The way she carried herself, so full of airs! Even Queen Elizabeth didn’t trot like that. I would be polite to her, our nature. Clearing my throat, which had somehow become tight, I greeted her:

“Good day, eh good afternoon madam-”

A cold, cold stare. I waited. Patiently. My nature …our nature. At last:

“Uh-huh? Na hu yu de fen?” she asked in Krio, the words dropping from her mouth one by one, and making such sounds like water from a leaky faucet. She must be chewing gum. I researched. No, she was not. Haaa!

I shivered. I told her the truth: Some people I met on the other street had directed me.

“Direct yu na ya? Huse people?”

As her face clouded in a most avaricious frown, I took a step back, in case I may have to dash off in a hurry. People have the impression that we are a fearless breed. But, like everyone else, we are only human! We experience fear. I especially. I experience fear. That did not mean that I am a coward. So don’t get me wrong please. Please. Our people are no cowards!

“We nor dey encourage any and any kind of person na dis compund. Anyway na wetin yu wan ya?”

I hated her. I wanted to turn straight back, but then I remembered: I was on a ‘No surrender, no retreat’ mission. If I had nothing tangible to report at the end of the day, the consequences were mine and mine alone to bear. I would swallow my pride. And I nearly choked swallowing it: Helena …my Helena!

“I say na wetin yu wan ya?” the woman repeated, still frowning.

“Please do you by any chance have any free flat here?” I asked, half expecting her to shoo me off, like a filthy, wet dog. Why, I looked like one, what with all the dirty brown sweat pouring down my face. She didn't.

Instead she proceeded to eye me from head to toe, and from toe to head as she daintily adjusted the heavily starched scarf, which hung, like an iron shield on her plaited hair, which strands, I imagined where made of barbed wires. My dust-covered hair, dusty feet and a pair of equally dusty bathroom slippers were probably more than she could take.  Was that another dangerous frown on her face? She would never, never answer me. Fear: I took another step backward.

It still beats me why she did. Maybe the large knowing grin I have since learnt to affix on my face did the trick. But then even lunatics wear large grins. I knew I wasn’t one.

“Why yu aks?”

“About the flat? ... I want to rent.”


“Yes,” I replied taking her grunt for interest. “I want to rent.”

Quickly: “You na Oga man?”

At last! Out in the open at last! Really, I was expecting it. Have been expecting it. I am always expecting it. But these facts didn’t lessen the rude jolt the question gave me. Haaaa… Why again? Why was I condemned to hearing this same question everywhere I went? What? What on God’s earth has my nationality got to do with wanting to rent a flat? ---- town people! Please for God’s sake, please!

I wanted to lie. But that was a sure proof …exactly what they wanted to hear, what they thought was a diagnostic feature. Our diagnostic feature. I would have to disappoint you, lady. I would tell you the truth. And to further disappoint you, I would not be rude, because I am not a rude person, we are not a rude people. Even though you have aggressed me, and ideally, I should spark, like an electric wire, and I am justified, I would not. You would not push me to do something that is not in our character, you hear?

“Yes, madam. I am an Oga man. I am a Nigerian.”

I wondered what she was thinking as she scrutinized me further. Resigned, I gaped at her from six feet, as I acted out my part …our part …like in a play (I know it so well now). I came to ‘attention’, and then, went ‘at ease’. She took as much a closer look at me as she desired. Why, she is staring at her nails? Lady, do you want to poke into my orifices with your talons? Well, if you do, it won’t be the first time. If she had a prod, she would have prodded and turned me over, severally, just to make sure, like they did at immigration, police and border posts, all along the coast of West Africa and Central Africa and South Africa and East Africa and North Africa and especially Europe and America and Asia … on sighting our International Passport, with the majestic Green Eagle (which represents the strength of Nigeria) flanked on either side by our two strong lions: Hey, you move over here …what for, what have I done? …Your passport, you Nigerian, Nigeriene, Nigeriana? …Oui, yes, he is a Nigerian. A dark cell if you are lucky, a stinking dark, mosquito and bedbug infested cell if you are unlucky …your fellow passengers gone, with you watching and staring as your plane takes off roaring, or the bus takes off, raising dust, or the boat zaps off, spraying water…then comes the poking with blunt, cold, and dirty objects …into your anus, open your mouth, bend down, punch his stomach, it may be hidden there …thump …aaaahhh I have nothing in my stomach …open your vagina! Ha, ha, ha, it stinks …Jesus Christ, the humiliation of our women and girls …and then the fondling and manhandling of our mothers and sisters and aunts, innocent hard working people minding their business, looking for their daily bread …the pain, the shame …what haven’t I seen …where are your leaders, GIANT OF AFRICA!! SHIT!! And when we resist, they call us bandits, hooligans, and then they plant stuffs on us …we get ten years for minding our business, for genuinely seeking our daily bread!! Of course I am not saying that there are no unscrupulous Nigerians, but then there are unscrupulous people everywhere, why do we, Nigerians have to be singled out for this ‘special’ treatment?)

Time came and went.

Our chests rose and fell in rhythm, mine out of anger, frustration and humiliation, hers I suppose, out of anticipation: This Nigerian may suddenly spring a surprise, they always do, I am sure she was thinking. But I wasn’t going to spring any surprise. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I …we just don’t spring surprises. We are human beings, not spirits or magicians. And to prove our humanness, I began to itch, in my usual place. And I did a stylish, ‘left, right, left, right,’ with my thighs. Two deep rubs were enough. She saw I was heavily hung. Ahh, they love us for that. Nigerian men …we know how to do it. My chest swelled with pride. At least here, all women of the world attested to our greatness. She eyed me. Did she want me? Lady, you are too late. I don’t play the roads. You should see my Helena. You should see her. She is taller than me. She would dwarf you, my Helena.    

