Shit! My life has become a boring mire of inconveniences. An uninvited dead at the backdoor and another uninvited tattling neighbour marching towards that backdoor. Really crappy shit!
I ran forward, jerked a fearful-eyed Berlin out of the way and slammed myself right in front of the kitchen door. “Can’t go back there, Trace.” I said and braced my palms against the door frame to make sure.
“And why the heck not?” Tracy frowned at me.
“Because I said so.” I didn’t budge. Didn’t plan to.
“But I need the Ocimum gratissum.”
“The Ocimum…” I pulled back from biting my tongue. Damn botanical terms! “The scent leaf is not there anymore.”
“What! But it was there two days ago. I used it for jollof rice because I was feeling feverish, remember?”
I did. Tracy stepped into my backyard more times in a week getting those leaves than even I did in an entire year. “Well, I’ve cut it down and it’s not there anymore.”
“Cut it down?” Tracy snorted out a disbelieving laugh. “Stop being funny and step aside, Tec. I need those leaves. Alex would be here any time soon and I want him having his favourite.”
“Good. Go make his favourite… whatever that is.” I didn’t give a hoot about Alex, or any other man—except the one dead at my backdoor. “But you are not going back there and simply because I’ve cut the damned scent leaf down.” I probably should. Wasn’t using it anyway.
“You really cut it down?” Tracy stared at me in shock. “How could you do that?”
“With an axe.” Petey said. And when Tracy swept her gaze to him, he shrugged. “Tec’s got an axe and knows how to use it. She can hack anything down.”
“And anything would be the scent leaf shrub.” Last thing I needed was Tracy spreading the gospel that I was good at hacking things down. “Anyway, it’s not there and so you have to go home and make do with whatever you have. I’m sure the soup will taste just as nice without the leaves.” I grabbed Tracy by the arm and herded her back to the front door.
“It won’t taste the same. That special aroma would be missing.” Tracy pulled her hand free and turned at the door to glare at me. “I don’t get why you would cut down the scent leaf.” Her rising annoyance had pulled the botanical term off her tongue. “It wasn’t doing anyone any harm just being there. And why the heck is everyone here?”
I ignored the suspicious glance she cast at Berlin and Leye and opened the door. “If you can’t do without the leaves, then try Kelvin’s. I believe he has some right on his backyard.”
“You know I can’t stand Kelvin.” Tracy hissed. “I would never step a foot in his yard.”
Again, I finished silently for her. She was stepping both her feet into that yard some good many months ago while they were going at each other like two science-project rabbits. Then Tracy caught another rabbit doing reproductive practices with Kelvin and eternal enemies were sworn. No one in the neighbourhood cared—I certainly didn’t.
“Then you will have to make your banga soup without the leaves.” I nudged her out the door. “My greetings to Alex. Enjoy your lunch date.” And I slammed the door in her still-annoyed face. “We have to get rid of that body ASAP.” I announced to the others. “And we are not burying him on my backyard or carving and bagging him.” I added before Leye opened his mouth.
“Then what the heck are we going to do with him?” Berlin demanded. “See the way Tracy walked in here? Anyone could do that and then we’d all be in big trouble if that body is found at the backdoor.”
“Which is exactly why I’m recommending we get rid of it.” I retorted and started towards the kitchen. “I think for starters we should carry him… it… him inside.”
“Inside… like inside the house?”
I spared Petey a glance. “Yes. Inside the house.” I unlocked the backdoor. Anonymous John Doe was still right there. Jackass! “You and Leye should pick him and carry him in.”
“Whoa! And how did we get elected for that all noble job?” Leye was right behind me and peering over my shoulder.
“Because you are men.” I slinked away from his gummy big body. “Petey, stop whining and come help him. I think your room would be the best place for him.”
“I am not touching the dead and I don’t want him in my room.” Petey shuddered and snapped his fingers over his head. “And I don’ think anyone of us should be touching him. He could be contagious.”
