Wednesday, September 24, 2014

TO THE EDITOR, THE NEW YORKER

PO BOX 37684
BOONE IA 50037-2684

If I was president. Let’s start there on account of how everyone calls me ‘presido’ here. If I was president I would only have affairs with married women or other very powerful women. Not that I find the whole affair business agreeable. Quite the contrary, no one knows the pain more than me. It’s just that I finished reading this old issue of TIME Magazine about Clinton and that young girl who nearly got him kicked out of office. Clinton is a foolish man I tell you, to be getting involved with someone who has nothing to lose. Everyone knows the safest affairs for married men are those conducted with married women. You want to know how much of a mess we are in? Just do a DNA test for all children. Ha! Big trouble everywhere.
            By the way, that stupid Lateef who brought me the old, torn and oil-stained magazine thinks I don’t realize the magazine is from many years ago. They might say I am crazy but I know my dates.
Lateef is one of the four attendants in our dorm. I insist on calling it a dorm instead of a ward because it feels like boarding school. Sit here. Sit there. Swallow this. Sleep at so and so time. Anyway Lateef, some days he treats me well, some days he talks to me like a proper human being, other days he thinks I am stupid and brings newspapers and magazines from the last millennium. But I trust him because he keeps a moustache.
Men who shave their moustaches are not good people- they have something to hide. Look at them, Clinton, Babangida, Abacha, Bush, Mugabe and the pastor whose children called me daddy for 10 years. All shady guys. You are an editor so I figure you are smart. Do the research and you will see I am right not to trust them.
Dear editor, do you keep a moustache? Don’t get me wrong, it is not a hopeless situation if you don’t. Look at our last military Head of State, Abdulsalam. A soldier in the same gang of corrupt coup-plotting moustacheless soldiers. But when he handed over, he did the respectable thing- he grew a moustache and beard. Have you ever heard him in the news saying the sort of stupid things that our clean-shaven ex-Heads of State say? No! It’s the moustache I tell you. On the other hand, editor, our former President Obasanjo, used to keep a moustache. He used to be sensible. But then he shaved. And shaved all his sense away.
As you may have guessed, I keep a moustache. I didn’t always have one. But since I came here, (I have had plenty time to think about these things) I figured it all out. I blame some of my problems on it. Now I am wiser.
Yes, back to Lateef. I think I trust him. I may not be able to count on him for up-to-date magazines, but I can get good answers from him. It was he who explained this ‘presido’ business to me. He said when I was first brought here I kept shouting, ‘I am the President! I am the President!’ Me, I don’t remember anything about it, but then that period was not a good period for me. I could have said anything. Hell, I killed the damn Pastor. That’s most of what I remember. My head bursting with voices when I laid eyes on him. My body drenched in sweat. A feverish cold all over me. ‘Kill the Pastor! Kill the man without a moustache,’ was all I could hear. So I strangled the man.
Apart from Lateef there are three other attendants in this dorm, each in a different shift. There are the two Kunle’s. The one with a huge stomach, dirty cracks in his heels, and fat stubby fingers we call Big Kunle. The other one is small, wears glasses and has lips, pink like they were once burnt by fire. Small Kunle.
I don’t like Big Kunle. Not because of his dirty cracked heels or dirty nails. Not because he shouts at us a lot. He masturbates in his office when he is on night duty and the idiot doesn’t care that we can hear him from the dorm. True most of the patients are asleep because of the sleeping pills they make us swallow every night, but I am usually awake. I put the little white pills beneath my tongue and spit it out afterward. I like to think at night. That’s when ideas come to me.
It is my opinion that Big Kunle should shave his moustache. He is an unfortunate exception to the moustache rule.
Small Kunle is ok. He is the only one who has given me any recent magazine. He is a reading man. I asked him for the magazine he had under his arm this morning and he gave The New Yorker of December 6, 2010 to me. And since then dear editor my life has not been the same. It was the beautiful woman on the first page that attracted me, her eyes like marble. Then I flipped through and got to the story by Jim Gavin. It was a long story! Some parts I didn’t really understand but most of it was really good and made me laugh. Especially the end where the main guy Costello throws a lizard over the fence and it lands in his neighbor’s pool.  Then I thought, this is a good story, but I can tell a story better than this. See, I would have sent an email but they don’t let us have access to computers here. It is Small Kunle who will help me post this letter to you in America. He has a nice moustache. (By the way, what does the ‘IA’ in your address mean?)
The last attendant is Teju. That’s what his name tag says. But everyone calls him Ghaddafi. He is short, muscular and fat-lipped. He walks around with a horse whip hanging from his waist. Me I just stay out of his way. He smells of garlic anyway. I am not surprised. He doesn’t have a moustache.
Our dorm has two rows of iron beds the legs of which are screwed firmly into the concrete floor. Some of the guys like Bobo who drools and has occasional fits, are strapped to the bed with leather straps. With Bobo the attendants usually have to be careful because he bites and I am sure his saliva can transmit whatever syphilitic madness he has. I learnt that phrase from Small Kunle. Syphilitic is quite a tongue twister, easier to write than say. Small Kunle thinks Bobo won’t last too long seeing as his family has abandoned him.  Bobo went mad one day and bit his mother in the neck because she was talking too much. Crazy people have superhuman power in their fits of madness, believe me. I see it here all the time.