Time came and went.

“Yes,” she finally revealed.

Was that a slight shaking of the head, to clear her eyes …just to make sure? She was probably disappointed I didn’t spring any fast one on her. It always floors their theory when we don’t. It’s funny, but whenever a Nigerian is around somewhere, non-Nigerians expect something unique to happen …like wallets to suddenly get up and walk daintily out from people’s pockets, or someone’s jaw to be shattered by an imaginary fist or a fight to erupt or shouting and loud talking to begin! You can see it expectantly in their eyes, which suddenly bulge as necks creak and stretch out, complete with bulging, banging veins, as empty purses and briefcases are clutched tightly with dry, bonny, clammy fingers. God, it always makes me want to throw up …what do people take us for, apparitions, eh, APPARITIONS? Shame, shame, shame. Shame to you all!

“Do you think I can have a look please, ma …at the-?”

Hmmm… what an astonishingly backside. Unbelievable. She knew I was watching. And she rocked it: Here, there, this way, that way, high, low, up down. Jesus Holy Christ, what a spectacle. Electricity rippled through my groins. Ahhhhh… Just try me …’I go show you say khaki no be leather …say I be original oga man.’ Helena, please forgive me, I am flesh after all …just admiring His handiwork! Romp, romp, romp. Like a duck, she dabber-dabbered, into her flat. I breathed easier. Coming back moments later, two sets of keys were slapped into my open right palm:

“Two flats na im free.”

My eyes popped out.

“Two whole flats.”

“Na for yu one only?”

“No, is for Helena-“


“She is my wife-“

Her face fell. Ahh, sorry O.

“You …you married-?“

“The flat is for my family …my wife and ki-“

“We no wan dem plenty pikin wey go cam doty this yard…”

“No, I don’t have lots of children …only Helena and our little girl.”

Leaky Faucet thought about this. I waited. And suddenly, she became amenable …very, very amenable. Painstakingly, she explained everything to me. Pointing to the more elegant apartment on my left from which she had come out, she told me:

“Na ya mi en mi man tap.  Na only am be sef contain.”

I nodded slowly as I examined closely the self-contained apartment where she lived with her man. Her man …Husband or boyfriend? I smiled. It didn’t matter to me actually, or should it? No, it shouldn’t! The other two apartments, the one on my right and that facing me, were made up of two flats each.  Each flat was made up of a room and sitting room, she went on to reveal.

I nodded severally as she spoke, and surveyed the entire compound again: The full foliaged mango tree in the middle. A flowering lemon tree stood right behind. Bees buzzing around the …is it pink, no purple, no yellow flowers, searching for nectar. Hey, Mr. Bee, will you make me honey, I love honey you know …especially on bread …or on Helena’s soft body, when I lick it off …ahhh darling you are tickling me… Ahhh Helena, don’t you love it, should I stop? …please don’t …Ahaaaa…. Further down, at the corner between the apartment on my right and that facing me, another mango tree, much smaller, and of a different variety.

The trees combined to give the compound a shady and serene atmosphere, while at the same time portraying a choked up space considering how close to each other the apartments stood.  To date, this is the best compound yet, I have set eyes on in ---- town.

The apartment on my right had one free flat, and the extreme left flat of the one facing the gate was vacant too, Leaky Faucet told me. Then she suddenly glanced this way and that as she talked. Maybe she had a small secret to reveal. Sure enough.  If there was one thing our detractors knew for sure, it was that they could trust us Nigerians with secrets. Why, aren’t keeping secrets our second nature …that is according to them …according to what they had heard, through rumors and tall tales? People have made us truly invincible. One day. Just one day soon, they will call us gods!

“De occupied flat na di apartment opposite we, na one lady get am. Her name Kindness”

And she giggled. I wondered why she laughed: At the name, Kindness? What was so funny about it?

“Kindness very kind,” she went on. “Dat how she can survive, by being kind.”

I didn’t understand, and my lower jaw dropped in confusion. She was terribly, terribly disappointed. I pitied her. We Nigerians were generally supposed to understand and decode everything, even unspoken words. We have the power of clairvoyance! But she clarified:

“She na yu know ...waka about lady.”

I breathed out and said nothing.

I had been searching the past several months without luck. Here I was face to face with two empty flats in an extra neat compound. What did I care if a prostitute named Kindness, or Wickedness, or even if the devil himself for that matter lived in one of the flats?

I examined the flats. According to Leaky Faucet, they had not been lived in for over a year. I simply needed a new apartment and didn’t have the mental capacity to dwell on the reason for their having been vacant for so long. Further examination revealed that an only toilet and bathroom built outside served the four flats that weren’t self- contained. The toilet was even water cistern, though we would have to troop to it with buckets of water, since the flusher was out of order. Was that a film of cobweb?

“We take pride in our neatness,” Leaky Faucet revealed, reading my mind. “Even Kindness is very neat!”

Suddenly, the noise emanating from the stereo increased several octaves and unconsciously, my hands flew to my ears. Leaky Faucet supplied the appropriate info:

“Na DJ before the genocide-“

My brows arched in surprise.

“ …Can’t get no radio station or night club to use him, even for free …been trying now for three years.”

“How does he survive then?”

Leaky Faucet had walked on, and didn’t hear my question.  Adam’s apple bobbing wildly. A hard, painful swallow. As I stood there deep in contemplation, all inhibitions suddenly deserted me as several scenes came crash-flashing through my mind.

