“This is for you, and this for me. These two sticks for you, this one stick for me”
“ Why do you give me two sticks more and took one?”
“ What would I ever do to be fair?”
“ What you would ever do to be fair?—you should know”
“ I should know? I gave you two extra sticks and kept one and yet you are complaining”
“ So, in your heart, it was to be fair you gave me two extra sticks and kept one for yourself. Humm, good of you. I asked; if it were to be another thing beside cigarette, would you have given me more than you take?”
“Beside cigarette?- so, what was that thing I have ever cornered alone that were meant for both of us”
“That is exactly my point. Why didn’t you share these cigarettes equally too. Why always give me cigarette more than you take?”
“What are driving at?, are you insinuating that I want to kill you or what”
“I mean, if it were to be something that would add to health and life and not minus, would you have given me more than you take?”
Both light up while still arguing. Such scenario have became part and parcel of Mr. and Mrs. Elijah Eke's life since working in the Warehouse under the new manager. Not only that their co-workers, co-tenants have been wondering about the idea the couple picked up but, they have equally exported their new brand of life style back to their village from the city where their kins were the ones wondering most.
Both are secondary School dropouts, both have never been to any first class city before, both have never worked under any foreigner before and both have never worked under what you would call organized company before unless you considers working as goods loader, offloading and being a cleaner in a bonded warehouse as working under organized setting.
Mr. Elijah wasn’t a smoker before until he came in close contact with his new manager at the warehouse. His wife on the other hand had never worn trousers outside their house or tasted cigarette before until the new manager showed up. Now, she force herself inside a tight fitting trousers that market all her oversized cleavages and puff off at any opportunity both at home and in public.
The Ijaw man that is their new manager at the warehouse had been a smoker from his teens. In fact, the man was sent to their office in Onitsha as punishment from their head office in Lagos due to cigarettes. He is into it as if the thing is running out of fashion. He was even considered surplus to requirements at the head office but his years of doing his work well and spirit of esprit de corpse by some of his Co workers was reason he still exist as staff of the company. His cigarette smoking nearly burnt down the whole head office.
It all started one Tuesday morning when he had wandered from his office to the warehouse wing of the company while puffing off. The lorry that brought containers from the wharf had just arrived at the factory and the workers there had just started offloading the goods when he staggered with cigarette in hand from his accountant table to the warehouse section.
Whether cigarette is intoxicating like alcohol, I really can’t tell. How Mr. sunny the accountant did not noticed that the lorry was leaking gas, I really don’t know. He had dropped the butt of his finished stick and was lighting a new one when screaming from a lady managing the restaurant of the company beside the warehouse started. fire, fire, fire. The lorry had caught fire from the butt he dropped under it.
Commotion ensued. People out of fear was running helter-skelter, the lady seems to have been rooted on the spot shouting non-stop on top of her voice, the workers inside the warehouse were competing for escape route with each other even the staffs at the white collar section were not left out in the melee. All were running towards the gate and most didn’t even know why the fire alarm was on or where it was coming from. They were rushing out of the company gate like mad. Mr. Sunny like the screaming woman was rooted at the spot near the burning lorry until the driver and two security men had to push him to the side and went to work of putting off the fire.
After the commotion have died down, the fuming manager seems to have cooled down a bit after learning of what happened and who was behind it. He called Mr. Sunny into his office and started talking in a voice Sunny was noticing for the first time despite haven known the man for five years. The type of low voice parents with a wayward kid use to admonish a kid that threat and cane have not been able to tame and were eager trying out the method a dear psychologist recommended.
“ Mr. Sunny, we thank God that no one was hurt in the incident. We are sure that it was Satan at work there. But he only succeeded in emptying our pocket a little. But Mr. Sunny, what do you say was your mission in that section when you should be in your office. What was the excursion for?”
“ Ah, sir, I am very sorry for that accident. Am really very sorry. I went there to talk to the warehouse manager, I haven’t even entered the building when it all happened”
They kept talking for about one hour and the manager kept observing him and his gesticulations. In fact, it was as if it was the first time he was seeing Mr. Sunny for the first time. He noticed that the man lips had their own unique colors courtesy of cigarettes, noticed that the man has this special way of doing more talking with his hands than mouth, realized that he can’t even sit steady for two minutes without squirming. He was wondering why he had missed the signs for long. He promised that moment to pay more attention to his staffs. It pays to notice the tell tales on time.
“Emm, Mr. Sunny, you had been with us for long and been working hard all those years, we have decided to post you to our Branch at Onitsha. The manager there is not performing. We have decided to pay more attention to him by sending him here. You have to go and organize that branch well. You would be leaving in three days time. You talent is needed there”
The way the words were dropping out of the man mouth made Mr. Sunny to swallow the objection that had risen to his mouth. He eyed the man wondering who this “we” he kept using comprises. He concluded that any other words from him outside concurring to the man's suggestions would be tantamount to committing suicide. He swears that he saw disappointment on the managers face when he accepted his suggestion. He smiled and thank him for having faith in him.
That was how Mr. Sunny ended up in Onitsha. The first day he arrived there, he was disoriented even from the point he entered the city. He had known that he was being demoted but to have been sent to garbage they call branch was highly disconcerting. His salary wasn’t tampered with but for sure he was two lungs down with his previous position in the company all due to cigarette.
The look and smirk on the face of the man handing over to him hurt the most. The man had eyed him from head to toe and smiled to himself. He had shown him around the garbage and gathered the few staffs there to introduce them to their new manager. That was the day Mr. Sunny after observing the staffs narrowed his attention to Mr. Elijah and was surprised to realized that his wife works there too. He considered them the best organized of all.
For sure, they were the best from the bunch. They were highly erected to be important in new order of things in the warehouse and they also picked up smoking from the new manager to belong. And that was how a loader and sweeper became helpless to nicotine like their new friend.
Mr. Sunny now in charge of events and answerable to on one started buying cigarettes in packets and occasionally handing some packets to his new right handyman who in turn never hesitate to share with his missus. Mr. Elijah became headman to his fellow workers and his wife shifted to the kitchen section. They have really moved up in order of things in the warehouse. That particular day had been their loot sharing day after work.
“ If you felt that I want you dead through cigarette or something, you can always return them to me or even quit altogether”
“ Yeah, am considering picking up a new addiction. Drinking I think is better than smoking. Have you saved enough to support that my ambition?”
The man eyed her with hatred that can melt ice as they moved towards their beat up Beatle.