“Are you kidding me?” I stared at him. “Death is not a disease you contact, Petey.”
“But a fatal virus, or infection, can be contacted.” Petey argued without budging from beside the counter. “We don’t know exactly what killed him. It could be Ebola or AIDS or anything just as dangerous.”
“Ebola was wiped out of Nigeria and you don’t get AIDS by touching someone.” I gritted through my teeth. “Get over here and let’s get him inside.”
“He might be the last Ebola patient and no one knew, I’m not touching him.” Petey folded his arms across his chest and slid his palms into his armpits. “If you want him moved, then you carry him yourself. But you better have yourself disinfected after that. And don’t put him in my room. He’s not allowed in there.”
“The house is mine and he is allowed where I please.” I jerked my head at Leye and Berlin. “Fine, let’s ignore the spineless coward and do this ourselves. We’ll take the hands, Berlin. You grab the legs, Leye.”
“I don’t think I can touch him, Tec. I’ve never touched anyone who’s dead before.” Berlin was looking pleadingly at me. “I don’t have the heart for stuff like this.”
“What you two don’t have is guts. Wimps!” I shot killing looks at her and Petey. Then narrowed my eyes at Leye. “You gutless like they are?”
“Worked at the morgue, remember?” Leye threw me a wink and stepped back from the door. “You go through and grab those hands, let’s hurl him in. He’s gonna be heavier now he’s a dead weight but I’m sure we can manage it.”
I crossed the door, gingerly avoiding contact with John Doe’s body. I wasn’t really looking forward to touching him either. But what needs to be done, must be done.
“Gosh, if he is as heavy as he looks, then he’s going to feel like a ton.” I inhaled, swallowed my disgust and quelled my churning stomach, then bent over and jerked up both his hands. “He was one real hairy dude. And he still feels warm… kind of.”
I frowned and stared at the rough, chin-bearded face. It still looked as immobile as when I first found him. Nothing about his features has changed. His eyes were still closed, his mouth still slightly parted and his face, expressionless.
“Shouldn’t he be cold by now?” I wondered aloud.
“Depends on when he actually died. The dead starts losing body temperature real fast but this process takes hours.” Leye let out a grunt as he grabbed the trainers covered feet. “Hold the other door open, Petey.” He ordered. “Doesn’t feel that much stiff either, so he’s probably been gone only a few short hours. Maybe not even more than two.”
“God, he’s heavy!” I muttered and hated that his hands felt kind of warm. “Why couldn’t he go to his own house and die there?” I bitched, puffing as we staggered down the corridor.
“Maybe he doesn’t have a house.” Leye offered and then grinned.
He seemed to be enjoying himself. Which gave me a twinge of worry. But I couldn’t pay attention to it at that moment, not when he was the only one with the balls to lend me a hand. I was so putting Petey back on my one trillion and one most hated things in the world list. He’s outlived his grace days.
“Tec, I don’t want in my room.” Petey was whining—the idiot. “Why can’t you dump him here on the corridor?”
“Because I want him somewhere I can lock down until I am certain what next to do with him.” I huffed, then hissed out. “Stop snivelling and hold open that door. He’s staying in your room and if you don’t like it, you know what to do.”
“I’m going to have nightmares just knowing he was in my room.” Petey grumbled. “He might even start haunting my room thinking this was where he died.”
“Then you will have to clear him of that wrong thinking when that starts happening.” I had a devious pleasure telling him that. But not as much as the pleasure I felt letting go of those weird hands and letting John Doe fall to the ground. “Damn! I’m never touching another dead body for the rest of my life. He’s taken all the strength in me. I need to refuel.”
“You can still think of food after this?” Petey was staring down at the body. “Just looking at him kills my appetite.”
“You gotta have a concrete walled stomach, Petey.” Leye slapped him on the back and lumbered back through the door. “I sure know I need food. Berlin and I best go get that breakfast we were on our way to before you called.”