One was of the pit latrine in the house on the other end of ---- town I was trying to vacate, where moist, fat maggots, some yellow, others black, fought and chased each other as they hurriedly commandeered every single batch of shit we let go, while we watched, squatted with trepidation on two rough planks placed atop the latrine.

The heat escaping from the pit often left our buttocks ‘medium rare’. And the terrible stink... Grrrrrr! One thing I terribly enjoyed doing though was spraying the maggots with my hot piss, especially when I had malaria (and this was very often). I love watching them run for cover to prevent themselves from cooking!

Another scene, of the toilet too, was of the giant cockroaches, with coats shining, as if coated with palm oil, now congealed, crawling on our legs, at night with some soaring towards our torchlights and landing squarely on our faces and necks and if by mistake you left your mouth open… Their ugly nauseating smells ...Grrrrrr!

And of lorry conductors too who waved at us grinning as they watched us doing our things while their smoky lorries clattered past. Sometimes the lorries actually stopped, thanks to sudden hold ups. Just try and imagine how we felt squatting there and trying desperately to hide our faces, cover our exposed private parts (and God help you if yours is as long as mine where you would have to wrap and wrap and wrap) and avoid missing our steps on the planks all at the same time! I have deliberately excluded from my reverie the wildly buzzing hairy, giant, green flies, which always enveloped us like a swarm of locusts as we stepped into the pit latrine, leaving one sticky as one stepped out!



Nigerians can, for a considerable length of time, live anywhere comfortably, even in a hellhole, or hell itself. Another big lie! After only three years of living in this hovel, Helena couldn't take it any more. And she was a Nigerian! So for the past several months, she had tugged ceaselessly at my peace of mind, day in day out. Her new national anthem became:

“I no follow you all de way from Nigeria …only to cross these many borders to this ---- town to come and die. Fin’ me better place to live, I use God name beg you. Even Ajegunle no be like this.”

“But I dey try mama.”

“Dat latrine na death trap. One day one of us go fall inside.”

“Landlord and im pikin dem never fall inside yet.”

“You go wait until landlord or one of im pikin die first?”

And then one morning, the entire compound woke up to a yard stinking of shit, which flowed left, right, and centre. Whoever said women lacked foresight? The pit latrine had indeed collapsed as Helena had predicted, after a slight night shower.

“Thank God no body dey use am when de thing collapse,” I muttered, as Helena and I and our little girl trooped back to our one room apartment after surveying the mishap.

“I no go remain for dis compound pass one week,” Helena announced emphatically as soon as the door closed behind us.

“Na where you go go then?” I asked.

For an answer, she grabbed my throat and squeezed with all the strength her two hands could muster while our little girl, only seven watched.  It wasn’t really a big deal for her.  How many times had she seen her mother at this?  I was almost choking before I was mercifully released. And without bothering with breakfast, I scurried out on yet another search for a decent apartment. That was how I stumbled on No 10, the neat compound with the brown gate in the street filled with finely pulverized dust in this other end of ---- town!


Within days, I had persuaded the landlord, popularly called Uncle ‘No Compromise’, who lived in the exclusive Government Reserved Quarters to let me have one of the empty flats.  I literally washed his feet with my tears (Helena’s baggage were already packed. She sat on one, waiting), for having looked me over properly, Uncle No Compromise was not convinced of the idea of giving his flats out to, as he put it, ‘a mere peasant who can’t pay.’  

“I can pay sir,” I assured him.

“Evidence, young man. Evidence.”

“I am a teacher sir wife and I. And the government is faithful with our salaries. They have received aids from World Bank-”


“Yes sir!”

“Okay then, I will grant your request, and let you have it. But you must pay your rent as soon as the World Bank pays your salary.”

“I promise, sir.”

“You don’t have to promise, because I know when the government pays. I will call your school on every pay day to remind you.” 

He pointed to a red telephone nearby.

“You don’t have to do that, sir.”

Eh! He didn’t trust us Nigerians. All 419 –advanced fee fraudsters! The next thing, I would be on my fucking knees begging after I had squandered his portion of my salary writing bogus advanced fee fraud letters to white people. He once received such a letters. Let him tell me, Oga man, if I defaulted for even one day, he would have the rent tribunal bundle me out of his property. And then he would lock my sorry, stinking Nigerian arse up in jail. Did I read him loud and clear?

I said I read him loud and clear after the color had come back to my face. Uncle No Compromise was an old and retired soldier. He still dressed in soldier’s fashion, as old habits hardly die. He always wore a short-sleeved shirt, each with two breast pockets and tucked into a trouser. A well-polished black brogue shoe completed his outfit. From his looks and language, you would know why he was called Uncle No Compromise.

He was crippled too. All the while he classified each and every Nigerian as a 419, threatened me with rent tribunal and my sorry arse with jail, he was contained in a wheelchair. Later I was to learn how despicable Uncle No Compromise was. Rumors, ably spread by Leaky Faucet had it that it was his inhuman character and wickedness that crippled him.

“You promise you can pay me by the twenty-fifth of every month?”

I said I promised.

“As you can see,” Uncle No Compromise told me in an acid tone, “I am a crippled man.”

He pointed at his withered legs. I stared at the floor, embarrassed.

“Don’t tell me you are embarrassed. Are Nigerians ever embarrassed?”

“But we are human-“

“Any way, like I was saying, I depend solely on my rents to feed myself and family.”

