Sunday, 19 November 2017

Folly In Broad Daylight

“Hey you! Look here”, he addressed the cashier in a menacing tone whilst showing her the content of his duffel bag. Her jaws dropped open and she covered her mouth to stifle an emerging scream. The young man had a gun in the bag. By the looks of it, it was a locally-manufactured pistol. He looked at her name tag. It had Agnes written on it. “Agnes, if you love your life, you will not shout or call out to anybody. You know what to do. Pack all the sales you have made today in this bag”, he ordered whilst throwing her the duffel bag. He had now surreptitiously taken the pistol out. He held it in his right hand, concealed underneath his shirt. He was trying to avoid the CCTV camera that hung directly above the cashier’s head.

She took the bag and reluctantly started filling it. Her assailant noticed her unhurried pace and threw her a deadly look. “You don’t want to mess with me girl!” he warned, his voice revealing a tone tinged with anger. The cashier quickened her pace out of fear for her life. The robber threw his eyes around, drinking in his surroundings in a quick sweep across the shop. It was a week day at Shoprite at the West Hills Mall and the place was not as busy as it often was. He had shrewdly decided to accost the farthest cashier so there weren’t any customers coming towards their end. He silently prayed that this girl would quickly do his bidding so he could get out of the shop. At the other end of the shop, he spotted a young couple. From the intensity of the passion in their body language and how they couldn’t let go of each other, he guessed that they were unmarried. Only unmarried people would do that in Ghana, he thought to himself. They will be all over each other during courtship, and after they got married they will start walking hundred meters apart. He shook his head.

The girl’s demeanor reminded him of his Ayisha, the love of his life. This one was a bit shorter. His Ayisha was tall, slender, fair and blessed with curves that could compete with even the most shapely Coca Cola bottle. She exuded an aura of pure sophistication. He always beamed with pride anytime they walked together and men threw furtive glances at her. The thought of her made him smile. He pinched himself, suddenly realizing that this was not the time and place for reminiscing about his girlfriend. He turned to see if Agnes had finished her forced assignment. Someone screamed his name “Nii Quaye!” His heart missed a bit.

Nii Quaye’s composure belied the trepidation in his heart. He wished he could vanish from the shop that very moment. He couldn’t decide whether to pretend that he didn’t hear his name or to turn and identify his caller. Agnes, the cashier, had stopped filling Nii Quaye’s duffel bag to watch the unfolding spectacle. She noticed his hesitation and confusion. He glared at her and she quickly went back to her chore. Agnes’ eyes began to fill with tears. It was her first day at work. She had never done any work in her life. She had been forced to find a job because she badly needed to raise money to go to nursing school.

Since her father passed away three years ago, life has been a struggle for her and her mother. Her father had been a rich man who provided everything they needed. Even her mother had had to do no work. Now they had to hustle to make ends meet. Her uncle who had publicly promised to take care of them amidst cheers from the family had driven her out when she went to see him for help. He obviously had no intention of keeping that promise. As she thought about this, she fought back her tears. Her father’s demise had taught her harshly that the children of the rich must not build their lives around their father’s wealth because you never know when it will be no more. Aware of the tears streaming down her eyes, she couldn’t bear to raise her head to look at her cruel assailant. She was weak, she knew but she wasn’t going to announce that to the world especially not to this incorrigible young man who had suddenly broken into her world.

Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw him walking towards the person who had called him. Nii Quaye had decided to meet up with his caller rather than allow him to come spoil his party. He walked just a few meters from the cashier and met the male voice that had called him. “Hello!” he said haltingly. “Oh you can’t make me out?” his intruder asked. “This is Frederick, your mate from primary school” he announced. Recognition suddenly hit Nii Quaye. This was his arch rival from primary school. They had competed for the first position spot term after term. “Wow! Fredrick!!! This is an amazing surprise!” he responded in sincere astonishment. His fear had suddenly evaporated. He hugged his friend in a warm embrace and patted him on the back. Nii still held the pistol underneath his shirt.

