JIMMY APIU | Crocodile Prize
THE SOUTH EASTERLY WIND left Markham’s vast savannah expanse in its wake as it sped a few kilometres and detoured west, sweeping over the roof of a lone night club before heading north.
Under the roof, Et-Kalsa, a contemporary music band was finishing final touches to its rehearsals for the upcoming music festival at Eriku. Standing at the far end of the bar where the light was dim, John, after 15 beers was comatose. His speech was slurred and his eyes saw two of everything.
He was escorted first to the gents to throw up and later dragged outside and bundled into an old Toyota dump truck and left there to recuperate. The band kept fine tuning.
Monpi, with her belly protruding her third was clad in a silk night gown, stitching a merry blouse, looking at her watch every four minutes. The ash tray beside her was slowly filling with cigarette butts and the room was thick with its stench. She decided to call him, again, and punched in the 8 digits but the lady in the mobile phone told her the number she called was switched off.
She cursed the lady under her breath and absent-mindedly took the last of the 25 Winfield filtered cigarettes and lit it, inhaling till her lungs were full before exhaling, crumpling the empty cigarette packet before throwing it at her husband’s picture frame. She puffed some more and smothered the cigarette in the ash tray and took out the ‘Jeffrey Archer’ paper back from her vast collection of the same author near the bedside drawer and continued reading where she had left off.
She completed a chapter and was up to four pages and decided to call it a night, when she heard the knock on the door.
She looked at her Seiko wrist watch. The long hand was sniffing 3 am. Gathering herself she walked to the door and slowly opened it and stared at John, who met her gaze and bowed his head, looking very sorry.
She pointed her finger at him after letting him in, while the other arm caressed her belly as she paced the floor in the small lounge room and glared at John, who reeked of sweat, vomit and alcohol, with both hands in his trousers pocket.
He tried to string a few words together for his lateness but nothing came out, as he swayed unsteadily. The atmosphere was tense.
“Who were you with!?” she demanded, her voice was amplified and full of hatred as it cut the silent night.
“Oh for Christ shakes Monpi, not again.” he moaned. “Just because I am late you assume I was out with someone!? Oh Paleez!” he continued, his voice incoherent.
“Who were you with John Yobukwa'u!?” she repeated, this time louder as she advanced toward him with a clenched fist.
It meant one of two things; either he would get a hiding or a barrage of the filthiest foul language you could ever imagine was about to be launched. Addressing him by his full name was even worse. It meant two lonely months on the bare mat in the lounge room.
John cowered till his back was against the wall and he shut his eyes in despair and slowly bent his knees, lowering his small frame to the floor. He stole a glance at Monpi’s menacing, advancing figure and covered his head with his palms.
A few neighbours flicked their lights on while others silently opened their windows to eavesdrop.
Her anger was something between a mad dog and a child throwing a tantrum because she was not satisfied, except this was an adult with considerable height and 105 kilograms of fat, muscle, and bones she had inherited from her ancestors in the Western Highlands.
John chewed his tongue as if to extort some plan of exit from his head but to no avail as the volley of disgusting and tainted language continued.
“You have not answered me!” she shouted, looking down at him.
“No one, I told you.” He pleaded and sunk lower.
“Don’t give me that crap, John Yobukwa'u, I married you and practically pampered you long enough to know a lie when I hear one, you useless drunk, how dare you lie to me?!” She screamed.
“But that’s the Gospel truth, paleez” he moaned, still trying to look innocent.
“John Yobukwa'u! I have yet to see you drag your hopeless, pathetic carcass to a church, any church, and don’t give me that gospel truth nonsense, you idiot!” she screamed.
“It’s the truth; it’s the truth!” he pleaded.
“Then who was that bitch riding shotgun!?”
“Who?!” he was buying time, thinking.
“That thing riding with you!”
A long pause.
“Well!?” she demanded.