Removing his thick horned goggle, which exposed deep bloodshot sunken eyes, he then went on to tell me how he survived every month as he polished away with a brown, dry rag from one breast pocket:

He got goods... provisions like milk, butter, eggs and the likes on credit from the supermarkets. Replacing his goggle, he paused for emphasis, taking the moment to pour out the last drops of whisky from a bottle of Johnny Walker, which was all the while safely sheltered beside his wheelchair into a tumbler. Swallowing it all in one gulp, he lit a stick of crumpled Malboro, which materialized from another of his breast pockets:

At the end of the month he paid. He also had to pay his maids and all others who depended on him. It was a circle. Variables mutually dependent on the others. Everything is correlated, did I see?

I nodded, meaning that I saw clearly. Much later, I would learn from Leaky Faucet that Uncle No Compromise had taught English in a High School before enlisting for the military.

If I didn’t pay my rent, then I break the damn circle. That meant that his provisions would stop coming and his workers would all go away. Did I want him to starve? Did I then see why I must keep my own part of the bargain?

My heart went out to him.

“I will pay my rent, sir,” I assured him again. “My wife and I, we are very understanding …it is in our nature to be considerate.”

This made him smile. I know he was thinking, ‘tell that to the birds’. He too possessed another gospel truth: Nigerians are heartless. Well, I will prove to him and other ---- town folks that we are not.


One cold, hazy morning, we finally vacated our one room hovel and bade goodbye to the pit latrine, which was still intent on swallowing someone. The landlord had simply fathomed a more dangerous alternative.  He got longer planks to replace the shorter ones, which the collapsed latrine had swallowed.

We equally bade farewell to our open bathroom behind our apartment from where lorry apprentices sneered at us. I used to want to shoot those bastards as they laughed, made faces at my Helena and pointed at her breasts as their lorries zoomed past.  Once, one of those lorries actually stopped right by the bathroom as Helena took her bath! The apprentices perched behind were thrilled with free film show as they gawked at her tantalizing bosom. I had to rush inside to get a large cloth to cover up her nakedness as she screamed. And swearing, I beckoned Lucifer himself to afflict the imbecile apprentices with Egyptian plagues, or pluck out their eyes with hot metal prongs. 


Leaky Faucet and Kindness, I learnt were refugees from war torn ----, and ---- respectively, while Mr. jobless DJ escaped the genocide in his country, ----, to seek refuge here.  Money was not supposed to be their problem. United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was doling it out to them with reckless abandon, while relatives who had been granted asylum or re-settled in the USA, Europe and Canada sent it down religiously. Rumors had it that the average refugee family got as much as USD $500.00 monthly just by doing nothing.  No wonder some of them never wanted their rebel wars to end.  I probably wouldn’t if I were in their shoes!  Compared to them, my wife and I were sufferheads.

We rushed out of our noise filled compound as soon as it was bright enough to see, and did not come back till night, what with struggling for the few available public transport vehicles. Then we spent a sleepless night covering our ears with pillows to stave off the assaulting sounds from Mr. job-seeking DJ. To hear each other clearly, Helena and I shouted at the top of our voices. 

I longed for my former compound.  Even though we did our toilets and had our baths outside, barely concealed from public gaze, at least we had a decent night’s rest after a hard day’s job running after students, males and females, who would rather gallivant to Babylon where ‘I and I’ would have a European take care of our every need for an ordinary simple, simple lay. When we couldn’t take the noise anymore, Helena and I went to Uncle No Compromise, to report.

“Those people are like my fambo,” came his angry reply.  “They have been living there since the ‘amputations’ and ‘legputations’ and ethnic cleansings commenced in their respective countries.  And they keep my compound spotlessly clean. If you 419 Nigerians find the noise unbearable, you may pack out …vamoose!”

Our war-thorn neighbors paid their rent constantly in dollars and that was what mattered to Uncle No Compromise, who now assumed them ‘family’, not the comfort of mere peasants whose rents he wasn’t sure of.  Why, his supply of the monthly provisions, which included cartons of cigarette and Johnny Walkers, must continue irrespective of who gets deafened.

Our refugee neighbors soon decided that apart from the UNHCR and their relatives abroad, they should live off Helena and I as well, not minding that our combined salaries was less than USD $150.00 per month …why, Nigerians would always survive, come what may …they are a special breed of Homo sapien. Only if they knew how we were stressing ourselves just to stay afloat, what with relatives back home writing e-mails and phoning …send money for school fees, send money for rent, send money for Christmas, this, that, send money for hospital bills. I told Helena:

‘We must disappoint them. They think we are stingy and will not give. Let’s show them that Nigerians love giving. Helena dear, did our dear country not send our soldiers to go to Liberia to die for nothing? Did we not send our soldiers to Sierra Leone to fight another man’s fight and die for nothing? Did we not cede our Bakassi for nothing? Helena, they want to see if we would come smoking, and say, ‘we would NEVER give out our Bakassi,  …you never asked our people living there if they would want to change nationality’, so that they would then say, ‘Ah, of course, are they not Nigerians? We knew they don’t honor agreements.’

Helena, why do you think our government is bending over backwards to be fucked from behind? …It is just to smell nice to the international community who have so spoilt and tarnished our good image, every dog eats shit, but it is the dog that shit is seen on its mouth …and then what do we do? We must look good …so we give asylum to a renegade warlord! I understand what our leaders are doing …remember, they began spoiling the image of the country in the first place, years back …and I …we must help them, we are patriotic Nigerians …Helena, we must join hands to salvage our great country’s bastardized image…’

They, our neighbours were indeed shocked at our generosity. When Leaky Faucet was not borrowing salt and maggi, Kindness was begging toilet tissue …’The last one I bought, only yesterday has run out, and please can you spare a condom …make it two,’ and Mr. DJ was borrowing money ‘…You know I have no job…’

  What of all the money your relatives and the UNHCR dole out monthly? But we gave what we had, and continued giving even though what was borrowed was never returned. We must prove to these folks that Nigerians are not what they think we are. We are not short tempered too, Nigerians. I must prove that. I must put the records right. Determinedly, my Helena and I bore the inconveniences. We ceased complaining about the excessive stereo noise (even though they half expected us to come smoking). I killed them with bewilderment and was thoroughly enjoying myself. For me, it was a crusade. I must change the way people saw me and my countrymen. And I was succeeding.

