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OCHI by Agbalokwu Chibuike

“More towns men are still coming. Would we wait till what time?” Okelekwu was visibly disturbed as he looked around the crowded pub. Crowded in relative to the discreet meeting they are about to have.” He just searched for where to hold the meeting and decided on this place. I am not comfortable. ”

“The great Okelekwu. When you see a great man, you never fail to notice his big nose. Okelekwu, you have it.” Amuihu chanted a praise, in tune with the flute that kept blaring.

“Even your morning greetings should be checked. You are so fake. I am notorious for being sleekly and sharp. Here you are praising me for being great. That’s a dent to my reputation. In short, I demand an apology.” Okelekwu’s irritation never fail to show in his character. His voice rose above the ululating crowd as he vehemently demand an apology from Amuihu. So much for a secret meeting. The muscular guards rushed in trying to calm them down. In this part of the world, those kind of emasculated muscle mass especially in the chest always leads to some kind of spasm. The vibrating chest always scare and intimidate Okelekwu. He just diverted the feelings to hate.

“Don’t touch me.” Okelekwu protested. He was quite small. The muscular guards are not the only thing that gets him on his nerves. But also the fact that he was called ochicha, cockroach. He only calmed down because the rather noisy and random voices is slowly organizing it self to pronounce ‘ochicha’. He can’t point hands and it did hurt him. He looked away in disgust.

The pub was filled up. With no gates, the ‘filling up ‘ is measured by the number of free tables. People are even settling on the improvised mat under the mango tree. Nkwu Ocha, white wine, was overflowing. Each table has a small jar containing the cherished alcohol brand made naturally by nature from palm trees. Sweet as ever yet intoxicates with force. No matter how much they drink, more is left to fill the jar up. Agbala ukeje never ran out of palm wine.

Agbala ukeje was the owner of this pub. A woman in his prime according to the standards of women of night business. With hips and breast triple that of any other woman around and a small waist, she commands every man’s attention. It was rumored that she travelled to a far away land across seven seas to meet a native doctor that inserted grounded cassava into her waist and breast. She doesn’t seem to care. None of the men have actually laid with her. Her waist was only meant for touching and squeezing during the evening grooves.

And her hips, well, she knows how to whine it. With her foot steps that seems to be in rhyme with the flute and the ekwe. She particularly does nothing but to entice men and see that all was going well. Occasionally, she stoops to dance the hip dance, egwu ukwu. Throwing the crowd into an uproar. It is said that when a cock discovers his selling point was his voice, it would lose its sense of time.

“I have been waiting at the entrance. Still no sign of him. It’s only a fool that plays hide and seek with a chameleon. We should let this man be.” Onyeije blurted out immediately he neared the company.

“Ofeke! Fear is smelling.” Chimma snorted. Of the four men presently at their table, he was the strongest. The only language he understood was violence and fun, mma and oringo. He had a saying that oringo would kill him one day. And that’s about all that can kill him. He mixed his palm wine with ogogolo, the legendary spirit that intoxicates ten times faster than palm wine, yet the company is going on the third refill while others are on their second round. He had ordered for nkwobi, the communication delicacy at every palm wine joint. But just like any busy pub, it’s taking ages to be ready. He had taking to pressing any of the lady servant that passed him just to aggravate them into settling him but all seem to like his touch.

“The spirits that killed Agbala ukeje great grandfather’s concubine kill your unborn child. I rather die than become ofeke.”The curse was blaring but that’s about the way of the company. Onyeije was stern though.

“May the father of the first woman you have been with sieve you dry of your viable seeds. Playing with my kids huh.” Chimma replied the curse.

Okelekwu was still not comfortable. “This is not time to bandy words. Leave it for the women.”

Something about the way Okelekwu pronounced “women” or the cold look he gave chimma when he said it got chimma revved. A guard seem to have been watching them closely, for when chimma stood to hit onyeije, he was restrained.

“Free me. Let me show this fool that I am a masquerade that never looses his bearing even with a blind mask.”

“Couldn’t the trick be to change your name. Nwoke m.” Okelekwu snorted.

“Only a craven changes his name. A real man works out a new definition for his name, if he’s not okay with the original meaning. That’s why I need to crush you. Next time, when chimma is mentioned, it will conjure images of your slimy head contents.”

A scrawny looking man sitting on a nearby table gave a disgusting sound as he puked. The men at his table cursed. Some were targeted at Chimma. Obviously, they heard him talk about the slimy things that comes out of a crushed head. Their screams seem to anger Chimma for he beat his chest and snorted, “Are these the men that will defend our lands in times of trouble?”

 

Chimma could not tell how it happened except for a slight pressure he felt in his ankles but he was falling. His head hit the table first scattering the clay keg holding the palm wine. The pieces came flying in different direction. The wine didn’t travel much but Okelekwu and Onyeije was drenched.

“We are already dead if Ochi never showed up to pay for udu agbala ukeje.” Onyeije lamented. He didn’t move but licked off the palmwine that were spattered on his face. Okelekwu rushed the man that had pushed Chimma down. The two came crashing on their Wooden table breaking another keg. Okelekwu picked a broken piece of the clay keg and buried it on the man’s chest. Blood came spurting, extinguishing the palm kernel lantern hanging by the table. The air now smelt of roasted flesh.