Frederick had grown into a handsome young man. He didn’t use to be that handsome back in school. Nii Quaye remembered that the only reason the girls had been nice to him was in order to curry favor with him to help with their class assignments. “So what have you been up to?” Nii asked, evidently surprised at his friend’s comely appearance. His TM Lewin shirt sparkled in the daylight. “Well, after high school, I became a pupil teacher contrary to my initial ambition of becoming a lawyer. After teaching for a while, I discovered that I was actually passionate about education. So I started a school in my father’s house with two of his bedrooms. My school grew quickly and I moved out to my own location, and this is how far we have come. You know, those who told us that we had to become doctors, lawyers or engineers before we could be seen as successful did not have a full appreciation of the facts. I have learned that in this life, it is not what you do that makes you successful. It is how you do it. You can be a lawyer and not be a great or rich one. But you can be a teacher and shine brightly in the world. It’s not really about which career path you take but about how passionate you are about it and the commitment you make to it to excel.”

Nii looked at his former mate. He had not only grown in height. He had also grown in wisdom. Behind him, he heard a crash. Agnes had jumped the counter and had taken to her heels. Nii gave chase. Frederick’s jaws dropped befuddled by the spectacle unfolding before his eyes. The Shoprite shop at the West Hills Mall was a sight to behold that afternoon. Agnes was swift on her legs. Her intention was to alert the cashier in till No.2 just close to her. But her assailant had seen her and given chase. The sight of the pistol still freshly imprinted on her mind inspired her to take to her heels. Just 5 seconds after eloping from her position at till No. 1 she was now at 13. Her lightweight and slender body made her very agile. She had started screaming as soon as she noticed her assailant on her heels. She narrowly dodged the basket of Glutagon macaroni in the center of the aisle close till No. 14. She took it and hurled it at Nii Quaye who was fast on her heels.

By this time, personnel of Omega Risk Solutions whose job it was to maintain security in the shop had noticed the com motion and had also given chase. One of the security men who stood in between till 12 and 13 was the first to join the fray. He screamed “Hey! Hey!” at Nii. When Nii didn’t stop, he intensified his pace and went after him. Nii Quaye who had now noticed his change of status from the pursuer to the pursued became even more ferocious. He ducked into the kitchen shop section of the shop. He lurched at the first thing he could get his hands on, a blender, and threw it at the security man behind him. The vertically challenged man noticed the oncoming object and quickly dodged. His colleague who had also joined the chase was not as lucky. It hit him right on the head and he tripped and fell clutching painfully at his head. Nii Quaye emerged at the hot foods stand and took the left turn and crashed into another security man who was lying in wait for him in the aisle right in front of the seafood stand. He asserted his stocky body and knocked the man down. His helpless victim fell on the tile with a thud.

He reached a box carrying several bottles of Marula Fruit liquer and hurled it at another security man who had emerged immediately from the delicatessen side of the shop. Unlike his colleague, he noticed Nii Quaye’s swift action and escaped the impending assault thereby falling flat on his stomach by the boxes of Fruitree juice packed in front of the delicatessen. He reached the next box which carried bottles of Oakbridge and picked one to serve as a make-shift weapon. He didn’t have enough bravado to use his gun. The merchandisers at the butchery who had witnessed the attack on the two security men ducked under the counter for fear of being attacked by the rampaging man who had suddenly tore lose in their shop. By this time, the manager of the shop had heard of the commotion and come out of his office. He was a tall heavily built man with a deep voice.

After watching the spectacle briefly he understood what was going on and loudly ordered. “Close the doors! Jacob, close the doors!” he shouted at the security man who stood at the middle of the main entrance to the shop. “I will deal with this vagabond. Onyim me ehu? He doesn’t know who he is trifling with. Festus call the Reinforcement team!” he barked at another security man who stood by the drink Kiosk. “Sir, should I call the CIDs or the reinforcement team?” he enquired. “I said call the Reinforcement team. I have to give this guy a few slaps before the police arrive”, he barked angrily. Jacob locked the doors as Festus run out talking on his walkie talkie. Nii Quaye had a war on his hands.

After Frederick’s jaws dropped open after Nii Quaye took off after the young cashier, it took a while for it to close up. His reaction was one of utter bewilderment. After a few minutes of watching the chase and the havoc that followed in its wake, understanding filled his face. He realized he had crashed Nii Quaye’s party. His former classmate was on a robbery mission and he had unsolicitedly given occasion for his victim to escape. It had broken his heart to discover that his old friend had grown without any scruple. How could such a bright chap turn out this way? He wondered why his brief yet profound conversation with him had not turned him. He shook his head. There are many people who come in contact with wisdom on a regular basis but are not transformed, he thought to himself. Well, when a person spends their entire life growing with a particular value system, a brief encounter is not enough to overhaul that system, he philosophically concluded.

