Short Stories, Tale Africa

As Bad a Day as This (Continued)

By Fungai Chigumbura, Zimbabwe:

I woke up sometime later, on the sidewalk, surrounded by frantic people who all wore looks of concern on their medium to low income faces. It took a moment for me to register that those looks were for me. I sat up, my head spinning fast enough to out-cycle a tumble dryer. I checked all my extremities; nothing broken. That was good. There was something warm and sticky trickling down my face. I used a shard of glass as a mirror and discovered a cut just above my hairline. It had been thankfully inches away from my perfect face and not bleeding too uncontrollably. I scrambled to my feet and looked at my watch as I pulled out a handkerchief with my non-diamond watch laden hand. I was still on time; it seems I had passed out for only a relatively short period. I pressed the handkerchief to my cut and frantically made my way down the street, much to the bewilderment and disbelief of the gathered crowd who all advised me to wait for an ambulance and the police. I wobbled to the nearest bus stop and looked back at the wreckage of my glorious car. No matter, I would soon be able to buy a hundred of those.

A few of the people who had gathered around the accident scene followed me and tried to dissuade me from leaving, but I boarded the first bus that came along. The bus driver gave me a very puzzled look, but resisted the temptation to ask. He looked the worse for wear himself, something I chalked up to the stresses of being a poor civil servant. I rested my head against he window and looked out at the streets. The bus was moving rather unsteadily, but that was to be expected of public transportation. I got down at a stop a few streets away from my office building, and walked the rest of the way. I took the elevator to my floor and stopped in the men's room to sort myself out. After composing myself and reminding myself that my iniquity was soon to pay off, I made my way to my office, wearing my signature smile.

I was stopped short by the most terrifying sight a man in my position could ever come across – government tax officials! I stood rooted to the spot, trying to imagine why they would be here today of all days. An arm around my shoulder pulled me to the side. It was my Chief Financial Officer and he hurriedly explained to me that the company we were to merge with had found irregularities in our books and had forwarded the records to the relevant officials as was mandatory by financial law. The taxman had apparently discovered irregularities dating back a few years and was very interested in talking to my executives and me. I told him to lead the way and that I would be following right behind him. As soon as he turned his back, I headed in the opposite direction, back the way I had come. I frantically dialed a number on my cell phone and a sultry female voice answered me. It was my girlfriend and I hurriedly told her to pack her bags and be ready to leave in half an hour. I snapped at her when she tried to ask me for more details, telling her to be a good whore and do as she was told

Outside the building, I stopped a taxi and instructed the driver to make his way to my address as quickly as possible. As he drove along, he cracked a joke and smiled at his own witticism. I ignored the joke itself, but no amount of stressful contemplation could have stopped me from recognizing that dazzling, familiar smile which had adorned my wall for years and years.
I dashed out as soon the car stopped, too busy to notice the two cars parked by the gate. The sight that greeted me in the kitchen stopped me in my tracks for the second time that day. My wife was standing in the middle of the kitchen with two uniformed police officers. My heart was racing. How had the tax officials made it here so fast? Something in the younger officer's hands caught my attention. It was my car keys, and it dawned on me that they were here to talk about the accident. My wife had a concerned look on her face as she explained to me that the police officers were here to question me about the accident. I took off my jacket and put it on the kitchen counter and directed the officers to the lounge. I had to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

The officers asked me some routine questions and the interview proceeded along. They had determined from eye witness accounts that I had  been in the wrong as I had apparently driven past a “STOP” sign, and they reprimanded me for leaving the accident site and stated that I had to come down to the station with them. As I was thinking of the most subtle way to suggest a bribe to them, my cell phone rang in my jacket pocket. Before I could get up to get the call, my wife answered it for me. It soon became apparent to me whom she was talking to from her end of the conversation alone. Suddenly, the prospect of going down to the police station didn't seem so bad after all, if it meant even a temporary escape from the impending domestic storm.

As I walked back into the kitchen with the officers, there was a knock at the door, which my wife opened to usher in even more bad news. As I stood there, I looked from the tax men in the doorway, to my wife still on the phone with my girlfriend and whose looks had  murdered me a dozen times already and at the police officers behind me waiting to take me to the police station. In that moment, with everyone's eyes fixed on me, no matter how silent a shot fate let off, it would have sounded like a cannon blast.

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