Mr Ugboajah was in a sour mood this morning. His wife was at it again. The fool woman was always asking for money like it grew on trees. He swore as he eased into the traffic heading to his office, recalling how she had ambushed him as he was dressing up to leave, undeterred by the angry scowl on his face. It seemed his frowns and grumpy moods were no more effective in keeping her away. Maybe the woman needs a lesson to remember who was boss. So what if the children’s school feeswere a little late? It’s not like he wasn’t doing his best. The woman just did not appreciate him. Growing up as a child from a poor background, he had been sent home from school for lack of school fees on many occasions so he did not understand what the fuss was all about.
His lazy wife needed to get into the office, then maybe she would understand the pressures he was facing, how much it cost to keep up appearances at work. Just last month after buying the latest Rolex that everyone who was something were wearing, his boss had raised the standard again this month by coming into the office with the latest Ford Ranger. He groaned and honked angrily at the snail pace of the car in front of his, thinking of how he could buy the car and hide it from his wife.
The Rolex had caused a lot of nagging. “You’ve not paid the children’s fees yet you’re buying a Rolex….selfish man, greedy man…” his wife had said as she had seen the Rolex , clapping into his face and shouting for the neighbors to come and hear. The minute the salary hit his account this month, he was going toput a down payment on the car, just to spite her. How could that woman, who sit at home all day doing nothing but spend his hard earned money, dictate to him how to spend it? He wondered how he was going to manage to pay the school fees and still manage to buy car. Added tohis worries, his newest ‘sweet thing’ Mary had requested for money to buy some new clothes. He wondered just how much clothes would satisfy her.It seemed she needed new clothes every week.
MrUgboajah smiled gleefully as his mind strayed to the beautiful and luscious Mary. Mary was the kind of woman he adored; she had everything MrUgboajah loves in his women: she was tall, dark skinned and very curvy. Some unimaginative people would call her plump but that was just how he liked his women. His wife had been shaped like that when he met her. Only now, she was as fat as a drum. Her body was like a sack of potatoes and inspired no lusty thoughts in him. Making love to his wife these days were a chore. It has been a month since he touched her but he was not bothered about it. He had his sweet Mary to keep his bed warm every time he had a late meeting which happened frequently these days. After all, he reasoned, a man needs the sweet solace that only a woman’s body could provide. His wife seemed to understand this, turning a blind eye to his late nights and keeping a deaf ear to his calls. She had stopped going through his phone. Infact, she avoided his phone like the plague.
As he drove into the office complex, he smiled and waved at the security guard Rufus who was not just the company security but also served as an escort for his ‘guests’.MrUgboajah’s secretary had learnt to recognize these ‘guests’ escorted by Rufus. She never kept them waiting too long. She also collaborated his excuses to his wife anytime he had to ‘work late’. Of course this meant he had to give his secretary and Rufus the occasional ‘gift’ once in a while but it helped to oil the wheels of his little arrangement.
Climbing out of his car, he spied the crowd gathered at the front desk of the office and suddenly remembered that the company was conducting interviews that day. Looking at his watch, he groaned bitterly, knowing that the ‘lioness’ as he called MrsOkere, the human resource manager would be scolding him again.He opened the back door and withdrew his briefcase and jacket which he draped over his hand. Keeping a stern face, he walked into the office, increasing his pace to seem in a hurry. He felt the envious stares of the unemployed and smiled inwardly, flashing his hand so they could see his Rolex and increasing his stride to better reveal the shine of his expensive shoes as he crossed the lobby and started to climb the staircase to his office floor.
Nodding at his secretary, MrUgboajah walked into his office and set the briefcase on the table. He draped his jacket over his chair and sat down. Using the remote control, he cranked up the air conditioner, propped his legs on the table and put his hands over his head to better relax in his seat. The door opened slowly and his secretary walked in. Unfazed by his position, she dropped a stack of papers on his desk and said, “Mrs. Okere said you should see her immediately you get into the office”
Groaning inwardly, he signed. MrsOkere had on several occasions cautioned him on his tardiness. He didn’t like outspoken and stern women like her who were too rigid, based on supposed principles and integrity. She thought she was better than him, always scolding him like a little boy. The fact that she, a mere woman, was his boss, burned him on the inside.
