Josh watched on as the wife tried to convince her husband to follow her home.
‘Please, let us go now.’, The wife pleaded.
But the husband just shrugged her off and ordered another bottle of beer.
Josh was on the one and only bottle he’s got for the night. Trying to sip it slowly and make it last until he was ready to go. Or until a good samaritan buys him another.
He smiled as he looked at the label of his only drink for the day.
‘MALTA Guiness’ with the blue ‘NB’ logo of the Nigerian Breweries written below it.
Funny. This time last year he was drinking another product from the same bottling company.
Only that was the big Guiness stout.
‘The good old days’, he thought.
Now, all he could manage was this cheap non-alcoholic drink.
Josh shook his head in self-pity as the story of his life rolled before his eyes.
He took another sip of the harmless drink before drowning himself in another bout of self-pity.
Even this one pantry drink was bought for him.
His once bottomless box of money was now empty.
His rent had expired since six months ago.
He smiled as he remembered the promise his landlord made to him just that morning.
‘If you are still here tomorrow morning, I am going to send thugs to beat the hell out of you, then I will go ahead and call the Police to arrest you.’
He laughed out loud as he remembered the many times he had patted the same landlord on the back on many of the countless occasions he had bought free drinks for him in this same bar.
‘The good old days’, he said to himself as he laughed out loud again.
No one even bothered to look at him at the bar. They were now accoustomed to his sudden and loud laughters.
Josh was still preparing to delve into another pitiable story of his life when the man’s wife shouted at the top of her voice.
‘LET US GO HOME NOW!’
He looked on as the husband motioned on the bar owner,
‘Madam! Give me seven more bottles, serve everybody rouuuund!’
The wife shouted and scratched at the man’s shirt as the bar owner rushed quickly to do the husband’s bidding.
‘Serve everybody round, do as he says’, the woman who owns the bar told her salesgirls.
‘Please madam, don’t mind him, he is out of his senses’, the wife tried to appeal to the woman’s emotions.
The owner shrugged her arms away from the wife and ran to bring the seven bottles her husband ordered.
Josh smiled as he could see himself in the husband.
This time last year, he too was ordering drinks for everybody, including his useless landlord.
On the nights he didn’t feel like drinking, he generally ordered three bottles of Trophy, three bottles of Big stout and three bottles of Star beer; with five snails in the pepper soup.
Josh smiled again as he remembered his ‘good old days’.
Those were the days he was the talk of the town. The days he was popular in the streets.
‘Josh Dollars’, people usually called him when they needed money.
And he never turned a man away.
‘Well, at least I am reaping the reward’, he said to himself.
‘There is always someone to buy a drink for me even though I’ve been utterly broke for some months now’.
If not that he now hates all and any alcoholic drinks, he would have had anything from Trophy to Gulder.
There was always someone to pay for just a single drink.
‘If only one of them could pay for my rent’.
‘I don’t even want them to pay anyway.’
‘It all ends tonight’. He said as he felt the cold end of the short pistol carefully placed on the band of his trousers.
His Malt was now almost finished and he watched around to see if another of his friends was around.
‘Friends!’; he spit the words out of his mouth.
He was still looking around when he spotted the shouting wife now sitting on the floor, leaning against a car.
Her formerly well-kept hair was now so rough and her clothers were becoming dusty.
‘What is this woman’s problem?’, Josh asked no one in particular.
‘Is he the only man in this world? She should leave him be abeg’.
‘Why do people even get marry? Some say it is because of love’
‘I thank God I didn’t marry’
‘Mtcheew! Love!’ He scorned the word.
‘Love’; he caressed the word this time as he remembered her.
She was the only lady she ever trust enough to love. She seemed now a mere long and forgotten memory.
Sometimes, he wonders if he was the same man that loved her.
He smiled as he remembered the good times they spent together. Those were days before he knew Alcohol. Days before he knew the world to be cruel.
‘Innocent days’ he said out loud.
‘Pleeeease! Someone should help me ooout!’, the wife’s shout rudely brought Josh from his deep and sweet thought.
He was angry at the disturbance.
He stood up then and strolled towards the car the woman was sitting against.
‘Woman! You are disturbing us!’
‘What is your problem’.
‘Please sir, I am very sorry sir’.
‘It is my husband’, she said as she pointed to her husband.
