He walked out of the tavern and staggered for a bit. Dazzled by the morning sun, he was shocked to discover he had spent more than twenty hours in a pub. Ineffectually, he dabbed at his trouser pockets, hopeful that his wallet would still contain some remnants of this month’s pay check even though he knew it to be extremely unlikely.
His fears confirmed, he staggered dejectedly to the alley in which he had left his bicycle the previous night, fully expecting it to have been swiped while he enjoyed himself in the pub. He was visibly shocked to find the bike right where he had left it. He turned his eyes skyward in a silent prayer, and was just about to mount it for his long journey home when a voice said something behind him.
He turned suddenly, fully expecting to come face to face with a band of local hoodlums. Instead, he saw nothing.
The sound seemed to emanate from the ground. His head felt so heavy he was afraid he would fall down if he stooped to see the source of the sound. Willing himself to remain conscious, he slowly shifted his gaze downward. His breath caught in his throat when his eyes fell on her.
‘Gorgeous,’ he exhaled. She was all white, though he could not tell if it was her skin colour or the colour of her apparel. His bike and the hurry to get home forgotten, he turned and gave her his full attention.
‘What is a pretty thing like you doing in a nasty place like this?’ he extemporized, recalling the phrase from some seedy movie he had once endured as a teenager. She continued staring at him, seemingly transfixed by his attention.
He had no illusions about having arresting looks, what with the practically lifelong habit of alcohol use that had put paid to any chances of his appearing in a skin lotion commercial on television, but he still thought he held a certain charm with the fairer sex.
This one was going to be difficult, he concluded. Struggling against the impulse to retch as his head spun and throbbed relentlessly, he actually succeeded in squatting next to the creature. She had probably been brutalized the night before as he enjoyed his fine liquor, he surmised. Not to worry, he thought to himself, I will fix you up good, and in no time flat you will be back to your usual self.
Without being aware of it, he was soon on his knees next to the beautiful thing, caressing her back and whispering words of comfort in her ear.
‘Baa…’ was all she could manage in return and this made him feel even sorrier for her. Slowly rising to his feet, he surveyed the surroundings, careful not to be labelled a pervert preying on poor brutalized beauties in unsavoury alleys.
‘I will take you home, have you cleaned up. You’ll be hale and hearty before you can say another ‘Baa’…’ he soothed. He gently lifted her, coaxing and cajoling, onto his back before struggling to settle himself on the bicycle seat. He found that he needed to practically strap her onto his back using his belt and other parts of his attire. Surprisingly, once the bicycle started moving, he encountered no further resistance from her.
Whistling a cheerful tune from some local sitcom, he rode leisurely out of the alley and onto the main road toward the slum he called home. He was not surprised at all the attention he was receiving from the people he passed along the way; in any case, how many men could manage to convince such a beauty to accompany them on a bicycle ride home on any given day?
As he got nearer and nearer to his home, he became aware of crowds lining the streets. A dignitary must be visiting this part of town, he thought. Probably another ‘slum tourist’, he figured. Soon, however, he discovered the attention was riveted on him, and the people seemed to be shouting something unintelligible at him. As the wind slashed across his anaesthetized face, he gradually sobered up and could finally hear snippets of what his neighbours were shouting.
‘Goat…’ he heard someone say.
‘Crazy,’ another shrieked.
Some amateur photographer suddenly came within shooting range and clicked off a series of shots. Jealous, he thought. They are just jealous of my awesome catch. This was not the first time he was attracting their attention like this. In his foggy mind, he seemed to recall a time when they had accused him of kidnapping and attempting to defile a small boy in the neighbourhood. Another time they had claimed he brought home an old hag and spent the night with her.
The worst thing was that he had completely no recollection of doing the things they accused him of. All he remembered was going out for a drink in the evening and waking up one or two days later in unfamiliar surroundings having to answer questions from irate neighbours and local administration officials. A doctor had once told him he was alcohol dependent, and needed to stop drinking in order to avoid these ‘fugue-like’ states.
‘I wonder what they are saying this time,’ he said under his breath.
‘Baa…’ she whispered in his ear. She seemed to agree with his unspoken sentiments.
He woke up in the evening to bangs on his door. Disoriented, he quickly grabbed a towel from the foot of the bed and wrapped his naked frame before proceeding to open the door. Kicks and blows rained on him from that moment onwards, and the last thing he remembered was a woeful bleating sound coming from his bedroom as he drifted out of consciousness.
© Dr. Lukoye Atwoli 2010
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