13 Mar Weeks After Landing A Job In A Wealthy Home, Thomas Flees Temptation Of His Boss’s Wife Back Into The Streets
Thomas was eventually forced to admit that working as a bus conductor was a much more gruelling job than he had anticipated. Alhaji Bashir was right. He did spend a great deal of time yelling at the top of his lungs. He tried to come up with a vocal tone that created great volume yet did not wreak havoc on his throat. He was beginning to get hoarse before noontime and his throat was stinging soon after.
“Drink water,” the driver advised him. “Take a sip before you do the shout-out and then take a drink after.”
Thomas smirked. “That may be good for my voice, but I don’t know if it will be all that great for my bladder.”
“If you fill my bus with paying passengers, I’ll make sure you get plenty of time to pee.”
By the time the bus pulled into the park at the end of Thomas’s first day, all he wanted to do was sleep. He knew he still had to clean the bus, but he decided he would try to rest for a few hours and then get to work before the driver arrived in the morning. He got comfortable on the bench seat and immediately crashed out.
He wasn’t sure how long he had been asleep when he heard movement outside in the bus yard. He immediately sat up and looked around, hoping he hadn’t slept the night away and that there was still time to clean the vehicle before the driver arrived. The sky was dark, but the moon shone down upon the park. Thomas looked out a window and, like the night before, he saw a few groups of people scattered around the grounds. Some drank, some smoked, and several couples made love under the stars. Thomas had felt completely alone in the world since his friend Mani was murdered. He decided it was time to find some friendly company.
He hopped out of his bus and sauntered around the park. People in various states of sobriety stumbled by. Most of them were extremely friendly, waving and shouting hellos. Thomas returned their greetings and smiled to himself. He wondered if these people were so disconnected from the rest of the world that they had managed to lapse into an eternal state of euphoria. The couples engulfed in their erotic rapture barely noticed him as he walked by, and one man didn’t even look up when Thomas accidentally tripped over his outstretched leg. This is Sodom and Gomorrah, he thought.
He glanced around and noticed a heavy-set woman leaning against a bus all alone. She caught sight of him, smiled, and motioned for him to come over.
“You’re new here,” she said.
“How can you tell?” Thomas teased.
“I know everyone who comes in and out of here,” she stated matter-of-factly. “This is my terrain. What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Welcome, Thomas,” she greeted. “I’m Janet. What brings you to the lovely motor park?”
“I’m a conductor,” Thomas answered.
“Really?” Janet asked. “What do you conduct? The famous Assemblies of God’s choir?”
Thomas laughed. “I’m the bus conductor on the Ojota–Yaba line.”
Janet laughed as well. “I’m a conductor too,” she said.
“Really?” Thomas asked back. “Should I ask what you conduct as well?”
Janet reached up and softly caressed Thomas’s cheek. “I conduct business,” she answered softly. “Are you interested in doing business with me?”
Thomas was greatly intrigued. “Maybe,” he replied. “That depends on whether I can afford to… ah… do business with you.”
Janet stepped away from him and walked toward the end of the vehicle. “I’m sure we can make some kind of financial arrangement.” She motioned for him to follow, and he happily did so.
Being on the other side of the bus shielded them from the rest of the lovemaking couples, not that Janet appeared to be the shy type. The two dickered on a fee for a few minutes, which left Thomas feeling extremely awkward.
“I’ve never done this before,” he confessed.
“You’ve never had sex with a woman before?” Janet asked surprised.
“No!” Thomas quickly exclaimed. “I mean, yes! It’s just that I’ve never negotiated a fee to have sex with a woman before.”
Janet cackled. “It’s just another day in the life for me,” she remarked.
Although Thomas had some misgivings about the ethics of paying for sex, Janet clearly had none about charging for it. As such, Thomas did not feel as if he were taking advantage of her.
“I hope you have a supply of condoms,” he said.
“I don’t keep a stash,” she stated. “If a guy wants to use one, he has to supply it.”
