By Nnorom Azuonye
Many years ago, I watched the faces of men twitch with a mixture of inner purgation and fleeting humility at the manner in which the fate of King Oedipus was played out. I understood immediately that a story was an important tool in reaching the innermost parts of men. Jesus the Christ, the first one I recall who ever defeated me, was the first to realise this.
I knew I had to tell one of my many exciting stories, and I did, through a man who had preferred to keep his name hidden. Writers from everywhere, including Jeffrey Archer - the man who lost all his poke profits to perjury, have reproduced that story as I originally told it, or in some cases, with very minor changes. ‘Death Speaks’ as Mr Archer titled it, is a beautiful story, but I have now grown weary of it. It is time I told another, don’t you think?
Alright, this is the story:
There was once a man who lived in Abuja, Nigeria. He came from a long line of wealthy businessmen who have controlled business interests in the Nigerian oil sector for years. One day, the man asked his business manager to travel to Port-Harcourt and represent him in a lucrative business meeting involving supply of oil, off the record, to the American government. He gave the manager a Sosoliso Airlines flight ticket and some money to cover his hotel bill and other incidental expenses.
The manager stared for a long time at the ticket, his hands shaking like those of a man suffering from Parkinson's disease. He then calmly handed the ticket back to his boss. “Don’t you remember, Chief, my last flight experience was horrible? The plane pounded us like yam in a mortar from Lagos to Abuja. I don’t wish to be flying in Nigeria, it is too dangerous. I’d rather drive down in the Jeep.”
The man laughed, like a toad, and took the ticket from him. He then gave him the keys to the black Jeep parked outside. “With a vehicle like that, watch out for armed robbers, you know.”
“I cover it with the blood of Jesus.” The manager said.
The man smiled, wondering why the manager could cover the jeep with the blood of Jesus, but could not cover the plane with the same blood. He then gave all the necessary instructions to the manager who patiently jotted down important points in his notebook, and was soon on his way.
A short while after he left, the manager returned to the man’s house. He was sweating and fighting for breath. Struggling to find his voice, he managed to tell the man that as he pulled into a service station to buy some petrol, somebody touched him on the shoulder. He thought it was one of his friends, but when he turned to greet him, realised it was death, and that death was pointing a threatening finger at him.
“But you just have to go to Port-Harcourt. It is too important,” The man barked at him like an insane dog, “I don’t care if death is pointing a finger at you. I think I am paying you too much money.”
“I know how important this trip is, and I have to go. But I can’t drive there, not with death threatening me. May I have that flight ticket back instead?”
“Now he wants to fly!” The man said under his breath, shaking his head in exasperation. He retrieved the ticket from a bookshelf in the far corner, and gave it to the manager. He then offered to drive him to the airport himself.
After dropping the manager at the airport, the man returned to the city and drove to Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel to have a drink and see if there was a government minister or agent hanging around there with whom he could discuss a future business deal. When he walked into the bar, he was startled to see me there drinking a cold beer. He quickly walked up to me.
“Why did you point a threatening finger at my manager?” he asked.
“It was not a threatening finger. I was upset. I was angry to see him in that Jeep. That’s why I have come here - to have a cold beer and cool off.” I replied.
“What business of yours is it if he was in the Jeep?”
“Well, you see, by travelling in the Jeep rather than flying, he will not keep the appointment I have with him later today in a Sosoliso Airlines plane.”
The man quickly reached for his mobile phone and called the manager’s number, but his phone was switched off.
© Nnorom Azuonye 2006
"Death Speaks Again" was inspired by "Death Speaks" by Jeffrey Archer in To Cut A Long Story Short.