Man In Black Episode 14


It was past nine in the evening. Chukwudi and Segun were in the former’s house, after their first day at Star Ranges. 

After the tour, Maryanne Okolo had handed them over to a man Chuks was sure was military. They called him Instructor Max, and their teacher had told them to call her Instructor Okolo, not Aunty or Miss or anything else. The man said he was to be their field instructor. The way he had heard other students at the firing range calling their teachers “Instructor” made Chuks know that it meant “teacher”, but why on earth they had to have two of those was beyond him. 

For the first time in his entire life— and he was already a man —Chuks had held a gun in his own hand. Not one that was as big as those shotguns they had seen during their tour or the AK-47 he was familiar with, but rather the smaller ones called pistols that you could hold in one hand. They had practiced shooting those things almost throughout the whole day.

He and his friend had actually fired a gun, and on their very first day, no less. Shooting those guns had felt like they were in a movie, and it wasn’t just once or twice. More like between fifteen to twenty times. He had felt his gun jumping like a cannon in his hand so many times that, even now, hours after training was over, even with it in his lap, his hand still felt like it was jumping.

And it wasn’t just that feeling. There was also the smell.

The smell made him feel as if it was Christmas and he had spent the whole day blowing bangers instead of shooting guns.

They had spent most of the day geting familiarized with those pistols. At least, now Chuks knew there was a part of the gun where a magazine went. Not that he hadn’t known of a magazine being a part of a gun for a very long time, but he couldn’t have pointed it out to you if you left one in his hand for a whole week. 

They had been taught how to change that magazine to another one when it emptied out, how to properly hold the gun when shooting, and that a bullet wasn’t just the part of the gun that could kill. Each one of those actually contained the very thing that made a gun to even be able to fire at all.

Who would have thought that?

When they went on lunch break in the afternoon, Instructor Max instructed them to eat light, so as not to feel tired when they returned. And it was good advice, too, because most of their time from then till now had been spent on their feet.

After the day ended, they had returned back to the mainland on Chuks’ bike. Their second instructor’s advice meant that they hadn’t eaten much of anything all day, so it was no wonder they ate like ravenous wolves.

Segun had whipped up toast bread and egg with one whole loaf of bread, since there was light, to be washed down with a pack of Chuks’ favourite drink in all the world: Hollandia yoghurt.

Chuks patted his chest and belched loudly, staring at his empty plate streaked with leftover groundnut oil and a litter of little brown crumbs of bread

“O-boy, the hungry still dey do me o,” he said, and it was true. “Abeg, you fit do another round?”

Segun smiled a little. For once, his friend didn’t look at him as if no one in the whole world loved food as much as he did.

“I thought I was the only one,” he said instead. He stood up, picked Chuks’ plate along with his and headed for the kitchen. “All your yoghurt is finished o,” he called from the kitchen.

“No problem. Water fit still do the job.”

Chuks faced the television as he waited for Segun to come out. It was on Select Sport 4, showing highlights of one EPL match or other. He couldn’t exactly notice the details, not now that he was still hungry.

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Segun was out pretty quick, with both their plates and with the second round on them. The burnt-brown slices of bread had never looked so inviting. Neither had the aroma of the egg. Segun gave him is, and they ate in silence for a while. Chuks was of the opinion that the time to eat and the time to talk weren’t the same time. The Bible itself said so.

That was, of course, until he remembered the embarassment his friend had nearly— Which kind “nearly”? The kind of embarassment his friend had brought on him today at the range.

“O-boy, wetin dey work you, self? See as you just dey look that girl like say you wan swallow am. Which kind bush dem bring you out from? Shey you never see woman before?”

Segun’s bread stopped midway to his mouth. He turned to look at him. The hand holding the bread slowly lowered to his plate. Chuks looked on in bewildered amusement. His friend was starting to get that same slack-jawed look he’d had when Chukwudi had turned back and found him standing there.

“Chuuuks,” Segun said, drawing out his name like he was still under the girl’s spell, even now that she wasn’t there anymore. “Didn’t you see her face? I’ve seen a lot of women, Chuks, but that girl was crazy beautiful. And her hair, her shape, her. . .her voice. . . ”

And Chuks had thought that the realization of what Segun had done would shame him into not talking about her again. At the range, during the course of the day, Chuks had caught him more than once losing himself in the pretty half-caste’s beauty and had decided leaving him alone would draw less attention than calling him to his senses again, and besides might actually make some of the others forget that the both of them had come together, even if they saw him gawking.

“You know, Segun, you’re an okay guy. I mean, at least you sabi cook, which is not common, but honestly, sometimes I dey wonder whether the only sense wey you get dey inside kitchen.”

Segun glared at him, guaging whether or not he was serious with the insult. Chuks gave a little shrug of his shoulders that said, I swear. Segun made a grab for the half slice of toast bread on his plate, but Chuks would have been a real fool if he couldn’t get to it faster, considering that the plate was in his hands.

Segun gave a little hiss and turned to the television as Chukwudi chewed contentedly and set the plate on the centre table.

“I just wonder how I managed to forget her name,” Segun mummured, his eyes still on the tv, though he didn’t look like he was actually watching.

Chuks raised an eyebrow. “You forgot Belinda’s name?”

“Belinda,” Segun said with a dreamy smile. Then under his breath, “Belinda,” his smile widening. Even when he stopped repeating the girl’s name like some sort of good luck charm, Chuks saw his friend’s lips still silently forming the word.

Chukwudi stared at his seriously lovestricken friend, shook his head in disbelief that the guy could still be going on about this and turned his attention instead to the television. He was dead tired and couldn’t wait to get to sleep, but he would actually be dead before the last memory he would take to bed with him was that of his best friend making a fool of himself for the hundredth time in one day.