“I don’t have one at the moment,” Thomas told her.
Janet shrugged. “That’s not mandatory,” she replied casually.
Thomas suddenly felt less aroused. The spread of the AIDS virus throughout the world, especially in Africa, was widely-reported news. Janet sounded as if she had unprotected sex on a regular basis, and Thomas did not feel that one evening of erotic pleasure was worth the risk of becoming an international medical statistic.
“You know what?” he said. “I really can’t do this tonight. I still have to clean the bus and then try to get a few hours’ sleep before the sun rises.”
Janet appeared frustrated and angry. “Then why the hell did you waste my time?” she snapped.
Thomas dug his hand into his pocket. “I assure you that your time was not wasted.” He pulled out some cash and peeled off enough money to cover the agreed-upon fee. “Here,” he offered. “Thank you.”
Janet counted the bills, stuffed them into her bra, and walked away in an irritated huff.
Thomas returned to his bus, wondering how safe Nancy, also a prostitute, would be as a partner when, or if, he found her.
á á á á á
Thomas managed to make some decent money working the Ojota–Yaba line and cleaning the bus after hours, but he had never planned on holding that job forever. As soon as he acquired enough cash to keep him floating for a while, he hoped to spend his days looking for a better job, preferably one in his area of teaching.
That time had come, and Thomas nervously gave up his conducting job. He decided to go back to the HomeCare agency to see whether they could provide him with a job. This time, however, he did not feel nearly as desperate as he had before. Although he was no longer working as a bus conductor, he had learned where the night people entered the motor park after dark. He figured that if the agency could not find him a new place to stay, he could always slip back into the park at night and crash in one of the buses.
A short meeting with a HomeCare agent led to a job opening in Victoria Island Extension.
“This man is a very important client,” the agent stated. “He is very wealthy, and he consistently donates funds to keep HomeCare up and running. You must take this job very seriously and give him your best work. He will provide you with more than adequate housing. We’ll need some collateral before sending you out.”
All Thomas had to offer were his teaching credentials. The agent perused the papers.
“These will do. Teachers and doctors are normally good people,” he approved. “Go immediately.” He handed Thomas a slip of paper with a street address scrawled across it.
Thomas quickly reported to the address. He figured that many Lagosians, especially those living in Ajegunle, would not be inclined to travel to a highbrow neighbourhood such as Victoria Island for fear they would not be made to feel welcome there. He, however, was not so intimidated. He figured the worst thing that could happen was that he would be asked to leave: and he had already been through many worse things.
Thomas was surprised to find that the address was not a business premises but a residence. The home was a sprawling chateau on a seven-acre estate, complete with meticulously cut hedges, a fine-trimmed lawn, and a number of immaculately kept gardens. Thomas drew a deep breath and tucked in his shirt as he approached the gatehouse.
“May I help you?” the gatekeeper asked politely.
“I was sent to this address by the HomeCare Agency,” Thomas told him.
The gatekeeper nodded and placed a phone call. Thomas could not hear what was being said, but he tried not to fidget too much as he waited for a response. The gatekeeper eventually hung up the receiver. A moment later, another man wearing an official-looking blazer and a tie came down the driveway.
“Sir,” the man said to Thomas, “please come with me.”
Thomas was escorted up to the house along the winding gravel drive. As he walked toward the building, he was amazed by the beauty of the surroundings. He had never come near a home as grand as this, and he actually felt an attack of nerves as they approached the front door.
Thomas was led into the foyer, where he was told to wait. He felt very uncomfortable standing in the high-ceilinged entry hall, as if he was sticking out in a place where he did not belong. He was relieved when, a few minutes later, an elegant-looking gentleman entered and extended his hand.
“Good morning, sir,” the man greeted. “I am Chief Sola Adekunle. Welcome to my home.”
“Thank you, sir. My name is Thomas Katta. I was sent here by the HomeCare Agency.”