He stood up reluctantly and sauntered to her office, a stiff sneeron his face. Her secretary made him wait for twenty minutes beforeshowing him into the office. He knew it was just a tactic to ruffle him. He entered her office and sat down without asking,looking around her office with envy. Her office was much bigger than his and he resented this. Mrs. Okere was busily typing at her system. He sat in several minutes of uncomfortable silence before she deigned it necessary to attend to him.
“You’re late” she said without looking up.
“There was abit of traffic this morning” he replied stiffly.
“Mr. Ugboajah, am aware that your house is a twenty minute drive away from this office so please come up with a better excuse for your tardiness” she still didn’t look up, her attention centered on the computer screen.
“Mrs. Okere, you know am a family man…” he started.
“MrUgboajah” she interrupted him as she sat up and removed her glasses, “ I am a married woman with four kids. You have a track record of tardiness which I have asked you to address. Your level of dedication and commitment to your work is appalling. Last week, you left the office before closing hour on three occasions. Let me remind you that this is a business and not your personal receiving area.” She frowned tightly as she said this. He wondered if she still remembered running into a scantily clad Mary going into his officethe previous week.
“No, Mr. Ugboajah, let me finish. Today we are conducting an interview of which you are a member of the board. You were supposed to be here by eight but you waltz in here at nine like you own the place. This lackadaisical behavior is not acceptable in this firm. I will personally take this up with the regional manager after the interviews today. That will be all. You may leave”
Well scolded and feeling like a little school boy before his principal, Mr. Ugboajah stood up slowly and turned to leave.
“The interviews commence in fifteen minutes. Don’t be late” Her voice rang out as he left the office, closing the door a little too loudly as a show of defiance.
Walking back to his office, his mind was filled with black thoughts. He shut his office door with a loud bang that startled his secretary. Fifteen minutes later, he walked out of his office into the interview room. With a grimace, he realized that he was the last to get there. The other board members were already seated including Mrs. Okere who gave him a frosty glare. He picked up the Assessment Table and pretended to study it. This was his first time in an interview room. He hadn’t being interviewed to get this job. His cousin, who had been the regional manager then, had simply collected his application letter and his CV, telling him to start work the following week although he heard that an interview had been conducted for the job. He figured it was his luck to have that connection. Afterall, who gets ahead in this country without connections? Nobody. Feeling slightly nervous, he held the Assesment Table, everything was a huge scramble for him. He turned to Mr. Ifeanyi sitting next to him.
“Been here before?” He asked with a smile.
“Mr. Ugboajah,” Mr. Ifeanyi shifted to face him. “What is my position in this company?”
“You’re the personnel manager.” Mrugboajah answered sheepishly. MrIfeanyi shook his head in condescension and went back to the paper in front of him.
What made him open his big mouth?MrUgboajah asked himself, mentally tapping his head in agitation.
The first interviewee, a young man in rumpled shirt, a trouser two sizes larger than his frame and a shoe that looked like it had seen better days, entered the office. He shut the door slowly and quietly, as if afraid to annoy the gods of interviews if he made too much noise. His shoes made a scruffy sound as he walked close to them. “Good afternoon ma, sir, sir, sir…” he said as he bowed low in greeting.
“Sit down.” MrsOkere said in her best headmistress voice, the one that sent little boys crying for their mummies.
The young man smiled tightly and sat down on half the seat, his back straightlike a rod. He placed his file on his lap, then held it with his arms, then placed it on his laps again.
“Tell us about yourself Mr Johnson.” Mrsokere asked, looking into the paper she held.
Mr Johnson nodded. “My name is Johnson Amadi, a native of Isuikwato local government area in Abia state. I attended Comprehensive Primary and secondary school where I was the head of….”
“Tell me why we should employ you for the job?” Mrsokereinterrupted.
“You should employ me because am a very hard working man ma. I work hard a lot. And am smart and funny ma. I don’t joke with my work. I don’t play with my work ma.” He bit his lip nervously.
“That will be all. You may leave now.” Mrsokere said. Mrugboajah leaned forward to look at her face. She didn’t seem impressed.
The next applicant walked in wearing a badly sewn skirt suit.
She hovered uncertainly at the door, calling out a timid “good morning” to no one in particular.
“Sit” Mrs Okere called out sharply. She obeyed like a puppy.
“Why should we hire you Miss….” Mrs okere said peering down at the paper she held.
“Joy ma” the young girl supplied. She began fiddling with her hand unconsciously. A moment elapsed. Mr Ugboajah could see the wheels in her head turning and coming up empty.