Me, my family hasn’t quite abandoned me. They have only stopped coming. I still get my supplies every week like clockwork. I don’t really care that my mum and sister have stopped coming. They must hate to see me among all these mad people. And madness, it is contagious- I know how hard I struggle not to be like these guys. Again I think they got upset because the last time they came I screamed at them for not bringing me my medicated soap and Teju had to come and drag me away and all. I really didn’t mean to scream. It’s just that they should know I can’t bathe with rubbish toilet soap.
But Maroof- the morose guy to my left- his family still comes around. Twice a month. He never says a word to them. He just stares like he has never seen them before. All of them smile, like they practiced it from home. They bring him chocolates and fruits and sometimes they bring him a family photo. The last time they came they all stood around the bed and took a photo with him. Maybe they will print it and bring it the next time they come. Maroof only ever eats the bananas. The rest I think, the attendants take home. (This I am not sure about so be careful if you have to publish this)
Inside our dorm are rooms that are always locked like jail cells. Lateef tells me those are the really violent ones. Often you can hear screaming from there. One of the guys - I have never seen him because they never let him out - killed six people. He is in chains with his hands spread out like a fowl being roasted over an open fire because he chews his fingers until they bleed. (The fowl description is Small Kunle’s). When he went crazy, he started by killing his dogs and all his neighbor’s chickens. Small Kunle tells me he went mad because of hard drugs.
I really feel ok, editor. I have been here all of five years and I miss my bathroom and bed and kitchen. Do you know I used to cook? Ok, it might not be strange in your country for a family man to cook, seeing as you people do everything the opposite way, but believe me, here, it is a big deal. Egusi was the soup I loved cooking. The only thing I hated was cutting onions.
You know sometimes I even miss that evil wife of mine. Is it strange to miss someone who has been really mean to you? Anyway, this reminds me, I need a lawyer for when I am released from this place. One with a moustache who will handle the divorce. Once they certify I am fine, which if you ask me they should have done years ago, I’ll get rid of that snake once and for all. Imagine, fucking the Pastor for the entire ten years we were married! That’s not even the worst of it. He was the same guy  who did our marriage counseling, who mediated when we had quarrels and who gave me advice on sex when I confided in him that she wasn’t responding the way I wanted (which totally worked by the way, I would never have guessed about the ears).
And oh, about my ‘fucking’ above, I noticed you allow those words in your magazine. I saw it on pages 73, 74, 80 and 81 and decided to use it too. This is one reason I prefer your magazine to TIME.
So yes, my story is that I went crazy when I found out that Blessed and John-Paul - both fair in complexion like the pastor - are actually the pastor’s children. Pastor Gilead’s children! You see I didn’t suspect on account of how my father, my sister and my wife’s mother are all light skinned. (I really should stop calling her my wife. The snake’s name is Samantha)
I didn’t notice that they both had the same crooked feet that Pastor Gilead had. I could never father children with such crooked feet. We have good feet in my family.
So how did I find out? The factory I worked for produces agro-chemicals. Some guy from the health department raised an alarm about a certain new chemical we were using that came from China. To cut the long story short, we all went for a series of tests, floor managers first. That was when they told me I was infertile. That my sperm didn’t have shit in it (pages 71 and 80 of your magazine had ‘shit’). And the hospital report said, it wasn’t caused by any chemical, because all the other floor managers were healthy. The doctor suspected that I had always had rubbish sperm.
That’s when I started losing it. The more I inquired, the more I found out, the more I went crazy. The factory sacked me because they said I was becoming unstable. I had punched my line manager in the face when he called me sloppy.
Well, the snake Samantha when she saw I was breaking down from it all got afraid and moved out to her mother’s house. She told her mother everything and her mother told my mother. My mother explained it all to me and then I really started losing it. Then Pastor Gilead had the nerve to show up at my house one morning! That was when it happened.  The voices. The fever. The sweat. The strangling. The next thing I remember was that I was in a strait jacket being taken to this home by order of the court. Small Kunle told me they found me not guilty by reason of insanity. Not that I am really insane, but this is better than prison. They rape men in prison.
So you see, ten years of all that shit and the only way I found out was the damn company test. That’s why I don’t get Bill Clinton. A young, ambitious intern? That’s looking for trouble. He could’ve found other powerful or married women – women who know how to keep secrets. Only a man without a moustache can be that foolish. If I were president, I would keep a moustache.
Ps.
I hope to get out soon and then I’d send you an email. I hope that you will publish my story somewhere in your magazine. You can title it “If I was president” or “How a pastor stole my family” or “How keeping a moustache saved the rest of my life”. It really doesn’t matter.
Thanks and hoping you will seriously consider a moustache if you don’t already have one.

