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Richard E Odilu

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Mission Grimache
By Richard E Odilu
Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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when ones balance is tilted before you can really know your person or the real persons of the persons around you

“Grrrh”, the ferocious looking dogs snarled as soon as they saw us approaching.
It didn’t take them seconds before they started advancing towards us with a speed I could swear belongs to a cheetah, and a strength only a lion could boast of, we were sure we heard their hooves gallop like a horse; surely, the earth was going to give way.

They were coming at us as they barked, their fangs getting ready for action like the sword of a samurai warrior. The time was in the noon. Location was a forest; where only the weeds and trees, if they had any powers at all, could save us. The tall trees that resembled the iroko looked upon us with a height as if to tell us that we were dwarfs who should have minded our own territory. The weeds were too tall that we would have passed them over for a twin to corns that would soon mature with time but not matured enough to stand in our stead and plead our course. It would have been terrifying if this were taking place in the night. It was more terrifying because this was a time when we should see people working on their farmland but all we see are two abnormal things that can’t be referred to as dogs.

With a flying speed they roared on, and the ladies with us screamed out of a fright that was more intense than any feared when you encounter danger. If there was an owl – anything was possible in this strange land – it would surely have envied the ladies and will go on to confirm their status as the weaker vessels. The stronger vessels watched unperturbed, trying so successfully to conceal their fear of an unknown terror. This is in Africa and they were African men thought to hide their emotions if any exists, especially in the presence of the women folks; Their Braveness through the valley of the shadow of death, via Zuru to the Grimache shrine.


Inches closer to us the dogs were ready to devour – the ladies almost deafened our eardrums with an increased shout of “daddy!” “Jesus!” “Eh!” and nobody could feel my chest beating like a locomotive engine, ready to burst open. I didn’t realize that fear had built up in me. Would I disappoint my manliness in the presence of the one whose heart my heart also yearns for? Thank God Deborah could not see my inside and she definitely wasn’t looking my way. I spited that structure more that would have been ugly had God not painted his lips red for him and given him a height any man would want any day as an asset. I looked on more with bitterness as I watched David hold her and caress her fears away, and she leaned on him as if that was all she needed to become invincible to those creatures. How I wish I could just open this door and throw this shameless play boy who would get what is due him and get other people’s own too. Thank God the heart was not like an electric meter that reads how much energy you have burnt. Just then the car jerked to a stop.
“What is it?” we asked frantically, nobody was interested in anybody’s weakness nor fear this time
“I no know”, the driver replied assessing the petrol gauge for a plausible answer.
“Is it fuel?” asked Tim, our leader and the initiator of this journey.
“Fuel dey”, the driver made to start the car, but it acted as a stubborn ram that would not obey his master at the critical time his obedience was much cherished. Everyone looked on and saw that the dogs were gaining ground on us; it was a matter of seconds before they get to the bus we were in.

I watched all the faces carefully, that was something I enjoy doing, I like to know what lies beneath the façade. Was it a reflection of the inside? Or an expression that could best fit the adage that ‘one should never judge a book by its cover’. Psychology gives me a great joy. I started from Tim, the diplomatic of the group. This guy had the tongue of an orator that I would have swear he got from a life before now as a politician in the Greek city-states. It was his sweet tongue that has gotten us all to accept to this journey to the Grimache shrine, to see a mythical crocodile, in a bus that looks like what escaped destruction from a trailer. That was the only vehicle available he has told us, and we shouldn’t allow the physical but temporal obstacle to cause an impediment of a fun of a lifetime. The bus was not as important as the gain to benefit.

I had allowed this handsome guy -who does not know it- to persuade me that was more of a pragmatic than idealist. This is because I had hopes that this would bring me closer to the one my heart yearns for. Tim acted in the face of danger like it was a newly invented game. I am sure this was another diplomatic act to conceal the fact of ‘worry less of how your deaths would look like, I bet you will enjoy dieing like heroes of nothing’. I was not fooled.

My glance darted next to Dele, the short-tempered ugly genius. He was a genius not because he was such a brilliant chap but that he could in a very clever way quarrel in a way no one can equal him. Things that trigger his short temper were very insignificant. Like when Deborah had shouted Jesus when the dogs were coming at us. I had watched him turn darker and ready to quarrel on end but I think his brains warned him not to, because you don’t want to get into the bad books of David, a ladies man who had connections in high places. But I knew anyhow he had not given up on that quarrel.


I moved over to David. He was my best friend and roommate in the school where we were both serving as corper. I was the only one he could tell his escapades so brilliantly to without feeling ashamed. He trusted me and respected me. I was the only one who knows that he was hooked on a life he was using to make up for the broken home he was from, and was the only one who knew he prayed every night before he sleeps begging God for forgiveness for defiling others and asking for help to overcome this habit, after which he will dab at the side of his eyes pretending he was removing something but I knew it was a wetness from tears. This was someone I wish I were like, not like the anti-social idiot that I had become with little or no friend.