The men shook hands, and Thomas followed Chief Adekunle into a side room where he was invited to sit on the small sofa. Thomas tried to appear casual as he glanced down at his shoes. He was extremely worried that he might be tracking dirt across Chief Adekunle’s expensive Oriental rug.
“As you can see, Mr. Katta,” Chief Adekunle began, “we have a significant amount of property here, and it is very important to me that the grounds are always well-maintained. The Agency knows me very well, and you are the second hand I am getting from there.”
“I trust they have run a check on you?”
Thomas was shocked, but again he only nodded.
“I’m looking to add another maintenance person to my staff,” Chief Adekunle continued. “You would be expected to work with the landscaper outdoors and occasionally do some cleaning chores inside the house.”
Thomas nodded again. “Would this involve serving meals and such?” he wondered. This aspect worried him. He knew that upscale families employed a great deal of protocol when it came to setting tables and serving food, and Thomas had no knowledge of the proper way of doing such things.
Chief Adekunle smiled. “No,” he answered. “We have serving staff that handle that. You may be needed to wash dishes on occasion if we have a function with many guests. We don’t want people drinking out of dirty glasses, do we?”
Thomas laughed. He greatly appreciated Chief Adekunle’s humour and casual tone. This was the first job interview he had endured that did not make him feel tense and defensive. Gardening and house cleaning did not exactly qualify as Thomas’s career objectives, but he really liked the idea of working for a distinguished and congenial gentleman like Chief Adekunle. Thomas was not sure how Chief Adekunle had made his fortune, but he thought that if he was able to hang around long enough, he might be able to secure employment with the boss in a more professional capacity.
“I have experience tending gardens, sir,” Thomas offered. “Ah… I wouldn’t call it horticulture exactly. It was more like agriculture. I guess the areas where I worked would more likely be considered small farms rather than gardens.”
“The concept is similar,” Chief Adekunle assured him. “You will do what is necessary to keep the plants healthy, just as you would do on a farm. The landscape designer is in charge of the arrangement. He’ll teach you everything you need to know.”
Thomas did not want to risk letting this opportunity slide through his fingers, so he decided to make an aggressive yet understated play. “I can start immediately if you wish, sir.”
Chief Adekunle grinned. “I was hoping you’d say that,” he said. “You appear to be well-mannered and intelligent. I suspect this job may be beneath your abilities, but I understand that job prospects in Lagos can be very hard to come by. One must be happy to take what one can get.”
Thomas heaved a sigh of relief. “Finding work has been very difficult,” he confirmed, “and I would very much appreciate the opportunity to work for you.”
“And I would very much appreciate not having to spend the rest of the day interviewing applicants from the HomeCare agency,” Chief Adekunle responded. “It’s such an uncomfortable process for all parties involved. Welcome to my staff, Thomas Katta.”
Thomas was then introduced to Edoma Johnson, the family driver, who led him to his new home in the servants’ quarters. Edoma, tall and athletic, looked smart in a white shirt over a black pair of trousers.
“This is amazing,” Thomas gasped as his eyes scanned the facilities. “Are you sure this area is for the servants?”
Edoma laughed. “Chief Adekunle takes very good care of his staff,” he assured him. “The servants’ rooms may not be large, but they come with plenty of comfortable amenities such as clean linen, quality beds, ample hot water, and free utilities. Just remember that you’ll be sharing the bathroom with the rest of us, so don’t be tempted to camp out in there for too long.”
Thomas laughed. “I promise I won’t.” He placed his bag on the available bunk. “It looks like Chief Adekunle has done pretty well for himself. What exactly does he do to reap such rewards?”
“Politics, my friend,” Edoma replied. “Chief Adekunle has earned an esteemed reputation for his work in Abuja.”
“Very impressive,” Thomas commented.