Gradually, four long challenging months crawled by. Tough skinned, we soon relaxed. We even had a friend come live with us! His name was Shadow. This is to show you how much I …we had overcome the frustrations of trying not to get into situations that would color us bad. Nigerians are good people. One Nigeria… one destiny!!



Like me, there was nothing Shadow liked more than to be himself. Being himself meant that he liked to play. But quite unlike me, he was just too playful. He didn’t know where to draw the fine line between play and seriousness.  Perhaps, like me, he wanted so much to please others even if it offended his innate principles. Yes, I can say that of him. He wanted others to be happy with him, seeing that he had a tainted background …and the rancid tales of this tainted background had preceded him: He was salvaged from the streets, to come and live with us in our neat compound in ---- town!

I know now that was why he did everything as artificially as he did: jumping, running, turning things, pulling at sleeves and skirts and generally being ‘unhimself’, believing, I believe, that doing so would endear him to Helena and I and our little girl, and probably our ---- town neighbors. They were really becoming impossibly uncompromising these days, our ---- town neighbors, testing my patience to the very limits, but I would not be drawn to any confrontation. I must not prove to them what they suspected, what they wanted to hear …that I was violent …that Nigerians are violent.

But then Shadow refused to understand where I stood with my ---- town folk’s neighbors and the point I was trying to prove. I tried to explain to him but he either didn’t care about my point of view, or was stone deaf.  Only if he had listened to me. Maybe …just maybe- I am sure …in fact I am cock sure things would have worked out differently, and not ended as they did.

But Shadow underrated me …took my love for granted and abused my simplicity, my friendliness and my hospitality. Lots of people make the same mistake that Shadow made, and like him, pay a heavy, heavy price.


I first met Shadow one evening when I came back from coaching spoilt kids in the Government Reserved Quarters. Helena had made him comfortable. He was sitting on his haunches inside a small carton in the corridor, sipping warm milk.  Everywhere around him, I saw, was well padded.

“Who is this little fellow you guys have here?” I asked, not quite certain what to think. 

“Don’t you like him, honey?” Helena asked, coming out of the sitting room to lean her slim shoulder on the wooden doorpost.  Her thin nightgown was askew on her robust chest. Our eyes met and she smiled at me, knowingly.

“I-I just d-do not want him,” I stammered.

With slim manicured fingers, Helena lazily made some slight adjustments on her nightie.

“Darling please,” she cajoled,  “don’t send him away.”

“You will have to give me a strong reason.”

Helena rolled her warm, brown eyes at me, and somehow, her nightgown fell loose on one hand. I gaped at her enchanting cleavage and swallowed very hard. My Helena was always pretty! You should see her. Not that I would want you to touch her, though. Only see. See and not touch!

“I found him abandoned.  From the story I heard, they were a set of quadruplets.  His mother couldn’t take care of all four of them for some reason.  A fellow woman like me took one. I took another, leaving the other two behind.”

“So now the mother can cope, you think?”

“She can at least try.”

“Women,” I hissed.


Later that evening, I made it clear to Helena that I didn’t like dogs.  I had owned one back in our village, Isunjaba, when I was a kid.  I had named him Uhuru, which was my nickname then.  I loved Uhuru so much and we were practically inseparable, going everywhere together.  When I ventured into the nearby bushes and bent down to obey nature, Uhuru also stooped and answered nature.

When I raided nearby farms for eggplants, Uhuru stood as my lookout.  When I clashed with friends old enough to knock off my teeth, they took one look at Uhuru’s sharp, sparkling canines and watchful watery brown eyes and let me be. Uhuru and I ...we were soul mates.

When my mother sold Uhuru after four years to the men who ran a restaurant in town in order to pay my school fees, I was heart broken.  For days, I wept.  I refused food and vowed never to go to school again.  Who will shit with me now? Who will look out for me when I clambered atop neighbor’s guava trees and ravaged them? Who will protect me now from the older boys whom I was sure to offend?

Since then, I kept my distance from dogs.  Like them from a distance I did, but I never got emotionally involved with another.  Now this sorry-looking puppy was going to rekindle that old flame.  I wasn’t going to accept it into my house.

“Daddy, I want him,” my little girl cried.

At nearly eight, she had never owned a pet, and wanted the dog badly.

“My friends in school have pets,” she told me.  “Some have cats while others have dogs. Eliza even has a rabbit!”

At last, I let my selfishness take a back seat.  Before we went to bed that night, my girl changed the wet foams in the little carton and put in fresh milk, which was immediately lapped up.


For three days, the little dog went without a name.  We were too busy with schoolwork to bother with the bundle of thick, brown fur.  Every morning before we rushed off, we prepared his food and drink and kept him tethered by the post of our front door.

I saw that like me, the little dog had a shameless voracious appetite. I guess he finished his food as soon as we turned our backs.  And when he got hungry later on, he managed to get loose and run around our neat compound doing havoc. Dustbins were upturned and its contents scattered everywhere.  Apart from littering everywhere with dirt, he defecated in one or two places on the neat tiled floor.