‘He wants to ruin our family’.
Josh had never liked to hear stories but something told him to listen to the woman. Maybe it was the thought of his very own imminent death, no one knows.
‘Settle down and tell me the full story’.
‘Okay. Thank you very much sir’. The woman was grateful that someone was helping.
‘He is my husband’, the woman started.
‘We have been struggling to survive for the past seven years when he stopped working.
Ever since then, he has been processing his pensions, all to no avail.
We have three of our children in the University and two of them have not paid a single session’s school fee even though they
are in their 3rd year.’
‘This morning, my husband got a call that his pension was among the ones newly paid by the Federal Government’.
‘We thought it was all a lie, and then I followed him to the Ministry where the money was processed.
We filled so many forms and this afternoon, two million naira was sent to my husband’s account.
‘His pension was really paid!’
‘So what’s the problem?’ Josh was now getting impatient.
Here he was, living on scraps and another man is making millions.
‘Sir, you have to help me. We were returning home from bank when my husband saw this bar and told me we should celebrate a little’.
‘I didn’t want to agree but he insisted’
‘Now, the owner-woman told me my husband has spent about 30,000 naira already.
‘Ah! 30, 000 naira!
‘Just within the fifteen minutes we have spent’
‘And my husband is telling me we will only spend one hour here.
‘One hour, sir! Do you know how much we will spend within one hour?!’
‘The money will be gone by then sir!’
‘Please help me!’
‘Please help me convince him!’
‘Help me sir!’
Josh shook his head. It seems the woman just narrated his own life’s story.
He was silent and solemn as the painful memory came rushing back.
It was two years ago.
He woke that morning still angry at his father for kicking against his proposed marriage to Mary and feeling he had to have a place of his own.
His father, being the richest man in their town, always keeps large cash at home.
He remembered how he went to his dad’s room and took the briefcase containing five million and ran away from home. Not even saying ‘goodbye’ to his loving mother or any of his siblings.
He remebered how he went to her house and asked her to run away with him.
‘Mary, come with me! We have all we need’, he told her that fateful day.
But when he told her how he got the money, Mary’s face fell and she shook her head.
‘Don’t do this Josh’
‘Don’t run away’.
‘We love you here.’
‘Why will you want to throw all that away?’.
But Josh didn’t heed to any of her warnings. He held her hands one last time and turned away, never to turn back home since.
If only he knew how he would miss her, maybe he would not have left.
But he threw all that away. Threw away the loves they all showed him just to have a taste of the wilder part of life.
And he got more than a taste; he ate the wild world until the world consumed him.
And now, here was this woman, telling him his husband is about to go down that same road. Only that this man has greater responsibilites. He has mouth to feed.
‘It’s none of my concern’. Josh wanted to tell the woman.
But the tears and helpless look on the woman’s face moved something in him.
‘I might have thrown away my life but I won’t let this man do the same.’ He told himself.
‘Let me do some good before I end it all’.
Josh moved with long strides towards the man and told him without any question,
‘Mr man! You have had enough! You are going home now.’
‘Who are you to talk to me that way?’
‘I am the person you and your children will turn to if you do not leave this hell of a place this instant.
And I’m not pleading with you. I am commanding you.
If you do not stand up, I will bundle you into that car and drive you home myself; dead or alive’.
The man was too stunned to talk.
Josh dipped his hand in the husband’s pockets, brought out a roll of neat and new cash,
‘How much is his bill madam?’, he asked the bar-owner.
She was angry to lose a customer but still managed to grumble,
‘Josh-Dollar, I don’t like this o, how will you pursue my customers at my bar?’
‘Madam, have pity on the wife! How much is his bill?’
‘Forty thousand naira’. Madam answered him; casting a side look at the wife.
Josh counted 40 out of the roll and hand it to the woman.
‘That’s your money!’
‘Now, Mr. Man! It is time for you to go home!’.
Practically pushing the man, Josh led him away from the bar with his wife picking his car key and wallet as they fell from his staggering body.
‘Thank you sir’
The husband said when they reached the car.
‘I know what you have done. Thank you for saving me from myself.’
The wife entered into the driver’s seat after profusely thanking Josh.
‘Sir, you have saved our whole family’.
‘We owe our children’s future to you.’
‘Thank you sir’
‘I am sure you are an angel of God’.