Abuja was the political capital of Nigeria. The majority of high-powered deals, domestic policies, and international negotiations were made in Abuja. It was a city populated by powerful politicians and lawmakers and was also the Nigerian destination for foreign statesmen and diplomats. Thomas knew that Chief Adekunle’s acceptance and revered status by those who worked in Abuja was a badge of great honour in itself; one that was earned, not given. Chief Adekunle must have been an extremely ambitious and hard-working man to acquire such accolades.
“Does he travel to Abuja often?” Thomas wondered.
“He’s there more often than he is here,” Edoma replied. “I think he only keeps this place for the wife and kids. I’ll bet if he weren’t married, he’d probably make himself comfortable in one of those fancy hotel suites they set aside for the statesmen.” Edoma’s mouth curled up into a sardonic smile. “For all we know, he probably does, if you know what I mean.”
Thomas smirked. “I suppose there’s no reason for Chief Adekunle to be any different from the rest of the politicians in Nigeria in that regard.”
“You mean the rest of the politicians all over the world,” Edoma cracked. “It’s a luxury that seems to come with the vocation.”
Thomas sat down on the bed. “Edoma, I think you and I are in the wrong line of work.”
“You’re telling me.” Edoma handed Thomas a pile of folded bed linen. “You can make up your bed when you’re ready,” he said. “I have to leave now. I’m driving Mrs. Adekunle into town to do some shopping in thirty minutes. Have you met Mrs. Adekunle?”
Thomas shook his head. “Not yet.”
Edoma grinned. “Well, let me just say that it is always a pleasure to look up and see her in my rear-view mirror.”
“Careful!” Thomas said with a giggle and changed the subject. “The buildings here are relatively new and of modern architecture. When was it built?”
“I’ll tell you the story of this place later. For now, I’ll return to my post to wait for Madam,” Edoma said and turned to leave.
“Thanks, but remember the real purpose of the rear-view mirror,” Thomas teased him.
á á á á á
After all he had been through since his arrival in Lagos, Thomas found working on the Adekunle estate to be almost like living in paradise. The members of the landscaping crew welcomed him with open arms, and he actually enjoyed tending the gardens, not to mention being outdoors most of the day. It could be very hot under the sun at midday, but the air was so clean and fresh that Thomas often felt revived simply by sucking in a deep breath, expanding his lungs, and letting the air ooze out slowly.
When he was called to work indoors, it was usually to wash dishes, move furniture, or clean up a minor mess created by one or both of the Adekunle children. From what Thomas could tell, the children were basically well-behaved, but they had the capacity to be just as mischievous as any young children. Eka, their taskmaster of a nanny, insisted that the children always demonstrate respect to their parents, the house staff, and any guests that came to the home. Thomas wondered whether she was grooming them to be future international diplomats.
On the second day of his employment, Thomas was introduced to Moji Adekunle. Edoma was right: Chief Adekunle’s wife was very easy on the eyes. She was tall and statuesque with perfectly toned legs. Her skin was smooth, her dark, almond-shaped eyes were deep and stunning, and she had plenty of curves in all the right places. From their brief introduction, it appeared that she was quite impressed by Thomas’s work, or at least by Thomas himself.
By the end of the third week, he noticed that Moji was calling him in from the gardens to assist her with minor chores around the house on a regular basis. When this started happening seven or eight times per day, Thomas could sense that the head landscaper was getting rather annoyed by it.
“I’m very sorry,” Thomas said to him after Moji called him into the kitchen one morning. “I promise I’ll come back and help the other men trim this area as soon as I can.”
The landscaper patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s not your fault. When the boss’s wife calls, you cannot put her off.”
By the fifth week, Thomas noticed he was spending more time working in the house than he was tending to the lawns outside. It seemed that even if there weren’t enough chores to keep him busy indoors, Moji managed to create some, most of which were unnecessary and, as far as Thomas could tell, a complete waste of time. He actually wondered if Moji hadn’t deliberately knocked over an expensive-looking vase solely for the purpose of forcing Thomas to mop up the water and dispose of the broken glass.