I guess the dog knew that he had done some terrible things too, for as soon as he set eyes on us, he went playfully tugging and wagging his tail and sniffing our bodies happily, while casting anxious glances at the dirt he had spread everywhere. Even as I cleaned the compound of his excrement, he ran playfully around as if assisting me, carrying one plastic something or another and dashing off to the dustbin. Despite his mischievousness however, something I had sworn I would never allow to happen began to happen.


Over the first weekend of his arrival, we named him Shadow and I got a real dog chain for him.  Shadow was to grow into a full dog chained! Not my fault now …I was hardly at home. I indulged him with good food, and weekly, I visited the local slaughterhouse for bones.  I even bought him dog biscuits once in a while. But I hardly let him out. Not my fault.

And so, the few times I did, Shadow went wild, scattering and knocking everything in his way aside.  He tumbled, barked, flew to the streets and chased chickens, ran inside our house and carried shoes, school bags, slippers and Helena’s bras outside and for almost an hour, I would sweat, chasing him about in order to restore him to his chain.

“Darling, come out and help me.  You brought this dog to this house,” I would cry at Helena. 

Secretly though, I enjoyed chasing Shadow around.  Why, in the not too distant past, I had done exactly what Shadow was doing now. That was when I entered university and had to go away from home after years of being cocooned by my father. I remember attending all the parties and making mischief with all the girls. And even trying hemp and sleeping and waking in nightclubs! Fine, good old days long gone.

Shadow knew I enjoyed his pranks. Somehow, we had become kindred spirit and like mind readers, could effortlessly read each other’s mind. So we two ran around and secretly amused ourselves. Because of his aggressive nature, my little girl completely distanced herself from Shadow, and would have nothing whatsoever to do with him.

“That’s not the kind of pet I thought he would be,” she would cry whenever I complained that she didn’t play with Shadow any more.  “He is always biting my fingers.”

Shadow and I didn’t mind! I fed him, cleaned him, and watered him …all alone, happily.


You know my neighbors: Europeans in black skins, black hearts, black souls, black yansh (buttocks), black everything! Folks who were paranoid with neatness. Leaky Faucet would not allow a bird to perch on the line:

“Ha, it will shit there and dirty my designer clothes!”

A chicken that mistakenly strays into our compound called for its own death.  Every missile from brooms to discarded Yves St. Laurent shoes to imported milk tins rained on it:

“It will scratch the exquisitely paved floor with its useless beak. Do you want us to match their shit and dirty our feet?” 

The neighborhood goats, rams and sheep knew better.  If bird and chicken shit was unacceptable in our compound, then their own waste was an abomination.  They simply kept their distance. 

And Helena went and brought Shadow. And I agreed to take him in.  What sacrilege! How dare we? And so they hated our Shadow with all their black hearts! By the time we came back every night, they wore long, long faces of hatred. If only someone would give them a gun, they would not hesitate.

They acted as if loving or owning an ordinary dog was a mortal sin.  Simply because Shadow pissed and shat on their paved floor when he managed to get loose, they went bananas.  Maybe they should have bought Shadow a potty, or better still, built him a toilet.  They forgot that Shadow was simply an animal, a dog, and should behave like one.  Did they really expect him to behave like a human being? Maybe they wanted me to send him to a university or someplace where he would learn to ‘behave himself.’

“He is always barking at my friends!" Kindness, half naked and yellow like a ripe banana, thanks to skin bleaching creams, would come charging.

Friends / customers! Very, very thin line.

“Isn’t that what dogs are supposed to do when they see total strangers?” I would reply angrily.

“But he is ruining my action.”

“Simply find another location!”

Damn stupid neighbors were really pushing me these days. And they were pushing me so hard. I was determined. They will not succeed in getting me to lose control, so that they will say, ‘Nigerians, that is the way they all behave, like hooligans.’

I will disappoint them. 



The more Leaky Faucet and Kindness and our jobless DJ who has now found a permanent job shooing Shadow failed to understand and carried on with their neatness foolishness, the more aggressive Shadow got.  You know, dogs are very sensitive.  Maybe he was revolting about their lack of understanding.  Or maybe because I failed to act strongly enough for him, he decided to do his defense himself by showing his ‘animalself’.

If taking his defense into his own hands was what Shadow decided to do, then it worked against him, for one day, Helena and I reached a painful decision.  We had had enough.  Shadow must go! We would not allow him to continue disrupting Kindness’s business, and messing up the paved floor, we told ourselves. 

If the truth were told, we were actually sacrificing Shadow for ourselves! It was our life we didn’t want him to disrupt any more! Our life was a simple one.  We were a quiet folk.  We loved peace, and were intent on keeping it. We wanted to prove to our neighbors and the ---- town folks and the world at large that Nigerians are not what people say they are. We are not aggressive. We are a peace loving people. And would keep peace at all costs. 

And Mr. DJ was becoming increasingly aggressive these days, especially as Shadow now choose his corridor to pee in always. (Mr. Jobless DJ had taken to smoking Marijuana in the dead of night. I think Shadow was attracted to his corridor by the smell of bits of marijuana on his corridor floor.)

Poor Shadow! It didn’t matter if Helena, and I, especially gored his ox to ensure that we never came to blows with anybody. The fear of fighting galled us, especially me! They will say they were right. Nigerians loved to fight. We had chosen between keeping our country’s good name and keeping Shadow.

Our plan actually was this: we would take Shadow far away and cut him loose in the wild.  Let him join other street dogs!

“It’s for Shadow’s safety,” Helena consoled me when she saw the pain the inevitable decision was causing me.  “One day we may come back and find that he had either been stoned to death or poisoned or stabbed or maybe hung.”