Otaigbe Goodluck Otaigbe, (Presido)
Ward 5
Federal Hospital for the Criminally Insane (no need to publish this)
Ota, Ogun State
Nigeria
Africa West Africa
Africa

*find the sequel to this story HERE

25 comments:

  1. As usual, I chucked throughout this piece. Well done Elnathan, no diubt you've heard/read that countless times.

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    1. Thanks for reading Mo'dele. Your well done is the first I have heard this week. So thanks

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  2. Totally Brilliant! Elnathan....well done!

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  3. Lol... "...He used to be sensible. But then he shaved. And shaved all his sense away." Impressive and insanely brilliant. Nice piece Elnathan (I almost shaved my moustache laughing)

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  4. Wow. Just wow Elnathan. I'm usually never dissapointed with your posts.

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  5. Nice piece! Another title may be "School for the criminally insane ".

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  6. Can I marry your creative hilarious sarcastic brain?

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  7. Hahahaha... Elnathan you're too much. I was laughing all thru. My colleagues keep peeping into my office like "are u ok?" Kudos bro.

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  8. Ok . Am going to grow my moustache back!

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  9. You sir, are a creative genius.

    Wonderfully done.


    That's all.

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  10. As i cant grow a moustache..hmm i wonder, nice story as always man weldone

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  11. Brilliant! You are a talented writer.

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  12. Such a brilliant BlackGuy, ElNathan John

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  13. Nice stuff.... Thank God I have a moustache, the reason women are "snake like that" is because they don't have moustache

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  14. Bless your sense of humor and wild wit.

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You fit vex, bet abeg no curse me. You hear?