By Larry Sun
“You live in a very beautiful building,” said Richard, “Your father must be very wealthy to have built this place.”
Abigail laughed, “You’re funny. I live here with my husband.”
It was a blow, not the kind he ever suspected. It was as though Richard had been struck by the bow of an ocean liner while in a fog-bound sea. For a moment he could not speak because the jealousy he felt in him was too overwhelming, speech was beyond him; he was only capable of lowering his eyes and doing his best to breathe normally. “Your husband?”
Abigail noticed his dull reaction and asked, “Anything wrong, Richie?”
He came out of trance immediately, “No—there’s nothing wrong. I was only surprised. I didn’t know you were a married woman. Your husband is a very lucky man to have a girl as beautiful as you.” He hated himself for the brief jealousy he felt, hated himself more for letting his emotions show.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“No I’m serious, and he must be very rich.”
She smiled, “Very rich, as in Richie? No, he’s not like you. He’s actually your opposite.”
Does this woman ever take things serious? Richard thought. She seems not to have any problem whatsoever. What a lucky girl!
“I mean your husband must be a man with lots of money.”
“I know what you mean, handsome. I was only joking. Actually, he’s one of the richest men in this country.”
Richard was appalled, “One of the richest?”
“To be precise, he’s the eighteenth richest. Two years ago he was the twenty-fifth. And with the amount of stocks, bonds and shares he possesses now, I believe that within five years he would be giving Dangote a run for his money.”
“Your God? Don’t call unto God, leave Him alone, Cain is just money crazy. He’s a businessman, an entrepreneur, one monster of a manager. He’s always planning, looking ahead, figuring angles and percentages so much that no one would believe he did not attend higher institution.”
“Cain. Is that his name?”
“Cain Martins. Now, let me take you to your boss.” Holding Richard firmly by the hand like a truant schoolboy, they both entered the big building.
Richard entered the room and was more impressed. The sitting room was a large, well-furnished one; it contained an elaborately equipped home theatre and a giant television screen which covered most of one wall. There was a large bowlegged brown table in the centre of the room, with several upholstered chairs of inviting body curves placed around it. These chairs offered just the right amount of comfort. The floor was covered in a soft brown rug that made Richard feel like going down and rolling on it like a joyous puppy. There was nothing antediluvian about the room, the opulent textures of the furniture in the room was quite appealing to Richard.
“You can have a seat, let me go and wake the old billionaire.” He watched her walk across the room into another entrance. She moved gracefully—like a cat, he thought; no, like a kitten.
He sat in an overstuffed armchair which had known very few fannies and also big enough to accommodate King Kong. He rubbed his hands gently on the upholstery of the sofa, feeling the smoothness and fragility of the material. Above was a big chandelier; the lighting was also good—not too bright, not too dim, but just right. There was a shelf of books at one corner of the large living room. Richard was forced to get up from where he sat to have a fast peek at the books it contained; faint trails of dust ran through the surfaces of the shelf where volumes had been dragged off to be read. There were antique collections of literary pieces; a complete work of William Shakespeare in one volume, a hardcover of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the imitated manuscripts of Wole Soyinka’s plays, the revised edition of Treasure Island and Animal Farm, there was an abundance of reading materials for his voracious mind to delve into. He wondered if Abigail was the bibliophile or her husband. Richard was leafing through the pages of an ancient volume of the renowned Oedipus Rex, gawking in admiration at the book when he heard the sound of footsteps, and he returned to where he initially sat. At the left hand side of the room was a big picture on the wall; it portrayed the image of an ugly, elderly man in his early fifties who was staring at him stonily.
Cain Martins came into the sitting room, wielding a cane with the carved head of a fox as a handle, and sat in the middle of a couch facing Richard. He crossed his legs and carefully adjusted the crease in his trousers. The tight trouser the rich man wore bulged offensively in the crotch in violation of all the rules of theology and geometry.
Richard immediately stood up.
“Afternoon, sir.” He greeted.
“You’re Richie, the one who wants to apply as a driver?”
“Yes, sir. My name’s Richard Philip.” Richard looked at the man sitting opposite him, he appeared older and uglier than the person in the picture, but one could see that he was still the same man in the photo, his dome of a skull was barren; the hairs appeared to be tired of the scalp and they had packed their belongings away from the territory, with no plan of returning to this desert. The man opposite him was very ugly; he seemed to be trying everything possible to look ugly. Richard believed that planned ugliness appealed to people who were bored with beauty, tired of taste, and fed up with fashion. If not, what did a beauty girl like Abigail see in this man to have married him? Richard thought, probably the money—what else? Cain himself was far from being embarrassed by his own ugliness, especially by his nude pate; he glorified in its nakedness, and occasionally anointed it with baby oil to heighten its sheen.
“You have your credentials with you?” Mr. Martins asked. He did not ask Richard to sit.
“Yes, sir. I have them here.” He gave Cain the file he was holding. The rich man opened it, what he saw, apparently, made him carry the facial expression of a man quite impressed.
“What a qualification you’ve got here.” He said, “You should be working in a better place. Perhaps, in the oil sector, what are you doing here?”
“Maybe I’m just being unlucky, sir.”
“Do you expect me to buy that? Maybe you’re here because you’re lazy. You have to work tirelessly if you aspire to reach the top, fortunes don’t come home knocking on your doors; you go out there and grab them. You should know that the strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.” Cain Martins was too arrogant for modesty. However, he believed modesty was related to diffidence. Diffidence was related to shyness. Shyness was a synonym for timidity. Timidity was a characteristic of the meek. The meek did not inherit the heart, they served those who were self-confident and self-assertive.
“I tried my best, sir. They just did not employ me.” He stared once more at the older man’s hard ruthless face and felt a qualm.
“Well, I can see you’ve accepted defeat. What kind of salary are you worth?”
Richard had always subscribed to the idea that—ask twice as much as you want, you may surprise yourself and get it.
He said his amount. He could not read the expression on the rich man’s face clearly after this, he thought this man was regarding him with the look he might have given a dog, wondering whether to kick or pet it. Richard was sure this man was not one that had a loving fondness for animals. He held his breath as he waited for the man to either employ him or throw him out of his house.
“Deal, come next week to start work.” Cain rose to go.
Richard was dumbfounded. This man is a money monster, he thought, just to drive him around for that large sum. I would have gladly accepted a quarter of that. He felt for a moment that his new boss was just plain silly about money; an obvious nouveau riche with nary a qualm about the worth of the price he was charged. However, Richard felt no guilt in him whatsoever in taking advantage of this sinecure.
“Okay, sir. Thank you, sir.” He turned to go. When he reached the door Cain called his name. “Richard.”
“Are you married?”
“Not yet, sir.”
“Good, be here with your belongings next week. You’ll be living here.”
“Okay, sir.” He left.
The presence of the future driver made Cain remember how he was when he was still as old as the younger man; he could recall vividly that he was as wretched as a church vermin before he met Rita Benson. The lady who had changed his life automatically. That cold night, it was very cold indeed—the first time he came across her was in 1983. June, 1983.
We hope you enjoyed this episode. Do make it a date with Larry Sun next week for another thrilling episode.