This white lie was good enough for our conscience …for my conscience!


And so, one windy night, I led Shadow away, in chains.  I led him to an area of town that was being developed.  My heart bled for him, and for my very self.  Why was I so weak? Why couldn’t I just keep Shadow? For my country’s sake, for my country’s good name, that’s why.

Shadow didn’t know what was at stake.  He didn’t know that I was sending him away for good. As we got out of town, I took off his chain, and Shadow was in his glory.  Freedom! Freedom! He galloped away and in the moonlight, I saw how much he had grown, and how much I had not.  And how strong he had become …and my weakness echoed in my brains. He had become very beautiful, and I very ugly. Have I really loved him like I profess to myself?

Shadow’s fur, now several inches thick glistened in the moon’s rays.  Losing him was not going to be an easy assignment, for suddenly, it seemed as if he knew what I was up to and then stuck to me like a second skin.  I stopped walking and he did.  I ran and he galloped after me.  I sat down on the ground and he squatted beside me! How was I going to lose him? I thought miserably.

Suddenly I saw a group of street dogs in the distance.  I walked towards them.  They sighted Shadow and came closer.  I saw they were impressed with him.  The females amongst them, ever more curious than the males came closer and sniffed him, while the males kept their distances.  All were preoccupied with the sizing up game. Shadow, I think loved the attention his dogfolks were showering on him.  He had never really interacted with other dogs since coming into my household. It was a new experience for him, and he forgot himself! I took the opportunity and slipped away as hot tears blinded me.

Later that night, I had a dream.  Shadow came right back! But when I woke up the next morning, Shadow was nowhere to be seen.  Everyone heaved a sigh of relief, including my wife whose idea it was originally to adopt him. Kindness’s customers came and went as they pleased.

“We have won,” Jobless DJ and Leaky Faucet’s faces seemed to taunt me.

For days, my spirit was with Shadow out there in the wild.  I wondered how he was faring. He had never eaten from the streets before, neither had he competed before for anything. Wouldn’t the other dogs make him sick with rabies?

A week later, as we trooped into the compound as usual, with my little girl right behind me as Helena brought the rear, we experienced the most astonishing charge.  Shadow knocked my girl flat on the ground and tore at my wife’s skirt. Then he was all over us, licking each and every one of us in turn with delight and gratitude to his god. 

Shadow’s innocence both shamed and humbled me.  The poor dog believed it was his fault for getting lost. Thinking that he had been sorely missed, he snuggled between our legs one after the other and even crept into the sitting room with us.  Helena cast a fearful glance at me.

“Doesn’t he have lice already?”

“Let the dog alone,” I croaked, swallowing hard, and hiding my face to smother a small, burning tear.


For the next two months, I struggled with my Shadow and Leaky Faucet and Kindness and Mr. Jobless DJ. The more they complained, the more havoc Shadow caused.  None of them was ready to give Shadow, a mere dog the tiniest chance at happiness.  They talked about him, lied about him, spread rumors about him, and made up very, very tall tales about him. I now curse them for Shadow’s eventual fate! They were too stuck up, my ‘holier than thou’ neighbors, as if they had no sins.  As if they all had no fault or blemish.  As if they caused none whatsoever any inconveniences.  Damned whitewashed graves! Brood of vipers. Hypocrite Pharisees and Sadducees. Pots calling plate black!

They could not stomach the little inconvenience of a lonely, but happy dog.  In fact, they begrudged Shadow his happiness, his confidence, his strength, his positive outlook, ‘never-say-die’ and ‘I am a winner’ attitude to life! Imagine competing with an animal, with a dog. I have never seen such a thing before! The fools! They would rather compromise with prostitution! They would rather compromise with vanity! They would rather compromise with anything else, even genocide, ethnic cleansing, amputations and legputations! But acknowledge a dog’s right to behave and live like a dog, baaaa...NEVER! ASHI …lie! It was all so unfair to Shadow. Was that Shadow’s fate? To be lampooned for what he was? To be envied for his person?

“Poor dog leading the proverbial dog’s life,” I would sigh often.

I was gradually losing my temper. But because it was my will to keep the peace and avoid confrontation and trouble, so as not to be branded a ‘typical Nigerian’, I continued to try despite how much it hurt me.  How many times I took Shadow away and how many times he returned, I would never know.  And then, one night as I lay turning and tossing on my bed, after spending a better part of the evening picking and running after Shadow, (happily though), it struck me. The perfect solution! I have saved myself from caving in. Excitedly, I woke Helena.

“Why don’t we pack out of this house?” I suggested.  “Find another apartment somewhere far away. Perhaps Shadow needs a fresh environment, especially where he will be free to behave like the dog that he is.”



So we moved.  To another end of ---- town. The monthly rent of the new apartment was five times over what we were used to.  But I didn’t mind.  Kindness was too ecstatic to see our back. We wished her luck with her ‘friends’. We knew it was not her fault, showing ‘kindness’ in order to keep from starving, and probably help out a few folks back home in war torn ----. Remove the loud music from his life and cancel the marijuana which bred aggressiveness in him, lanky Mr. DJ, with his unkempt rasta hairstyle, reaching up to his waist was not a bad fellow at heart. We wished him lots of luck too, especially so because my little girl liked his long rasta. “I will like my hair to be long like that, daddy,” she had told me severally. Leaky Faucet would have to find another sucker for oil and maggi and pepper. But I knew one thing: For once in their lifetime, they had encountered real Nigerians. True?  TRUE!

Into an upstairs apartment we moved.  Shadow had the balcony all to himself.  From there, he could watch other dogs as they moved up and down, and up and down the street. It was the greatest injustice to him. He couldn’t understand why he had to be in chains while his mates frolicked about free.