Chimma struggled to his feet, without thinking, yanked the nearest body he could feel up into the air. It was the man that was just puking, he came crushing two tables away setting both plates and keg into the air. The usual thud sound of the keg got the man around shouting a corresponding, “Hei!”.

Agbala Ukeje came ranting. Her voice piercing through the commotion. She was flanked by muscular men, ready to fight. Much to be made out of her words were just curse.

“Who? In the house of Agbala ukeje? The audacity. Not fearing Agbala ukeje with ass bigger than that of his mother and grandmother combined. He must have sucked a soured milk off his father’s whore. Where are they?”

Okelekewu had been yanked off the bleeding man on the table and was receiving a round of beating from some men. He was crushing one of them though with his hands. The man was almost out of breath when the guards separated him from Okelewu.

Chimma was hoisted up by two men and dropped on the floor near Okelewu. He received a heavy blow on his face when he tried standing and collapsed to the floor again.

Actually, an evening cannot really be marked complete without this kind of commotion. An eventful day was ascertained by the number of broken ribs and keg. It also means more profit for Agbala Ukeje. She would always charge more than the kegs is ever worth.

“You all will pay for my kegs and plates. You will pay to the finish. Search them. Take their pearls. Check their breechcloth. They must have money somewhere.” She was dishing out commands. “Don’t allow them run. Drunks.”

Onyeije retreated quietly. He had known this kind of embarrassment could befall them with Chimma’s fraying anger. He wouldn’t want his wife to bear the embarrassment of coming to bail him with tubers of yam. He was even more sure that neither Chimma nor Okelekwu has any money on them. Besides, it was time to carry out his assignment.

“Round them up.” Agbala Ukeje shouted at the muscular guards. The guards were already manhandling them. Okelekwu felt hands on his loins. Not even the sweetest palm wine could soften the hard hands of the guards. He contemplated how the hands could see better in uprooting cassava plants rather than scratching his scrotum.

“I will pay.” The unmistakable voice of Ochi was held amidst the uproar. “For all the damage, I will pay.”

Agbala Ukeje stared at him. “Ochi, I want to see my money with my two naked eyes first.”

Ochi brought out a gold coin.

Onyeije was greatly humbled when Ochi met him with a request. “You are the only one I can trust.” Ochi had said. ” The rest wouldn’t know about the complete plan. They would just serve as a distraction. Do you know anybody who is legendary in creating a scene?”

“Are you asking? In this whole town, okelewu and Chimma are known rivalry. Where ever they go, trouble follows. Just like the he goat’s stench follows it around.”

“How notorious are they? ” Ochi asked.

“Hmm, a craven doesn’t have a surname. Notoriety is for the important. These men are but a mockery in the town. No one pays attention to them as much they pay attention to a cock raping a hen.”

“Good. All you have to do is to invite them to the pub. Tell them about a special mission we would undergo together. Anything to make them anxious to meet meet me. I would delay. I hope they create a scene to cause the intended distraction.”

“They will. If they don’t pick up a fight with each other, they would team up against another person especially when they have enough palm wine in their belly.”

“It is good. In the midst of the uproar, you have to sneak into the back building. I expect you to lit at least four hurts without anybody spotting you. Can you do that?”

“Very simple. There is a reason a green snake wins all the battles fought in a field with green grasses. Discreet is my thing, especially at night. With my black skin, I am but a shadow as night.”

“The strong man must always be wary of the spirit blowing his trumpet else he picks fight with his own Chi. You are suppose to lit everywhere up. Both black and fair men cast shadows in bright light. Just be discreet. If you are caught, I will deny you.”

Onyeije chuckles. “Why do you want to put fire to the village foremost wine joint? I will miss this joint.”

“Don’t worry. I will buy the joint. It’s is said that it is only the man with hay that a goat will follow. If I control this joint, I control the heart of most of the towns men. And I intend to rule them all.” Ochi smirked. He sniffed his grounded tobacco once again, savouring the intoxication. “Abali makes the best Utaba in the whole world.”

“Agbala Ukeje makes the best nkwobi. Hope you have someone that cooks better?”

“She would still be there. I intend on making her my concubine.” Ochi smirked again. Onyeije couldn’t be happier for being part of these revolution. He carried out the plan effectively. He made sure Agbala’s main hut was completely gutted.

Agbala Ukeje beamed when she saw the gold coin. She was totally smitten, even more, by the handsome man offering the coin. She placed her right hand on his outstretched hand and left it there. Her other hand twisting her braids. Smiling like a rat that chanced upon a dried fish.

“I will take this now.” She said. Collecting the coin, she turned to showcase her biggest asset. What she saw stunned her. Fire. Big fire.

“For everything.” Ochi whispered to himself. He watched her break into a race with her body shaking recklessly. It excited him. Nothing like watching a woman run for dear life, she would surely forget to hold her breast. For just an instant, Ochi felt pity but it went as quickly as it came.

The quest for power is a dirty game, he thought. He was grateful to Onyeije for pulling out the job affectively. He stared at Okelekwu and Chimma, who were badly wounded but drunk.

Author: Agbalokwu Chibuike

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