“That thing was Amanda, our new company secretary. I took her out in the company car, in the company hour to buy company stationary because the company driver decided to go down with malaria at the companies’ expense, and I thought you were supposed to be at home tending your stomach!’’ He emphasized ‘company’ to rid her suspicion but regretted the minute he mentioned her stomach.
Her face was now centimetres from his and he could smell her garlic and cigarette odour and spittle when she screamed his name and pointed at her stomach.
“Tell me who did this, go on tell me?!” She snarled and back handed a slap to his left ear, flooring him.
Funny, the detailed part did not creep in.
“Marrying a Trobriand Islander seemed like a good idea six years ago and I am already regretting it and doubting this marriage, you bastard!” she yelled and took a step back.
Loading all her anger and frustrations to her trunk-like right leg, she gritted her teeth and moved in, planting a mule kick between his legs.
John’s whole body lifted a good four centimetres from the floor and landed.
He lay still, then convulsed and recoiled like a trapped animal holding his crotch, sucking air as tears gushed from his eyes. The pain was excruciating and he struggled to breath.
He twisted and turned and twisted again before moaning, uttering incoherent sounds first in Motu, then in his mother’s Kitava dialect, crossing over to English and Pidgin, back to Motu and finally Kitava.
Sensing Monpi was about to kick again, he gritted his teeth and shut his eyes and feigned unconsciousness.
Monpi admired her handy work and put her hands on her hips breathing heavily, monitoring him and contemplating what other pain she could mete out.
A few minutes passed and he did not move.
Something is wrong, she thought as she studied his still figure.
“Oh my God!” she gasped, both her hands flying to her mouth.
“Oh my God!” she repeated and knelt beside him, shaking him and pinching him. There was no sign of movement. Even his breathing seemed to have stopped and she went into panic mode.
She did not plant her ear on his chest to hear the heart beat which was revving like a formula one engine.
“Someone help!” she screamed.
“Help, someone help!”
The children’s door partly opened.
She got up and half ran, half walked to the main door and opened it and yelled outside, begging and pleading for help. She looked frantically at her watch, then back where she had left John and sped back knocking some furniture and cursing, after closing the door. She thought of waking the children up but decided not to. She did not see their door close.
She knelt beside John and took his hands in hers and craned her neck to see if anyone followed.
“I have a man dying here and need help,” she screamed.
“What happened?” someone called in the dark.
“He got kicked!” she replied.
“Who kicked him?”
“Why do you ask?” she spat back.
“Because we want to help,” They replied.
“Between his legs!”
Someone found it humorous and replied with a hoarse laugh.
“None of your business, bastard!” she screamed back.
“Then it’s none of our business to help as well, bastard!” they replied.
“No, it’s your business as well, don’t you understand! Paleez!” she cried and held up her hands in despair.
“The door is locked!” the same voice.
“No it isn’t, just turn the knob and pull it!” she cried.
The neighbours congregated at the doorway amazed to see an adult bunched up like a small child, with Monpi beside him with her face on his, crying and planting small kisses on it, apologizing and begging forgiveness, whispering sweet nothings until she reached his lips when all of a sudden his tongue snaked into her mouth and she flinched in horror and embarrassment and pulled away. She was so stunned she could not think what to do.
The neighbours had witnessed it and were dumbfounded.
John got up, very slowly, and adjusted his trousers and grinned at the neighbour and limped to the bed room; with Monpi looking totally humiliated and shell shocked.
At least I got one back, in front of the neighbours too, he thought as he locked the door and collapsed on the bed to complete his agony.
“Please die in bed!” Monpi screamed.
Somewhere in the dark the hoarse laugh began again, this time louder.
“Shut up!” she yelled in its direction.
The hoarse laugh increased in volume.
The neighbours looked at each other and snickered and bowed their heads and walked out as Monpi glared at them.
Two little pairs of eyes and ears had observed and heard enough.
“Adults!’’ They mumbled and shot off to bed.
Jimmy Apiu (52) comes from Lae. He lives in Port Moresby and is a technician with Telikom PNG