á á á á á
Edoma did not fail to discuss Thomas’s closeness to Moji, when she sent them to her doctor in Ikoyi. “Tom, looks like you have found favour with Madam,” he said. “You have a closer look than I get from the rear-view mirror.”
“I’m just doing my job as an errand boy, Edoma.”
“I see, but please be careful,” Edoma warned. “Note that I only admire her from the safety of the driving mirror.”
“And I’m a poor gardener, you see.”
“I see,” Edoma said and slowed down as he joined the traffic jam on the Faloma Bridge.
“Ah, Edoma,” Thomas tapped on his shoulder. “You owe me a story about the Victoria Island Extension.”
“You don’t want to discuss Moji?”
“No. I’m too poor to stay long in the dreamland.”
“Okay, poor man,” Edoma teased. “Ever heard about Maroko?”
“Okay, once upon a time until… 1990, there was a slum called Maroko, where we now live.”
“You don’t mean it.”
“Just listen,” Edoma slammed on the brakes to avoid a motorcyclist turning across his right of way. “In February 1990, the President visited Maroko, a huge slum near Victoria Island, the wealthy residential and commercial area you know, and promised to improve the living conditions there. Within five months, the then military Governor of Lagos State ordered the demolition of Maroko, giving residents only seven days to vacate their shelters.”
“Wait for this,” Edoma said. “There were an estimated 41,776 landlords in the area, not to mention several thousand squatters. At the end of the notice period, security forces moved in with their bulldozers and the community was levelled in twelve days.”
“I often say life is not fair. You see!”
“Hmm,” Thomas sighed. He felt like those words had been taken from his mouth. “Why would a government do that?”
“A motley assortment of reasons. They said the people were squatters on land the government had acquired in 1972 and that the occupied land was only 1.5 metres above sea level and was, therefore, liable to flooding and complete submergence.”
“And would that be true?” Thomas asked.
“Well, not many people believed it. They said Maroko was uncomfortably close to the rich inhabitants of Ikoyi and Victoria Island and was regarded as an eyesore by these high-income neighbourhoods. The epidemics and the high crime rate in the slum were a threat to its wealthy neighbours.”
“From what I see Edoma, they just took the land for the rich.”
“I didn’t say that!” Edoma shouted.
“There’s no need to shout,” Thomas advised. “I am a graduate.”
“You are?” Edoma put a finger to his lips in surprise.
“Never mind,” Thomas regretted his slip. “Let’s cut it, we’re almost home.”
Edoma nodded, but Thomas knew that his background would be raised by his colleague another time.
á á á á á
One cold and rainy evening, after having spent the day shampooing the carpets, dusting rows and rows of shelves, washing stacks of dishes that did not even appear to be dirty, and repairing a clogged toilet, Thomas looked forward to crawling into his bunk and drifting off into a pleasant, restful sleep. Before he had a chance to slip out of his clothes and slide between the very inviting sheets, the intercom rang.
Thomas cursed under his breath and picked up the handset reluctantly.
“Come to the master bedroom now! I’ve spilled coffee all over the place.”
“Yes ma’am,” he responded and replaced the handset slowly. Master bedroom? Thomas thought. He had never been asked to work in there before. Chief and Mrs. Adekunle’s bedroom was usually cleaned and maintained by a few specified members of the housekeeping staff.
As requested, Thomas walked back to the main house, up the regal staircase, and down the long hall to the master bedroom. The door was closed, so he knocked gently upon it.
“Who is it?” Moji asked from within.
“It’s Thomas, ma’am. You called me.”
“Please come in.”
Thomas entered and was surprised to find the room completely dark. A sliver of moonlight came through the window. Out of habit, he reached for the light switch.
“Wait,” Moji commanded. “Close the door first.”
Thomas did as he was told, cutting out all the light from the hallway. “I can’t see you, ma’am. Should I turn…? ”
A light suddenly snapped on from the other side of the room. Once his eyes adjusted to the unexpected glare, Thomas had full view of Moji Adekunle lying in the pristine satin sheets in her king-sized bed. He froze in his tracks. His eyes bounced around the room, as if they were attempting to locate the chore that Moji had called upon him to complete, but his mind knew it was highly unlikely that he had been summoned to her boudoir to clean the windows.