He looked on as Nii Quaye diddled and doodled across the shop with the security men on his heels. Agnes, who had cowered into a corner of the shop, had broken into tears. Her shock was palpable. It was a first day at work that she would never forget in many years to come. When the thought that this wouldn’t have happened if her dad was still alive crossed her mind, it provoked even more tears to flow. A voice in her head broke through the train of her thoughts. Your Dad is gone, will wallowing in self-pity bring him back? What do you think will become of your life if you continue living this way? Spending too much time mourning over your losses does not give you any gain. You only incur more losses, the voice said. The thought of having a dull life inspired a positive fear. Without warning, she got up and dusted her uniform. Her sudden spiritedness surprised even she herself. She wasn’t going to allow self-pity to rid her of an opportunity to make a life for herself. She wiped her tears, crossed her hands across her bust, assumed an erect posture and looked on with a determined expression as the pursuit of Nii Quaye continued.

Nii Quaye run as fast as he could in between the shelves. He had learned through his reconnaissance efforts a few days ago that there was an emergency exit at the back of the kitchen. He headed for it. Just as he emerged from behind the delicatessen he crashed into some shoppers who had stopped to watch the ensuing spectacle. It was his girlfriend, Ayisha. She was with a short stocky pot-bellied man. Nii Quaye fell on the shop floor clutching his heart. He was more pained by the sight of his girlfriend with another man than from the impact of his skull on the hard tile. He laid on the floor, his spirit was spent, not so much from the chase but from this unsightly encounter that he would prefer not to open his eyes to see. Ayesha’s heart jumped when it all became clear to her that the robber who was being chased around the shop was her boyfriend. Her shock turned to repulsion then to anger. “Nii, what are you doing here?” she asked in halting Ga. The anger she felt choked her words from pouring out. “You came to rob a shop? What’s wrong with you? Are you out of your mind?”

She had now found her voice and was lashing at the culprit with unbridled passion. “You know him?” her companion queried. Nii laid on the floor unable to move. The security men had now caught up with him. One of them who had been hit by Nii’s makeshift weapons rushed him and kicked him in the groin. He kicked him three times in rapid succession and reached out for an item on the shelf to continue his assault. Ayesha begged that her lover be spared from the brutalities. Tears began to stream down her face. “But what would make you do this, Nii?” she asked. “Who is that man you are with, Ayesha? 3h? Who is he? You are always coming home with new items. How do I know is not a man who is buying them? How do I know, tell me? If a man keeps buying stuff like that for you, what should I do? How can I compete? I decided to look for money to match him boot for boot. So don’t blame me for this. It’s on you. It’s all on you!” he said, his eyes looking red with anger. By this time, a crowd had gathered to watching the ensuing spectacle. Everyone looked on with keen interest. Even the shop’s Manager who had been seething with anger and had sworn to deal with Nii Quaye had now calmed down. This looked like an interesting drama and he couldn’t help but watch to see its climax.

Ayesha’s companion stood utterly befuddled by the unfolding event. “Don’t put this on me, Nii. Don’t put this on me. You can’t go about life blaming people for the choices you make. You are responsible for what you have done today. It’s you! This is Mr. Amartey, my boss. I’m his PA so I get to do lots of shopping for him and he kindheartedly makes me do some for myself. He is my boss and Allah knows that there is nothing going on between us. If you suspected anything, why didn’t you ask me? Why come rob a shop to impress me? What could have gotten into you to make you do that?” she lamented.

She broke into tears just when her words ended. Nii had his head bent towards the ground. His old school mate who had joined the crowd and spoke. “Aaba, Nii! Distrust and suspicion can hurt a relationship really badly. Whatever you don’t understand, ask for explanation. Now see where it has ended you”. He turned to Ayesha. “You are not to blame for his actions. But you could have prevented this from happening somewhat. A lack of transparency breeds suspicion. We can avoid so much trouble if only we can be transparent and sincere. If you had volunteered this information earlier, this might could have been prevented”, he sagely concluded. The reinforcement team arrived and put Nii in hand cuffs. He was on his way to the police station.

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