I had been molded into what my father wanted, a gentleman who had little or no guts. My father was happy and I was not, but I pretended all was satisfying. Yet here was a guy who could have chosen anybody but me to be his roommate, and telling God, inaudibly, he wanted a perfect life like mine. I always smiled a smile that portrayed the emotion ‘irony’.

David’s only crime was that the girl I had ever had feelings for and lacked guts to approach was allowing him leading her astray. If only she could see that my roommate’s emotions had been stolen from him when he was a kid by a mother who had ruled a weak and lazy father. By a father who transferred aggression on his children as if to retaliate to the things his wife did to him. By a mother who cooked when she deemed fit and seldom gives the food to her children, she was a black belter and a physical educator and instructor. For the most part her children were her practice techniques, that was were David got the scar on his face that looked liked what an angry drummer had hit with his stick.

His father ended up killing his mother and disappeared for fear of his relations who were boxer, footballers, judo pro, and athletic. How did this weak man marry that voltron of a wife? After his father disappearance he and his little brother and sister were passed from one abusive relation to another. He had grown to become a man that constantly wanted a woman’s affection but after three weeks when he has begun a relationship with any girl, and having tasted the forbidden fruit, he usually gets tired and dumps them treating them the way his mother did to his father. He was not scared of the dogs closing in on us. That was his expression, and that was what was inside of him. I am sure he had tasted death times without numbers and had emerged like the proverbial cat with nine lives.

I looked at Deborah and it dawned on me that if I had been asked to write an autobiography about her it would have read this way, ‘ the beautiful, starry eyed girl, with a skin that glows like the fire of a dragon fly’, period. Whatever there was to know about her will be after today, when she would have said yes to David and let him into her world, a world he will soon crush and turn her into a replica of one of the dogs after our lifes. Every corper girl I know of despised her just like corper guys for the unequal attention they enjoyed are despising David. One thing I know also was that I irritated her, and she can’t fathom why David selected me of all the smart-looking boys serving in Zuru. What was it they say about two perfect couples? They say opposite attracts. Soon she will discover whom she truly wanted.

Just as my gaze settled on Esther, the straight faced no-nonsense natural, whom I heard was also liking David and spites attention he gives her … The sound was too spontaneous, jerking me out of my chains of thoughts. The shouts this time included the male folks who watched the damage the fangs of the dogs caused and was causing on the rolled up windscreen. As if on impulse, one of the dogs attacked the car tire. The ladies shouted on the driver to do something, and Tim had the nerve to say it was nothing. That was when Dele gave him a quarrel of a lifetime.
“I see you are a big fool who does nothing better than to endanger peoples lives, people who has long life of eighty to ninety, and yet you say it is nothing to worry about”
“What is the meaning of this Dele?”
“Go and ask your mother that has not taught you how to be compassionate about people’s feelings”, everyone looked on like they have been waiting for someone to bell the cat.
“Dele, watch the things you say, because after now you can’t recall them”
“I will add more than I will gladly not recall”
“Who ask …” Tim had not finished his reply when we heard the pop of a sound like dynamite.

Silence.

We looked on as we watched the bus go down, then it dawned on us that the frontal right tire had been busted by one of the dogs. More shouts from the ladies. How I wish it were David’s head that was cracked open by those devilish fangs.

As if God has watched the trials we were going through for too long and had decided to come aid us just like he did for the children of Israel in the land of Egypt. The driver tried the ignition again and the bus sparked into life. What a relief! The bus sped and the dogs pursued, and the only prayer we could mutter was a safe escape with a bad tyre. The driver was trying so hard to avoid the potholes and any object that could add to the damage already done.

Just when Deborah was saying we were in for it, we watched these terror that walketh in the noonday stop and watch us drive away, panting. I could read their thoughts that said, ‘thank the creator, we would have shown you how good we receive visitors like you here’
“What happened?” that was Esther’s question that never elicited any reply.


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Reviewed by Richard Orey 10/7/2007
The fact that English is not Richard Odilu's native tongue perhaps inhibits the natural flow of wordings, but his unbridled imagination grabbed my attention and held it from the first snarl of the approaching dogs to Esther's, "What happened?"

Reading "Mission Grimache" was akin to fighting for my very life while listening to a lecture on the behavioral psychology of interpersonal relationships. My eyes bulged in fear from the vicious attacking dogs as I learned David prayed every night for God to forgive him for defiling others.

As a short story, Mission Grimache goes far in revealing to us all important elements of the cultural makeup of young African men and women and, also, in demonstrating how much we have in common despite our surface differences.

With only minor choice-of-language changes, this story could easily be about a youthful adventure in most any part of the world.

Well done, Richard Odilu. The international flavor of your writing knocks down many artificial barriers.

Richard




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