If any doubts lingered in Thomas’s brain, they were immediately tossed aside when Moji pulled back the sheet that had been covering her to reveal her flawless naked female figure.
“Good evening, Thomas.”
Thomas struggled to come up with an appropriate response.
“You worked very hard today,” Moji cooed. “I thought you would like to relax tonight. You deserve some time to unwind.”
Thomas cleared his throat. “Where is your husband?” he asked.
“In Abuja, as usual.”
“When do you expect him to return home?”
“Not until the weekend… if even then.”
That was not the answer Thomas was hoping to receive. He had intended to use Chief Adekunle’s impending arrival as an excuse to return to his own room.
“Won’t you join me?” Moji asked, although it sounded more like an order than a question.
Thomas took a nervous step forward. His brain and his body were simultaneously calling upon him to do two contradictory things. His body was perfectly willing to vault into the big, beautiful bed and spend the night with this strikingly gorgeous woman. Her smooth skin glistened, as soft to the touch as silk. Lying on her side, her shoulder and hip displayed inviting curves that Thomas’s fingers had the greatest desire to explore. Her perfectly round breasts called to him in a way that he had never witnessed before. At the same time, his mind insisted that his eyes were ogling truly forbidden fruit. If Chief Adekunle were to find out that Thomas had been intimate with his wife, Thomas could certainly count on being fired. But that could turn out to be the least of his problems. Chief Adekunle was one of the most powerful men in Lagos, possibly in all of Nigeria, and maybe even in the entire world. A man of his political stature was not merely above the law: he was the law. If he wanted to have his wife’s lover killed, it could be done in a matter of seconds with no risk of consequence. This is Lagos, Thomas said to himself.
“I don’t think your husband would approve,” Thomas finally said, his voice cracking in mid-sentence.
Moji rolled her eyes. “I doubt he would even notice,” she remarked. “He doesn’t make any effort to fulfil my personal needs. He’s too busy satisfying himself. I’m not a fool, you know. I’m perfectly aware of the fact that he does not go back to his fancy statesman’s suite at that posh hotel all by himself. Why should he anyway? Frankly, I don’t care. I live here in this beautiful house and have a wonderful nanny to mind my children. I go to Abuja when I have to. I consider it part of my job. I escort my husband to all those boring political functions. I put on ravishing gowns, walk on his arm, and shake hands with a stream of people whose names I will have forgotten by the end of the evening. It’s a tedious, irritating, and laborious task, but there are worse ways to make a living, I suppose. It gets me what I want — and tonight, Thomas, I want you. Don’t you want me?”
Thomas listened to the voices arguing inside of his head. Of course he wanted her — who wouldn’t? But there was so much more to the equation. He realised that if he bowed to her request, he would, in effect, be enslaving himself, for this would surely not be the only time such a demand would be made upon his person. If he gave into Moji this once, he would be expected to do so whenever she so desired in the future. At the same time, Thomas had no idea how he could remove himself from the situation without offending this beautiful and powerful woman. It was clear that Moji was not a woman who heard the word ‘no’ very often. The way Thomas saw it, he only had one option.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Adekunle,” he said softly. “You are quite a stunning sight to behold, but I’m afraid I cannot share the bed with you. I am not feeling particularly well. I think I have contracted some kind of a stomach virus. The last thing I would ever want to do is accept your gracious invitation and then be unable to please you.”
Moji propped her head up on her hand. “I’m not so difficult to please,” she insisted, “and I’m sure I could easily relieve you of all your ailments.”
Thomas held his stomach. He had thought he was feigning illness, but as the conversation continued, his stomach rumbled and his mouth went dry.
“I really must say that I am enormously flattered,” he garbled, “but I just… can’t… I mean —” His stomach retched and he doubled over.
