Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

A Short Story

Midnight at Dzorwulu

By Kwame Poku

The gentleman woke up first, then the woman. They were both naked under the wrappers and they were both exhausted. They've had an all night session. They were both content to have sworn to have a date later on in the evening. After exchanging pleasantries and lots of kisses, the gentleman got up and walked to the windows. As he drew the curtains apart, daylight flooded the room.

"This must be a beautiful home," he said walking towards the bathroom. "Your husband must be proud of it,' he shouted above the sound of the running tap water.

"He is, it's a pity that I've had to live in it alone most of the night".

"Alone...? Why is that?" he asked as he began to rub himself down with a towel while the woman viewed her tired eyes in the mirror.

"He is a truck driver, always on the road. Sometimes he is away for months on end and even if he is at home, there's nothing but quarrels all the time".

"Now that is very interesting, isn't it?" he said.

"I reckon your being here has been the first time ever I've enjoyed living in this bungalow".

"Really," said the gentleman. "Yes. You see I cannot have children and Nanli is very disappointed about that".

"Listen, Hawa, I've got to go to the Hotel at eight o'clock tonight?" he acknowledged her nod of the head with a long kiss.

It was dark. The long haulage truck pulled up in front of the immaculate bungalow at Dzorwulu. The driver, Nanli Salami, blew out a shrill whistle. There was no response. He got down and went to the door and opened it with his spare keys. The house was in a filthy mess; drinking glasses, unwashed and strewn about. In the bedroom, the scene was in shambles. Used toilet papers were catastrophic. Everything was scattered everywhere on the carpet. In the bathroom, Nanli had a nose for men's aftershave and deodorants and he knew at once that something had gone on in his home in his absence. He closed the house quietly and went back to the truck. Then he drove to a petrol filling station about a mile away and parked the truck and walked back to the house. Shortly before he got to the house, he decided on impulse to conceal himself outside and wait.

A little while after midnight, a car pulled up in front of the bungalow. A gentleman got out of the driving seat, went round the car and opened the other door and gently led the woman out of the car. From his hiding place, Nanli recognised his wife, Hawa. He witnessed the gentleman kiss his wife at the doorstep and steeling his anger and bolstering his patience saw the gentleman return to his car and drive away.

Nanli lingered in his corner for a while before going into the house. The moment he kicked the door open, Hawa shouted from the kitchen.

"Who's there? Is that you back again, Ahmed?"

Nanli did not answer. He stood in the middle of the hall surveying the disorder and disarray around him. Hawa emerged from the kitchen, holding a loaf of bread in one hand and a bread knife in the other. It was too late for her to hide her surprise. Her face was suddenly drained of all colour and she turned nervous and jittery.

"Oh, Nanli, it's you. Why don't you speak up; say you are back home or something," she managed to say. "Hawa, I stopped by to see you. I'm on my way to Kumasi right now".

"I didn't hear your truck come into the driveway", she said.

"No Hawa, I parked it at the Texaco petrol station. I did that deliberately".

"Deliberately, why?" asked the woman, putting the bread and knife on the table and approaching him.

"Yes, so that I could see what you were up to. To see who entertained you in this house while I was away. Ahmed, is that him?"

"Playing the jealous husband now, are you, Nanli?"

"You filthy bitch!" echoed in her ear as he slapped her right across her face.

"Take a look around and see the mess and filth in this house. See . . .?"

"There...eeee..." " She spat onto his face. He shook his head and drew his palms across his face, becoming more furious, drenched with sweat. He gripped her by the shoulder with one hand and lashed at her cheeks continuously until her eyes turned red and her head spun. She began to sob.

When he finally released her, she collapsed onto the carpet. But she wasn't going to be subdued. She picked up an empty bottle lying about and threw it with all her strength. It hit Nanli at the back of the head and blood spurted out in streams. He gave a cry of pain and fell onto the table. In a second, he grabbed the bread-knife and turned his eyes towards his wife.

When he came to, it was dawn. Hawa's body was lying in a pool of blood. Nanli realised what he had done and knew that it would soon be daylight. He had to get rid of the corpse and disappear as fast as he could. After steadying his nerves with Gordon's dry gin, he carried Hawa's body to the bathroom.

Then he soaked it in boiling water until the dead skin began to peel off. Then gripping a knife and hacksaw he sliced the corpse into portions and bagged in a plastic sack. Picking up an axe and a shovel, he went into his garden. He dug up a hole big enough to bury the sacks. It was difficult at first. It looked as if there was some rock or metal below the ground.

His wounded head was splitting, blood was still trickling round his face but he hammered and hammered until whatever it was gave way. By daybreak, the sack had been neatly buried. The house had been scrubbed and cleaned scrupulously. After that he had a good breakfast although he could not have the usual coffee because the taps were flowing a dirty brownish water.

Anyway, he got ready to go. As he was closing the door, a van pulled up and a man in khaki overalls came up to him.

"You are the occupant of this house?"

"That's right," Nanli said with a painful alarm in his belly.

"We are workers of the Water and Sewerage Corporation. We have reason to believe that an underground pipe has burst in your garden. It's going to flood this area soon. I am afraid we shall have to dig up the whole of your garden to be able to locate the burst pipe and repair it. If we don't, your beautiful house will be drowned by midday. Besides, the whole neighbourhood will have no water to drink. You don't want that to happen, do you?"

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