Josh laughed at the encomiums being rained on his damned soul.
‘Start the engine, woman!’. He commanded.
‘Don’t tarry a little longer’.
‘Don’t stop anywhere on the way. Run home.’
‘Live a beautiful life.’
‘Don’t look back.’
Tears flowed from Josh’s eyes has he wished someone had given him the same advice in his time.
‘Run home’, he cried again through tears.
‘Don’t end up like me!’.
The wife just looked on in tears too; both of gratitude and pity.
‘Thank you sir. I don’t know your own story. But as you have saved my family. I am sure there is still a chance for you too’.
‘Don’t give up yet. You are a good man’.
Josh smiled in pity as tears flowed from his eyes.
No one had called him a good man ever since his money finished.
‘Thanks very much for that’; he managed to say between his sobs.
‘No. Thank you for saving us.’, the woman said through tears as she started the car engine.
Looking at the tattered shoes Josh was wearing, the woman handed her 2000 naira.
‘This is my own money. That is all I have. Please take it.’
‘I know my husband has hidden the Pension money and he is already asleep from the alcohol’
‘So, please take that and I will be back to properly thank you.’
‘Thank you once again.’
Josh just stood there with tears flowing down his eyes as the car left and disappeared into the corner.
He waved his hand at the woman.
No one had given him free cash in three months.
He had been begging for food and water.
It was only at night at the bar that people remembered to buy him drink.
Josh shook his head as he was once again cast back to the past.
‘I must end this sorry life once and for all’, he said.
Teary-eyed, he struggled into his one-room apartment.
To think he was living in the flat before his money finished and the landlord forced him to take the one room or leave the building.
It was thick black in the room but he felt the walls until his leg hit the mat laid on the ground.
He knelt on the mat and wept once more.
‘You are a good man. Don’t give up. You still have a chance’. These words of the woman kept ringing in his mind.
He brought out the gun kept in his trousers and looked at it.
‘What chance do I have again?’ he thought.
‘Even my father has written me off’
Although he had never bothered to open the letter his father sent to him about a year ago, he was sure of the content.
His father had sent people to prison for embezzling only 20,000 of his Company’s money.
How much more five million.
‘How did he even get the address to send this letter to?’, Josh asked himself as he brought out the letter from his breast pocket.
He had kept the letter without reading. He always put it in his pocket every morning as the letter now represented the last ties he had to his family; his home.
Fresh tears pushed their way out of his eyes as he remembered all he had lost.
He look between the gun on his left hand and the worn letter on his right hand and shook his head.
‘I can’t bear it anymore’.
He checked the gun for the single bullet in it and laid it down.
He opened the letter to receive the last blow from his father condemning him to his death.
‘I deserved it’. He said to himself.
‘I have failed all who loved me’.
‘I have disappointed everyone I love’.
With shaking hands, he opened the letter and with teary eyes, read the writing.
There were only five lines in the letter.
Only thirteen words.
‘ALL IS FORGIVEN’
‘WE MISS YOU’
‘WE LOVE YOU’
It was signed,
‘Loving you forever, Dad and Mum.
And on the last line.
‘And Mary’ was written.
Josh cried until the gun fell from his hands.
‘One year, I have been living like this.
And they had been waiting.
All waiting for me’.
He opened the letter again, smiled and cried again as he remembered all he had done and all he had suffered.
‘It’s all over now’.
‘They still love me. They still want me.’
Josh sobbed as he read the letter again; lingering on the line that says
‘I can’t wait. I must not delay’.
‘I will use the 2000 naira the woman gave me to travel home’.
Josh wiped more tears from his eyes as he remembering the words of the woman, ‘You still have a chance’.
‘Thank God for that woman’.
‘I must leave this very night’.
‘I must not waste a single second’.
Josh looked around and all he could see were tattered and worn belongings that reminded him of the regretful life he had lived.
He decided there is nothing to take with him and walked to the door.
With the letter on his right hand and the 2000 naira now on his left hand, he opened the door.
Glancing back for the last time, he cast a final look round the room and shouted.
‘I am gone!’
‘They are waiting for me!’
‘They still love me!’
‘And Mary too…’ Josh smiled and closed the door as he headed to a long forgotten home.
SAVING THE LOST
Josh watched on as the wife tried to convince her husband to follow her home.