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Mister Kay frowned, his steps faltering as his stomach let out another yelp. When it went quiet again he moved on, trying to keep his trademark bounce in place. He approached a woman selling akara and fried yams by the roadside moments later, and the orchestra started up in his tummy again as saliva filled his mouth. The pieces of fried yam were perfect in their shapelessness; white and wonderful. He could hear the brown balls of akara calling out, ‘Mister Kay, Mister Kay’. He took his wallet out of his pocket and carefully counted all the money there for the umpteenth time that morning, like counting the notes would somehow make them multiply. He put the wallet back in his pocket. He had just enough money to take him to his destination. As he passed the yams and ignored the calls of the akara he cursed Mrs. Kay and the stupid strike she had embarked upon from last night. No food and no sex till further notice; and for an offence he didn’t even know he had committed! Women.
He was the first passenger on the bus to Obalende, and a little while after he’d got on a man entered and sat beside him. He was holding a cob of boiled corn, and as the yellow grains disappeared into his mouth Mister Kay’s stomach started again. The corn man threw a sharp glance at Mister Kay and shifted slightly away, scrunching up his nose in anticipation of the smell. If he hadn’t been too busy pretending not to have heard the sound Mister Kay might have told Corn Man not to worry, that he hadn’t farted, that it was just hunger. All the way to Obalende Corn Man kept eating, one cob after the other, all from a bag he had slung across his shoulder which looked like it contained an endless supply. Thankfully, the bus to Yaba didn’t have any corn-, or any other food, eating passengers. Mister Kay managed his saliva, consoling himself with the thought that by the time he was coming back he would have money, and he would buy anything his stomach desired and silence the voices there. Mrs. Kay could go to hell with her cooking. As for the sex, there were other ways.
Mister Kay got down at Sabo Bus Stop and walked down Chapel Road. He reached number eleven, went to flat two and rang the bell. The house girl opened the door and stepped aside, allowing him to enter.
“Mister Kay, welcome sir.”
“Ehen, thank you, Yetunde,” he grunted.
Yetunde turned and walked down the corridor and towards to the dining room, leaving Mister Kay to follow. Normally, he would admire the view of Yetunde’s buttocks as they jiggled underneath her skirt, but this time he could only be bothered to take a glance at them. They passed a mirror in the hall and Mister Kay noticed that his usually red eyes were even more bloodshot today. As they walked further into the house Mister Kay could smell fried eggs. He licked his lips. They entered into the dining room and Mister Kay saw his student eating at the table. He was right about the eggs; breakfast was bread and fried eggs. Yetunde went into the kitchen, leaving him to go past the dining room and into the living room, where Madam was. As he went he stopped to pat his student’s head with forced fondness.
“Ah-ah, Destiny, you cannot greet again because you are eating?”
“Good morning, Uncle Kay,” Destiny managed to sputter through the bread and egg mixture rolling around in her mouth.
“Non, non. En Francais.”
“Oh. Bonjour, Monsieur Kay.”
“Bien, bien,” Mister Kay said, patting her head again, his eyes drifting of their own accord to the breakfast spread. Bread. Eggs. Sausages. Bournvita. Cereal. Butter. Milk. Pancakes. He licked his lips again, just in time to catch the dollop of spit that had been sliding out through his open mouth.
“Mister Kay. In here, please,” Destiny’s mother called from inside the living room.
Mister Kay walked in, and even before he could sit the onslaught began.
“Mister Kay, I am not at all pleased with my daughter’s progress.”
“Madam, what do you…”
“What am I even saying, what progress? It’s been a month now yet all she knows how to say is ‘bonjour’ and ‘bon soir’. Is that what I pay you for? ‘Bonjour’ and ‘bon soir’?”
“Ah-ah, madam. She is making progress now. Don’t you…”
“I must warn you, Mister Kay,” Madam said, taking off her glasses to better enable her pierce him with her eyes. “I don’t play with my money. When I pay for something I want to get my money’s worth, every single time. No exceptions! If I do not hear my daughter speaking French like a Parisian, and soon, you will not be getting paid a single kobo. Mark my word, Mister Kay, because I will not say this again. I am running out of patience.”
Madam put her glasses back on and turned back to the women’s magazine on her lap. Mister Kay stood there, shifting his weight from foot to foot, waiting for her to present the envelope. He had pegged her for one of those people that always gave money in envelopes.
“You may go now,” Madam said, after looking up moments later to find Mister Kay still there.
“Em, Madam… my money for the first month, Ma.”
Madam peered over the rims of her glasses at him.
“Mister Kay, what do you think the worth of the word ‘bonjour’ is in naira.”
“I… Madam, it is…”
“When you figure it out let me know. That will be your payment for the month. Meanwhile, you’re on probation for the next few weeks, in case you didn’t figure that one out. No improvement and you’re gone,” she looked down at her magazine, and then back up at Mister Kay. “Oh, and don’t forget that there are lessons tomorrow. Four p.m. as usual. Don’t be late.”
Mister Kay stood there until he became convinced he had become invisible. Then he shuffled out and into the dining room. As he came up behind Destiny and the breakfast spread he swooped down on the table and snatched up a slice of bread from her plate. And in one swift motion he folded the bread in half and dipped it into her cup of Bournvita. He lifted the dripping bread into his mouth and took the whole slice in at once, not breaking his stride to the corridor that would lead him out of the house. Not turning to see the horror on his student’s face.
N.B.: This is loosely based on a true life story.