Chief was coming to visit. It had been a long overdue visit. We made preparations for the day. We made sure that there was enough victuals in the house. Chief was supposed to have been the main sponsor of our wedding, but he ducked out of it by claiming that he had to travel to his country home for some obsequies. He could be excused on that basis. He never called to ask how the wedding went. Well, age, has a way of announcing its arrival. Again we could excuse him for that. Perhaps he was still mourning or grieving the departure of a loved or unloved one. That particular summer of the wedding, chief missed his annual pilgrimage to the UK, he chose to go to the United States instead.
I once remember when chief had to look me in the eyeball and lie to me. We were marketing some fuel conservation products from California. The first batch of the products had been sold off. Chief’s son and myself were in charge of selling the products. Since chief was not making a lot of money from the products, he could not be bothered so much about the products. The business was worth about twenty thousand dollars and to chief, that perhaps wasn’t enticing enough. But to us young folks, that meant a lot. We had a lot of buyers waiting for the product to arrive. The products could only be ordered by chief. His son was preparing to emigrate from Zanzibar and chief did not want to waste his energy on a venture that would end soon.
Being starved of funds and badly in need of a job and a source of income, we needed to push chief to place the orders. The son had told me that, the best person to put pressure on the father to make him place the order was me. So an appointment was booked. It was a late morning appointment. I sat in front of chief and chief wore a traditional Lesotho garb. He was tapping a pen on the table.
“Chief as you can see, we have sold off the first consignment of the products” I started off, staring at him.
“Yes that is very good” he stuttered.
“Our customers are waiting for the next consignment and your son has asked me to confirm from you when the next consignment is arriving” I continued.
“Yes, Odi has told me.” Chief replied.
“When exactly do we expect the goods to arrive” I tried to pin him down to a date.
He tapped the pen a bit more on the desk and looked at me in the eyeball and said “in the next three days.”
“Chief, that’s excellent”, I said.
“Anything else I can help you with,” he asked.
“Then have a good morning. Please leave the door open when you pop out. Thanks”.
I walked out of his office and couldn’t believe what I had just heard. The son and I laughed our heads off. So old men can lie like this.
“Odi, that your friend almost squeezed me by the balls” he told his son. “He wouldn’t give me a breathing space” he went on. “He wanted to know when the goods are arriving as if he has paid a dime towards the importation of the goods” he stammered.
“That is Owens for you dad. He is a business minded person.”
That was what was on my mind when I heard he had detoured to America instead of UK on his annual pilgrimage season.
This was the year before. This particular year, he was in London. My wife would get a chance to meet chief. Chief would get a chance to see the new baby, Mekobong and according to the custom of our place, chief would have to make his presence felt.
I drove from Croydon to Kilburn to go and pick chief up to my place. We drove through the crazy traffic of London, I fuelled the car and turned on the air to make chief comfortable. Chief arrived my home. He ate real delicious pepper soup and nice food. He kept talking about how lovely the food was, apart from the pepper soup being so spicy for him. He could hardly keep his mouth shut because the heat of the pepper was too much. He kept inhaling air through his mouth and was perspiring on his forehead. Chief made a dash for the toilet and spent a considerable amount of time in there. I kept hearing the sound of the toilet being flushed. I tapped on the toilet door gently “are you alright chief?”
“Yes I am. I will be out soon”.
Chief gave my son ten pounds. Only ten pounds!
“Chief, chief, chief! That was the song in this house. Is this what chief can do? A ten pounds from chief. Even me, I can do better than that” my wife barraged at me.
“I know, I know! Chief, changed his surname two years ago. He is now Mr. Tightfisted”, I declared.
Chief requested me to drive him to Whitgift Centre where he wanted to do some bit of shopping.
Once inside Marks and Spencer, I picked up items for myself, wife and baby. As chief offloaded his shopping at the till to be checked out, I offloaded mine as well.
“All together?” the lady asked.
“Yes please” I replied.
Chief looked at me and hollered “Owens, Owens”.
I knew I had gotten him this time around – jackets, shoes, skirts and babies stuff. It must have totalled about three hundred quid. First he lied to me that the goods were on its way, then he changed plans from coming to UK and went to US to avoid seeing me and living up to expectations as the original sponsor of my wedding and then finally comes to visit my boy, and hands out a paltry ten pound note. All the preparations and drive to go get him and drop him off was way beyond ten pounds. Here was a chance for chief to redeem his reputation and he chose not to. Well, I had to help him redeem it forcefully.
Inside the car, driving back to Kilburn, about a two hours’ drive from Croydon.
“Owens Owens”, I heard chief say again. I knew that he was reflecting over the £300 worth of goods I had coerced him to pay for.
Uwem Mbot Umana©2017
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