By Larry SunEpisode 6–
Richard snorted with amusement; even before getting employed as a driver here one needed to be a graduate. He shook his head and continued walking. He stopped again, a part of his mind telling him to give it a shot, there was no harm in trying, he had the required qualification and all he needed to do was to tell the employer his salary worth.
Maybe by doing that, the employer with the outrageous sense of humour would wipe off the requirement part of the notice board. The building within the gate was what one could call a magnificent architectural masterpiece; it was a large white house at the middle of the avenue, fenced off by a huge grey concrete wall. Richard turned back and went to the gate. He was still contemplating about how painful his hand would feel from knocking on the gate when he saw the bell, thank goodness. He pressed on the bell button and waited for someone to open the gate, he could hear the melodious tone of the bell singing within but nobody came to open the gate. He pressed again and waited but nobody came around. He was just about to hit the bell the third time when the gate was slowly opened with a loud sound and a sprightly man who looked about 382 years old stepped out holding a shotgun in his left hand. Richard stepped back.
“Who are you and what do you want?” the old man asked in a rough voice. He looked tough; just like a soldier, and wrinkles spread all over his face like the map of Nigeria, Richard guessed the man’s age to be about sixty-five years. But the way the older man carried himself belied his weight and the wrinkles on his face. He was shabbily dressed in dansiki, and he was not totally bald, not quite, but his pate glistened in the afternoon sun. And there was a definite tonsure that appeared on his occiput. Added to his physical qualities, he looked like a mastodon even as old as he was, and what particularly intimidated Richard about the man in front of him was the muscles he possessed—even his muscles had muscles. The image of the older man was enough to calm whatever anger that had been building up inside of Richard, at least for that moment.
“My name is Richard Philip.”
“What do you want?”
“Can I see the boss here?”
The old man looked at him from his feet to his head.
“Why do you want to see him?”
“The notice board there,” Richard pointed, “It says in there that a driver is needed here. I am here to apply.”
“Come in.” The gatekeeper opened the gate wider and stepped aside for Richard to enter. He locked the gate and turned to Richard, aiming the gun at the guest’s head.
“Raise up your hands and turn around,” The gatekeeper commanded sternly.
“What have I done wrong?” Richard asked with a horrified look.
“Do as I say, young man, or you’ll soon need another skull.”
Richard quickly turned and raised up his hands, wondering if he had just stepped into a no-go territory popularly referred to as the Danger Zone, or was he in the land of Oz? The old man carefully frisked him, satisfied that Richard was without weapon, he asked him to put down his hands.
“What did you do that for?” Richard asked.
“It’s my job to do what I did. The protection of everybody in this house is my responsibility, and I’m not ready to be irresponsible.”
“So, you think I’m a bearer of bad intentions?”
“Your face looks like a criminal’s. Now, do me a favour; keep that mouth shut for a while and follow me.”
Richard marveled at the relaxed and salubrious ambience of the palatial surroundings as he followed the older man. His shoes echoed over the mosaics of the white-tiled floor. A part of the compound was full of a panorama of serried huge trees, some of which could be assumed to be many years old. These trees were quite tall and extremely leafy, making that yard look peaceful and sheltering. The sunlight shinning through the branches made filigree patterns on the tiles. The house was beautiful, Richard noticed, it was a house that would be wonderful to own. His longing for a house, a fine and beautiful house, such a house that he could never hope to have, flowered into his mind immediately. A house that in his dream he would live in with the girl that he loved, a house in which, just like a child’s silly fairy story, they should live together ‘happy ever afterwards’, where he would spend the rest of his life with the right woman and have a lifelong romance worthy of African epic poetry. All pure fantasy, all nonsense, but this house he was seeing stated that tide of longing in him—longing for something he would never likely have.
The building itself was rather old, no one knew for sure when it was built, probably in the mid-20th Century. Maybe if Richard had heard the rumour about it he wouldn’t have dared to apply therein, let alone havea craving to own it. It was said that the house was built by a wealthy man of quite eccentric ways. This man, as the story was told, lived all alone. He had no wife, no children. Since it was weird for a man with such wealth not to marry at all, a lot of things were said about him that could give anybody the fright. Then suddenly one night, the man died in his sleep. About two families lived in the house thereafter but they all evacuated in haste, claiming the house was wretched and haunted by the souls of the rich man’s late wife and children whom he used for money rituals. For a good five years the house remained unoccupied, nobody wanted to occupy a cursed and demon-possessed house, then a wealthy politician bought the decrepit building and rebuilt it to a marvelous taste; having done some cleaning up and massive redecoration of the surroundings, they succeeded in making it look impressively newer and less haunted.
Richard felt the building was just too big for only a rich man and his wife to live in. With the exception of the harassment from the curmudgeon, it was peaceful here, Richard thought. Peaceful and beautiful. Had it been like this in the Garden of Eden before the serpent came and spoilt it all? Would Adam and Eve have lived forever in the Garden if Eve hadn’t let her curiosity get the best of her? How could just one man own such a big property? He could see the exquisite–looking garage some distance away. It contained rides of different models; some were covered with tarpaulins that Richard could not know what types of cars they were. He saw two jeeps of the same colours and models, and Richard wondered why a man would purchase two identical vehicles. He shrugged; some rich men are crazy, anyway.
When they reached the relaxation quarters by the swimming pool the old man told Richard to sit down as he went in to summon the boss.
Richard sat in one of the chairs by the pool. The breeze blowing in here is quite different from the one out of the gate, Richard decided. This one is very cool and soothing, there was even a butterfly in the air, fluttering around the yard happily. Looking into the swimming pool, he felt like plunging head-on into the clean water, though he was likely to drowned because he had no idea about swimming. Just some distance away in the garden, a beautiful small bird with iridescent blue feathers was carrying a twig to build its nest.
“Hello.” a gentle voice sounded behind Richard. He turned and he momentarily opened his mouth wide in a stunned manner. The woman standing opposite him was very familiar. It was the lady; the purse lady, what a small world. He was particularly dumbfounded, and he was confused about how to greet her.
The lady was likewise surprised, she had not forgotten his face either—that handsome and kind Samaritan.
“What are you doing here? “She asked, but she did not wait for an answer. “Wait, don’t say anything, I want to remember that name of yours—Richie, right?”
“Is this where you live?”
“Yes, I live here. How did you know this place?”
“I was actually passing by when I saw the notice board outside there, so I decided to apply.”
Abigail looked surprised, “You want to apply here as a driver?”
“Do I have much choice? I’ve been walking around the streets of this state in search of a good job for almost a year but I always end up with nothing.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,”
“I blame our leaders, they promise the world, but nothing ever gets done.”
“I agree with you.”
She was still that beautiful thing Richard saw two months ago. Now, she was simply dressed in skirt and blouse. Except for the gloss that appeared to be phosphorescent on her lips, she was without make-up and Richard liked her smooth face. He slender arms were as smooth and rounded as if they had been squeezed from toothpaste tubes. It appeared as though her body was carefully carved by the angels to display their level of creativity to God.
What happens next between Richard and the lady? Well, find out in the next episode next week Monday. Thanks for reading our stories.