“Am waiting” Mrs Okere called out again, now peering at the girl through glasses perched precariously on her nose.
Joy swallowed audibly. Mr Ugboajah’s gaze strolled down to her chest. She wasn’t bad in the chest region. She just needed more at the back region. He noticed her chest rise and fall rapidly, increasing the pressure on her button. He imagined what would happen if the button gave way, his imaginations drowning out the girl’s answer. His mind had moved to far regions when the scraping of the chair as the girl stood up roused him. He sat straight and cleared his throat lightly. Mr Ifeanyi seated next to him shifted and looked at him, a look of disapproval on his face. Mr Ugboajah stifled the feeling of shame that rose up. The old goat, he thought angrily, with his long beard. Always acting as though a man should not enjoy the pleasures of life. He smiled viciously as he remembered the titbit of gossip Rufus the security had shared; Mr Ifeanyi had a thirty six year old mistress who had two children for him.
Then the next applicant entered. More like, made her entrance. The clicking of her stiletto heels was her first contact. Then came the fragrance of lilies, a strong sense of womanhood. Picking out Mrs Okere as the head of the herd, she walked boldly to the chair and sat down gracefully, arranging her skirt fanatically and calling out a greeting in a deep bold voice.
The look in her eyes could best be described as challenging, as though she was singing the lines from the popular song ‘hit me with your best shot’.
Mr Ugboajah surreptitiously leaned forward to peek at Mrs Okere, imagining her head going up in smoke at this new challenger. The smile and approval on Mrs Okere’s face sent him reeling back. She looked like she had just seen a friend, a new friend.
Mrs Okere asked the usual questions but it wasn’t until she mentioned Loveday, the interviewee’s Mastersdegree that his ears pecked up. The girl, Loveday, didn’t seem to be above thirty. She had the creamers look on her, like she was the one in charge. And even though he appreciated her generous bosom, he knew without a doubt this one would take his position in three months. She had that hungry devouring look in her eyes. And while Mr Ugboajahthought himself a cheap man, he also considered himself a wise man.
So when the interview ended and Mrs Okere began singing the lady’s praises, he said the smartest thing he could think of in that moment.
“But she’s a woman”
The whole table turned to look at him for a shocked minute, silence ringing loudly like an elephant in the room, making Mr Ugboajah bow his head in shame.
The disapproval in Mrs Okere’s face burned him, his entire body going hot. He endured the rest of the interview without saying a word, silently burning in rage.
He was right. She, that stupid bitch eying his job, was a bitch.
But how do you know she’s eye balling your job? A rational part of his mind questioned.
He just knew it. That girl was too ambitious, and now she had the support of Mrs Okere, who had the ear of Mr Ifeanyi. They would give her the job, he knew it. Just as surely as he knew that they would train her to replace him.
As he stormed all through his office the rest of the day, he could see his life, the life he had built for himself slipping through his fingers. The last retrenchment had seen the sack of fifty workers. Mr Ugboajah had to bribe a member of the committe to get his name off the sack list. And now this. No. It wouldn’t happen.
With determination, he strode to Mrs Okere’s office. Office hours were over and her secretary was nowhere in sight. Mrs Okereususlly was the last to leave. He banged a short knock then threw the door open.
There she sat, in her high, prim and proper chair, like a queen. Mr Ugboajah snorted, barely acknowledging the figure seated in the visitors seat, until she turned. Loveday. The two women looked at him, their eyes challenging, disdainful.
“What do you want Mr Ugboajah? How dare you barge into my office like that? Have you no respect?” Mrs Okere held her temple, then shook her head. “Never mind. You see this girl here,” she pointed too Loveday, “i’ll make sure she takes over your job. Yes. I’ll make sure she replaces you. Just get out of here.” Mrs Okere shouted, then turned back to Loveday, who looked amused, like she was enjoying the antics of a little boy throwing a tantrum.
Shame and humiliation filled Mr Ugboajah, rushing to his head.
And there he stood, rejected, scolded, humiliated. And that, in front of an….
Without thinking, Mr Ugboajah strode to Mrs Okere, picked up the black heavy statue of a pregnant woman on her desk and brought it hammering down on her head with all the anger in him.. Mrs. Okere never had the time to look up. Her head cracked open and blood spurted out all over the desk, some flew to his shirt.