Soon, like an eel, he found an expert way to meander from his chain.  No matter how tight I made it, short of strangulating him, he slipped off, jumped down from the balcony and turned the street dustbins inside out.  Christ! I will never understand what Shadow’s problem with dustbins was! I, brand new in the street became marked within days. Because of Shadow, my wife’s dog ...though she had since denied ownership of him. He was now my dog. Yes, he was known my foolish Shadow! Funny how women, ever practical, effortlessly deny things that belonged to them when those things loose their flavour and term them foolish!

“But what is the matter with this your Shadow sef?” my little girl, frustrated and filled with pity, voiced one evening as she saw me out on the street packing, with bare hands, a stinking dustbin that Shadow had upturned as our new neighbors watched, mesmerized. That was when it occurred to me that perhaps Shadow was a mental case! Yes! Imbalanced! Screwed! Nuts! Gone mental!

A new kind of fear clutched my heart.  Is my family safe with Shadow? What if Shadow attacked my little girl, or my wife while I was away? And Shadow was a hefty dog now, and could face a lion. I fed him well.  You should see his chest now, mighty!

Sweat poured down my body and I was afraid for myself. As I fastened him to his post that evening, I fingered his chain and wondered what to do to stop this embarrassment he was causing me.  I loved him, but then I must not sacrifice my life and those of my wife and kids for him ...or was that what love entailed? Love for whom really? Why was I taking all this risk harboring him? Did Shadow really care about my predicament? …And I had explained everything to him severally. It suddenly occurred to me that I could put an end to all his troubles, and be free …free, free!

If I continued to keep him, I was afraid it would not be long before I caved in and proved to all and sundry what they thought and suspected, because soon, I knew, a stupid neighbor would confront me about Shadow and then, I would really, really spark. Nothing, nothing whatsoever should come between me and keeping my country’s good name. Not Shadow, not anybody, not anything, living or dead.

But, how can I ever forgive myself, I kept thinking as the idea began to take shape in my mind.

“I can’t do it,” I finally cried out.


But two days later, at about 11:00 p.m, I found myself slowly killing Shadow.  Yes, killing him. With my own bare hands, I was killing the dog I was supposed to protect -for being himself …for being himself ….for simply being a dog …a dog!  With my own bare hands, I was now killing the dog I had given a home.  With my own bare hands, I was now killing a dog that had trusted me with his life.  Why hadn’t I sent him back to the street that first day instead of giving him a home, and giving him hope, only to turn back and take his life? How was I different from my neighbors? How? Just how? Jussst hoooow?

Having fed him well, I stroked him down. He loved me doing this, especially when I indulged him by stroking his scrotum, which I now did.  He closed his eyes and his jaws dropped in ecstasy.  Then I tightened his chain around his thick, furry neck. I lifted him up, after making sure I had secured the free end of the chain on my hands.  Suddenly he realized that the stroking had stopped and something sinister was going on instead. 

He reared up just as I let him drop onto the other side of the balcony. He was a heavy dog, a cross between an Alsatian and something.

Painful seconds crawled, dragging into minutes. 

I held tight. And Shadow continued to choke, whimper, kick and his loose excreta sprayed the wall as he struggled across the balcony for his life.  I wept bitterly for what I was doing to this my poor dog: Abandoning him!  A sharp creaking sound and the door to the balcony swung open.

“What are you doing, honey” Helena demanded hoarsely, seeing the way I was stooped, terribly curved like a giant C, my shoulders wracking with deep sobs as I held fast to the chain.

“Killing him,” I replied solemnly.

“Killing who?” she shouted in alarm.

“Shadow …my Shadow …our Shadow.”

Helena stood rooted by the door. Her agonizing sigh shattered the night.

“The poor dog!”

Nearby, street dogs began wailing. They knew about my failing: I had given a poor, poor innocent, innocent dog a bad name, just to justify his death! Shame! I cringed. Awareness. Helena’s gentle sobbing, mingling with mine. The outcome was a fine dirge. Goose pimples, pebble-like sprouted all over my body.

Time crept on. The fine dirge played on. When I was certain Shadow was well and truly dead, I shamelessly dragged his body back into the balcony.  I ambled to the kitchen and fetched an empty sack.  Inside went the dead, but still warm Shadow, my friend.  Inside the sack went his eating bowls too. My cross to bear: Tying the neck of the sack with trembling hands, I lifted Shadow’s body. Rigor motis was setting in. I placed the body squarely on my head. To the nearest creek I went.  I threw him into the black, stagnant water.

“Goodbye Shadow,” I said, choking.

I let my tears flow, freely… What a free fall!!



To remember Shadow by, I wanted to keep his chain.  It was a beautiful chain.  A lethal weapon I suddenly realized! Images of my neighbors at my former house and what I could do to them with the chain flashed throw my mind, and a cold shiver pervaded my body. Fear seized my heart. I had just committed cold-blooded murder, which means that I could commit another given the right circumstances. But Nigerians are not murderers, of human being that is! We are not an aggressive folk. I must never give people the reason to think otherwise.  We are not what people say we are! We are good people. Passing a nearby gutter, I let Shadow’s chain slowly drop, severing the last vestige of link with him. 

As I lay down to sleep much later, Helena, still choking with tears consoled me:

“I know you loved him. But it’s for the best you know. He had become too aggressive for our safety, you would agree, wouldn’t you?”

I averted her pitying stare, and stared through the window. The ---- town night sky was devoid of stars. A more difficult question echoed, burning a hole in my brain:

“Who did Shadow really die for?”


The End


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