“Hell no! No one is leaving here. Not until we finish dealing with this.”
“We’ll come back after we’ve eaten. Or we can get food packs for everyone and return straight here to eat.” Leye puffed as he marched down the corridor and into the kitchen.
“Anyone wants food, they’re making it in my kitchen and eating it there.” I followed him into the kitchen and grabbed for the kettle. “We are all in this together now and no one leaves this house until John Doe is out of here.”
“You’re not kidding?” Leye was eyeing me.
I shook my head. “I’m damn serious. This is serious business and I am not having anyone tattling about it.”
“God, Tec! You think we’ll talk about something like this?” Berlin reproved.
I shrugged and placed the kettle on the burner. “I don’t know what anyone would do, especially under pressure. So I’m having us swear an oath.”
“I’m not swearing a blood oath.” Petey declared with a righteous sniff. “I’m not going to slit my wrist and suck anyone’s blood.”
“No one said anything about blood oath, Petey. And slitting wrist is for suicides.” He was so back on that list—and top ten too. “But we are all swearing on our own lives to be cut short if we reveal to anyone what took place here.”
“I hate to swear, Tec.” Berlin said.
I looked at her. Glared actually.
“A Christian should be swearing.” She insisted with a defensive shrug.
“A Christian should not be fornicating and you never cease to indulge in it.” I gave her a pointed stare before turning to Leye. “You start.”
“Let me be shot in the head if I tell.” He swore with a wicked grinned.
I looked at Petey.
“I don’t want to die, so I won’t tell.” He said.
That was acceptable to me. “Berlin?”
“Tec…” she began. Then stopped and muttered something at my shake of the head. “Okay. May I suffer sudden death if I tell anyone about this.”
“Good. And death should come to me if I ever tell.” I spat on the tiled floor and stomped my foot over it. “Now it is a bond that must never be broken.” Satisfied I turned to grab a bowl. “Anyone interested in eba and vegetable soup?”
“I guess we have to make do since we are prisoners here” Berlin muttered. “But I am making the eba. Yours are always too strong and hard to swallow.”
“I can’t eat. And I can’t believe you all can talk about food when a dead man is lying on my bedroom floor.” Petey glared accusingly at me. “You put him in there just to punish me for calling Berlin and Leye. Admit it.”
“I put him there because this is my house.” Happy to relinquish the chore of cooking, I slid into the kitchen stool. “But if you are not interested in eating, you can go keep watch over our John Doe and make sure he doesn’t grow wings and fly off like a ghost.”
Petey paled. Like I knew he would. “Ghosts have wings, Tec?”
Idiot. “How about you tell us when you start seeing John Doe’s ghost.”
Leye roared out a loud laugh. “You are mean, Tec.”
But Petey went even whiter. “So his ghost’s going to hunt me? You know this and you still put him in my room, Tec?” He turned and stumbled out of the kitchen.
“I think your cousin is nuts.” Leye chuckled.
“He’s just a naïve soul.” Berlin said and shot me a reproving glance. “You shouldn’t be scaring him, Tec. You know how sensitive Petey is.”
“He’s gutless, is what he is.” I dismissed. “Hurry up with that thing, I’m famished.”
“So am I.” Leye added. “Not easy hurling a dead body.”
“Hold onto your gullets.” Berlin snapped and started getting out plates.
The three of us sat down to a late breakfast of eba and vegetable soup while Petey—well, did God knows what. But just as I was belching—with utter satisfaction—he zipped back into the kitchen.
“John Doe has become a ghost!” He panted, eyes rounded with fear.
“What?” I swiped my head around, mildly annoyed at him. “What are you talking about?”
“I think he’s trying to grow wings.” Petey shot darting eyes over his shoulder. “He’s overturned himself and is now lying on his stomach.”
“What?” It was Berlin who snarled at him now.
“And I heard flapping sounds.” Petey finished and then let out a whimper.
“Bloody hell!” I swore.