Moji was losing what little patience she possessed. “I’m waiting, Thomas,” she declared sternly. “Please don’t make me wait much longer.”
Still bent over from the waist, Thomas turned his head sideways, away from Moji’s view. He slyly raised his hand and carefully slipped his finger down his throat. He pulled up his shirt and caught most of the vomit before it hit the plush carpet.
“Life is unfair!” he heard Moji say as he hurried away.
á á á á á
Having been awake the entire night, Thomas stared from his bed toward the window, anxiously anticipating the break of dawn. How could he face that woman again, knowing that she would probably repeat her invitation? How many times could he force himself to throw up? He knew he would be unable to continue working for the Adekunle family and he needed to leave the estate at the earliest possible moment. Yet, Thomas did not want to arouse anyone’s suspicions by leaving before daybreak. He could then slip out the main gate first thing in the morning. Chief and Mrs. Adekunle had sent him on numerous early-morning errands before, so the security men at the gate would not think that anything was out of the ordinary if he left the grounds at sunrise.
When the sun barely peeked over the horizon, Thomas slipped into his clothes and walked out of the front door, working hard to appear as nonchalant as possible as he strolled down the long driveway. He waved to the security men as the electronic gate slid open, and passed as if it were just another day. He had his credentials and a few clothes in a dirty nylon bag.
It was, of course, not just another day. Thomas was once again homeless and out of work. He went directly to the HomeCare Agency, hoping they could set him up with another potential employer. When he arrived at the office building, the agency was not yet open, so he sat on the curb in line with the rest of the folks hoping to be seen by HomeCare agents the split-second the office opened for business.
á á á á á
“I feel very bad that this arrangement did not work out. The Adekunles are a wonderful family, and I appreciate your giving me the opportunity to work for them, but this just wasn’t a good fit for either of us.”
Thomas was startled by the agent’s gruff tone. The man on duty scratched his beard and let out a disgusted grunt. It was barely eight o’clock in the morning, and from the look of his ashtray and the stench of his breath, it appeared that he had already burned through half a pack of cigarettes.
“Mrs. Adekunle called the office last night,” he said. “She left a very irate message, so I contacted her as soon as I came in this morning. She said that since you moved into their home, you have been rude, disrespectful, unclean, unreliable, and completely incorrigible. She kindly allowed you to stay for a few weeks in the hope that you might get your act together, but she has now reached her tolerance threshold and she wants you gone.”
Thomas’s mouth dropped open in complete shock. “I assure you sir, that was not the case,” he said and gasped.
“Are you calling Mrs. Adekunle a liar?” the agent wanted to know.
Yes, she is a liar! Thomas wanted to shout, but he knew saying such a thing would only make matters much worse. “No sir,” he conceded, “we simply had a misunderstanding last night. As I said, the Adekunles are a fine family, but… I… ah… I guess we just didn’t communicate with one another very well.”
The agent was clearly not buying Thomas’s story, and Thomas knew he would be unable to change the man’s mind.
“Sir,” Thomas pressed onward, “I would greatly appreciate it if you could place me in another position. I’m sure I will be able to —”
“Forget it!” the agent snarled. “Do you think such jobs are easy to come by? We have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of applicants who come to this office every day asking us to help them get out of difficult situations. There are only so many jobs available. When we send people out to fill positions, our reputation as an agency travels with them. Your bad behaviour reflects very poorly on us. We gave you a prime opportunity to turn your pathetic life around, and you completely messed it up.”
He lit another cigarette and pulled at it. Turning to Thomas again, he said, “If you want another chance, you will have to go all the way to the back of the line and wait your turn again. Even then, I don’t think we should stick our necks out for you. You have been a complete waste of the agency’s time and effort. If you came to Lagos to watch long bridges and flyovers, you can do that in the street.”
With that, Thomas reclaimed his credentials and once again found himself alone and desperate on the streets of Lagos.
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